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What a year its been for my art. My first break was being selected for an artist residency in January. Being able to paint from a heated glass gazebo and have fantastic views of the frozen Mississippi while staying in a luxury resort made for some great memories and a wonderful start to 2017. 

My time of reflection last December lead me to searching further tuition and to go deeper into plein air and studio painting and how both can work together. This came about after painting a series of larger acrylic pieces and being dissatisfied with the results and was pivotal in my direction for this year. Fast forward to March and some incredible teaching with Master Plein Air artist John Burton. Then I ventured north to Montague and Mt Shasta for a ten day painting trip staying at friends who live in the wild west. The teachings of John will stay with me forever and the experience of painting on my own in California built a confidence that stays with me when I pick up my brush. 

Attending the First Brush of Spring, another first for this artist. Painting in a group of 100 artists for several days. Dealing with all weather and the deadline of producing work was another artist building block. I had a great time. Its on my calendar for 2018.

The original Plein Air study, Honey Bee Tree for Field to Finish of First Brush of Spring. 

Currently I am working on my entry for Field to Finish which is worked on over the year to be submitted with the original plein air painting that the major work is based on.  The painting is close to finished and its hard not to dabble. Its a journey I have enjoyed and its tempting to paint another. Lets see how much indoor work I am forced to do this winter. I might be able to have two options for my field to finish entry. 

Standing in flower heaven for two weeks in May was another highlight for me this year, painting amongst the beautiful Peonies of Allerton. I have returned to the peonies each May for the past 3 years and its on my calendar for 2018!

After several months of traveling away to paint, it was a treat to concentrate and paint where I live. This painting sold the day it was painted and went to an extraordinary collector. A humbling experience. 

Warming up for the next big highlight in my year. I had my first invitational plein air competition. 

So exciting and unnerving. I had a good start and the first painting set the tone for my week at Ellicott city, MD, Paint It event!. Its a big task to paint as a juried invited artist and I was worn out mentally and physically by the end of the week. I was rewarded for my hard work with a month long show of some work I was proud of and had a sale at the opening night. I enjoyed meeting and socializing with the other invited artists. I miss the group and hope I will see them all again soon. 

The hot weather in late July invented another yearly tradition. Boat Week! How I love to paint boats and this land locked midwesterner has found a way to do just that and its surprising what was close to home. I head out early and am home with a new painting by lunch time ready for a meal and a siesta. I came away with three paintings I truly love and currently only this one pictured is still available from that collection. 

 This painting is now in Australia hanging in my parents private collection. Mineral Point was a great surprise. This open competition paint out for several days in August is a must do. The nocturnal on the main street kept me up way past my bed time and what fun it was! The quick paint was even more fun with an early morning start. Having fun with a sign I had seen. warm beer only....There had to be a painting here. Looking downhill onto a street corner with the sign warm beer only and a kiosk that sold tones of ice and served wine and cheese had me smirking. Yes I painted this fun scene for my quick paint and it sold that same day. This event had a great end of week show with awards. A welcoming small town including the biggest surprise - meeting an old neighbor from my childhood in Australia, who is now a resident of Mineral Point Wisconsin. 

Also in August a very quick 5 day trip to Germany, tagging along with my paints in hope to capture just a glimpse of my trip in a small plein air painting. I had a wonderful day painting in the piazza of Donauwoerth. I found a spot in the outdoor cafe and got to work. Pretty soon I had the attention of wide eyed children, eager to see all they could of what I was doing. A waiter tried to purchase my painting even though I did pay for my lunch already. I guess he truly loved it and was blowing kisses at the painting. I decided to not sell the painting as I was pretty sure I was going to break some trade law and I wanted to enjoy it for a while longer. He was very understanding and very sweet as were the two children that stayed as close observers for the entire painting. I was treated to a beautiful song by the older one while I was painting. What an amazing memory, under gorgeous european skies, it was one I will never forget. 

