Friday, March 17, 2023

A Difficult Goodbye

Plein air painting in central Pennsylvania

Earlier this week, my husband and I said goodbye to our beloved dog of nearly twelve years, Maple.

While still a puppy, Maple was abandoned to an almost certain death in the woods of central Pennsylvania until she was found by a good samaritan who brought her to an animal shelter. Even when we adopted her months later, you could still count every rib on her because she was so malnourished. 

Staking a claim to the map of the world and my world

With that rough start, Maple was severely under socialized when we brought her home. She was afraid of her own shadow, birds, and had a difficult time understanding rainfall. She was anxious, and multiple remote controls, ball point pens, wooden furniture, and more fell victim to her voracious chewing. 

Lounging in the studio, behind my easel

I didn't think she could grow into a worthy pet and companion. Indeed, some of the worst fights my husband and I ever had in our nearly 22-year marriage were about "that dog," who would often dart into my art studio, grab a colorful pastel stick, and then streak down the hallway, trailing nasty drool the same color as the pastel stick. 

Keeping a watchful eye on me while
plein air painting 

Maple taught me patience. She taught my humility. And she taught me that dogs are absolutely amazing. Within a couple of years, she became a wonderful companion, and I always felt at ease having her by my side on remote woodland hikes or plein air painting excursions. She became my beautiful studio mascot, and frequently kept me company while I worked long, solitary hours in my studio. 

The void in our home now is immense, exceeded only by the hole in my heart. We'll eventually adopt her successor. But for now, please give your own pet an extra measure of affection today in honor of Maple, whom I will always miss. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Small Starts, Big Results

It's a busy time of year as I prepare for my final out-of-state art show in Bethesda, Maryland, this weekend. In addition to my usual show preparations, I've started to work on my annual 25 Days of Minis, a collection of small original paintings perfect for gift giving or for splurging yourself during the holiday season. 

Through this endeavor, I partner with a great group of fellow artists and you can check out all of them on the 25 Days of Minis website.

For the past several years, the minis have been a fun way for me to explore my ideas with a greater sense of adventure. It's remarkable how something small scale frees me up for greater experimentation without any sense of pressure or fear about, "Oh, no, what if I screw up this big canvas?"

(Yes, even after almost twenty years of painting, there is still that little questioning voice at times.)

Often, I will revisit these subjects in larger pieces. It occurred to me this year, why not make that bigger thing a more formal deal? So, I'm pleased to share that each Thursday during December, I'll share a new, "mega" companion painting based off of the smaller mini study for that day. There will be four new mega paintings for you to enjoy as we wrap up 2022. 

One of the mega paintings will be a landscape based off of this mini, "Study, Luminous." I thought it would be fun to share with you how fun and splashy a small painting can be through this timelapse showing its genesis. 

Drop by my website on Thursday, December 1 to see this finished mini as well as its big sibling. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Back to Basics


Garden Bounty

A garden harvest!

Summer is flying past and it's shaping up to be a busy fall with upcoming art shows. I'm excited! But sometimes I can get a little overwhelmed with all of the things that I need to do. When I start to feel lost, I reel myself back in through a couple of means. 

The first is my garden. Thanks to my parents, I've always had a garden of some sort since childhood. Sometimes it was a modest set up, such as pots on my apartment balcony in Wisconsin or a shared community garden plot in Maryland. Now, I'm pleased to have a wonderful backyard oasis in Knoxville, Tennessee. The photo above shows a recent harvest. We have massive fig trees and all of the flowers you see pictured I started from seed in our basement back in March. 

The other way I marshal myself during busy times is by getting "back to basics" with my work. Nothing grounds me and calms me more than picking up a stick of charcoal and working out my ideas with some inexpensive newsprint paper. It's very freeing and I find that it makes it easier for me to tackle more complicated ideas, such as this recent cityscape, "Focus!"

30 x 40 inch oil on canvas

I had this idea from an outing to New York City for quite a while, but I needed to mull it over before I dove into it because of the subtleties of light and shadow. The best way for me to "break the glass" on this motif was to begin with vine charcoal sketches. Shown here are a couple of the initial sketches I made to map out this idea in my mind before taking up a paintbrush. 

I also like to use color maps to envision the overall values before I start mixing up paint. Shown below is the small map that I used to guide me throughout the creation of this painting. 

Color Map

Once I have these details set in my mind's eye, I'm ready to jump into the actual painting. And a great representational painting always has an abstract foundation, as you can see here in this video clip: The Initial Block-In

Thanks to my garden and some sticks of charcoal, I'm able to juggle quite a bit during a busy time. Sometimes, getting back to basics is a good thing!