Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You

Yippee! Another outdoor art show season is in the books and I'm looking forward to a quiet winter with less travel and more studio time in the months ahead.

I'm already sending out show applications for 2016, but as I look back at this past season I want to say thank you to everyone who came out to my events and who helped make this another successful year of traveling and exhibiting my artwork in locations ranging from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with many other stops in between. It's a tough grind sometimes because I never know how the weather will shake out or even how world geopolitical events can affect consumer sentiment. I can get so busy with the minute details (Do my van tires have enough air? Do I have labels for everything? Did I remember to bring picture hanging hooks?) that I sometimes lose sight of what I have right here in my local area.

Nonetheless, I got a pleasant reminder that there's no place like home last week when it was brought to my attention that readers of State College Magazine voted and helped me take the Bronze Award for "Best Local Artist" in their Best of 2015 reader survey. That was a fantastic surprise for me and I really appreciate your votes and your support of my artwork.

It only makes sense then that with the conclusion of my outdoor art show season this past month, I'm sticking closer to home with my remaining exhibitions for 2015. This month and throughout the upcoming holiday season, you can find my recent oil and pastel paintings at several venues around the State College area. When I don't need "all hands on deck" for an out-of-state show, I enjoy sharing my artwork at both traditional and unconventional venues in my hometown.

Study, Lower Manhattan 6 x 12 original pastel.

First, I've partnered with Moyer Jewelers in downtown State College to share my recent pastel landscapes and cityscapes in the gorgeous storefront display windows at the corner of Allen Street and College Avenue. Due to the window sizes, this exhibition features small format pieces. These are fun, colorful works that I sometimes use as initial studies to work out ideas for larger format pieces in the future. I like creating these works because it's kind of liberating: there's no pressure to "get it all right" with a large format, and I can take some risks with color and composition that might be harder to pull off in a large, in-your-face format.

Winter Pines, Indigo 8 x 12 original pastel.

Unfortunately, due to a boneheaded digital camera maneuver on my part, I deleted my studio photos of these new works, so I can only share them with you right now as they appear in the display window. Once this exhibition concludes, I'll get them properly photographed and onto my web site. In the meantime, you'll just have to swing by the shop in downtown and check them out for yourself.

Study, Moshannon Reflections 8 x 12 original pastel.

The next local exhibition features my original oil landscapes and cityscapes at National Penn Bank at 2541 East College Avenue in State College through the end of November. This show features works of varying sizes as well as some of my limited edition prints.

Study, 6th Avenue Rain 6 x 12 original pastel.

Finally, you can see my recent original oil landscape paintings at the State College Framing Company and Gallery in the Hills Shopping Plaza. These works will be on display through the end of this year. For more information, please call the gallery at (814) 234-7336.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

School is Back in Session

I've been working on several new pastel cityscapes in anticipation of my final art shows later this fall. Shown here are a few new pieces fresh off the easel within this past month, including subjects from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City.

South Street Rain

South Street Rain 8 x 8 original pastel.
A rainy summer day becomes a play of brilliant abstract color
along South Street in the heart of Philadelphia.

As the temperatures cool down and school resumes, it's worth highlighting that I'll teach a 6-week class for the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania in Lemont later this month. The class is called "Forward! Strategies for Strengthening Your Artwork" and it's suitable for both beginning and intermediate students in all 2D media.

I tailor this class to the interests of my students while we work on topics such as overcoming common creative roadblocks, choosing subjects, gathering strong source material, and resolving the challenges of color and composition. I pull materials from my background as an artist for Walt Disney Feature Animation, TED Talks, contemporary artists and my experience as a full time artist to help students set up their work spaces and focus in on the things that they want to address in their artwork as they move forward. The class will be held on Wednesday afternoons from 1-4pm beginning on September 30, 2015. Here's the full class description:

Ever feel stuck in a rut? Want to take your art to the next level?

