Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snowy Pine

5 x 7  oil on board

This will be my last post for the year.   Happy Holidays to all and hope the new year is a great one!  Please check in again in the new year.

After a few months practice the art student lamented to the teacher "but I can see the piece so much better in my head than I can get out on canvas!"   To which the teacher replied,  "what makes you think that ever changes?"
-Art and Fear


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hummingbird on Napkin --- sold

5 x 7   oil on board
birdxbird benefit auction

I found this little gal dead on the floor of our barn this Fall.  It makes me sad... she is so beautiful  that I saved her in a little bag in the freezer.   Something everyone should know:  if Hummingbirds fly into a building they go up to the highest point and basically stay up there hovering until they die of exhaustion.   Lots of people have automatic garage door openers and many of them have red handles.  If you leave the door open  hummingbirds are attracted to the red and fly in,  then go up to the ceiling.  I know it seems ridiculous that there is a huge opening that they can fly out, but they don't.   So keep those garage doors closed!  More than once a hummer has flown into Bob's studio and we have had to net it and let it go outside.

I just returned from a trip to NYC to see art!   I am both inspired and overwhelmed.  So today I spent my studio time stretching canvases and cleaning my turp pot and brushes, general organization, and thinking.  

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Interior with Stairs

9 x 12 oil in canvas

Something very different for me.  I have been doing a lot of "scratching" lately.  Twyla Tharpe, in her book The Creative Habit,  uses the term scratching to describe the creative process of finding one's way to new ideas.  Scratching may consist of  looking around, opening books, experimenting, playing, traveling.... whatever helps you to find your way.   I went to my sister's old farmhouse in Stockholm, WI a couple of weeks ago and was so struck by the beauty of the home she has created there.  The old plaster walls, steep stairway and beautiful color choices on the painted wood really struck me;  but especially the way the light affects its all.  I also recently read a new term that I very much like, intimist, or intimist painting .  Its not in the dictionary and I can't remember where I read it so I may have spelled it wrong.  To me it says a lot.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fall Woods

8 x 12 oil on canvas
I painted this piece when I was in Frontenac this last time, from the deck of the lodge we used as our studio. Halfway through the painting it started snowing - not big flakes but delicate tiny drops which created a barely perceptible shift in clarity. The light became diffused. There were frequent trips inside to sit by the fire and many cups of tea needed to complete this piece!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prairie - before and after

This week we finally finished up the last 12 acres of prairie planting!  We now have 50 acres planted, it feels great to be done with the planting stage.  Now it will be some management for a few years and then its on its own, with a burn sometime in the next 5 years.  Today I went for a walk in our first snow and saw a Northern Shrike - they summer in Canada and come down here for the winter.  I also saw "our" Screech owl up in her usual hole;  she has been a winter regular since 2005.  I am assuming its the same one, although I'm not sure.  I have been trying to get a photo of her but so far no success. 
On the painting front:  I need to figure out a way of painting in my studio that makes me as happy as painting outside.  Subject, set-up, lighting, etc.  all are being considered and experimented with;  I have been painting but feel like keeping my work to myself for a bit until I'm comfortable with what I'm doing.  I went to the down-town library last week and felt like a kid in a candy store;  I have been looking at a wide variety of artists and just read a Fairfield Porter biography which was inspiring.  

Friday, October 31, 2008

Frontenac Fall

This  is one of the paintings I did down in Frontanac last weekend.  The colors were so muted with lots of neutrals, difficult for me.   Here's a story I'm going to share because it may strike a chord in  others.  Like I said in a recent post, we have all these gourds and squash from the garden.  I have brought a bunch into my studio and every day have been admiring them, arranging them, playing with light.  But its been so nice out and I know my outdoor painting days are limited, so I have been forcing myself to leave the gourds and go out to paint - or try to.  Needless to say it has not gone well, as my heart is back in the studio... After three days of failed attempts I let myself stay in the studio, happily painting gourds!  


