Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Changing weather, colors, harvest, shortened days and low sunshine.
When I could, I walked over fields, and picked apples in the orchard -red and yellow fruit against blue October skies - and soaked into my memory as much of this fleeting season as I could.
 Though I seldom had the time to get out with my gear, I'm happy I was able to do a few paintings outside. 
I often had a dog or two for company.
Farm Dog, October 10, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
The season changes quickly. By the time I painted this one, only a few late-blooming wildflowers still stood amongst the brown weeds and seed heads. The aspen leaves almost glowed.
Golden Day, October 21, 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
At times, the hills across the valley looked beautifully blue. On this day, the sinking sun back-lit a glory of oak leaves as the shadows grew long in the woods.
Oaks and Shadows, October 25, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Rumor has it that it will be winter before we know it, and I felt the need to take advantage of the warm weather on Saturday to get out to the woods and do some painting. I biked, stopping in the orchard to pick a few pears that still hung on the branches, and a few of my favorite late-summer apples, to add to my painting bag. No starving artist here!
 The dogs were with me, dashing off at the slightest insult from a squirrel, or something I couldn't hear or see at all, only to return with wagging tails to be told what good pups they were.
 Once again, I picked something "simple" only to be almost overwhelmed with how complicated I actually found it to be. The shapes, colors, texture of the trees, and the number of them... partway through it looked pretty dismal. But what a day to be out. The warm yellows, oranges, and greens of the trees and shrubs in the background, along and beyond the barbed wire fence that separates the pasture and woods from the orchard, were lovely. Little stems of wild asters bloomed in amongst the trees. The paint went on thick.
Late September in the Poplars, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
In the evening I attended the opening for the Between the Bluffs plein air painting event in La Crosse, Wisconsin. A great show! Really fun to see all the new work and pick out favorites. We were each allowed three paintings. I submitted "Roadside Glory", which I wrote about recently, and these two:

Sundance, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
"Sundance" was another orchard painting, done underneath the trees, looking out. The apples themselves are named Sundance, a tangy-sweet late-ripening variety, and I wanted to highlight the play of light on the ripening fruit. They won't be ready for harvest for some time yet, but the apples hanging on the outer branches pick up a lovely blush. When trying to paint something like this, I really get a chance to notice things like the differing shapes of leaves, a little insect damage, variations in color like those little touches of reddish-brown on some of them, and I appreciate it all that much more. This piece was awarded the Best of Show at the opening! I am so thrilled and honored.

Saturday Sunshine, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
My third painting was the first that I did for this event. An old, long admired barn situated on a narrow gravel road that should probably be avoided by sane drivers. I made some little friends here when I asked permission to paint. They kept me company, kept me on my toes, drew me pictures, and when they disappeared into the barn and reappeared on the low roof shouting "Paint us! Paint us!", I did. I'm delighted to say that this one sold at the opening and is going to a new home. What a fantastic and humbling feeling it is when someone chooses to live with a piece of my art. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Days

This is a beautiful, colorful time of year. Yesterday I went out to paint, but first spent some time just wandering, and enjoying all the wildflowers - asters, goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace, black-eyed susans, and a few late-blooming bird's-foot-trefoil and clover blossoms. And watching the butterflies.

Then time to paint.
Sketched in...
The trees are only beginning to hint at the colors they will turn, but the sumac and grape leaves are showing bright hues of reds, oranges, and yellow-greens.
Color time!


Roadside Glory, 9 x 12-inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard 

Today's painting:
The sky threatened rain, but it stayed to the west and we only got clouds and a little wind.

Very rough sketch- doesn't look like much at this stage!
The cows were busy munching, and working their way from one end of the pasture to the other and back again. I did a very quick sketch of their shapes before they moved on. By the time I was ready to work on them again, they were back to nearly the same spot.

Blocking in the greens and beginning to really notice all the subtleties of the field grass.


More color and texture in the grasses and trees:

 Finished up with the blue-gray clouds, and black and white cows.

Grazing the East Pasture, 11 x 14-inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hunter in the Hay Field

 There are difficulties and annoyances when working on location, but I get some pretty great work-spaces too. A hay bale is fairly comfortable, smells nice, and you can jab your brushes in anywhere.
And it comes with a view!

 The color of the fields looked pretty flat in the clear sunshine when I began painting, but I knew that as the sun got lower, the texture would appear. I was not disappointed.

