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!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hay and Hudson

Three days in a row I went out to paint on a bale-strewn hillside with an excellent view of the western sky. Three days in a row the weather moved in from the northeast.
The Weather Moving In - 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. August 4, 2017
The weather the first day was the most dramatic and severe. I caught the last of the sunshine and the beginning dark clouds in this little quick study.
I finished up in between trips running up the hill to watch the sky and be amazed at the line of storm clouds and rain moving closer, lit dramatically by the light from the setting sun.

The next day I began a larger plein air painting - at 12 by 16 inches, it was a bit larger than I usually work outdoors. I got kind of a late start, though, and with the clouds which moved in once again it got dark sooner. I "finished" the painting, but I just wasn't satisfied.
 I went out again the next day, similar time, same spot, and worked out a few of the things that were concerning me. This is the final result:
Spoiled Hay - 12 x 16" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. August 5, 6, 2017


When we were kids, my older sister and I sometimes had the job of pulling wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace) out of the pastures. It has a tendency to take over, so the goal was to keep it in check. However, when roadwork was done nearby, and the mulch used to cover the bare banks and ditches was apparently full of wild carrot, the battle was officially lost. At least it's beautiful!
Wild Carrot Patch - 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. August 10, 2017


August 18-20 was the annual Plein Air Hudson in Hudson, Wisconsin along the St. Croix River. This year I wanted to check out the nearby state park: Willow River State Park. I'm so happy I did! The river it's named for is lovely, and the falls are understandably popular.
Friday the 18th was an overcast and cool day - perfect for hiking, and for taking my time on this painting of a couple of the trees that grow along the falls. Moss and stone and moving water. I definitely want to go back there.

Along the Willow River - 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. August 18, 2017

I spent some time in the afternoon exploring without my heavy pack of gear. Up a steep bunch of steps there's a nice lookout right up above the falls, and I wanted to return later and try a painting from there. 
Willow River Overlook - 11 x 14" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. August 18, 2017
I didn't give myself much time - I used every bit of daylight, which made for a dark hike back - but the sun peeking out from the clouds and hitting the water and the colors and textures of the many trees and hazy hills was something I really wanted to capture a little of in my painting.

Saturday, August 19th. I spent the morning walking around the town of Hudson, and checking out the work of some of the other artists who were painting down by the river. I had lunch with a new painting pal, and then it was time to get to work!
I saw this old brick building last year while walking around town and I wanted to paint it. It has a lot of character, and I really like its old door with its wooden slats. The view I first wanted would have involved standing in the street, which obviously wasn't going to work. So I got as close as I could, standing on the curb in the slim shadow of a power line pole. Light and shadow, green weeds and orange brick, and a view down the alley.

Brickwork - 12 x 9" plein air oil on linen/hardboard. August 19, 2017

End-of-Day Reflections - 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard. August 19, 2017
In the evening I went back down by the water. The reflections on the still water were just magnificent, and I had to try to paint them.

Sunday, August 20, back at the state park. It was a much warmer day than my first visit. Those steps up the trail seemed even steeper and longer!
I don't often paint pine trees - I'm more of a deciduous tree person. But there's something so lovely about a pine grove, the ground covered in old needles, and the spicy-piney fragrance when the wind blows through it. I liked how the light caught the bare lower branches of these trees and I wanted to convey that in this painting. This painting came neither quickly nor easily; I have a lot to learn about painting pines.
Pines and Needles - 14 x 11" oil on linen/hardboard. August 20, 2017

The last painting did go quickly - both out of necessity due to the time of day, and because it's more my usual subject matter: farm and sky. The sky was just getting interesting as the sun sank behind the clouds. I set up along this road and a corn field. A new road has gone in close by, and this one ends very abruptly just behind where I was parked.
At the End of the Road - 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard. August 20, 2017 

 The evening of Monday, August 21st, held the opening reception. Really fun to see the whole show hung, pick out favorite paintings, and hear the stories behind some of them.
 The event judge this year was Scott Lloyd Anderson, and the top prizes went to Richard Abraham, Dan Mondloch, and Bob Upton, who well deserved them!

My three submissions to the show.
The show was on display August 21-27. Special thanks to all who stopped by, and extra special thanks to those who are giving some of my paintings new homes!


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.