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gourd II---sold

Sunday in Frontenac painting outside in the snow;  my painting weekend was one of those times where things feel difficult and stuck - the silver lining being that this is often when growth occurs, even though it may not be apparent at the time... 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gourd --- sold

We didn't plant any gourds but we have them coming up all over by the garden and trellicing  (I know its not a real word but I like it!) on the fence with the grapevine.   I am leaving this week to go to Frontenac to paint again, I hope the weather stays mild.  I won't be able to post for a week.   

Duck stamp contest was exciting - no family winners, Jim got 2nd and Bob got 6th.  The winning painting is a beautiful Long Tail Duck on the water with a decoy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Frontenac Overlook

This piece was in the show but I never had a chance to scan it.  It was done at Frontenac State Park overlooking Lake Pepin.   A reminder to anyone who is interested and lives in Minnesota; the Federal Duck Stamp Contest is being held this Friday, October 17 from 9 am - 3, and Saturday, October 18 from 10 am - 1 pm .  All the entries can be viewed at the Bloomington Art Center.  Its pretty interesting if you are interested in art and/or conservation, wildlife.  More information is at


Monday, October 13, 2008

Art Show

I want to thank everyone who came to our show - we had a great turn out and a beautiful day.  The Fall colors and the warm weather made me happy ( rain threatened through most of the day).   Of course, once the first person arrived I totally forgot all about taking photos, so these are all pre-show pictures with no people.  I also forgot to take photos of my studio, which was set up  with paintings and ceramics...  

I have been  busy getting ready for the show this past month and look forward to getting back to the paint!   Thanks again to all who came and made the day a success - also to all who couldn't make it but sent their wishes - much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Red Oak Leaf --- sold

Its that time of year when it is very easy to be overwhelmed by... not exactly sadness but a bittersweet feeling that comes with the wind and the crickets and the wafting leaves.   Reading a book called Art and Fear, it has some great things to say about the creative process.  Two quotes I like:
"Writing (painting) is easy:  all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."   --Gene Fowler

"Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgement difficult."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Willow sunrise

I was asked to participate in landscape show at the Accola Gallery, in Wisconsin, and this is one of the pieces I will be sending. ( The show runs from October 7 through Thanksgiving. Jean Accola (owner) does beautiful watercolors and oils, and we share an interest in the prairie landscape of the midwest.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Morning Trees

I painted this a few weeks ago and I think it will be the last really green painting of the year... one of our maple trees already has a lot of orange and the grasses are shades of gold and flax.
There is a new excitement in the air as the warblers are beginning their migration and arrows of geese are moving across the sky.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Two Strawberries

Some of you may already know this but my sister and I are planning a studio sale here at the farm on Sunday, October 12, from 1-5 pm.   I will have paintings and ceramics on display for sale and my sister Mary  (check out  will  have her hooked rugs and silk scarves that she hand dyes with local botanicals.  Everyone is welcome so feel free to pass on the information.  This week Mary and I will be designing a mailer that will have more information, including directions, and I will post it here when it is done.  I will be busy between now and the show with framing and getting this place in shape so I may not get a lot of painting done but I will try to keep posting once a week (on Mondays) so please check-in.  I hope everyone is out enjoying the amazing Fall weather!


Monday, September 1, 2008

Hosta VI --- sold

I have still been thinking about the hosta and painted this one a few weeks ago.  Who knows exactly why some things pull at you?  

