Tuesday, August 1, 2017

July, in paint

Humid days and cut hay. Storms and sunshine. Thundershowers and wildflowers.

Evening Light, Northside Woods - 10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch.
July 1st. It gets dark much sooner down in the woods, and I didn't start as early as I would have liked. But the light was so beautiful among the trees on this north bluffside. I painted quickly, trying to capture a bit of the late light before darkness fell, and the coyotes began to howl.


July Hay - 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
July 5th. Another late evening start. The sky showed pink, reflecting the colors of the sunset to the west, and the drying hay and small square bales caught the warm light.


Hay Day - 11 x 14" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
July 7th. The weather looked uncertain - now dark and piling clouds, now sunshine. I set up with a good view of the sky in case it turned stormy. The patterns of the rows of hay and the contours of hillside fields are always beautiful to me, as is the fragrance of the cut grass, clover, and alfalfa drying in the heat of the day.
 As I finished up, the clouds were breaking apart, and I did this little study of the moon rising in the dusky sky.
In the Still of the Evening - 5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. 


Between Storms - 10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch.
 July 20th.  It was a warm, sticky evening. Patches of the long grass had been knocked over by the previous night's storm. I was surrounded by the sounds of tree frogs and the frogs from the nearby pond, and occasionally the sounds of startled deer. Everything was wet with dew as I finished up at dusk.


Pennycress - 12 x 10" alla prima still life. Oil on linen/birch.
July 25th. Indoor painting day. I got this lovely vase from Cheesbro Pottery earlier this year, and it was perfect for holding a bunch of pennycress that I'd pulled out of the fields and that had dried, with its many seedpods arranged on its delicate stems.


Old Gold - 6 x 8", plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
July 27th. A little study of weathered wood and yellow blooms.  I don't know what these flowers are actually named, but I always heard them called "Showers-of-Gold". They have been growing here for many, many years. The old building is the known as the summer kitchen, and has "1895" written inside the door. Old beauty.


Poplars in the Pasture - 8 x 10", plein air oil on linen/birch.
 July 28th. Dusk in the pasture. Wild carrot and yarrow flowers, and two slender poplar trees.


Pepin Cloud Study - 5 x 7", plein air oil on linen/birch.
 July 31st. Little studies of the sky, the bluffs, and the Mississippi River. The first was done in Pepin, Wisconsin. A warm breeze blew off the water, as the clouds shifted and made threats of rain on their way past.
 The second was done at the Garvin Heights Lookout in Winona, Minnesota. (A popular spot, it seems, for both man and mosquito!) It's a beautiful view over the city and the water. Though I'd planned to try a sunset paint, I instead faced the other direction, loving the mood and atmosphere looking downriver towards rain.
Rain Across the River - 8 x 10", plein air oil on linen/birch.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

May Flowers

These two little paintings were done "alla prima" - all in one go, similar to how I do a plein air painting, but these were done indoors instead.
The first was a sweet, fragrant little bouquet of flowers picked in the yard the day before on Mothers Day: Lily of the Valley, Jacob's Ladder, Creeping Charlie, violets, and a little sprig of a Bridal Wreath bush that I caught in the door on my way in - oops!

May Flowers, 8 x 6" alla prima oil on linen/hardboard. May 15, 2017. sold

The second was done later in the month when the bridal wreath bushes were in full bloom. (This time I cut some intentionally!)

Bridal Wreath, 7 x 10" alla prima oil on linen/birch. May 30, 2017. sold
 These both went to new homes yesterday at the Stockholm Art Fair in pretty little Stockholm, Wisconsin. I hope they bring as much joy in their new homes as they did to me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Red Wing Plein Air - 2017

Tuesday, June 20th
Hello again, Red Wing!
After checking in at the Depot Gallery and getting a bunch of panels stamped for the event, I drove up to Memorial Park on Sorin's Bluff, which has a great view looking over the city, and is a perfect place for watching the sun set.
Painting a view like this is very different from what I usually paint, and trying to simplify all the shapes and colors of the houses and buildings and trees below was a big challenge for me. I liked the slanting shadows that could be seen across the street below, the bright greens of the trees and the clearing on the west end of Barn Bluff, and the long view over to Wisconsin in the distance.

June 20, 2017. Summer Begins in Red Wing - 12 x 9" oil on linen/hardboard

Wednesday, June 21st.
Hiking up to the top of Barn Bluff with an easel and bag full of gear on my back isn't exactly enjoyable, but once at the top it is so worth it. The Prairie Trail wends its way through blowing grasses and wildflowers to the eastern tip of the bluff, which overlooks the head of Lake Pepin.
I've painted here before, and this time I brought an 8 x 16 panel to paint, to capture more of the wide view. 
Half-way into blocking in color.

I really enjoyed working out in paint the shapes and patterns of the river here. A beautiful puzzle.

Worth the Hike - 8 x 16" oil on linen/hardboard. June 21, 2017
Notes for next time: Eat a bigger breakfast - cheddar crackers just don't cut it. Wear sunscreen - the wind may make using a hat or umbrella difficult.
Favorite overheard story while painting: "Grandma was smart to bring him up here! No wonder Grandpa fell in love with her!"
Dinner with some of my favorite painters, and then back out. I headed to Wacouta, where I also did some painting and exploring last year. Looks like the fields were planted with rye again - so pretty! And there was something very homey to me in the subtle, sweet fragrance of the field in the evening.
I walked down a little ways on Rattlesnake Bluff Trail to get closer to this corner with its contrast of shadow and light on the standing grain.
Around the Bend - 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard. June 21, 2017

 Thursday, June 22nd.
Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.
A soggy, gray day. Artist Jim Turner suggested we go paint at Kelly's Taphouse, as we'd seen a good viewpoint from their patio the day before. They were so gracious and let us move tables and chairs and set up our easels to get almost out of the rain. It was so wet and humid that Jim's watercolors wouldn't dry! My oils worked out a bit better. The rain came and went and came again, but all the moisture in the air lent a nice depth to the scene of boat houses and Barn Bluff. Of course, I like my trees, and these two stood out so full and sharp in the wet weather.

