Friday, February 10, 2017

February Paints

I went painting yesterday, rushing to paint the shadows between the trees as the sun sank behind them and my toes and fingers grew colder and colder.
Birch tree study, 6 x 8 inch, plein air, oil on linen/birch.
 The air was icy, and stung. Still, as I went up the hill and saw the moon rising I stopped and tried to catch that in paint too. The results were pretty messy, and I ran out of light (and working fingers) too soon. And then my easel had a problem, and I lugged it home, up hill, without folding it up. I wouldn't recommend the practice.
 Still, getting to see that moon, away from the yard lights, rising above the dark trees, lighting up the snowy hillsides, was worth it. And I hope my messy little painting will be a useful study and help bring it all to mind again.


Today was a taste of spring - the air was warm and the snow melting. I got out late, and missed most of the sunshine. As often happens when I don't have much time to paint and don't want to waste it, I spend a long time wandering around, trying this place and that, and maybe the view will be a little better if I just go up or down another hill...
The pups are always up for some aimless wandering!

After backtracking, I headed east and found a good vantage point on top of some round bales. It was a little warmer there, not being directly on the snow, but it was not out of the wind.

Feeling rusty and running out of time? Better try two paintings.
I was really hoping to catch the moonrise, but with the clouds moving in I wasn't sure I'd see it at all, and I also wasn't quite sure where it would appear, making it difficult to do any blocking-in or preliminary sketching beforehand. 
In the meantime, the sky to the south and west was getting better and better. Time to move some paint!
I was still working on the trees in the foreground when the moon came up. Then it was a sprint, getting as much information painted as I could before the moon disappeared behind the next cloud, or the light changed too much.
The last colors of sunset.
I recently got a couple of music stand lights to try using as easel lights (as an improvement over last summer's phone-flashlight nocturne attempts). I meant to save them for spring, but it was so mild today (and I am impatient) that I brought one of them along. It worked well! Most of the painting was done while I could still see my palette, but things get a bit iffy when the light gets too dim. I could still see my subject well enough, but it was harder to tell just what color I was mixing. It also helped to see when cleaning up!

My set up, with easel light, and hay bale as a handy-dandy brush holder and painting perch:

Moonrise study, and sunset study, 6 x 8 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

October's Bright Blue Weather

I know, I know, November is two-thirds over already. It's snowing outside at the moment. But here's a look back at October.

October 1st I met up with a great group of artists at Evansen Art Studio in Hastings, Minnesota to spend a day painting. In the evening the show was hung and there was a public reception. There were sure a lot of beautiful paintings and some of the them were featured in a silent auction at the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council gala on November 4th.
Here are the two that I painted:
Another Season, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. 
Fruit on the Vine, 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

As the daylight hours became fewer, I didn't often get out to paint, or have long to work when I did. But I just love the light and color of this time of year, so it was good to get out and soak it in. This is a smaller painting, so I could try to capture those gorgeous lines and colors in a short time before sunset on October 17th.
Pastures in October, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. 

October 22: Time to get out into the woods. These back-lit birch trees caught my eye, with the golden poplars in the background, and all the wild asters that had gone to seed lit up with the low sun.
Some cattle broke through a fence somewhere and came up behind me and stared. They weren't impressed.

Birch Grove - Late Afternoon, 9 x 12"plein air oil on linen/birch panel.

October 24: Another race against the sunset! I never tire of those curving fields with their varying colors and textures. Many of the trees in the woods had already lost their leaves, but the aspens and oaks still were a sight to behold with their vibrant yellows and rusty reds.
Late October Color, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch panel.

I've only been out once so far this month, on November 4th. I painted quickly, as the light and shadows changed as the sun sank down beyond the neighboring bluffs, and the girl tending the fire didn't hold still. But it was one of those clear-sky days, with the smell of fallen leaves, and perfect for a little campfire supper.
November Campfire, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch panel.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


September. A very full month.
My sister, nephews and eldest niece were visiting from the other side of the world, and the time was precious. A lot was packed in, as we have to make the most of the time together, and the days flew by.
I was also preparing for the Driftless Area Art Festival, which took place the 17th and 18th. Two beautiful days, among many rainy ones. (The following weekend the park was under water!) But that weekend was beautiful, and I thank all of you who came out and enjoyed it and made it a great event.
My temporary gallery: my booth at the Driftless Festival.
At the same time, the Between the Bluffs plein air event was taking place in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Since I didn't have a chance to paint the first week, I put in as much easel-time as I could the last few days. The first day, Monday, I painted on the very edge of the designated area, a view of the King's and Queen's Bluffs in Minnesota. They're such recognizable figures, and I always like how the light hits them, as they tower above the highway below.