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pine Creek II

This is another piece I did while visiting my sister in Wisconsin.  Again I used a limited palette and this time instead of a palette knife I used one brush (I usually have a handful of brushes going!) for the whole piece.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Just returned from my Montana trip,  I stayed at my cousin's place,
outside of Helena.  He does wagon-ride dinners and the second night I was recruited to drive a team of Belgians and a wagon with 18 people in it because his regular driver was not able to make it - fun in spite of rain and hail and 43 degrees (in August!).  The tepee where dinner was served had a fire going and was very cozy.  Check out his website, its a great place up in the mountains surrounded by National Forest.  I was busy with family and the outdoors - did not even bring my paints.  Will get back  at it this week.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Prairie hill --- sold

We have been busy preparing the last 15 acres for prairie planting this November;  maybe I will post  before and after  planting  photos so you can get an idea of what it's like.  During much of the process we were so frustrated and at times wondered if it was worth it...  but now watching all the birds and bugs and other critters who will have an undisturbed pesticide-free home, we would go through it again.  Chimney swifts and swallows are having a great time swooping over the grasses and catching grasshoppers.  I will be in Montana this week so will not be able to post again until the last week of August.

Accola Gallery landscape show

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prairie coneflowers

I have been re-visiting a favorite book of mine, Zen in the Art of Archery.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Eastern philosophy or mind training.  In the forward, D.T. Suzuki writes:
"One of the most significant features we notice in the practice of archery, and in fact of all the arts as they are studied in Japan... is that they are not intended for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind;  indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality.  If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough.  One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an "artless art"  growing out of the unconscious."

To use a western phrase, being in the flow.  The painting paints itself.  Something to strive for.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Prairie with silos

Here is another palette knife/limited palette painting of our prairie. I recently read this quote by painter George Inness which hit home to some of what I have been trying to get at:
"...I had begun to see that elaborateness in detail did not gain me meaning... I could not sustain it everywhere and produce the sense of spaces and distances and with them that subjective mystery of nature which wherever I went I was filled."


Friday, August 1, 2008

Purple Cone Flowers

These coneflowers are in a bed in our front yard, they are not native to our area.  The past days have been some of the hottest and muggiest this summer,  I try to get up and out early to paint and with the tall grasses get covered with dew.  I have been reading Peter Matthiessen's book End of the Earth,  Voyages to Antarctica.  A funny feeling reading about frigid temperatures and Ice bergs and blue and white, while here it is green green green and hot and humid. 


Thursday, July 31, 2008

prairie in bloom

Here is a recent photo of our prairie in bloom.  The photo shows mostly Black-eyed Susans and Daisy Fleabane;  there are other flowers blooming including vervain, bergamot, coneflowers, and blazing star.  The grasses are up to my shoulders in many areas! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pine Creek I

I went to my sister's place in Stockholm WI. for a few days last week.  There is a new conservation area there that has been bought and restored by the Western Wisconsin Land Trust.  It is called Pine Creek Natural Area and they have turned an old cow pasture with a down trodden eroded creek into a pristine trout stream with native prairie - its beautiful!  This piece is a continuation of the palette knife and limited palette exploration;  for this I added venetian red (along with white, black, and yellow ochre).


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Our Prairie

I have been working on some larger pieces and doing a bit of experimenting - that's why I haven't posted in a while. This piece came out of my landscape trials. I have been thinking about editing and simplifying, getting down to essentials. I decided to limit myself, and for this piece I took away all brushes and just used one palette knife. I also took away most of my paints and only used white, black, and yellow ochre. My thoughts were to not get caught up in details but to try to get at what is important about this view. It was freeing to not have so many options!


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yellow Coneflowers II

I have been painting the micro and the macro - flower studies and landscapes. Its such a different process that I find I am having difficulty making the switch, and have not been happy enough with many of my landscapes to post them. I have been thinking about landscapes and the fact that here are acres and miles of land that are being distilled into a few square inches of canvas... to try to get to the essentials without getting caught up in specifics.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yellow Coneflowers

There are so many things blooming in the prairie now, I will post a photo soon but I don't think it will do it justice.  The flowers are tall enough so I can paint standing up - my preferred mode, instead of sitting on the ground.  Last night we were walking thru the prairie trails (we had to cut trails because the grasses are nearly to my shoulders!), and we came upon a skunk.  It was a youngster, and was only a few yards from us.  A tough little thing, it started making false charges, pawing the ground with its front feet, backing up, and doing handstands (no kidding).  We just kept watching it and pretty soon it picked up a dead bird it had been eating and resumed; very cute but unfortunately for all the nesting grassland birds
and ducks very carnivorous.   


