Monday, December 27, 2010

“What’s the Catch?”


Acrylic     24”x48”     Gallery Wrapped Canvas

Another “Pop Art” style painting I did last summer featuring larger-than-life fishing lures. I love to take something small and often overlooked, and zoom in on it to make it significant. I bought these lures for their colorful markings and interesting shapes…not for their intended purpose. No fish was harmed in the making of this painting.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Cake and Ice Cream”

cake and icecream

Acrylic     6”x18”     Stretched Canvas

I had fun with this one, playing with repetition of shapes, angles, and brighter-than-usual colors. It’s made up of three 6”x6” canvases attached together, with shapes continuing, and relating to each other, across the panels.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Wall of Paintings

wall of paintings

On one wall of my living room, I’ve tacked up some strips of wood so I can display my little paintings in a large group. It’s fun to have a place to put a wet painting as soon as it’s finished (or if I’m trying to decide what else it needs). It’s also fun for me to see what I’ve accomplished lately. Many of these have been in a show for the past two months, but, when I brought them home, I popped them out of their frames and put them back up on the wall. I think, together in one place, they look pretty cool.

Monday, November 1, 2010

“Late Afternoon Bricks”


6”x8”     Oil     Canvas Board

Today’s painting is quite a change from my recent plein air subjects. We set up our easels in a downtown parking lot late in the day rather than by the river or in a park. I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture this little urban scene in only 60 minutes. I especially like the oranges and yellows against the October sky. Not much detail…only enough time for the overall impression. I think it needs more power lines which I’ll add after it dries a little.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

“October River”


6”x8”     Oil     Canvas Board

This was painted on the banks of the Buffalo River on one of those gorgeous October afternoons we were blessed with this year. I can still hear the rippling water and the breeze through the trees. The air was a little hazy from all the harvesting going on that day. I know the farmers in their fields were enjoying the day every bit as much as the painters at their easels.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Old Willow


6”x8”     Oil     Canvas Board

This is a very quick study of an old weeping willow down by the river. I only managed to work on it for about an hour and a half last evening before the light was gone and I was chilled to the bone. It’s amazing how cold you can get standing in one spot for that length of time. I also quit because I didn’t want to ruin the painting. I thought I would fix it up when it dried a little, but I think I’ll leave it just like it is. I like the wildness and freshness…kind of like the bent old tree itself, blowing in the wind.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Recent Plein Air Paintings

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. I have been painting with friends every Monday afternoon…just not finishing what I’ve started. I decided to add a few final touches to each and post them anyway, even if they’re not masterpieces.

“Spruce Shadows” - SOLD

6”x8”   Oil    Canvas Board

This one was painted in my friends’ driveway, looking through the hedge toward the street. I loved the strong light on the spruce trees, the purplish shadows, and the glimpse of houses and lawns through the hedge. I’m not sure someone unfamiliar with the spot would get all that from the painting. It’s hard not to try to include everything. But it’s so much fun to start with a blank canvas and end up with a little slice of nature and the memory of the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of a couple of hours spent painting.

“Garden Gate and Grapevines” - SOLD

6”x8”    Oil    Canvas Board

I painted this in another friend’s backyard, late one October afternoon. I tried to get the feel of the sun slanting through the gate and a sense of space in the suggestion of houses and rooflines beyond the fence. Even though I tried to simplify it all, it got pretty complicated. Each one of these little paintings is a step toward my goal of being able to capture what I see in a “painterly” way and, hopefully, let the viewer catch a glimpse of the time and place as I saw it. All this in one to two hours before the daylight gives way to dusk.

“Into the Sun” - SOLD

6”x8”    Oil    Canvas Board

I was captivated by the intense glare of the sun on the river this particular afternoon, and, having admired many other artists who successfully captured this effect, I decided to try it myself. But it was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be, trying to get that feel of blinding light. Mine almost looks more like moonlight. I’m going to try that, too, one day soon. “Try”…that’s the key word in all this.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

“Dawn, Fishing Opener” - SOLD

Acrylic      16”x20”      Stretched Canvas
This is a piece I just finished for a group show at the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo based on the theme “Playing with Proportion.” I had dozens of ideas for possible paintings because, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved to imagine a world in which miniature things were life-sized or people were tiny compared to everyday things. With that in mind, everywhere I look in my house there are possibilities for paintings that play with proportion. I just kept coming back to the fishing theme and a story began to take root in my imagination. It’s the middle of May and the opening day of Minnesota fishing season. Someone has been counting down the days to this long-awaited event and is about to head out, having had their “Breakfast of Champions.” But there seems to be more to the story than that. Let your imagination complete the story any way you want. And pause to take a closer look around you today…there just may be more going on than you think. :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

