Thursday, April 20, 2017

April in the Woods

A couple of recent paintings, enjoying and exploring the subtleties of April in the woods.
April 13, 2017. 6 x 8 inch, plein air, oil on linen/birch
The first was done on a north-facing side of the bluff. The trees grow tall out of the steep hillside, and large, moss-covered boulders mark the landscape. Delicate hepatica flowers bloom among last year's fallen leaves.

April 17, 2017. 10 x 8 inch, plein air, oil on linen/birch
 A few days later.
This spot is on the western end of the same bluff, and already the low-growing shrubs and bushes were leafing out, making a soft green haze over the forest floor. I loved working out how to convey the differing hues and textures of the spring-green foliage, and the thick clinging moss that grows on some of these old poplar trees.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


The end of February and first half of March were spent in Australia visiting family, with a little bit of painting tucked in.
All the paintings out of their boxes while I cleaned sand off of all my gear.

On our first full day there, we went to Wellington Point. We waited awhile for the tide to go out, and when it was low enough for us to easily wade through, following the sand bar, we headed out to King Island. Stopping to collect shells and watch hermit crabs on the way.

 Then time to throw some paint, while watching the clouds change and the tide continue to go out. Coming back, walking all the way on the sand this time, we saw soldier crabs and other creatures.
Hellooooo, Noosa! It's been awhile! You're as beautiful as ever.
Watched a glorious sunset over the main beach as the kids played in the surf and ran on the sand.
The next day we visited these rock pools, paddling in the deeper ones and being pushed by the waves as they crashed in and refilled the pools nearest them. 
I haven't quite got the hang of this umbrella yet, but it really came in handy on this day, and the wind wasn't too much for it.

This next one was a sprint, as the sun set and the clouds rolled in over the Sunshine Coast and I knew I didn't have much time before dark. The light went faster than I'd even expected, as the weather moved in and the rain began to fall. I'd left my umbrella, and so got pretty wet, but my sisters came to my rescue and helped me get moved up under a tree to watch the clouds as I finished up.

Another place I wanted to see again: The Glasshouse Mountains. I'd love to have more time to explore this area some day. But I got to take a little bit of it home with me in painting it. This was also a special time because my niece and oldest nephew joined in and worked on their own paintings. It was messy, but so good. They both have a good eye, and it was fun to see what and how they painted.

Another day we visited the Daisy Hill Koala Center. Lots of gum trees and wildlife, and grills to cook on for a picnic. My niece and I did some watercolor painting as well.

Byron Bay, New South Wales. I had not been here before, but I'm glad that's changed. It's a beautiful place, and there was some great scenery just on the drive there. I loved being up on the ridge near the lighthouse, looking down at the waves rolling in and crashing against the rocks. Great views. Also very windy. My hat was no match for it, and getting my brush strokes to fall where I wanted was tricky!
Painting like this requires staying put for a length of time. You may miss out on seeing some of the sights, and exploring more places. But on the other hand, you get to really take in something in a very intentional way. I noticed in much greater detail the layout of the land, and the structure of the lighthouse and the way the sunshine hit it than I would have only passing by. And I appreciate it that much more now.
After I was done and thoroughly windblown, we took a tour of the lighthouse, which I would definitely recommend.
This last one was done at The Spit on the Gold Coast. Waves, dunes, and skyscrapers. And on this sunny day, hot, foot-burning sand! But such fun waves, and the sandy, shallower area went out pretty far, perfect for landlubbers such as myself to enjoy and not get swept away. There were also an abundance of dogs! This place is a favorite on weekends for people and their pooches.

So much sand had to be cleaned from my gear! And so many good memories to take home with me. A huge thank-you to my family both here and there who made this trip possible.
Till next time, Australia!


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!