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Friday, January 31, 2020

The Search for Color in January

This January has been quite gray here in Wisconsin.  So I've found it important to find areas where I can introduce a touch of warmth into the gray palette before my easel.  One of my favorite spots to paint locally is in Richfield. 
This beautiful historic mill is a bold red and perfect for these overcast days.
While painting this, a sweet smiley face kept staring at me...see it?
Sometimes we stop at the local pub to warm up and have a little Brandy Old Fashioned and Cheese Balls appetizer.  Hey, it's what Wisconsin winter plein air painters do.  By the way Bilda's Friess Lake Pub serves an awesome BOF.
Yummy at Bildas.
Another gray day painting underway.  Met a wonderful farm couple who shared their history on this beautiful farm near Fredonia.  
Finishing up.  And low and behold, there was a corner bar just down the road, so we stopped in for a BOF.  Then decided to paint one more small study in their backyard.  

Can you tell we also try to have fun while painting???

My search for color led me to a local farm to paint the sheep.  Their warm fur against the cool snow was a fun challenge.  This will certainly become a larger studio painting.  My models left for a while, but then re assumed their pose in perfect position for a few hours.  What fun it was to observe them!
Hints of warmth with the manure spreader and sheep and hay.  
It was a wonderful January.  

Friday, December 13, 2019

A Mother's Love

During the Holiday Season, it's not uncommon to remember and cherish the memories of those longer with us.  I recently had a conversation with a fellow artist about losing a parent - who also guided and encouraged their artistic path.  The void of losing a parent seems amplified during this season and I want to take a few moments to remember my mother, Ursula, who taught me so much about art.

Looking back at my childhood, we lived in a simple farmhouse outside a very small community.  My mother immigrated here from Germany in her early 20s, married my father and they eventually settled here.
Our home farm
Little did I know it then, but my mother had some of her books shipped from Germany and decorated our farmhouse with pages from these publications.  Later, she purchased art prints of many great masters and soon the entire house was a mini museum.  We had prints of "Portrait of a Child" from Peter Paul Rubens.  See picture below.
About 1966?  My mother and grandmother and big brother. 
Rubens portrait to the right.
Van Gogh behind the Christmas Tree.
Some of her books from Germany she used for color plates and framed.
After a Scrabble game...Renior above the piano.
As the years went on, we had "The Milkmaid" print by Vermeer framed in our dining room, Renoir above the piano, Degas in the bathroom and Durer in my bedroom. 
As a child I had the opportunity to enjoy these prints all around our home and I had no idea the impact it would make in my life at the time.  As parents, our influence is great.  Expose your children to music and art, they need it now more than ever!  It is a great gift. 
In the past few weeks, I have started on new paintings - low and behold they are a mother/child theme!  It just dawned on me yesterday and this is why I'm taking the time to write.  God's whisper in my ear to paint what is in my heart.
Mother/child in progress in studio.
This is our family and our last group picture with our Mom before she passed away. 
In her Bible, she underlined a passage and wrote my name next to it.  It is now on my easel and a reminder for my daily living.  She knew my love of the sunsets. 
Psalms 19:  1-4...How clearly the sky reveals God's glory!  How plainly it shows what he has done!  Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next.  No speech or words are used, no sound is heard; yet their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth.  God made a home in the sky for the sun.
Now I would be remiss if I didn't thank my Dad who has also made a big impact on my life by sharing his love of the land.  My heart sings when I can be out exploring, hiking and painting in that farm country and I'm forever grateful to being a simple farm kid. 
Thankful for the beauty you shared!
And as my mother so beautifully ended every correspondence....Love and Peace. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

When Seasons Collide

Before the deep freeze of winter sets in, Wisconsinites are accustomed to the variations of weather this time of year.  We had one of those odd "earlier than normal" snowfalls on Halloween.  It was no trick, but instead a treat for avid winter plein air painters.  So while beautiful autumn leaves were still on the trees, we painted them falling on a bed of snow instead of white.  This is a true collision of seasons. 
Our annual "first" outing winter selfie on Nov. 1

Painting the colors of autumn with snow on the ground.
Since then, we have only been able to paint one other time as the snow has disappeared close to Lake Michigan.  During one of our adventures, we found a beautiful farm and the owner allowed us to paint there. 

Painting late in the day near Holy Hill.
Of course, we had to take a break for a Brandy Old Fashioned to warm up. Here's my painting partner Lynn Rix on the right.  Cheers!
It truly feels like yesterday when I was painting in a field of sunflowers.  But I love all the Wisconsin seasons and will now settle into the quiet season.