Quick decision to attend the Golden Hills Plein Air at Louisianna Mo. in early September was rewarded. Winning a patron purchase prize was terrific and being hosted by such wonderful folks made the event another one to add to my 2018 calendar.

 

Septembers weather was perfect for painting downtown Champaign and I did some of my best streets capes. Some of my favorite paintings of the year are surprisingly those that I painted in Champaign. Jester on Chester painting captures the landscape of champaign and all its diversity. I just love it. Had a great time and will keep my eyes peeled for future subject matter of this great town. 

Another purpose of painting downtown, I was warming up for my 5th plein air competition/event of the year. Carmel on Canvas in Indiana.

This town of roundabouts had me turned around.

The streets were lined with many great sculptures and many great artists. I enjoyed the challenge and had some of my biggest learnings at this event. Getting bogged down in architectural detail is somewhat problematic as the light changes. Must learn to be happy with an impression of the building and the light more than the architectural structure that is in front of me.  

 

October 2nd Road trip to California in 2017! Ok this one was different. I was passenger on a three day drive into a three week long trip.  Our travel took us to some pretty remote western california deserts and the best I achieved was painting at an event called "the best in the west jet event" and raising $1000 for make a wish with my plein air painting that was raffled off at the events banquet. Painting for a day at the Grand Canyon gave me a taste of what it was like to paint in such a majestic place. Definitely a hook I would like to go back to. Managed to paint at an aircraft museum for a day. Painting a landscape staring an F-16 was a fun challenge that fit with my affinity to aircraft. To see some of the beautiful redwood sequoia trees while on this trip was a delightful event. Those trees are truly heavenly. Unable to paint them in the time spent visiting they will haunt me forever with their majestic beauty. 

Its a powerful experience to paint everyday for a year and watch the work evolve. I now know my voice and am seeing it develop. I know my artistic strengths and weaknesses. I am knowing myself as an artist and its a powerful thing. It is a life long learning journey that I am so very glad to be a part of and to have made that full-time commitment to. Looking ahead to 2018 I am hopeful of more of what I enjoyed in 2017. I am thankful for the many opportunities that came my way this year, for my supportive family both here and overseas, for the 100+ paintings that came from my brush, thankful for the many commissions, for my customers and collectors and supporters of the arts and thankful for the support of my local retail partners. Thankful for the judges that said yes to my work and for the juried events I have attended this year.  I can't wait to see what will come from my heart and brush in 2018. 

 


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Painting downtown Champaign in some beautiful September weather produced some of my better street-scape work. I don't know if it was the weather or the place or something more divine.

The Blind Pig 

What a fun gathering place for folks to gather in a whimsy setting created by the elaborate gate, pigs and lights. This painting helped break the ice to paint in the city of Champaign. Unsure how welcome it would be to bring my plein air gear and start painting in the downtown area: for some reason it has felt intimidating when thinking about it. Wish I had done it years ago now. The vibe is welcoming and respectful. I had a lot of fun my first day and look forward to many more visits. 
We are Unfinished Art

Keen to come back to Champaign and paint the Virginia Art Theater. While the roofline was a little daunting to paint, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to paint in big white letters on a red background the word ART. The painting had only indicated parts of the art letters- when publishing on instagram and my Facebook art page -I thought yes, unfinished art.  The movie on the sign was a horror movie with Texas in the title. First thought that would be fun to include a cult horror movie to add some spice to the art. Looking at the work the next day I felt strongly we needed to have it as a small beacon of rebuilding and hope as Texas was just flooded from the first hurricane this summer. So I painted in the title It's a Wonderful Life. In thinking about the entire experience of painting this building and what I was thinking over the course of the painting it was clear the title needed to point to us, we are Unfinished art. We have our creator to thank for this life on earth and we are his unfinished art.
Jester on Chester