Learn from a national award-winning fine artist and Walt Disney Feature Animation alum how to overcome the roadblocks, habits and fears that inhibit creating great art. We’ll cover topics including how to identify promising subjects; how to gather source material; overcoming the challenges of color, values and composition; what to do when you feel stuck; and how to effectively organize your workspace. This class is open to beginning and intermediate students who work in all 2-D media: acrylic, oils, watercolors, pastel, and drawing. The class will be tailored to the interests of participants. On the first day, please bring a sketchbook and your favorite drawing utensil.

For more information about this class and to register, please contact the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania by phone at (814) 234-2740 or through their web site:

Dynamo 18 x 18 original pastel.
A view from the High Line Park in Lower Manhattan.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wisconsin, Long Overdue

Late this past week, I returned from a wonderful painting trip to my home state of Wisconsin. I began my career as an artist over a decade ago, right after my husband and I moved out of Wisconsin to the mid-Atlantic region. I've never been back to my beautiful state to paint until this past week, and what a wonderful week it was.

I traveled with my good friend and fellow artist, Lisa Mitchell, and we spent just shy of one week traversing the Door County peninsula in east central Wisconsin enjoying subjects ranging from farms to rugged Lake Michigan shorelines under the most ideal summer conditions. It's been a busy summer for me with several outdoor art shows, and the opportunity to focus exclusively on painting for an extended period of time was a true treat. That, and sampling the many slices of cherry pie, a regional specialty, made the week magical.

Cave Point, 8 x 8. Thanks to its rugged, rocky cliffs, this is one of the most popular points on the peninsula, and that made painting here a challenge. This initial block-in was early in my workday. I got it mostly completed, but as the day heated up, so did the crowds and I had people teeming around my easel.

For the sake of travel portability, I traveled with my oil painting field kit. It's probably the heaviest I've ever traveled, with one full-size suitcase devoted just to my oil painting gear. But thanks to Southwest Airlines, the bags flew free and intact (hooray!), so it all went as well as possible.

Over the past decade, the art scene in Door County has exploded with a nationally recognized plein air painting event held each July. I don't know whether I'll ever participate in that event in the future, but I was just happy to be back home and enjoying the great scenery.

Lavendar Field, inland, 11 x 14. Did someone say purple? How could I resist this subject in the interior portion of the peninsula.

I worked on a series of small landscape pieces. All of these works are on Belgian linen panels, which offered a great, compact format for painting while on the road. Given my relative newness to the oil medium, I'm slower with my oil painting than I am with my pastel work, so I wasn't able to complete any of these motifs out in the field. But many pieces are close and just require a few refinements in my studio to complete them. In the meantime, I'm sharing a couple of snap shots with you to give you a sense of just how gorgeous this part of our country is. My fall is busy with more outdoor art shows, but stay tuned in the coming months for the completed versions of these works on my web site. Enjoy!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Impressions of Centre County, Pennsylvania

It's (already) mid-July, and that means it's time for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. This will be my eleventh year of participation, and sometimes I have to sit back and marvel a bit at how much I've learned between now and my first year as an exhibitor. At times, it was a steep learning curve, but with the help of my husband and my family, I persevered. I'm happy to report that I've progressed from renting a truck to purchasing a new van of my own for my art shows. With the best set up that I've had to date, I'm looking forward to this year's show with some new ideas and works.

Impression: The Guardians original oil on paper.
This captures a couple of my favorite trees along Old Gatesburg Road just outside of State College. I always admire these trees' silhouettes when I ride my bike in and out of town.


For this year's show, I'm pleased to introduce a new series of "Sketch Impressions" inspired by my beautiful surroundings here in the rolling mountains of Centre County, Pennsylvania. These small format works are original oil paintings on paper, and they're a looser, more gestural interpretation of ideas that I may expand upon in the future as larger format works. These pieces are great, liberating ways to explore ideas with a better energy than the more formal approach I sometimes take to my bigger pieces. In some cases, they may be more conceptual and experimental than what you would typically see in my artwork, and I'm excited about this new direction. I'm starting with landscapes, but you can expect to see this approach used in my cityscapes, too, as well as additional locations throughout Pennsylvania. All good things in good time.