Cat on the prowl.
As I painted the green fields I saw this cat, slowly and silently making her way through the grass and alfalfa, hunting. So I put her in.

I finished up as the shadows grew long, and put my painting away just in time - the dogs discovered me and leapt up onto the bale, nearly knocking me and my gear off and trying to lick everything in sight!

The finished painting:

Hunter in the Hayfield, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. 8/1/15

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July Fieldwork

After a spell of poor weather for hay-making and equipment breakdowns, it's good to see the stacks of square bales growing taller and wider, and a few herds* of round bales scattered across the fields. Here are three of them:
Three in the Field, 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard.

And today I worked on these two studies of a soybean field in Wisconsin. Soybeans are not something grown on my home farm, though some neighboring farms often have them. I'm not as familiar with them so this was a good opportunity to admire the green rows through a stand of poplar trees. 
Bean Field Study 1, 8 x 6" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
There was a nice strong breeze, which rustled in the poplar leaves, rippled across the rows of bean plants, and blew occasional cloud shadows over the fields.

Bean Field Study 2, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

*Not a technical farming term. But come on, it works!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Do you ever wonder who's behind these paintings?

You might be surprised:

My smallest painting buddy.
Trying to paint figures again. This time two jolly little girls who joined me on a short jaunt to the woods. Drawing or painting people from life is, I think, always challenging. With children, it's pretty much always a quick pose. There just aren't enough goldfish crackers in the world to keep that youngest one still! Besides that, there was her friend's hair to "braid" (she's probably still working those knots out) and a toad to follow, and a few improvements to add to Auntie's painting (there should be pink in more places, and Auntie should use much bolder strokes!) 
 Paintings don't always turn out how I want them to, but there's always something gained.

Picnic in Mosquito-Land, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Red Wing Plein Air 2015

It's that time of year again!
 Monday: I drove up to Red Wing through pouring rain. It was good to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones at the welcome breakfast, where we were given more information about the week ahead, a schedule, maps, etc. The rain stopped, but then came the wind, whipping the trees outside the depot. It did not look like a good day for painting!
Wind and Wires, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
 I was also running on very little sleep. Good thing Jim Turner, my painting companion for the day, has twice the energy and enthusiasm of most people and it's a little bit contagious. We drove out toward the country, turning down a long gravel drive that led to a farm. There were a couple of views that caught my interest, but I settled on this little red building that looked like it had seen many years go by. The day was looking sunny and bright at this point, and I commented on the nice breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay. I had to eat my words when the clouds moved in again and I had to hang onto my easel in the gusts of wind.

South of the Tracks, 8 x 10 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
Later in the day, I found Jim again, this time painting near the railroad - one of the industrial working scenes he captures so well in watercolor. I looked across the tracks and had a go at the patterns of sunshine and shadow. The many lines of the structures in this area of railroad and river work are very difficult for me when painting wet into wet oils. I keep trying to figure out the best way to do it, but it's a work in progress!

Down the Dock, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
In the evening we had a group event, open to the public, over on the Wisconsin side of the river at the Harbor Bar. Many of us painted until I, at least, was mighty close to being a starving artist, and then we got to enjoy sandwiches or burgers at the restaurant and watch the sunset. After walking around for a while, I sat right at the corner end of this dock. I liked the perspective of the lines of the boards, and that red boat was sure eye-catching. I wonder just how many of us painted it that night!

Tuesday morning I ended up out on winding country roads, exploring. I "wasted" a lot of time and most of the nice morning light! But I found some really cool places I wouldn't have otherwise seen, and saw turkey, deer, groundhogs, and one narrow gravel road that was literally covered in tiny butterflies. Amazing.
 In the afternoon I painting this downtown street. I painted this same street a few years ago, but it's such a pretty one, and I had a different perspective this time. I love the style of these old buildings. The many windows and architectural details on their faces are so challenging to portray or imply in wet paint. Trying to accomplish this, I also appreciate those details even more.
Downtown Tuesday, 9 x 12 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
 In the evening I went back to one of the places I'd discovered on my morning drive: this farm on top of the hills. Reminds me of home, and just look at the shape of that hay field!
 I'm not always successful, but I do love to paint hay. I love the smell of it, and the subtle colors of the stubble between the rows of cut grass, alfalfa, clover. Part way through painting, I saw a tractor coming over the hill. The field I was next to, and almost in, was being raked! The farmer was so kind and I was able to stay put, finish painting, and have a more interesting foreground as the hay was turned up to dry.
The Intricate Land, 11 x 14 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday the location of the day was Old Frontenac. What a find. I'd read about it previously (though my memory of the history had faded) and it was lovely to walk around the quiet streets of the historic little town on the river and see some of its wonderful old buildings and beautiful gardens. This white barn caught my eye the first time I made the rounds exploring. Its face, the grapevines that covered the near fence, all the various greens surrounding it. I painted the shadows in while the sun was out, but it didn't stay out. It came and went, and I took my time with this painting, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Met a few of the residents, which was really lovely, and heard some more anecdotes about the place.

