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.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Rain over the Ridge

It was a wet, but lovely afternoon. 

Rain over the Ridge, 8 x 16" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

The fields are growing lush, so many flowers and blossoms perfume the air, and the leaves on the trees unfurl and grow fuller every day. Today I painted the clouds which blew in from the southwest, bringing rain.

I stayed mostly dry in the doorway of a shed, kept company by a couple of damp dogs, occasionally startling a barn cat passing through on an errand.

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.