“Woodland Path” - SOLD


Oil 6”x8” Canvas Board

A great place to paint is Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota…not too far from Fargo…easy to run over there for 2 or 3 hours. There are river views and prairie views and paths like this one that make you want to slather on the insect repellant and follow it to see where it goes. The tree in the foreground was glowing in the midday sun against the dark, mysterious shadows in the background. Right at the spot where I set up to paint this scene, there were at least 4 or 5 other great possibilities for paintings. My plan was to do quick studies, spending about a half hour on each one, and have several little “sketchy” unfinished paintings. But I got so wrapped up in this one, I had to stick with it and finish it and I’m glad I did. It will always remind me of my last day of summer vacation, 2010.

“Riverbank” - SOLD

Oil      6”x8”      Canvas Board   
This is an updated version of a painting I posted a couple of weeks ago. I didn't like the color of the river in the first version. This one shows the way the water looked when I first started painting it that evening. The trees on the east bank were casting long shadows, nearly to the other side. Just for fun, I brought some of that cobalt blue into the shadows of the foliage. The photo exaggerates that a bit too much, but I like the results much better than the first attempt.

“Front Porch”

Oil     6”x8”      Canvas Board  
This wonderful old Victorian house served as the subject for our plein air painting group a couple of weeks ago. There were so many great possibilities to choose from when deciding what to paint…bay windows, dormers, a charming front door. But I was drawn to this porch and the way it stood out against the trees behind it. After all, what’s not to like about a porch? The sun was getting low in the sky and casting interesting shadows in the foreground. There were two almost opposite challenges with this subject: the angles, perspective, and straight edges of the house itself, and the softness of the light coming through the trees and touching the beautiful landscaping around the house. Another example of why contrast and variety are so important in art.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Palette


Before I started painting today, I cleaned all the dried up oil paint off my palette and squeezed out new. It looked so delightful, I just had to take a picture of it. I probably use too many colors, especially when I have to carry all these tubes of paint in my backpack and hike somewhere to paint. There are advantages to limiting your palette, but this works for me right now. The colors from the lower left to right are: titanium white, burnt sienna, raw sienna, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, permanent rose, dioxazine purple, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, permanent green light, and viridian green. No black…I can get a much richer black mixing burnt sienna and ultramarine. I keep a razor blade handy to scrape off the mixing area when I run out of room. Just looking at these fresh colors makes me want to get back to work!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

“Reflections on the Red”

reflections on the red
Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board    
Another red barn…this one on the banks of the Red River of the North. Our plein air painting group gathered at this spot to paint last evening. I really enjoy the camaraderie and sharing of ideas that result from these outings. Because the light was changing so quickly last night, I finished this at home this afternoon from memory and photos. If you’re interested in joining us to paint on Monday evenings, email me and I’ll get the information to you.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

“Garden Shed”

garden shed 
Oil    6”x8”    Canvas Board   

Another little painting set in my own backyard. I’ve tried to paint this shed several times and I’ll probably do many more versions of it. The biggest challenge each time is trying to get the reds right. It’s a faded “barn red” and the time of day always changes the look of the red in sunlight and shadow. This time, the mass of black-eyed Susans glowing in the morning sun and the blue bachelor buttons sneaking into the foreground were what really appealed to me. And the best part was that I could just step out my back door and paint.

Monday, August 2, 2010

“Riverbank” - SOLD

Oil    6”x8”    Canvas Board    $75
Last week’s plein air painting done near “Rapids on the Red.” The challenge of painting outdoors always keeps things interesting. On this particular evening, two little girls decided to check on my progress about every five minutes and offer their opinion on how it was going. It was a little hard to concentrate, but I'd never want to discourage kids from being curious about art and artists, so I resigned myself to finishing the painting later at home. It's taken me all week, and far too many brushstrokes, but it still feels like the time and the place where it was started.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

“Rapids on the Red”

6x8    Oil    Canvas Board   

A few of us went down by the river to paint Monday evening. It was a gorgeous night but, as usual, the sun came and went several times as it slowly sank in the western sky, making it tricky to paint the light. Still, what better way to spend an evening than gazing at a beautiful scene and trying to get it down on canvas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

8th Street Art Show

I just finished up two very enjoyable days of sitting outside in beautiful weather, surrounded by art and artists and people who appreciate art. It was great. Thanks to everybody who stopped by my booth to chat. It was a lot of fun. The icing on the cake is when somebody likes a painting enough to want to own it. But I loved just hearing people's comments, too. Here are a few more images of the show.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Workshop Paintings

“The Red Door”
Oil 8”x10” Canvas Panel

This great Victorian house is on Nicolett Island between Minneapolis and St. Paul…a place I may never have discovered if it wasn’t for attending this workshop. So many delightful subjects, so little time. My fellow painters were spread out, up and down this street, painting their own impressions of the neighborhood. Sharing the experience with other artists in a setting like this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a plein air painter. Now, I just have to find a group here in Fargo with whom to go forth and paint!