Painting on one of the busiest corners of Champaign brought all kinds of folks in my path or really I was in their path. I had two days of interaction with the friendliest folks of the Midwest. So many conversations, so many questions, so many that the painting is a memory of truly getting to know the belly of Champaign on many levels. Meeting total strangers, a few of them homeless but proud to be making it to 40. Surprise meetings of good friends I have known for years, new friends that are involved in the arts. All were enjoying seeing artwork happen. Art does heal. To me the painting of Jester greeting with his opened hand reflects the diversity in all the life that stopped to chat and it was a privilege to meet everyone.
Humpty Dumpty's Worst Nightmare

I just had to come back and paint the sculpture around the corner from Mr Jester, Mr Eggwards. Setting up mid morning I found the sun was from behind. I used this to great advantage, capturing the cracked egg-shell like shadow patterns created by the backlit tree directly behind Mr Eggwards. The quirky nature of this subject fits my sense of humor and was a blast to paint. Definitely one of my flavorist paintings from September. 
The best is yet to come, by invitation of Kraft Properties Urbana, these works and more new artworks will be on show November 3rd from 5pm at the Urbana First Friday at 133 W Main Street. Hosted by David Kraft.
Come along on the night to enjoy the show and First Friday's festivities. One night only!

 

 


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How do you know if a painting you love is worth your hard earned money? What happens after you buy it and take it home? Will you like it still then? How will you install it and care for it? For the first time buyer of art the next step can be an uncertain one and usually the buyer will miss out on enriching their lives with an original artwork. 

 

First my favorite quick and easy installation tool. 

 

 

Fortunately properly installed command hooks or command mounting strips have made the installation easy.  Dont forget to measure and use a level. After installation, most paintings just need a light dust with a soft clean cloth to keep them looking good. 

 

 

Now lets look at the actual painting. Do you find it appealing? What do you like about it? If you have never bought art a purchase can be a bit daunting. To help I have included some notes on what to avoid in a painting so you will be sure to feel good about your choice and enjoy it years to come. 

 

Paintings that are mostly muddy, have lack of contrast, that are flat with little tone change, that have an unsure brush application, that are poorly designed - that has a lack of purpose.

 

To examine this a little further, a muddy painting will have unclean colors dominant throughout the painting. Muddying is caused by poor color mixing and poor planning with applying layers of paint. The under layer of paint becomes mixed in and muddies the next layer. Or the colors are originally mixed too muddy and are not clean. 

 

Now for lack of contrast or flat paintings, they will have a poor value scale, will look somewhat dull. Lack strong contrast with no lights and darks in the foreground. A painting should show a reduced value scale occurring over the distance of the view. As you get further away the value scale reduces and is soft, closer its sharper and a broader value or tonal scale. 

 

Lets look a little closer at the brushwork. Does it have many dab dab dab individual splayed circular type brush marks on top of each other that fill space with no purpose. If the artist is unsure what they are doing they will dab on the paint instead of brushing it on with a direction of certainty. To be clear on this point the foliage, bush or grass masses indicated by paint applied to give volume to the foliage has a purpose. It should show clean colors and changing colors and tone and have a feeling of mass. This is not the same as dab dab dab where the brush is pushed onto the canvas with lack of purpose and sometimes you can see a circular pattern from the splayed out bristles and a consistent one color, no change except perhaps some muddiness from the color underneath getting mixed in.

 

Lets consider what the painting is about. Nothing pops or it reads poorly, and by that I mean your left feeling unclear of what the main focus is about. There is no star of the show. Poor design that just looks awkward. Unfinished design-the painting will have some unresolved areas that don't make sense. Composition and design is very key to a good painting and vital to good long lasting work. 

 

Paintings with one or more of these things that you might like now can become displeasing over time. 

