Sunday, January 28, 2018

Snow Studies

10 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch.
 January 18
In the woods as afternoon turned to evening. Snow clung to the moss-covered bark of an old oak tree on the hillside.

8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch.
January 19
Winona, Minnesota, on the campus of Saint Mary's University. I set up, troll-like, under a footbridge to paint the still water of the creek that cuts through the woods.

Two 5 x 7" plein air oil paintings on linen/birch. sold
January 21
I took myself for a Sunday drive after church through a landscape of filtered sunlight, fog, and frost. By the time I reached this spot in the marsh the sun was disappearing behind incoming clouds and the fog had dissipated. It was a beautiful, quiet spot to observe the textures and colors of the bluffs and lowlands on a winter afternoon. It was a wide view, and the little panels I had along to paint on just didn't seem to cut it, so I painted two of them together.

9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch.
January 25
Footprints and drifts along the field-road. Grays and blues in sky and snow, soft shadows and the sun setting behind a cloud bank to the west.

7 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch.
January 26
A thaw turned steep hillsides into waterfalls and all the ditches and gullies into streams of melted snow, stained by fallen leaves. The dogs, chasing tracks and trails up and down hill, occasionally remembered my existence and returned to me to be told what good dogs they were before running off again.
Shortly after I painted the reflections, water broke through the ice and snow farther up the hill and the little stream widened and foamed as it rushed on down towards the valley. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Watercolor Time

I've been getting back into painting more with watercolor recently. It's so different than oils and, though I began with watercolors when I was a kid, it still can feel like a new and difficult medium - but can also be so fun and satisfying!
Here are some recent works from late fall until now:

Late October watercolor #1, approx. 5 x 8"

Late October watercolor #2, approx. 8 x 5"

Last Color, watercolor, approx. 8 x 11"

Overgrown, watercolor, approx. 8 x 11"

Damp Leaves, watercolor, approx. 11 x 8"

Moss Green, watercolor, approx. 5 x 8"

The Still Meadow, watercolor, approx. 8 x 5"

Brown and Gray, watercolor, approx. 5 x 8"

November Dusk, watercolor, approx. 5 x 8"

Winter Birch Portrait, watercolor, approx. 11 x 8"

Brown December, watercolor, approx. 7 x 11". sold

Evening Snow Clouds, watercolor, approx. 7.5 x 9.25. sold

Moody Snow Clouds, watercolor, approx. 7.25 x 9.25. sold

Snow on the Tree Trunk, watercolor, approx. 5 x 4.75. sold

Friday, January 12, 2018

Though I walk...

11 x 14" oil on linen/birch. 2017

8 x 6" plein air oil on linen/birch. December 8, 2017

8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch. December 11, 2017

6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch. December 16, 2017

16 x 12" oil on linen/birch. 2017

9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. January 8, 2018

18 x 24" oil on linen/birch. 2018

16 x 20" oil on linen/birch. 2018

These paths wind and wend through woods and fields and pastures. Across sunlit land and shadows.  Smooth ground and rough. Through thistles and weeds and brush, and through wide places and on the high ground where the wind blows cold. The little bit of snow that has fallen has settled in them and makes them stand out in the brown winter landscape.
 They are not great, important roads - nothing special - just small, insignificant ways. Tracks left from planting and harvest, and trails followed by cattle and deer.
 And me.

 I've been doing a lot of walking.

 I wish I could say I've handled loss well, but grief has surprised me with its ebb and flow, its waves that come and knock me over when I think I've gotten through the worst of it and am doing fine. There are times when the missing is so strong and the absence felt so keenly.
 I'm trying to find my footing when everything has shifted. One path has abruptly ended, so what now?
What am I doing, and what ought I to be doing, and thinking, and feeling? What is important, and what is of worth?
 Thoughts and questions, fear and fog, more foolishness than I want to admit. Trying to figure out a broken world, not able to figure out even a broken heart. Pouring it all out before the One who formed both. Putting one foot in front of the other.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

He is faithful still when I am faithless.
His peace passes understanding.
His promises are sure.
His love never fails.

Keep walking.

Stand fast in the faith,
Be brave,
Be strong,
Let all that you do be done with love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Friday, December 1, 2017


Some oil paintings from October and November:

Late-blooming roses.
Autumn Roses, 9 x 7" oil on linen/birch.

A stem of sumac leaves, with the light shining through them.
Sumac Leaf, 7 x 9" oil on linen/birch.

Gathered hickory nuts from the woods.
Hickory Nuts, 8 x 8" oil on linen/birch.

A little study of autumn color, fields and pastures, and a few grazing cows.
Green and Golden, 5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. October 17, 2017.

A blue-sky day along the river. Painted in Alma, Wisconsin.
6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. October 19, 2017. Sold

Followed by a cloudy one. Painted in Brownsville, Minnesota.
On the River, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. October 20, 2017.

In a week's time most of the leaves in the woods were on the forest floor instead of in the canopy.
9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. October 25, 2017.