100% Chance of Rain - 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard. June 22, 2017 sold
Late evening the clouds finally began to break, and I tried to capture a bit of that standing under Maiden Rock and looking out over Lake Pepin. When I was nearly finished, the sun broke through just before setting and the whole sky and river was aflame with pinks and orange and gorgeousness. I may have to attempt that scene in a studio painting in the future!
Departing Rain over Point-No-Point - 8 x 16" oil on linen/hardboard. June 22, 2017

Friday, June 23rd.
Headed out painting with Jim again, but I left him painting what would become an award winning piece, and backtracked to visit these cattle I'd seen on the way. This time of year is so green in Minnesota, but there are still a lot of variations and I want to be able to show the richness of the landscape without making it boring. There is always a lot to learn.
The clouds began moving in as the day progressed, and their shadows moved across the growing corn in the field beyond the pasture.
Noon at the Watering Hole - 10 x 8" oil on linen/hardboard. June 23, 2017
In the afternoon I ended up at Flower Valley Vineyard on Orchard Road. I'd driven past this barn before and knew I wanted to paint it. The dark clouds moving through set off its red sides nicely. It was built in 1872, and has beautiful stonework and narrow horizontal boards; barn swallows nest under its eaves.
The weather alternated between rain and sunshine, with occasional umbrella-flipping wind gusts.
One Hundred Forty-Five - 8 x 10" oil on linen/hardboard. June 23, 2017
Friday evening we all turned in three framed paintings to be hung for the show, and had a little gathering with the artists and arts association volunteers (and food!) which was really nice.

Saturday, June 24th.
Quick paint from 9 to 11 am! The sun came out just in time. The wind blew out of the north and it was surprisingly cold for a June day. Half-way through painting I ran back to my car to grab a sweater - it's hard to paint a straight line in the first place without adding shivering to the mix!
This spot is just across the street from the depot, and it always catches my eye. I liked how the morning light caught the wind-blown trees and grasses and made them stand out against the dark background of old brick.

Quick paint on my easel. A Little Wild Place - 8 x 10" oil on linen/hardboard.

This year's judge was Joshua Cunningham. I became acquainted with him and his work the first year that I was part of this event - in 2011 - and have been a fan ever since. He did a demo in the afternoon, through occasional spits of rain and amidst a mostly shivering crowd of onlookers, who sometimes left to go find jackets or coffee. It was great to watch his painting develop and have a chance to ask questions. 

My four paintings in the show.
I was surprised and so very grateful to receive Best of Show for my painting "Worth the Hike"!
I had a great time in Red Wing painting, and meeting and reconnecting with some wonderful people while there. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen, and to those of you who stopped by the opening! The show will be up till July 30th, 2017. Stop in and see all the new work, and pick out your own favorites. :)

Friday, June 9, 2017


June 8, 2017
Perched on top of some round bales, overlooking the fields. Watching the clouds pile to the south and move to the east and the wind make waves in the tall grass, listening to the blackbirds and bobolinks call.
The grasses this time of year are full of texture and subtle colors as they flower and seed. The weedier parts of the fields are full of white cockle blooms and the tall flower spikes of yellow dock.
The sky was mostly clear towards the end of the first painting, but some distant clouds in the east showed pink as they caught the last light of the sunset.
Clearing Skies at Dusk, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. 

There was just enough light, and just enough time, to paint another quick study: The moon rising above the southern-facing fields.
Moon Rising over South Fields, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Portrait of a Barn

This is "my" barn, the poor old beauty. I can't fix it, so I keep on painting it.

The initial sketch-in:

Then, blocking in the colors, especially the highlights and shadows:

 More detail, and blocking in the sky (and catching a few gnats in the wet paint!)

 The finished painting:
9 x 12 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard. May 26, 2017
I started this one pretty late, and used up every minute of daylight. Studying and painting the weathered wood and knots that still hold red paint on the faded north face, the milkhouse, the feed room, the lean-to. The long grass that surrounds it in the spring time, the beautiful old cupolas, with their touches of rust, that always catch the last of the light in the evening.
Here's looking at you, Barn.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


"Suppertime", 6 x 8" plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.
This afternoon, after so many gloomy days, the clouds at last broke and the sun peaked through, casting long shadows and illuminating the seeding dandelions and the fields, lush from all the rain. The cows grazed in the long grass.

I had a fine time, but the dogs were bored to sleep.

The chickens, after some suspicion, decided I wasn't a threat.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Windy Rainy Day in May

It's been so rainy and wet lately. There isn't much field work being done around the area, with the fields being muddy at best, and washed out or under water at worst. And the last few days have also been cold. It felt more like March today, instead of May, as I went out to paint.
The dandelions are going to seed, which I always find beautiful, and I wanted to paint some of them, and there's this old favorite oak tree at the corner of a field that's not quite fully leafed out yet.
Getting things started - blocking in the shapes, and painting clouds.
It was windy, and occasionally misting, and I was damp and shivering by the time I was through painting. But there were some amazing clouds out there today, the sound of the wind blowing through the grass, dandelion seeds in the air, a blackbird's nest in the hay field, and a deer passing by as I was cleaning up.
A red-winged blackbird's nest.

I call it a pretty good day to be out.

A Windy, Rainy Day in May. 12 x 9 inch, plein air, oil on linen/hardboard.

(But I hope we get some sunshine soon.)