During this year's show, you'll be able to find me in Booth O-49 along Fairmount Street in State College during the art show. Shown here are a few of the first pieces from this new "Impressions" series that I'll feature in my booth.

Impression: Bellefonte Sky original oil on paper.
I caught this view just south of Bellefonte while on my way home this past winter.


Impression: Summer Sweep original oil on paper.
Sweeping, dramatic summer clouds billow over the landscape just north of State College earlier this summer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Decision Making, Step-by-Step

Building an art career is a step-by-step process that requires many decisions along the way. There's no single trajectory, no designated path of promotion like there is in many other careers. Instead, each individual finds her own way. A lot of the decisions involve matching one's artwork to the right opportunities.

When I began my career over a decade ago, the pastel medium was enjoying a period of unparalleled popularity. Although the medium has been around and in use since the late 1800s, the mid-1990s and early 2000s brought with them the publication of a new magazine, The Pastel Journal, as well as dozens of new manufacturers offering pastel sticks and related products. As recently as the 1980s, it used to be that the choice to work in pastel necessarily meant that one was "settling for" a medium with few options in materials and low quality. That's no longer the case at all. Today, artists have more choices in materials and enjoy much higher quality than ever before and interested viewers can see some wonderful creations in the pastel medium.

Concurrent with this rise in popularity and availability of materials, many juried art shows geared specifically for pastel artists appeared. When I started working professionally back in 2003, I participated in several of these events. This was a decision that I made to gain some credentials and validation for my artwork. This is a fairly typical career step for many artists because juried shows and the awards that they bring give artists distinction and recognition that's difficult to obtain in the art world more broadly.

Rain Walker 16 x 20 original pastel. This piece was damaged after it returned from a national juried exhibition. Luckily, I was able to preserve the artwork after replacing the frame just a couple of days prior to a major outdoor art show


I got into shows and even won some awards. All was good, until an out-of-state show in the summer of 2011, when my cityscape, Rain Walker (pictured above), was returned to me with the frame smashed inside the shipping carton and the glass severely damaged just two days before I needed to exhibit it in my local outdoor art show, The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. This unfortunate outcome happened because my piece had not been properly packed for its return trip.

Around this time, juried shows for pastel artists had become quite an industry, with many pastel societies sponsoring them and using the jury fees to bolster their annual operating budgets. Having served on the board of the Maryland Pastel Society, I know how much work goes into these events, and that these jury fees are often used to defray the cost of procuring an exhibition space for the exhibition. But in addition to collecting a jury fee from each participant (whether his work is admitted or not), about five years ago shows also began to collect "handling fees" for transporting the artwork to and from the exhibition venue. On average, these extra fees range from $50 to $100 for each piece. Add in the cost of shipping original artwork to the show venue, which can easily run up to $300 for a medium-sized piece, and you end up with a rather expensive proposition if you're an artist trying to participate in one of these events.

Brown Bagging It, 18 x 18 original pastel, was accepted into an international juried exhibition, but I decided not to participate.


This past week, I made the difficult decision to withdraw from a juried show. My cityscape, Brown Bagging It, was accepted into the Pastel Painters of Maine International Juried Exhibition. Following the nightmare of having my piece damaged back in 2011, I had largely stayed away from these exhibitions because I eat the cost of such damage. But I thought I might try it again this year precisely because it's been many years since I've participated and I thought it would be good to get back in the game. I was all set to ship my cityscape to the exhibition last week when I noticed that the exhibition paperwork included a waiver to release anyone and everyone from damaging the artwork at any point. In essence, I would have no recourse if my piece was once again damaged, even after paying a $75 handling fee.

I thought to myself, "Does this make any sense?"