Falling snow and sleet softened the view of the landscape and heightened the color of the green moss and the dark trees in the woods.
10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch. October 27, 2017.

There is a particular row of pear trees in the orchard that always turns beautifully red in the fall. I broke off a few twigs before a hard frost robbed the leaves of their vibrant color.
Pear Leaves, 12 x 12" oil on linen/birch.

First snow. It didn't stick around long, but it was beautiful while it lasted.
First Snow, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 1, 2017.

Another little still life of things gathered in the woods.
Oak Leaf and Acorn, 7 x 10" oil on linen/birch.

The last of the nasturtiums, which had been kept through a few frosts outside already.
Nasturtiums, 8 x 8" oil on linen/birch.

A quick study of the oranges and greens of a cold November evening.
7 x 10" plein air oil and linen/birch. November 9, 2017.

The old frame of a barn along a country road.
9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. November 12, 2017.

A study of the familiar sweep of the south-side fields on the home farm. The cold weather has changed the greens, softening and dulling their hues.
Windswept Fields, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 13, 2017.

 And a little study of the fields and woods to the north. The colors at dusk.
5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 13, 2017.

 A sunshine day in a field of hay.
7 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 18, 2017.

A day to give thanks. One among many.
7 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 23, 2017.

Despite a stretch of warmer days, a little bit of ice remained on the shaded edge of the pond.
9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 27, 2017.

 After keeping out during most of the deer hunting season, it was good to get back down amongst the trees again.
7 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 28, 2017.

One more painting for the month of November. I knew just where I wanted to paint, and went there directly, but I didn't stay there after all. The old draw of the woods kept me wandering and meandering through the trees and up and down hill until the shadows were long and there was only just enough daylight left for an attempt at capturing this little group of birch trees.
10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch. November 30, 2017.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Seven years ago I began to take a more active role in my Grandma's life and care. In a short time I became one of her primary caregivers. She was able to stay in her own home, on the farm, cared for by people who belonged to her and loved her. There were many difficulties, but so much grace. There is so much that I could say; so many stories, many changes, and so much I've learned through being in her life.

Now, she doesn't need me anymore.
She will run, and not be weary; she will walk and not faint. God will wipe away all tears from her eyes, and her voice will be strong to sing again.
She fought the good fight, she finished her race, she kept the faith.
I am still fighting, and running, and keeping, and the separation now hurts.
I love you, Grandma, and I'll see you again soon.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

September Bluffs

September holds both the Driftless Area Art Festival, and the Plein Air Between the Bluffs painting event - both celebrating the beauty and art of the region. It seems fitting then that many of my paintings this month have been especially focused on the bluffs and valleys of this corner of the Driftless Region. Here are some of my September oil paintings:

A Change in the Air, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. September 4th. sold
 This first one was painted in Alma, Wisconsin. The trees near the water already showing their fading greens and hints of fall color. The weather that afternoon cycled through soft sunshine, rain, and gusts of wind. It was beautiful.

Evening on the Ridge, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch. September 8th.
 This little bluff and river painting was the first I did for the Between the Bluffs event, which is centered in La Crosse, Wisconsin. This was done across the Mississippi river on the Minnesota side, as evening fell.

Worn Wood and Sunshine, 10 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch. September 12th.
As part of the La Crosse event, I agreed to be one of the demonstrating artists - doing one painting at a set time and place for anyone who cared to watch. I'd not done this before, and frankly it can be a bit intimidating having people watch as the painting comes together! But it was fun; thanks to everyone who stopped over as I painted this beauty of an old barn.

Then I had to take a break from painting for a bit as I finished up all the little and big things that go into preparing for an art fair. The Driftless Area Art Fair is a gem. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and made it so special!
My booth at the Driftless Festival, day 1.

 Then it was back to painting for the last few days of the Between the Bluffs event:
Shadows on the Bluffs, 8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. September 19th.
A hot September afternoon, watching the shadows from the clouds drift across the bluffs, and the breeze blow the willows and leaves on the small poplars that grow in the marshy lowland. (I was so happy to receive the "Spirit of La Crosse" award on this piece from judge Scott Lloyd Anderson at the opening reception!)

Down in the Valley, 8 x 10" oil on linen/birch. September 19th and 20th.
I began this painting the same night, but it was late. I liked that color on the bluffs that were lit by the setting sun, but I just didn't have the time to get the painting to where I wanted it to be. The following night I returned to the same spot and refined it a little bit more.

Afternoon in the Woods, 9 x 12" oil on linen/birch. September 20th. sold
It was warm down in the woods and damp too, despite the dry weather. I had my easel wedged against a tree, with only its back leg set up, to keep it from sliding down the steep hillside, as I sought to capture the varying greens looking down towards the valley.

5 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch. September 22nd.
This last one was a little painting done for a couple who used to live in this area, but have moved elsewhere. I little reminder of the bluffs and valleys. I loved the light at that time of day!