Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Afternoon Shadows"

6"x8"     Oil     Canvas Board    

This is another little plein air painting done in the late afternoon, one September day, on the edge of Island Park. Like so many plein air subjects, this one is all about light and shadow. That's what usually attracts me to a scene, and that's what usually proves to be the biggest challenge to capture.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Island Park"

6"x8"      Oil      Canvas Board       

What could be more peaceful than a summer afternoon spent under the elms, with the dappled light dancing across the lawns and sidewalks, and not a care in the world except trying to capture the scene in paint...and somehow mix all those greens.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"You Win Some, You Lose Some"

30"x30"     Acrylic     Gallery Wrapped Canvas (nine 10"x10" canvases)

This piece was done for the FMVA (Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists) show opening this weekend, with the theme, "It's All in the Game." I had so much fun painting these small canvases and putting them all together to convey my take on the theme. The following statement goes along with the painting and explains what I was trying to say: "In this collection of paintings, I tried to represent that essential ingredient of childhood, the board game. Who doesn’t remember all the vivid colors, iconic illustrations, bits and pieces, and particular details of at least one game from our youth? There was always a start and a finish, rules to play by, sometimes skill involved, sometimes just plain luck. There was the sound of the spinner and the tap of those game pieces on the cardboard as we counted out spaces. There were winners and losers, but that never mattered as much as finding someone willing to play the game with you. That was just one of many life lessons learned as we dove into those adventures and imagined it was we, ourselves, moving, one space at a time, from one end of the board to the other."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

“Butterfly Garden”

butterfly garden

Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board    

I was thinking about packing up and going somewhere to paint this morning when I looked out my patio door and saw the shadow of the fence stretching across the lawn and the wildflowers lit by the sun. I made a quick sketch to remember where the shadows were (since they were changing by the minute), and put it all down on canvas as quickly as I could. Monarch butterflies came and went, but I didn't try to include them this time. You can imagine them there among the flowers if you want.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Tree Study"

Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board

This is a quick little "warm-up" painting I did from a photo involved. I really like it, and I enjoyed the freedom of not trying to paint every leaf that a photo would have documented. I think that's what I love about the look of plein air paintings. There's an uncomplicated freshness about them that sometimes gets lost back in the studio. On location, you can't possibly include all the details. You have to try for the essence of the subject and be happy when it occasionally all comes together. Below is the sketch I was working from.

Monday, July 25, 2011



Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board    

I bet this old gas station saw many a family like ours pull up in their ‘58 Chevy Bel Air, fill ‘er up, and head back out onto the open road, in search of the next tourist attraction or a roadside cottage to spend the night. One of these days, I’m going to paint the neon sign they would have seen from the road.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Cocoa Beach Pier"

Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board    

I would love to have set up my easel and painted this right on the spot, but there was too much wind and too big a crowd of people milling about, and there were too many more places to see and things to do. So I did this little painting from photos and just imagined I was back there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Big Valley"

Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board    

A hazy June afternoon, looking down on a green valley that stretched for miles in each direction.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Long Shadows"

Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board

This was painted in the late afternoon as the shadows stretched across the yard. Seems like only yesterday that these two trees were the size of the little ones just getting a start. I tried to capture the sense of distance with the ridge receding into the background. In this high, dry climate, the cool of the evening was already settling in.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Oil     6"x8"     Canvas Board    

I painted these young trees at midday, battling a very gusty wind, but savoring the rustling leaves and far-off blues of a mountain range.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Red River Greens"

6"x8"     Oil     Canvas Board

This week's painting spot was along the banks of the Red River. It was another cloudy day so there was a softness to the landscape with no strong sunlight to define the shapes of trees and grasses. This distinctive tree, whose branches were bending toward the river, is what caught my attention, along with the gray sky's reflection on the quiet river.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“Downtown Lilacs”

Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

Out of all the things I could have chosen to paint today, these lilacs won because their wonderful fragrance just begged me to paint them. Nothing says “spring” like the smell of lilacs carried on the breeze.

Friday, May 20, 2011

“Courthouse Cupola”


Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

Our county courthouse is topped by a distinctive dome that’s very appealing to an artist. I painted this late afternoon view earlier this week, but I think I’ll go back some summer morning and try another version with the sun from the east. There’s no end to the great architecture around Fargo just waiting to be painted.

Monday, May 16, 2011

“Gray House, Gray Day”

gray house

Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board 

Last week, our plein air painting group met in a classy, “old- Fargo” neighborhood to paint charming houses and stately elms. It rained, off and on, so I found myself caught up in the warm grays and greens and soft edges of a misty spring day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

“Boardwalk to the Beach”


Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

I haven’t had much opportunity to paint palm trees, so I had to try a close-up version of one on my last morning in Florida. So many different greens, it’s hard to get enough variety in them, while also concentrating on composition, depth, value, detail, balance, etc. in the space of about two hours before the light changes too much to continue. There are way too many things to think about and try to analyze while doing a painting. The trick is to get into the “zone” and just have fun.

Monday, March 14, 2011

“Sun and Sea”


Oil     6”x8”      Canvas Board

Another painting from about the same vantage point as yesterday’s, only looking a little more to the east, toward the rising sun. The sun was just behind the clouds, casting a yellow glow on everything. I love when there’s glare on the water, but I find it’s really hard to get it to look as bright as it actually appears. I don’t know the trick, but I’m going to keep trying to figure it out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

“Canaveral Beach”


Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

A slightly different subject than my usual landscapes! I spent the past week in Florida and managed to do some painting on location. I haven’t painted outdoors since around the first of November, so it was great to get out of the studio and enjoy the sun and sounds of the surf…even the wind felt good since it didn’t involve a “wind chill” factor. I’m a little rusty at solving all the challenges of plein air painting, but I can’t wait until it’s warm enough here at home to get out and paint again regularly.

Monday, February 14, 2011

“Allis’ Place”


Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

For the longest time, this old Allis-Chalmers tractor was parked in front of the garage by the little white house near my uncle’s place. I looked for it every time I drove by. Then one day it was gone. I never knew the story, but I loved seeing that bright splash of orange, no matter the season or the time of day. I chose to paint the summer version of it, reminiscent of its days on the farm.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

“Pretty in Pink”

pretty in pink

Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

Every 4th of July, this wonderful, old pink boat is part of the parade on Cotton Lake in Minnesota. It’s the most delightful bubble gum color and is all original right down to the wooden seats. This year, I happened to be kayaking on the lake, early on the morning of July 5th, and spotted it pulled up on shore. (really…how could you miss it?) I snapped a couple of pictures, knowing it would make a very fun subject for a painting, especially on this winter night when the temperature is headed to 20+ below.

Monday, February 7, 2011

“The Young Violinist”


Oil     6”x8”     Canvas Board

My nephew just started playing the violin a few months ago and he’s doing phenomenally well. I wanted to capture the concentration and determination he brings to these early days of mastering a new instrument. It’s a real challenge to catch the likeness of somebody you’re close to. I must have repainted it 50 times! I finally had to just quit tweaking things. I hope I came close enough that he’ll at least see something of himself in this little portrait.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

“Elementary Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water”


Oil     6”x24”     Stretched Canvas

I’ve just completed this little 4-part painting for a show called “A Woman’s Perspective” in which the theme is “The Elements.” I thought about doing a landscape featuring all four elements in some way, or maybe trying a more abstract approach to the subject. But I just couldn’t get excited about either one of those. Then I hit on the idea of using still-life objects to symbolize earth, air, fire, and water. What came to mind were the toys a child might use in those early days of exploring and making sense of their world. How much more “elementary” can you get?

shovel plane

truck duck