I'm a fan of Kevin O'Leary on the ABC TV show, "Shark Tank," and all I could hear in my head was his voice asking, "In what world would this be a good business decision?" I'm about to start a very busy summer art show schedule, and I just couldn't reconcile tying up this piece for an exhibition that runs for two months, and then risking that the work be damaged without any way to insure or protect it.

After working in this profession for many years, you may think that I've grown a bit jaded about my creative output. But I still care. I recall where most of my pieces have found homes with collectors and I remember the stories that clients have told me about why they purchased a certain piece or where they placed it in their homes. Moreover, the very act of creating a piece involves an intricate series of decisions. To gamble the final result of that series of decisions without any protection is a risk that I'm no longer willing to accept. To illustrate this decision-making process, I thought I'd share with you today the step-by-step process behind the creation of my newest cityscape, "Bleecker Street Shoppers," an 18 x 18 original pastel.

Step One: The initial charcoal sketch of my composition. This is a sunny afternoon street scene from Lower Manhattan and I chose to create this piece on a neutral grey surface.


Step Two: The initial block-in of darks. In pastels, you build from the darks forward to highlights. This is analogous to the process in oil painting, which is why so many artists work in both media.


Step Three: More colors to establish the composition.


Step Four: Some highlights to establish the boundaries of the lightest lights and darkest darks in the piece.


Step Five: Establishing the background and other figures in the composition to complement my star individual.


Step Six: Here, I'm establishing the foreground shadows and more details of the background.


Final Step: I changed the shirt color of the woman on the right to purple so that it would not be too "matchy matchy" with the other warm colors in the composition. A few refinements of details, and { tah dah }, the piece is completed.

I'll debut this new cityscape this weekend at the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show in Philadelphia. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Spring jumped ahead to summer here with warm temperatures and thunderstorms already a frequent occurence before the end of May. I'm busy getting ready for my summer art show season, but when I have the time I like to sneak out and do some field work in this mild weather.

Photo: My reference photo of my plein air farm subject from this past weekend,
with a partial rainbow in the background

This past weekend, I spent an evening working at a location near our home and I caught this farm under a gorgeous, dramatic sky. The evening alternated between rain and brilliant sunshine, and the clouds were stunning throughout the changes. Shortly after I set up my easel, it rained briefly. And then that gave way to a delightful rainbow right over the farm itself, as if I was given a message from on high that I'd chosen a great subject. This wonderful coincidence got me thinking: You can't make this stuff up.

I often get asked at art shows whether I "made up" my piece or staged something. "Was it really like that?" people will ask me with a heavy dose of skepticism.


Detail: My painting in progress.
This will be an 8 x 16 oil on canvas panel.

One of the aspects that I most enjoy about being an artist is the reward of pausing and noticing the details of life that many other people miss. We all see things differently. An engineer may see the structural flaws in an old barn like this one, whereas I see a sun-faded beauty that works well with the summer sky in the background. These little details and everyday examples of interesting subjects mean that I don't have to make up anything. It's all right there for me to explore; I don't need to fabricate compositions or embellish.

I think this is why I like to read nonfiction books. I don't often have the luxury of sitting still to read, so when I have the time, I like to read history or works about contemporary topics. My time to read is so scarce, and I find details in these books that are so compelling that I don't need fiction to hold my interest. For example, did you know that dust from the Great American Dust Bowl darkened our nation's capital? This is from one of my favorite authors, Timothy Egan, and his book, The Worst Hard Time.

I could prattle on here with tons of other arcane facts, but I think you get the idea. There's beauty all around us. It's up to us to see it and appreciate it. You don't have to make this stuff up.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

New Cityscapes in Oil

It's been a long, cold winter. But it's also been a very productive time for me. When the snow is falling, the wind is howling, and the conditions are too rough for working outdoors, there's nothing that I enjoy more than taking a mug of hot tea into my studio and focusing in on larger scale works. It's a great time for me to concentrate without the distractions of working outside in my garden or wanting to be out on my bike.

