Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Red Wing Plein Air 2018

Monday, June 11th:
The week started out cloudy. I headed for the woods.
 I had decided to visit Frontenac State Park this year, never having gone before, and I'm so glad I did! I ended up doing half my paintings there. I've only just begun to get acquainted with the place, and will have a lot more exploring to do in the future. Along the Upper Bluff Trail there were a couple of places with large fern beds on the steep hillsides facing the river. I set up my easel near one of these.
The Path through the Ferns, 10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. June 11, 2018. sold
Just the right sort of place to spend a few hours quietly, taking in my surroundings, all the colors and sounds and fragrances of the woods, occasionally flicking away a spider or an ant or being scolded by a squirrel.
My easel and gear can get pretty heavy, and are always a bit cumbersome. I carry it all on my back and plod along like an overgrown turtle. This week I tried something new and brought a small folding scooter with me to use on paved trails. It got me around a lot faster, and wasn't much to wheel along with me in the places I couldn't ride. 
I'm still a turtle, but now slightly faster and slightly more ridiculous!
The day continued cloudy, but as the sun went down the clouds broke up a bit. I had my back to the sunset, looking out over Lake Pepin at the softer colors of the sky and the patterns on the water.
Dusk on the River, 8 x 6" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 11, 2018.

Tuesday, June 12th:
The clouds continue.
Had a good time painting with Jim Turner, who had found and got permission to paint at this little homestead on the previous day. I spent the humid morning wrestling with roof angles and flat light.
Jim's second painting was of me still working on my first!
"Hannah at Work", watercolor by Jim Turner.
Hill Avenue Farm, 14 x 11" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 12, 2018.
In the evening there was a cookout/potluck dinner for the artists and volunteers. I was late, but was glad I showed up. A beautiful location, and some good conversation.
The sky was clearing and the clouds were getting interesting, and on leaving I made a quick decision to head out towards the country and try to capture the clouds in paint. It was a mad dash to paint them before they changed too much and before the light faded! I didn't have quite enough time. I may work on this one again and see if I can fix a few things.
Cloud study, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 12, 2018.

Wednesday, June 13th: Blue sky!
I headed back to Frontenac State Park, sat on a picnic table, and painted the early day.
Joy in the Morning, 8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 13, 2018. sold

"...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
                                                   Psalm 30:5

In years past this plein air week was my time away - a break from caregiving, and a time to focus on painting. During the week I'd call home, checking in to see how my Grandma was doing, worrying, discussing her and her care. At the end of the week I'd return, exhausted. Often I'd be up with her in the night to follow - sometimes it was a battle of wills as I'd try to get her to drink more, or we'd sit together and talk or sing. I'd long for sleep, but give thanks that she was there. I miss her.

Still feeling my own loss keenly, I was perhaps extra emotional when it was announced Friday night that my painting "Joy in the Morning" had been selected for the Dan Guida Award. Dan was the longtime director of the Red Wing Arts Association and an enthusiastic force behind this plein air festival. His family created this award in his honor and memory, and I am deeply grateful.

Wednesday evening I returned to one of my favorite places: Rattlesnake Bluff Trail in Wacouta, Minnesota. Another study in greens. The trees cast shadows across the trail and grass and into the field, and the rocky face of the bluff caught the late afternoon sunshine.
Evening on the Trail, 8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 13, 2018.

Thursday, June 14th: Back at the park, painting tree portraits.
My first painting of the day was again on the Upper Bluff Trail. A gnarled maple tree trunk, and the greens of leaves and underbrush.
Bluff Trail Maple, 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 14, 2018.
My last painting of the day was along the road near the park entrance. I love the shapes of these great trees, and the way they caught the late light before dusk.
Standing By, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. June 14, 2018.

Friday, June 15th:
A hot, humid morning. Squeezing in one more painting, before framing and delivering three paintings to the gallery.
A beautiful little farm off the highway, with rich pastures, colorful cattle, and noisy guinea fowl. More greens. A little creek cutting through the pasture, and a silvery willow tree in the distance.
In Pastures Green, 10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. June 15, 2018.
Friday evening was the special "First Glimpse" and Award Reception, a ticketed event. Judge Lisa Stauffer did a great job of speaking about the art, encouraging notice of and appreciation for technique and portrayal of atmosphere in the works. I was so happy to see Jim Turner receive Best in Show for his painting "Men at work"! Derek Davis got second place for "Back in the Saddle", and DK Palecek received third place for her painting "Late Sun". Dan Wiemer's painting "Majestic Maiden Rock" received the "Best Sense of Place" award.