Quiet Day on Manypenny Ave, 9 x 12 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

 After a pretty laid-back Wednesday, I was anxious to get out and get painting right away on Thursday. More exploring in Old Frontenac! I ended up down by the river, watching cloud shadows on the bluffs across the river, and their reflections in the water. This is a rather "quiet" painting, but it was nice to take in the scene of the sky and clouds, the currents in the river, the shadows cast by the tree I took shelter under, and a little sand castle left on the beach.
Mississippi Moment, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Just after the first one, I turned my easel and painted another looking downriver. More shadows and reflections; the fish weren't biting, but it was a good day for dogs.

Old Man River, 9 x 12 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Late in the afternoon I went back to my new favorite farm fields to check on the hay. Nice plump round bales stood in the field that had been raked while I had painted previously. The clouds were building, and I painted until I saw rain moving in and heard thunder roll. The evening was spent framing.
Hill-Valley Hay, 14 x 11 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

 Friday was the day to turn in 3 of the paintings done during the week. In the evening was the annual riverfront reception- a chance to be the first to see the show, and the price of the ticket could go toward the purchase of a painting. Good food, and nice to relax a little and visit with people there, including the wonderful volunteers who put it all together. It's really nice to catch up with some of the other artists and see what they found and painted during the week. This year's judge was the talented Mike Rada. First place went to Jim Turner, second to Lisa Stauffer, third to Laura Frykman, and Best Downtown to Ivan Zassavitski. I was very happy to receive an Honorable Mention for my Manypenny Ave painting!
My corner of the gallery on Friday night.

 I had set myself a goal to complete ten paintings this week. Not to focus on cranking out a certain number, but because getting a week away to paint is such a great opportunity and I wanted to take full advantage of that, and experience and learn what I could during a pretty intense time of observation and painting. Saturday morning's 2-hour "quick-paint" met my goal.

Arrived early to scope out my spot before the 9am start time.

Wet painting framed and on display outside the Depot.

Some of the other quick paints.
There were many beautiful paintings done in the two hours allotted for the quick paint. The public and artists voted for the best one - it was hard to choose! This year's winner was Dan Mondloch who had a great little painting of the boat houses.

Ropes and Pilings, 8 x 10 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

This was my fifth year doing this event, and every year I discover new places and, I hope, grow as an artist.
 The show runs through the third week of August. If you're in the Red Wing area, check it out! Info at

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sharp Left

 Wednesday's painting:
Sharp Left, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
Sharp left down a gravel road, brush piles burning add to the haze of a warm June evening, and pigeons fly in and out of the open side of a vine-covered barn.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Painting En Plein Air Because...

 ...I want to be out-standing in my field. ;) Ha ha.

Sometimes seemingly simple things are the most difficult to paint, like a field of grass or dirt. I keep trying though. One of the best smells of spring is the soil turned over before planting.

Sunshine, the smell of newly plowed good soil, a couple of lazy dogs.

Lined up.

Plowed, plein air, 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Old Red Barn

Old Red Barn, 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
I didn't go far afield to paint today. I stood in a cow pasture just south of the farm buildings, the sun shining in the west, and a surprisingly cold wind coming from the east. Old red-painted wood, green grasses blowing in the wind, and yellow dandelions beneath a blue sky.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Local Landmark

Today's painting:

The Creamery, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

This building, the old creamery, always draws my attention. Once an important center of this rural community, it has a lot of history and character. It's such a crazy combination of angles, openings, and cupolas. Definitely a challenge to draw accurately! 

Monday, April 27, 2015


 It was a beautiful day, and I was so happy to get out into it. Walking along the edge of the woods I spotted one little ramp plant. A little farther on, a whole patch! I know they have a short season, and decided that's what I would paint today. A little piece of April in this north-facing woods.

Just finishing up.

Ramps, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.