About the Workshop

The painting above and the two below were done at a plein air workshop I just attended in Minneapolis, MN. The instructor was Brian Stewart, a well-known artist and a signature member of the Plein Air Painters of America. This was a great opportunity to learn from an artist whose work I’ve admired for a long time. And it was especially fun to get to explore Minneapolis and St. Paul and discover great places to paint within the metro area. We painted on two different islands in the Mississippi River, in parks, and at a living history museum. The workshop was sponsored by the Atelier in St. Paul. (Check out the links I’ve included if you’re curious about the people and places.)

“School’s Out for Summer”
Oil   7”x9”   Canvas Board  

I loved the way the morning sun lit this old schoolhouse and bounced around, even in the shadows and the foreground prairie. If these walls could talk!

“A Room With a View”
Oil   7”x9”   Canvas Board  

A close-up of the schoolhouse…but it could just as easily be an island cottage in Maine, lazing in the afternoon sun. There’s something timeless and universal about white-painted clapboard. I was drawn to the “window within a window” aspect of this subject. I can almost feel the breeze and hear a fly buzzing in the window. This is about as peaceful as painting on location can get.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Yakima Farm"

Oil   6”x8”   Canvas Board  

I did this little painting from my brother’s backyard west of Yakima, WA. I was looking down at a neighbor’s farm in the valley below. A little to the left of this view, you can usually see the snowcapped summit of Mt. Adams peaking over the ridge. It was too hazy to see the mountain on this particular day, but there are beautiful views in every direction. I’ve always liked the way this road disappears back into the distance. There were horses grazing in the pasture below me. I might add them when the paint is dry and there’s less chance of messing up what I’ve already done.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Adirondak Chairs"

Oil  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

After work one beautiful day last month, I was dying to get outside to paint but I didn't really have time to drive somewhere and search out a good subject. So I set up my easel in the backyard and painted my two chairs in the late afternoon sun. This was just meant to be a quick study, and I didn't plan to post the painting. But after looking at it for awhile, I decided there was a freshness to the brushstrokes I really liked and maybe it deserved a little more attention. I left the chairs alone, but I thought whoever stopped to sit in them might enjoy a breeze off the ocean, so I added the view that I, myself, would like to see from my blue and yellow Adirondak chairs.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Old Red"

Oil  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

A little painting of one of my favorite subjects, an old Chevy pick-up. It’s parked on the edge of a field, about to take someone somewhere in the course of their workday. I wasn’t really going for the nostalgic feel, but I guess that’s inevitable with such a vintage subject. I’m thinking of doing a series of paintings featuring things that are red. Watch for more in the days to come.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Stripes 2"

Oil  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

Well, this is what happens when you give in to the temptation to touch up one little thing in a painting that was otherwise finished. I ended up spending part of every evening this week on the painting, trying to get back to what I liked about the original version, posted last Sunday. But, I decided to persevere and try to learn something in the process of solving all the problems I created. I figured I didn't have much to lose. Finally, last night, I vowed to not touch it again with a paintbrush except to sign it. Even as I write this, I'm valiantly trying to keep that promise to myself. It seems like some paintings almost paint themselves. Some, like this one, take a lot out of us. But, in the end, I actually like it quite a lot.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Oil 6”x8” Canvas Board
In this third painting in my "Beach Series," I decided to leave the people out and paint some of the stuff they bring to the beach. These umbrellas come in all sizes and colors, but almost always have stripes. The chair had stripes, the towel had stripes...even the sea had stripes of lighter and darker blue that day. So "Stripes" it is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Catching Up On The News"

Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board 

Here's another in my new beach series. This guy was so perfectly symmetrical that the composition might have been a bit boring with only him in it. I decided to include a couple of his fellow beach folks and break up the negative space a little. I like to try and catch the original feel of the scene, but things inevitably need to be edited, moved around, and colors altered to make a better composition. So many decisions, but so much fun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Lost in Conversation" - SOLD

Oil  6"x8"  Canvas Board  $75

I'm having a lot of fun with the oil paint and trying out some different subjects. I haven't painted people in a very long time, but I think this will be the first of many beach scenes. People lounging on the beach have such natural poses and are surrounded by all kinds of interesting paraphernalia that they've lugged with them...coolers, umbrellas, bags, towels, toys...the possibilities are endless. These two seemed to be having an intense conversation, and I enjoyed speculating on what it was about as I painted them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"My New Bike"