Saturday, June 16th.
I awoke to the sound of thunder and rain. It had lessened somewhat by 9am, when the quick-paint competition started, but an occasional streak of lightning still flashed across the river and every so often I had to put up my umbrella as the rain blew in under the roof of the depot, where a few of us had taken shelter to paint. I did like how the rain changed the view and softened the distant trees. 
Crossing, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. June 16, 2018.
At 11am the horn sounded and it was brushes down! Time to blow off the rain drops that still clung to the painting, and get it framed and into the gallery. Artist Greg Lecker took the award for the quick paint.

My four paintings in the show!

Now I will admit something here: early in the week, I hurt myself. I was zipping along on my scooter, scoping out painting locations (and, really, because it's fun and I'm only a kid pretending to be a grown-up) when we parted ways and I met the pavement. This incident slowed me down; I had to be more careful, couldn't hike far, had to spend more time patching myself up.  (Yes, guy at Walgreens, I am back for more bandages...) To adapt a famous quote, plein air painting is hard, and it's harder when you're stupid. But my bruises are fading and my new skin is coming in nicely. I still had a great week. Good times with painting friends, and a good dose of time alone. I met some lovely people, a dog who tried to make off with one of my shoes, sunshine and clouds and innumerable shades of green. 
 The show will be up till August 5th, and I hope you'll get a chance to stop in at the gallery to see all the work and pick out your own favorites.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Month of May

May 4 - spring in the woods. The browns of last year's fallen leaves broken up by the greens of Dutchman's Breeches and wild ramps.
May 4, 2018, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 6 - spring paint-day at the farm. A great group of artists came out to the farm to paint. It was so fun for me to see some old painting friends and meet some new ones, and to see this place I love portrayed through the eyes and art of others.
This is the painting that I did towards the end of the day. The fields were getting so green, and the trees of the woods were leafing out.
May 6, 2018, 10 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 9 - an attempt. Apple twigs, leaves, and blossoms in one of my favorite pieces of pottery. This was so much more difficult than I anticipated. I hope to try again next year.
May 9-10, 2018, apple blossoms. 16 x 20" oil on linen/birch.

May 11 - another attempt. These cuttings off the apple trees were still in bud stage, and I painted them in an old "Atlas" canning jar. A very fun challenge.
May 11, apple buds in an Atlas mason jar. 12 x 10" oil on linen/birch.

May 14 - A rainy Monday. The woods were turning all sorts of green, and the wet weather brought out the deeper colors of the bark of the trees.
May 14, 2018, 10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 15th - I always like to see how the hickory leaves unfurl from their flower-like buds in the spring.
HIckory Twigs. May 15, 2018, 8 x 8" alla prima oil on linen/birch.
In the evening I went out in the fields. The trees and the fields were becoming greener, but hadn't yet put on their summer colors. The shadows on the bluffs looked blue as the light faded. 
May 15, 2018, 5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 17th - I started this one late, after spending time working in the orchard clearing brush from between the rows of trees. The light was so pretty that time of day, but so fleeting! I didn't have enough time to finish and I ended up going out again a few days later, May 22, to put the finishing details in. The blooms were a bit sporadic this spring, the result of a very heavy bloom last year which was the result of a late frost that took out much of the crop the year before! By this time the grass was growing tall and green, and the air was filled with the scent of the blossoms and the buzzing of the bees hard at work.
May 17 & 22, 2018, 7 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 19 - The weather turned unusually cool this evening as I went out to try to capture a little of the dandelion-filled fields. A north wind blew and the sky clouded over.
May 19, 2018, 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 24 - Cloud study. This was one of those days when I just didn't have enough time to do what I wanted on location. But I had a start, painted in the bones so to speak, and finished it up at home that night.
May 24, 2018, 8 x 10" alla prima oil on linen/birch.

May 26 - Hot, humid weather. In the evening I went down towards the woods and set up in the shadows of the trees. The light from the sinking sun shone on the tops of the trees on the edge of the woods and lit one of the little trees that grow along the fence that separates pastures.

May 26, 2018, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch.

May 29 - Some beautiful blooms off of the bridal wreath bushes that grow by the house. I love the expressive shapes of the draping branches.
May 29, 2018, 11 x 14"  alla prima oil on linen/birch.

May 31 - One more chance to paint the dandelions. A quick little study before the darkness fell.
May 31, 2018, 5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch.

Friday, May 4, 2018


 April: snowstorms and thaws.