Night on the Town 16 x 16 oil on panel

As we get into April, there is still a light cover a snow on our property (no fooling!), but it's going to warm up soon and this seems like a good time to pause and take inventory of what this past winter yielded. I'd like to introduce you to a few new cityscapes. The first is "Night on the Town," a new piece from Center City in Philadelphia. I like the juicy color in this work, and I had a lot of fun with the loose brush work to depict the distant, down-the-street horizon. If my memory serves me correctly, this was along 15th Street near Walnut.

Behold! 30 x 30 oil on panel

The second work is "Behold!" This piece continues my fascination with storefront displays, and the inspiration for this motif came from a gorgeous holiday display in midtown Manhattan. I'm captivated by how people, so rushed and so entranced by their cell phones, interact with these displays as they go walking past. I suspect that the job of a window display designer has gotten very tough over the past decade with the explosion of cell phones. I know as an artist that it is harder and harder to capture attention. But this particular design and the way in which passers by interacted with it definitely caught my eye. I loved the brilliant colors and angles.

Paris Twilight 12 x 24 oil on panel

Finally, I have "Paris Twilight," a celebration of the narrow, winding corridors that make up some of the oldest neighborhoods in the heart of Paris, France. In this piece, I experimented a bit with leaving some passages loose and more colorful. You will see more pieces that employ this approach in my future works because I enjoyed letting the medium speak for itself within these areas. The optical mixing of color, in which the artist lets the viewer's eyes do the work, is intriguing to me.

I hope you enjoy these works. If you happen to be in State College, Pennsylvania at any point between now and the end of May, you can see these new works in my "Jewel Tones" exhibition at the Mount Nittany Medical Center. For more information, please contact me. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

To Boldly Go...

Uff dah! It's been a while since I updated my blog (shamefully bad artist, I know), but I've been very busy during these first months of 2015.

The first thing that I want to share with you is that I bought a new cargo van for my summer art shows. Believe it or not, I've done the past decade of art shows in a trusty Honda Odyssey mini van, affectionately known as The Clown Car of Art and / or The Marshmallow due to its whiteness. I always knew that if there was just one spare cubic inch of space on my way to an art show, then I had to be forgetting something. And there were plenty of times when I forgot things, such as the time when I left all of my packing materials in our garage on my way to an art show in Bethesda, Maryland a couple of years ago.


Anyways, I took the plunge two weeks ago and purchased a dedicated cargo van. I made this decision for a variety of reasons, not least of which were that I was sick of crawling around on my hands and knees and that I really couldn't carry all of the inventory and materials that I needed in order to do out-of-state shows. Indeed, during my first show last year in Greenville, South Carolina, a freak thunderstorm came up out of nowhere and brought 50-mph wind gusts with it. I nearly lost my entire booth and all of my artwork to kick off the season because I didn't have adequate weight to keep things anchored down. These are the perils of outdoor art shows, but I'm looking forward to another decade of adventures once I get my cargo van. Woo hoo!

Hyner Run State Park

Visiting Hyner Run State Park in central Pennsylvania earlier this month.

The second item that I want to share with you is that I'm starting on a new project here in 2015: Visiting every single one of Pennsylvania's 120 state parks. The goal, of course, will be to create a landscape painting from each one. I'm off to a slow start thanks to the brutally cold and snowy winter that we had this season, but a couple of weeks ago I got to a new location, the gorgeous Hyner Run State Park in Clinton County, about an hour and a half from our home. By virtue of living in Centre County, I figure I can take advantage of our central location and explore the state's wonderful locations from my home base. I anticipate that this project will take me many years to complete, but with my trusty canine companions, Maple and Marlon, it will be an enjoyable adventure. Besides, as I travel to various art shows, I'm usually within reach of a park, so why not double dip while traveling?

Watch for new landscape works from these beautiful locations in the coming months (and years) as I patiently tick each location off of my list. I have about 10 under my belt so far...Only 110 more to go!