Friday, July 11, 2008

Black-Eyed Susans II

I started this piece, got about one-third done, and it started pouring rain, hailing and storming... after an hour or so the rain stopped and the sun came out again. I went back out thinking my poor flowers would be all beaten down by the storm but they survived and I was able to finish my piece! These delicate beings are amazing.


Black-Eyed Susans I

The weather has been wild.  When painting this piece I had to hold on to my easle with my left hand while I painted with my right  because it was so windy; I  almost quite a couple of times, it felt a little crazy being out there.  Plus I had a stray Brittney Spaniel that had become my best friend and was at my feet the whole time.  Finally the flowers are beginning to bloom in the prairie!


Prairie's Edge

This is a painting of our prairie;  the flowers are starting to bloom, and it's full of birds and bugs.  It was one of those very heavy-atmosphere Minnesota  summer  days...


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Milkweed II

Usually I go for a long walk the night before or the morning of a painting day, and that's when I discover what I will be painting next.  Its  an emotional pull that I experience while seeing.


Milkweed I

Painting milkweed has been more difficult than I expected. They gently sway in the wind and  are washed  in full sun;  not a lot of contrast, all soft and powdery.  They have a wonderful smell and very delicate tones.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Frontenac Prairie II --- sold


Frontenac Prairie --- sold

Here are two small field studies I did last week. In landscape painting it is very difficult to distill all you are seeing into a cohesive vision in a short period of time. You have to work fast because the light and weather change so quickly.   Also, dealing with bugs, sun, wind, rain, schlepping stuff around.... it was a great time!

Villa Maria

Here is a photo of Villa Maria in Old Frontenac where I was painting last week.  It is a beautiful site with woods, prairie, and bluffs overlooking the Mississippi river -  a perfect, secluded setting.  If you haven't been there I highly recommend visiting.  It used to be a girl's school and is now owned by the Catholic Church.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

White Peonies --- sold

Single Peony

Two more peony paintings I did this week.
Tomorrow I leave for a painting week in Old Frontenac on the Mississippi river. We will be staying at the Villa Maria Retreat Center, which has 70 acres of land and is near a large park that has over 2000 acres.
Phoneless, computerless, choreless - yeah!
My next post will be next weekend.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Red Peonies

Its funny, I really haven't painted flowers much before this summer;  now they seem to be really speaking to me.

"A painter can say all he wants to with fruit or flowers..." Manet


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hosta V --- sold

This is the last of the hosta paintings for now - I know I will return to them.  I am most interested in them when they are emerging and have deep inner spaces.  I have been painting peonies this week and will post them as soon as they are dry enough to scan.

our prairie

Here is a picture of an afternoon prairie walk that our friend Carl Hoffman took.  Two years ago this was a soybean field;  in two or three weeks there will be flowers blooming and  I will post another photo.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Peony Buds - sold

Nasturtium --- sold

Every morning the vesper sparrow and the warbling vireo have a singing contest - the former being most tenacious, and the latter winning in enthusiasm!  I couldn't wait any longer for the peonies to open so I painted the buds...  Sunday I noticed the nasturtium were starting to bloom so I was again sitting on the ground painting.  I prefer to paint standing up, your body doesn't get so sore and its easy to step back and squint for values, etc.  But when I paint small flowers I like to get right into them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hosta Interior IV --- sold

Couldn't resist doing another hosta,  they are almost fully opened now.  I have been re-reading a little book called In Praise of Shadows,  by Tanizaki.  In it he extolls the gloaming, murky, shady parts of our lives - love it!