April 4: The snow was deep, but the sun was warm. I headed up toward Menomonie, Wisconsin, to take part in the Arbor Place Plein Air event. My first painting was done on the grounds of the Caddie Woodlawn Historical Park, which I enjoyed exploring before setting up to paint this old smokehouse.
The Smokehouse, 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 4, 2018
 Late afternoon I returned to this spot by the Red Cedar River to paint the snow and water under the bridge. I just loved the colors.
Snow on the Red Cedar, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 4, 2018

 April 6th: the sun shone, but the wind was cold! My little sister joined me and we painted from the car, first in downtown Menomonie...
5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 6, 2018

 ...and then a quick paint farther out in the countryside.
8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. April 6, 2018

 April 11th. I went out for a walk in the afternoon. It was a cloudy day and most of the snow had melted. I cut a few twigs off of a pussy willow and brought them indoors to paint. The soft greys of the catkins, with touches of green and pink, and the bright green of the newly cut stem.
Pussy Willows, alla prima still life, 12 x 10" oil on linen/birch. April 11, 2018

 April 12: I went out to work in the orchard in the afternoon. There is some major cutting of winter damaged trees happening, as well as some regular pruning, and I've been helping to haul branches and brush out from between the rows of trees and piling up some that's been cut for firewood. On this day I brought my easel out with me and tried to paint my impression of the place under an overcast sky. It was still cold and I took breaks in painting to haul more brush and warm myself up!
8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 12, 2018

April 17: Another snowstorm had come through, covering the land again and blowing the fallen snow into drifts. I went out one morning and painted along a fenceline on a hillside where the drifts were deep, studying all the variations in color on the snow and in the sky above.
9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 17, 2018

 April 19: The snow was melting again, especially on the top of the hill and where the tractor had plowed through along the field road. Patches of dirt and dry stubble broke up the smooth snow. I painted quickly, trying to capture a little bit of the late light.
7 x 5" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 19, 2018
 And after the sun went down, I painted another quick study: the blue of the snow, afterglow in the sky, and the distant lights of the neighbors across the valley.
5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 19, 2018

April 20: My last study of snow: melting drifts along the road. A little scraggly tree with a bird's nest still in its branches. Long, dry grasses, and soft evening light.
9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. April 20, 2018

April 29th: This painting was started on location, at the end of a day working in the orchard, but finished later on. It's a bit of a combination of what I observed that night.
9 x 12" alla prima oil on linen/birch. April 29, 2018 sold

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


At the close of January I left winter for summer, traveling from southeast Minnesota to southeast Queensland, Australia. I spent the next two months there, living with my sister's family, sweltering in the heat and humidity, resting, reading, letting my big sister take care of me, spending time with my growing niece and nephews, getting better acquainted with the place they call home, and, of course, painting.

 I wanted to take this opportunity to work on drawing and painting figures and portraits, especially my niece and nephews.
5 x 7" oil on linen/hardboard. February 1, 2018
 Tired from travel, and settling in, I did a quick study of my niece, who was reading a Calvin & Hobbes book.

 This pencil sketch is the closest I got to getting a likeness of my elusive eldest nephew. Someday I'll get to paint him. :)

7 x 5" oil on linen/hardboard. February 5, 2018
 My niece and I did a lot of drawing and painting together. Here I painted her profile while she worked on an excellent little painting of her dog.

 An allergy discovered: A quick little sketch done for my nephew, who gave us a scare and was spending half the night at the hospital under observation after reacting to eating a prawn.

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. February 12, 2018
A better day, attempting a painting of my youngest nephew. Nothing like being asked to sit still to remind a person of how much he likes to move and all the things he'd like to be doing. (But he kind of tried!)

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard.
 Painted over a couple of days, another portrait of my (very patient!) niece reading. Sometimes she read aloud to me, which was just lovely.

Asleep on the train after a long, eventful day. Graphite.

Still life:
 Studies of local flora.

9 x 12" oil on gessoed hardboard. February 3, 2018
 Lilly Pilly. This was painted on a rainy day; a sprig plucked from a shrub by the house with its glossy green leaves and bright pink berries.

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. February 19, 2018
 Though not native, frangipani or plumeria are a common sight, and their fragrance often fills the humid evening air.

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. February 21, 2018
 Eucalyptus leaves and gumnuts, picked up off the path of the neighborhood forest after a rainstorm.

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. March 1, 2018
 Gumnuts again. A different kind of eucalyptus tree with very different shaped leaves and fruit than the first one.

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. March 5, 2018
 Banksia, in a Bundaberg lemonade bottle. I often saw this particular species - I think it's a swamp banksia - with its reddish-brown bottlebrush-like flower stalk and leathery leaves and I knew I wanted to try to paint it.

8 x 10" oil on linen/hardboard. March 9, 2018
 One more gumnut study, this time from a flowering gum tree. The fruit of this one were heavy and ridged, the flowers a lovely pink, slightly bedraggled after heavy rain, and the leaves long and narrow.

10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. March 13, 2018
Beach Hibiscus. These grow to be large trees, which my niece and nephews liked to climb. Its bright yellow blossoms only last a day, then fade and fall. Handed to me after a conversation while I was painting one windy day by the bay, I took this flower back to the house with me and painted it that night before it wilted.