Driftless Royalty, 9 x 12 inch, plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
It was a day to paint bluffs and clouds. I tried for another quick paint before dark, watching a distant storm in the sky and painting a valley below.
Distant Storm Clouds, 9 x 12 inch, plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

On Tuesday I headed for a county road along the Interstate, to paint a barn I've long admired. That cupola! It's a beauty. The sky was dark to the south and west, which contrasted beautifully with the light on the roof of the barn and the dark outline of a tree in the pasture. The weather moved in, and I got rained on a little before the skies cleared.
Local Color, 9 x 12 inch, oil on linen/hardboard.
Then it was time to paint more clouds and valleys! A friend joined me and we went to the upper Hixon trails in La Crosse. The shadows were long, the light fleeting, the mosquitoes voracious.
Cloud-Watching, Upper Hixon Trails; 9 x 12 inch, plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday brought more wet weather, but it cleared for a short time in the afternoon. The creek was swollen and brown with all the rain. I painted the light and shadows quickly, and the sky was already cloudy again as I finished up.
Bridge over Muddy Water, 12 x 9 inch, plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

The next day was the day to frame and turn in three paintings. I took these:
My three in the show!
Saturday morning was the "quick paint" in La Crosse. I almost didn't make it. I left home "early", but not early enough, as unbeknownst to me there was a color run happening downtown, and parking where I thought I was going to park was not an option. I was also not quite sure where I was supposed to be, and I wasn't so sure about braving the clouds of colored dust, so wandered around lugging my gear for awhile until I finally stumbled into the right place. Whew!
Though I had to paint quickly, it was a relaxing place to be: watching the poplar leaves blow in the wind and the river rush by.
My quick-paint, 9 x 12 inch, plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
Saturday night was the public reception. Always fun to see all the new paintings from around the area! I was so pleased to receive an Award of Excellence for my painting "Local Color", and I also won first place for my quick-paint. Two of my paintings are going to new homes, which is the best honor of all. Thank you to everyone who came!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Evening on the Rooftop

Detroit, Michigan, four years after my first time there. It was a visit to see family, and it was so good to get a glimpse into their projects and lives. Though it wasn't a painting trip, I brought my gear along just in case, and got this one in on the top of the Jam Handy Building on the evening of August 25th.

Evening on the Rooftop, 11 x 14 inch plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Plein Air Hudson

I spent the weekend in mid-August in beautiful Hudson, Wisconsin, as part of Plein Air Hudson, 2016, through the Seasons on St. Croix Gallery. Such a fun event! There were twenty-one artists that participated, and we painted around town and the surrounding area for three days. It was my first time visiting Hudson, and I enjoyed walking and driving around and getting to know the area. Here are some of the paintings I did:

 The first day, Friday, started out cloudy. I was drawn to a spot just behind the gallery, the view through an alley with a mass of power lines overhead, and a colorful collection of buildings.
Color on a Cloudy Day, 9 x 12 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.
The sun shone a few times during that first painting - and it was hot! But it always clouded up again, and began to rain off and on later while I did this painting of a collection of old sheds and a great old tree, with a mass of weeds and wildflowers in the foreground. I was cold and wet when I finished, but the sky was just beginning to clear and show some color as the sun set.
River Road Relic, 9 x 12 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

Saturday morning was busy in downtown Hudson, and I discovered that parking spaces were a rare find! I did a little more exploring before finding a spot pretty far from the river. I walked down and found a place in the shade to paint. This used to be a toll road across the St. Croix River, but now is part of Lakefront Park, a good place to walk and watch the boats, do some fishing, enjoy the sunshine. I finished just in time to refuel with a burger and fries and some good company, catching up with a group of some of the other artists.
Willow by the Bridge, 9 x 12 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

I went exploring in the afternoon, looking for some countryside, and a good place to watch the clouds. I...don't even know where this is. I went up and down so many roads, and I got pretty mixed up. But I liked this spot, wherever it was, with its line of trees between fields and the cloud shadows moving over the landscape.
Partly-Cloudy, 11 x 14 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

It took some time, but I did find my way back to Hudson, where I was happy to get to hang out for a bit with another group of artists, and eat some delicious bruschetta at Bricks - so good!
Then we all dashed out to catch the sunset. I didn't go too far, finding a spot on the dike where I could see the moon rising, and painting furiously to catch that beautiful sky before it got dark. I made good progress too, but had to finish some of the details with some help from my phone flashlight. :)
Last Light over Hudson, 12 x 9 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

The river was a busy place Sunday, with a lot of people out enjoying the sunshine and water. The sounds of it were all around me as I painted this one, watching the reflections dance, in a cool, shady spot near a swimming beach.
Wading in the River, 9 x 12 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.
I did some painting in the evening too, and then it was time to do some framing, and get some much-needed sleep. Monday was the day for hanging the show, and we each prepared and brought in three paintings. Then the gallery folks did their magic. 
Meanwhile, I did some more painting, and then explored downtown with some loved-ones, who traveled to see me and attend the opening. We did a little shopping, hunted out a bunch of Little Free Libraries (Hudson is where they began), and ate more bruschetta.
The opening reception was in the evening, and it was lovely. So fun to see where everyone painted, and the beautiful art created, hear some stories, and chat with some people met during the week. I was so happy to also receive an Honorable Mention for my painting "Color on a Cloudy Day"!

