Identifying a Good Spot to Set Up
In my last post I talked about places I have sketched and painted in my travels. I want to talk about setting up in relationship to the sun: ideally, out of the sun not in it. I also want to talk about places in the pioneer valley where you can take a group to paint without getting permission from a private owner. For a solo painter, there are fewer constraints.
Unlike the woman seen in this photo, I almost never set up in direct sunlight, and never with sunlight falling on my panel. I find it difficult to work in the glare, and impossible when my hand is casting a shadow on the work. For many reasons my ideal day to paint is not sunny at all. I love the drama of clouds and the subtlety of colors in ambient light. I also love the moodiness.
So set up with the view you want, but in such a way that the sun is not a problem. That means understanding how the sun will move in the course of your painting session. Try not to choose too precarious a position…unless you must! The wind may also be a factor. I have already suggested that a sizable rock can do a lot to stabilize your easel in a wind. Often there is a somewhat sheltered spot with almost the view you wanted.
Where in the Pioneer Valley can you go, with a group, with enough parking, and be on public land? Two places right in my home town of Monson are Dean Pond and Lunden Pond. The first is certainly more convenient, with spots close to the parking area. At Lunden Pond (the Trustees of Reservations site at Miller Forest) you must be prepared to hike in ¼ mile with your painting kit.
The upper valley around Northampton has some spectacular spots, including the most painted view in Massachusetts this side of Rockport: The Oxbow from Skinner House on Mt. Holyoke. For Skinnner park, with a group, you need to make a reservation. Provided the park is open to vehicle traffic, you can paint within 100 yards of where you park, and have your choice of many spectacular views. The Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and its surroundings (including the Oxbow) are another great choice. I also love to go into the Northampton meadows and find a place to set up by the side of the road.
Quabbin Reservoir is another wonderful place to paint with public access for a large group in at least two places. There are many views right at the visitor’s center and more if you cross the causeway (a smaller group can park at the other side, from another entrance. My favorite spot for a group, though, is the Enfield Overlook, with spectacular views…and you can paint from the back of your car.
Lastly, if you are willing to go a little farther afield, there is no better place to find endless wonderful mountain views than my family home in Williamstown. There are many spots in town where you can see three different mountain ranges at the same time: the Berkshires, the Taconic Range and the Green Mountains. If you want spectacular views of Mount Greylock and the Hopper, just head up Bee Hill Road off route 7 just south of town, and stop at one of the overlooks. These are smaller, good for 2 or 3 cars at a time. My home town!