Friday, June 28, 2019


Insect experts say it's been the worst spring gnat season in 22 years.  Just when the weather is delightful and there's a new season to explore, these pesky bugs make it difficult to work outdoors.
Closer to Lake Michigan we've had fewer problems with gnats compared to what I recently experienced in SW Wisconsin.  The Gnat-pocalypse is real!
Recent springtime Plein Air pieces
Started this painting last week near Blanchardville and was immediately divebombed by the gnats.  Worked on it for a few hours before my bug spray ran out and I ran out of patience as the gnats won the battle.  The painting will be finished in the studio and I will pick all the dead gnats out of my painting and palette.  Besides, my models kept "moo-ving" on me anyway. 
Until the gnats go away and anticipating a bumper crop of mosquitos this year, I'll bring out my trusted head net and other bug battling gear for the months ahead. 
Happy Painting everyone!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Aromatherapy Plein Air

It's that time of the year when the beloved Lilac is in full bloom and I'm attempting to catch its splendor on canvas.  As most of you know, I spend a lot of my time in pastures and barnyards with beautiful animals, so this opportunity to nestle myself amongst the blossoms is a real aromatherapy treat!  Now if only we could figure out a "lilac" scratch and sniff feature for the paintings to keep that experience alive for a lifetime.
I set up shop surrounded by purple glory!

Still work in progress

Painted earlier in the week wearing mittens to paint as it was overcast and chilly.

Happy Happy to be outside in awe of God's creation. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Knitting Needles, Mashed Potatoes and Searching for Lost Sheep

A few weeks ago, I participated in my first workshop in over 15 years.  It was no ordinary workshop, but a winter painting "Snow Camp."  Yes, designed for us crazy artists who actually love painting outside in the winter.  Despite the blizzard, it was a dreamy experience.

First Night:  The three Wisconsin painters....a long journey with lots of gear, but we made it!
The workshop was held in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, near Franconia.  Led by Stapleton Kearns, a fabulous New England artist full of talent and wit. 
Our fearless leader....artist Stapleton Kearns
A great environment for learning from a master

We met for breakfast as a group, followed by a demo from Stapleton, afternoon painting on site, then evening dinner/lecture.  Three full days of adventure which were slightly interrupted by fierce winds (record setting actually) and blizzard conditions.  Day one painting conditions were picture perfect, but things went downhill from there. 
My first day painting

During the evening hours, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Inn, followed by a lecture about artists including Seago, Gruppe and Hibbard.  The inn was such a perfect location for a small workshop as we were able to store our painting gear in the lower level.  Quaint, friendly and very New England. 
Evening Lectures
The resident furry friend
Old New England, slanted floors and all

Day two demo....notice we are just a little colder

The winds picked up overnight and conditions kept deteriorating throughout day two.  But that didn't stop us.  We ventured outside to another full afternoon of painting.  There were many easels that were swept away by the wind gusts, some cursing and lots of laughter that ended the day.   And maybe just a few cocktails.

Here's a photo of Michel's easel (yes he paints HUGE) and how he has weighted down his set up with a cinder block.  Even that didn't prevent his easel from tumbling.

Day three went from bad to worse - in terms of weather.  Most of us stayed inside to do indoor painting exercises, but a few ventured out in the blizzard conditions including my crazy Wisconsin friends Lynn and Lori. 
The three WI girls, Lynn, Lori & Pam
Our sweet Inn
So I was asked by a fellow artist ...what was my take away?  Let me bring you back to Knitting Needles, Mashed Potatoes and Lost Sheep.  Stapleton will hopefully write a book someday, he is full of colorful stories and experience.  The knitting needles refer to those areas of a painting (think winter shadows) that can look like long horizontal daggers, or too many trees all upright (same size).  Mashed potatoes are those areas of paintings that are simply overworked and looking all mushy.  Lost sheep are sweet creatures...but also refer to areas of paintings that don't connect with the overall harmony or are wandering off the painting, you need to find them and bring them back to the canvas.  At least these are my interpretations of his fun filled workshop. 
A windchill of -8 our last morning before we caught our flight, but the sun was out!
Our group that final morning....minus a few who had to leave because of the blizzard.  Our instructor Stapleton has coffee in hand.
At the Manchester NH airport, ready to head home and apply what we have learned. 
A parting note:  It was such a pleasure to connect with the other artists in the workshop during these three days.  We all became friends, shared ideas, concerns and dreams.  No matter where we live and work, the goal is common:  to create art that touches the soul.  That's our common language.



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Winter has arrived!

As an enthusiastic winter plein air painter, I'm happy to say we finally have a beautiful blanket of white covering our landscape.  If you are in the Milwaukee area, we have an exhibit at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (2nd floor) through Jan. 29th where you can see more than 70 paintings, most are plein air works in all seasons. 

First day of 2019.  A little tired from a festive night on New Year's Eve, but the cold weather was a good wake up!

During this paint out, I kept humming "My Little Red Wagon" by Miranda Lambert.  Even though this appears to be an old manure spreader!

"My Little Red Wagon" sold to a new collector in Alabama, 12 x 10, oil