My three in the show!
The show will be up till August 28, 2016 - check it out!
 Explore Hudson! Find a Little Free Libary! Eat bruschetta!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Red Wing Plein Air 2016

June 20-25 - time once again for the Red Wing plein air festival! This was my 6th year participating. Every year brings a chance to get to know the Red Wing area a little better. I found some new (to me) places this year, and revisited old ones.
 My first painting of the week was on a farm that I'd admired and painted from a short distance away a few years ago. This time I got a closer look, and painted from another angle. It's such a beautiful place. The bittersweet beauty of these lovely old structures, with some rust, chipping paint, and failing shingles juxtaposed against the blue sky and lush greens of a summer landscape. These buildings are old and run-down. But they're still standing.
Still Standing, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. sold

Monday night was a picnic and paint event at the Harbor Bar in Hagar City, WI. I didn't do a painting there myself, but enjoyed some good food and watching other artists work. Afterwards I headed back out with my gear to try to capture the moonrise. The Full Strawberry Moon. I chose a spot facing a place called Rattlesnake Bluff and a field of tall standing grain. I am not at all an experienced painter of nocturnes! If the folks in that neighborhood looked out and saw someone with an easel under a streetlight, with a cellphone for extra light, flailing around trying to avoid biting insects... well, I know who it was.
Moon Rising over Rattlesnake Bluff, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

 Tuesday. Time for a hike. Before the week began I treated some of my clothing with permethrin, so I could go into fields and woods with a little less worry over insect bites - especially from ticks, which have been pretty bad this year. I gathered all my gear - easel, paints, umbrella, etc. and hiked up Mt. La Grange, a.k.a. Barn Bluff. It was a hot hike, but there was a good strong breeze at the top. I followed the Prairie Trail all the way to the east end of the bluff, and found a nice out-of-the-way spot to paint, with a view of the river.
 Here's where I was set up:

Here's what I painted:
Prairie Trail View, 11 x 14 plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
The evening found many of us up on the neighboring bluff-top (you can drive up this one) at Memorial Park, painting the sunset on the first day of Summer. What a gorgeous night to watch the sky.
Beginning of Summer, End of the Day, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday - a day that alternated between flat, overcast skies and intense sunshine. I returned to Old Frontenac and took a walk around the neighborhood. Had to go back and visit the barn I painted last year. I found another artist working nearby, and decided to join her and paint a different view of the same place I admired so much last time. It has such a great old face, and I appreciate it all the more after struggling with the perspective of it and trying to get all the windows and doors to fit in their proper places. I'm also glad the owner hadn't gotten around to painting the old gate yet - the variations and the wood showing through gave me more color to work with. And the great old trees provided a fine backdrop.
J's Barn, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. sold
 Thursday morning started out cloudy and rainy, and I was so tired that my plans of getting an early start to the day just didn't happen. I drove around for awhile, got lost, and eventually got a better feel for one area outside of town, but no painting happened. After the rain stopped, it was still a very cool day. Perfect for another hike. This time I went up the other side of Barn Bluff, following the Quarry Trail with its cliff rising up on one side and the steep hill dropping off on the other. A fallen tree caught my eye and I had a go at painting it. The mosquitoes, when I was still, sitting in one place, were terrible, and I'd forgotten my bug spray. An extra shirt wrapped around my head helped keep the humming hoards away, and I could enjoy myself. I love being in the woods. The backdrop of cliff, rock, and gravel is quite different than what I usually paint and was a good challenge, and I reveled in painting the moss that covered the root flare of the fallen tree.
Quarry Trail Afternoon, 11 x 14" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
By the time I'd cleaned up and hiked back down the bluff, the day was far spent. I wanted to do one more painting, though, and headed back to the area I'd explored in the early part of the day. The sun was getting low - a beautiful light, but a fleeting one. I set up near a farm, hoping to paint the cows, but also eyeing up the steeple on the horizon. After I'd sketched in the latter, the obliging bovines slowly grazed their way right to where I wanted them and I painted them in too.

Grazing in the Thistles, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Friday was the day to pick three paintings, frame, and deliver them to the gallery to be hung. A private reception was held Friday evening, and awards were announced. I was so happy to receive an Honorable Mention on my first painting, "Still Standing"!
 This year's judge was Kathie Wheeler. I was first introduced to her and her work the first year I did this event, and I've been a fan ever since. 

Saturday morning was the quick paint. I had picked the spot I planned to paint the night before, but the morning started out hot, with a promise of getting even hotter, and the spot I'd picked was in full sun. I changed course, and ended up painting something different than what I'd planned, and also sort of revisited something I'd painted last year. But I don't regret it. It's amazing, though, how quickly two hours go by when trying to paint a complicated mass of ropes and cables in changing light.
Ropes and Pulley, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
The show will be hung till late August, and can be seen at the Depot Gallery in Red Wing, Minnesota. Stop by and see the whole show!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spring Greens and Sawdust

I went out to paint today, and after wandering around for awhile, and hunting morel mushrooms with my brother, I set up where the woods has been recently logged. The breeze was fragrant with the scents of wildflowers, all the spicy woodsy smells of spring, and cut wood.

Spring Greens and Sawdust, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.