 

If you don't see any of these problems and if you know the artist uses quality paints and supports you are investing in a family heirloom, the painting will long outlast you. So buy that artwork and enjoy it in your own home. It will be as delightful every day as it was when you first thought wow thats beautiful. If you have that response you have a connection with the painting that goes deeper than you probably realize.  Treat yourself  and enrich your daily life with some good artwork from a painter you admire. Your purchase will not only give you joy it will afford the artist to continue their good work of seeing beauty to bring to you in their artwork. My favorite saying about a piece of art you love and purchase is like spending time with a good friend always. 


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How do you know if a painting you like is worth your hard earned money? What happens after you buy it and take it home? Will you like it still then? How will you install it and care for it? For the first time buyer of art the next step can be an uncertain one and usually the buyer will miss out on enriching their lives with an original artwork. 

 

First my favorite quick and easy installation tool. 

 

 

Fortunately properly installed command hooks and command mounting strips have made the installation easy.  Dont forget to measure and use a level. After installation, most paintings just need a light dust with a soft clean cloth to keep them looking good. 

 

 

Now lets look at the actual painting. Do you find it appealing? What do you like about it? If you have never bought art a purchase can be a bit daunting. To help I have included some notes on what to avoid in a painting so you will be sure to feel good about your choice and enjoy it years to come. 

 

Paintings that are mostly muddy, have lack of contrast, are flat with little tone change, have an unsure brush application, poor design - has a lack of purpose. To examine this a little further, a muddy painting will have unclean colors dominant throughout the painting. Muddying is caused by poor color mixing and poor planning with applying layers of paint. The under layer of paint becomes mixed in and muddies the next layer. Or the colors are originally mixed too muddy and are not clean. 

 

Now for lack of contrast or flat paintings, they will have a poor value scale, will look somewhat dull. Lack strong contrast with light and dark in the foreground. A painting should show a reduced value scale occurring over the distance of the view. As you get further away the value scale reduces and is soft, closer its sharper and a broader value or tonal scale. 

 

Lets look a little closer at the brushwork. Does it have many dab dab dab individual splayed circular type brush marks on top of each other that fill space with no purpose. If the artist is unsure what they are doing they will dab on the paint instead of brushing it on with a direction of certainty. To be clear on this point the foliage, bush or grass masses indicated by paint applied to give volume to the foliage has a purpose. It should show clean colors and changing colors and tone and have a feeling of mass. This is not the same as dab dab dab where the brush is pushed onto the canvas with lack of purpose and sometimes you can see a circular pattern from the splayed out bristles and a consistent one color, no change except perhaps some muddiness from the color underneath getting mixed in.

 

Lets consider what the painting is about. Nothing pops or it reads poorly, and by that I mean your left feeling unclear of what the main focus is about. There is no star of the show. Poor design that just looks awkward. Unfinished design-the painting will have some unresolved areas that don't make sense. Composition and design is very key to a good painting and vital to good long lasting work. 

 

Paintings with one or more of these things that you might like now can become displeasing over time. 

 

If you don't see any of these problems and if you know the artist uses quality paints and supports you are investing in a family heirloom, the painting will long outlast you. So buy that artwork and enjoy it in your own home. It will be as delightful every day as it was when you first thought wow thats beautiful. If you have that response you have a connection with the painting that goes deeper than you probably realize.  Treat yourself  and enrich your daily life with some good artwork from a painter you admire. Your purchase will not only give you joy it will afford the artist to continue their good work of seeing beauty to bring to you in their artwork. My favorite saying about a piece of art you love and purchase is like spending time with a good friend always. 


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Determined to make the most of a 4 day trip to Germany I packed a small pochade box with duo oils and a panel carrier with 6 x 8 panels. Two of the four days were mine to use how I pleased. I decided to backpack with my art gear into the local town just half a mile downhill from my hotel.  Donauworth is an adorable town. So much to see and enjoy.

