Plein Air Painting New Hampshire - Stories and Paintings from an Artist's Travels

Plein air painting in New Hampshire in Summer time – So green, beautiful and a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts on vacation. Lakes (called Ponds in Maine and New Hampshire unless they are really big) – rivers and mountains dominate the landscape in the central and northern parts of the State. A more populated and urban feel describes Southern New Hampshire.

I lived in Manchester, New Hampshire for 3 years in the 1970s. At that time I wasn’t into plein air painting. Upon returning many decades later I am struck by the green beauty of everything in the month of August. Also the unlimited opportunities available for landscape painters.

On this Paint the States trip I am visiting for 3 days specifically to paint. My destinations are the Lakes Region - Lake Winnipesaukee and then the White Mountains to the north.

My husband Dennis is my traveling companion on this trip. He describes himself as my support team - I am most grateful to him for his endless patience and uncritical support.

We drove to New Hampshire from Central Maine. Due to road construction and the New Hampshire road signs (which tend to be abrupt) we got off track in Rochester, N.H. We ended up taking the scenic route to Laconia on Lake Winnipesaukee. We took Rt. 107 which turned out to be a truly beautiful drive. Then onto Route 11 and Route 3 to Laconia.

Our motel for the night was located out of town right on the Lake front. We stayed at The Birch Knoll Motel – bare bones sort of place but clean and quiet - $99 per night right on the lake front in the full Summer season - so a good value. The beds were fine and there was a small fridge in our room. The motel also had a pool and a patch of beach on the Lakefront. We did not partake of either.

Weirs Beach Park, Weirs Beach, New Hampshire

I was hot on the trail of my first New Hampshire plein air painting as soon as we arrived at 4pm.

I ended up less than a mile away at popular Weirs Beach Park – a nice sandy beach, swimming area with terrific open views of Lake Winnipesaukee, Mt. Washington in the far distance to the North, and layers of White Mountains in between.

Here is the painting I did that August afternoon.

There were picnic tables and shade at this site. The shade in particular was most welcome as it was very hot and windy. Thunderclouds encircled but none came to visit me as I painted. I got a fair number of easel visitors of course, due to the crowded beach setting. Some of these encounters can be quite enjoyable and informative – especially when they come at the end of one’s painting session! I learned of some plein air painting sites in the White Mountains in one such exchange.

Ellacoya State Park, near Gilford, New Hampshire

7.00am – After finding morning coffee and bagel at a Dunkin Donuts place, I set off to find my morning plein air painting spot on Lake Winnipesaukee. I had been told that the views from Ellacoya State Park on the lake front are excellent and not to be missed. I headed off in that direction only to discover that nothing was open this early in the day, including the State Park. I was determined to find a good spot nearby. I drove 1.8 miles from the State Park turnoff on a side road that runs along the lakeshore.

I found THE most perfect painting spot at a parking area with a lawn, picnic tables and a killer view of the Lake and little islands, the Presidential Range, Mount Washington itself – all in soft early morning light. The place I found quite by accident is called “Lincoln Park” and is a community park open to the public.

I had a wonderful time doing this limited palette painting that morning – it was all so amazingly beautiful I felt as if I was in heaven.

One of my easel visitors was a neighbor who came over to see what I was up to – he told me he was a retired Panam pilot. He asked me to ‘keep this place a secret” – he obviously would rather not have lots of folks discovering this lovely spot right across from his home! We'll keep this spot a "secret" amongst us traveling artists.

Check out New Hampshire Painting Sites page for more specific instructions on how to get to this spot.

Save On Airport Parking

Chocorua – Lake and Mountains - The White Mountains, New Hampshire

After my morning painting session and breakfast, we left the Lake Winnipesaukee area and headed north to the White Mountains and North Conway area.

It rained on and off as we drove. There were enough sun breaks to get lucky and paint in between the clouds – and that is what happened.

We were on Route 16 heading North - a mile or two past the hamlet of Chocorua, we stumbled upon another great plein air painting spot – the second of the day. We took a West heading dirt road off Route 16 – we immediately found a grove of trees nestled around 2 small lakes. A strangely shaped peak dominates the lake area. It is so distinctive I am assuming it is called Chocorua Peak.

A private association keeps up the parking area. There is a portable toilet. Kayaking and canoeing was going on while we were there. A lovely handmade bridge links 2 Ponds - crystal clear waters reveal lazily swimming trout. The Lakes/ponds are used only by canoes and kayaks – no motor boats or personal water craft allowed. Peace and tranquility. Another gift from the Painting Gods!

I set up my plein air painting gear and painted in delight for 2 hours on the shore. I can only imagine what this place must look like during Fall when all the hardwood trees turn scarlet, orange and yellow – Wow!

White Mountain/Sandwich Range Wilderness - New Hampshire

One can be challenged by difficulties on these painting trips. This time I came down with a rather nasty cold virus on our 3rd day. Thanks to my husband driving a lot that day I was able to get my last New Hampshire painting done in spite of feeling less than wonderful. I found that getting my easel set up and starting a painting immediately made me feel better . Engrossing myself in the landscape and the plein air painting challenge was the best medicine.

After leaving the cute Swiss Chalets Village Inn in Intervale, just north of North Conway in the White Mountains, we headed to Route 112 from Conway going West towards Lincoln on the western side of the mountain range. Route 112 is also known as the Kankamangus Highway and is renowned for its’ great scenic beauty.

I had expected to find a good plein air painting spot right away but didn’t until we were almost to Lincoln. I eventually found my spot just after we crested the White Mountain range – looking south at the Sandwich Range Wilderness area.

The above painting was done on the side of Route 112. Stormy skies were closing in and gave drama to the weird mountain shapes. Painting at this spot wasn’t peaceful as cars kept pulling off to view the mountains and then visit my easel. One can feel like a performing seal under such circumstances. But never mind – everyone was really nice. One lady even asked about buying the painting from me.

The mountains in this part of New England are formed from a Jurassic and Early Cretaceous era batholith (a large mass of cooled magma from the earth’s core –which forms Granite).

These mountains are very ancient and have been ground down and rounded into strange and folded shapes by Ice Age glaciers. I found them fascinating. Very different from the much younger Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Western U.S. Also, the countryside in New England has had the hand of man upon it for much longer. As a result, It just isn’t as wild and untamed of course.

After our whirlwind trip to paint New Hampshire I have decided that a slightly more leisurely pace is called for in future States. It all depends on the territory to be covered of course. I want to spend more time doing plein air painting and less time driving and glued to a car seat. Live and learn. The journey is the point, not the completion of my Quest to paint all 50 States. It’s early days yet of course so I’d better learn to pace myself.

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