Monday, January 19, 2015

From Start to Finish

This past weekend, I met with a woman who's getting started on her art career and who wanted advice on how to take her artwork to a more professional level. She works full time in a computer career right now, and her time for working on her artwork is limited. One of the most valuable things that I tried to share with her is the importance of doing initial, preparatory studies before starting on an "actual" piece.

Before I had the luxury of devoting myself full time to my art career, I would often dive into an idea because I was just so excited and I wanted to get going right away. But then I got lost in the middle. And then the whole thing ended up in the proverbial vertical file. This was enormously frustrating, especially because my time was so limited and I wanted to maximize my results while holding down a different full time gig. Fortunately, over the past years of working full time on my art, I've become more disciplined about completing preparatory studies. In addition, I've done a lot of homework about the importance of starting things well.

To me, the characteristics of a good start to a new piece include strong shapes, bold color, and an unambiguous concept. As I work more with oil painting, the importance of a good start becomes even greater to me because I'm still relatively new to this medium. If I can get things off to a good, running start, then I find that all of the remaining details and flourished naturally fall into place.

Shown here is the progression, from start to finish, of a brand new cityscape, "Chicago Twilight." This is my first new cityscape in oil for 2015 and I'm pleased with the result. You can see the finished photograph of this piece on my web site under Golden Chicago. Enjoy!

The initial block-in This is the foundation for everything else that follows. While it can be loosely set in, the drawing and shapes need to be accurate.

Refinements: Here I built in darker colors and more details to set the composition in place.

Color Touches: After getting the initial details in place, I start to embellish the overall color in this piece. The whole motivation behind this subject was the juxtaposition of the warm light and cool blues and purples throughout the subject.

Almost Done: Here, the final details are pretty much in place, especially refinements to the street lights and the architectural details on the buildings.

Just for Fun: An action photo of my palette. I love playing around with these colors!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Series of Small Studies

It's winter here in central Pennsylvania. Snow is gently falling outside my office window as I write this, and the temperatures are near single digits. Despite the fact that I can't hop on my bike for a relaxing ride through the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania or get out in my garden right now, this is still one of my favorite times of year.

During these cold, desolate months I retreat to my studio, throw on all of the lights for a reasonable approximation of sunlight, and huddle around a steaming cup of hot tea while I work quietly. It's a great time of year for me to really focus, without the distraction of the great outdoors calling to me or of impending art show deadlines. The peaceful solitude is a perfect counterbalance to my more chaotic summer months of outdoor art shows and travel.

Study, Paris at Night

Study, Paris at Night


To kick off 2015, I'm working on a series of commissions. My first is for a client in Michigan, who wants several cityscapes from places that he frequents while traveling for work. Late last year, I prepared a series of small pastel studies on Canson paper for him to evaluate and use as his basis for the final selection of his commissioned pieces.

Study, Paris at Dusk

Study, Paris at Dusk


Study, Sunny Afternoon, Milan

Study, Sunny Afternoon, Milan


Study, Milan, Spring Rain

Study, Milan, Spring Rain


Study, Manhattan Lights

Study, Manhattan Lights


I don't typically work on Canson paper because I don't like its smoothness and lack of "tooth." Indeed, I make my own surfaces for most of my pastel works because I'm interested in the unique textural characteristics that I can create with this process. But in November, I took a painting workshop with artist Desmond O'Hagan in Maryland. I was somewhat surprised to learn that he works almost exclusively on this surface. I can't argue with his results; he's found a surface that is well suited to his expressive style of work.

Feeling inspired and more confident about the surface after that workshop, I returned from the workshop and made this series of urban studies for my client. I really enjoyed the process. Switching a surface like this is somewhat like getting an opportunity to drive a friend's car for a week. Everything is different even though you'll ultimately still get to your destination. I did some things differently here with flourishes of color and detail, and I plan to incorporate these subtleties in the final pieces, which will be on my own more textured surfaces. Enjoy!

Study, Winter Light, Lower Manhattan

Study, Winter Light, Lower Manhattan


Study, Black Cab Night

Study, Black Cab Night