8 x 6" plein air oil on linen/birch. February 4, 2018
This was the first plein air painting of my visit. My niece and I trekked down to an area in the neighborhood forest and painted in the evening. The trunk of a strangler fig along a small stream. The light didn't last long, however, the mosquitoes began to hum, and the crows in the treetops sounded as though they were laughing at us.

8 x 6" plein air oil on linen/birch. February 6, 2018
 Painted in Point Halloran Conservation Area: a study of midday greens and blues.

6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch. March 8, 2018
On Mount Tamborine, downstream from Curtis Falls, upstream from where a colony of fruit bats was hanging out. The light grew dim early down amongst the trees, and a little rain fell in this little bit of rainforest while I painted.

By the bay:
 Tides, mud and sand, wind and rain and sunshine.
7 x 5" plein air oil on linen/birch. February 10, 2018
 Raby Bay. I was all set up to paint when I discovered my brushes were not in with my gear - not one! This little painting of the water was done mostly with pieces of dried leaves off a nearby plant. A rough little color study.

6 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. February 16, 2018
 Point Halloran, painting while watching the tide go out. In the hot and humid weather it made such a difference to get down to the shore and feel the wind off the water.

9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. February 25, 2018
 HMQS Gayundah. Appropriately, perhaps, my time painting this old gunboat "said to be named after an Aboriginal word for lightning" was interrupted by a sudden crack of thunder and lightning as a storm broke overhead. I was happy to get a chance to go back and finish it later in the afternoon as the tide came in.

9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. February 27, 2018
 Wellington Point. Low tide and cloudy skies, looking out towards King Island.
Two 5 x 7" plein air oil paintings on linen/hardboard. February 27, 2018
 Later, as the skies cleared and the wind picked up and blew hard, I walked around the point and painted this one (two) of the red rocks and mangrove tree, as the tide began to come back in. The sunshine brought out such color on the ground and water.

16 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. February 28, 2018
 Victoria Point. A beautiful old gumtree by the footpath. The water was high, covering the trunks and roots of the mangroves, and the morning shadows dappled the ground.

6 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 2, 2018
 Also at Victoria Point, painting amongst the mangroves. An overcast sky made the colors of the landscape a bit more subdued.

5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. March 4, 2018
 Raby Bay. A little sky and water study. A cloud overhead gave shade and a little rain, and cloud shadows moved across the bay.

6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch. March 7, 2018
 Victoria Point: Sky drama and mangroves at the bay. Glimpses of sunshine between rain showers.
Trying to take in and capture something of the colors and textures of sky and sea.
Listening to the wind, the little crabs crawling around the rocks, and the incoming tide.

5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 13, 2018
 Thompson's Beach, Victoria Point. A little painting done in the wind and an occasional downpour. A beautiful old boat and the fantastic shapes of the mangroves.

9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 16, 2018
Redland Bay. A quick study of the evening light at the bay; shadows falling across the mangroves and the sand and mud of low tide.

7 x 5" oil on linen/hardboard. March 2018 sold
Point Halloran Conservation Area. I really liked the feel of this place, tidal wetlands where salt and fresh water mix. There was a beautiful harmony in the colors of the wet landscape and sky and the delicate branches of the she-oaks. I would have liked to paint on location there, but the mosquitoes won the battle that day; I took a few photos and waded out. I began this little painting that night while the memory was fresh in my mind.

Mountains, skyscrapers, and ocean waves:
6 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 11, 2018
 Boonah, Queensland, along Mount French Road, looking across pastures towards Moogerah Peaks. The weather passing through alternatingly obscuring and revealing the mountains in the distance.

8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 12, 2018 sold
 Peak Crossing, Queensland. Sunshine and mountains, and farmland that made me feel a little more at home.

6 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 17, 2018
 The Spit, Goldcoast. A quick study. The waves rolled in and washed around the legs of my easel and retreated again, pulling the sand back to the sea. I held on to make sure my easel didn't go out with the water. My little niece and nephew appointed themselves my protectors, digging trenches and lying on the sand to attempt to block the waves! Such good little buddies. :)

6 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 19, 2018
Mt. Coot-tha: We went up early to the lookout hoping to catch the sunrise over the city of Brisbane. Instead we looked out into fog. I painted this as the sun rose higher in the sky and the fog began to clear.
5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 19, 2018
The morning sun grew hot and the fog lifted, bringing the city into view. 

6 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 24, 2018
Where the Noosa River meets the sea.
We spent the last weekend of my visit at the Sunshine Coast. I painted with my feet in the sand and the sound of the ocean in my ears.

8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. March 24, 2018
 Sunshine Beach. Sand and sea and clouds at dusk.

6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch. March 25, 2018
My last painting in Australia: A little study of the water, watching the waves roll in and trying to take in all the color and form and movement. Beautiful day.