Oil  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

I've been painting exclusively with acrylics lately, but I've decided to try oils for awhile. I signed up for a plein air oil painting workshop in Minneapolis in June and, in order to get the most out of that intense week of painting, I need to get comfortable with oils again. There are things I like about acrylics but, after doing this little painting of my new bike, I'm thinking there are a lot of things I like about oils. This was fun!! and I can't wait to paint something else.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"The Road Less Traveled"

Acrylic 6"x8" Canvas Board 

This is a close-up version of a painting I posted last month. I love the way the shadows interrupt our view of the road as it dips down and then starts uphill beyond the trees. These country roads are everywhere out in the farming community where I grew up. There's always grass growing down the middle, and they become a little overgrown like this one. But they never fail to make me gaze down them as far as I can (just like in Robert Frost's poem) and wonder where they lead.

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Shadows, Early Spring"

Acrylic  6"x8"  Canvas Board

I did this little painting of the view from Mom's deck Saturday afternoon as the sun was sinking low in the western sky. I only had about an hour before the light changed too drastically to continue. It's the same view as the summer version I posted awhile ago called "Sun and Shade." I'm including that one here, too, so you can compare them. She's got this great view through the trees of the far-off rim of the valley. The white accents in the center of the spring painting are the downtown buildings you can also glimpse through the trees. This was a very quick study, but with every painting I do outdoors, I think I get a little more confident about how to begin and what to leave out and when to stop. And it's just a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Country Church" - SOLD

Acrylic  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

I've been planning to paint this little church and its hillside churchyard for a long time. Last Labor Day, I set out to paint it on location, en plein air. In spite of my determination, I was no match for the wind which was gusting to about 35 mph that day on the prairie. I managed only a little study while holding on to my easel for dear life. I had to settle for taking a few pictures and painting it back home in my studio. I can't begin to describe in one brief blog entry what a special place this is to me...for all the happy memories and sad memories, the Sunday School lessons and Christmas programs, the wonderful old hymns and beautiful stained glass windows. Easter, the celebration of God's incredible love for us through the death and resurrection of His Son, just seemed like the right time to post this little painting. Happy Easter!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Acrylic  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

What appealed to me as I was snapping photos of this scene on Isle au Haut in Maine, was the way the rocks converge toward the base of the trees. This introduces a type of radial balance into the composition which is not a real common arrangement in art. Personally, I think I'm most comfortable with informal, asymmetrical balance in my compositions. I like to play around with larger vs. smaller shapes, bright vs. neutral colors, dark vs. light values, and simple vs. complex areas in the painting, all somewhat loosley arranged like nature itself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Country Road" - SOLD

Acrylic   6"x8"   Canvas Board 

Another path...this one nearly 2,000 miles inland from the one I posted a few days ago. This dirt road runs right past the little country school I went to from first through eighth grade. We used to play in these trees at recess. The school building is, remarkably, still there and so are the memories.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Ocean Path" - SOLD

Acrylic  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

The subject of this painting was an inviting path along the shore at Acadia National Park. Part of what appealed to me was the way the sun lit the pink rocks near the shore and the “purplely” shadows across the path.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Window Box"

Acrylic  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

This window box brightens the front of a weathered building on the edge of the harbor in Stonington, Maine. Walking along the main road through town, you can catch glimpses of the bright blue water and lobster boats between the distinctive shops and houses. Everywhere I looked, I found appealing subjects like this one to paint. The town is a painter’s dream, and I can’t wait to go back there someday.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Low Tide"

Acrylic  6"x8"  Canvas Board 

Finally, a new painting posted on my blog. It’s been a long time, but the time hasn’t been wasted. For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to paint a little bit every day. In spite of how difficult that is, I’m convinced it’s the single most important discipline I can pursue if I have any hope of growing as an artist. I won’t post every painting that results from this renewed effort. My focus is on learning and, if one out of every few paintings is worth posting, I’ll be excited to share my progress.

So, here’s one from my trip to Maine last summer. It’s an island near Stonington, photographed in the clear, morning light as we passed by on our way to spend the day on Isle au Haut. When I look at this painting, I can’t help daydreaming about spending a week or two camping and painting on this little island, watching the tides and lobster boats come and go. I’m including the value sketch I did to work out the lights and darks before starting the painting. Getting the values right in a painting is infinitely more important than getting the colors exactly right. Not sure I achieved that but, hey, that's something I'm working on, too.