 I found a public bench where I could paint the street view and was soon surrounded by other folks who stopped to rest from shopping or collect their bikes. Cyclists were very common and tandem bikes also a common sight. Many were touring and enjoying the gorgeous town. Getting a little cranky at myself for not taking time to shop while I was in Europe but then thought painting was too good to miss. Content for my first day to go back to the hotel with two small paintings and not any new shopping. I hiked back up the hill to my hotel and closed out the evening painting a small 4" x 6"somewhat jet lagged vista postcard from the balcony while enjoying a glass of Proseco to close out my first day alone in Germany. Alone only until the working folks returned and we enjoyed a good meal with good company. 

 

On my second free day I realized that many of the places I wanted to paint were not practical places to set up for a long time, basically because I had no tripod or stool so I needed to find a seat in order to paint. Undaunted I walked for several hours stopping occasionally to sketch and take photos for possibly some later studio work.  

 

I came across a piazza with a large cafe that was surrounded by some appealing architecture. I found a waiter that could speak a little english and explained how I would want to use his chair for many hours to paint from and I would also dine at the cafe. "the chair is free and you can do what you want," music to my ears. Starting the visit to the cafe with a plate of tasty seafood pasta and a cappuccino put me in the mood to paint generously. Shortly after I had started my painting another waiter came by and wanted to purchase the unfinished painting. His expression of its beauty was priceless, lots of gestures with kissing his fingers to the painting. Had he enough US dollars I would have probably sold him the painting and by doing so broke some kind of trade law? I declined his offer of a mix of Euros and Dollars and managed to keep the painting and not hurt his feelings too much. (painting was the Gate at Donauworth). 

 

Shortly after the transaction attempt more visitors came to my chair side. Two little girls about the age of 6 and 4 expressed to their parent that they wanted to watch. The parents were unmoved and the girls hung onto my chair arm and stayed very close breathing into my ear and eyes wide like they could catch the world in them just by keeping them open. I was impressed. They wanted so much to see what I would paint so I did my best to entertain them and have a good time doing so. I did have a moment when tempted to put a dot of paint on each nose but refrained. They never left my side except to eat when called and came back with lollypops after their lunch which they ate very quickly. Eventually I had to remove their hands from my chair arm and they seemed to understand and still stayed very close. The older girl broke into a beautiful song. I don't think it was in German, it sounded more French to me. So there I was painting away at a cafe with the beautiful singing to accompany me along with the nod from the chef inside and the finger kissing waiter. (his fingers not mine). I wondered what a spectacle we were making. Stayed there for 4 hours and loved every minute. Had to pinch myself, was this really my first experience in Europe that also included my love of painting. Stopped at an ice-cream store and with pointing as my German language bought a single cone of creamy chocolate ice-cream. Not a lot of english speaking going on this day and that was to be expected and it didn't matter. This time hiked back up the hill to my hotel with a new bounce in my step and the biggest grin. 

 

Painting brings me so much joy regardless of where I am and what I may produce good or bad. This was so spectacularly different and imbibed with culture I could literally drink it in. It occurred to me I didn't bring home any store bought souvenirs. It didn't matter, many priceless memories made strong with the immersing of culture and people and art. Never to be erased and always to be cherished. I am so thankful to God for my art and the passion he has given me for it. It's a blessing that I hope for many people to experience. If you ever consider taking up art stick with it as it will come back to you ten fold. You will thank yourself when you are older and its cliche but its never too late to pick up a brush and begin the journey. Happy Painting!


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Dreaming of an Afternoons Sailing

 

When I desire to be down at the docks and capturing some of my favorite subject matter, living in Central Illinois has its challenges.  Sailboats, yachts, tugs, trawlers and fishing boats, I love to paint them all. Fortunately there are some inland marinas and lakes to help feed that need. I had a blast going to the local Marina and enjoying a peaceful time capturing the light behind the tall trees and the small yacht that looked well lived in. The half mast American flag added a nice pop of color against the tall woods on the opposite side of the lake. The light dappling on the water added to the dreamy affect of the backlight trees and yacht. 

 

 

Peaceful Down at the Yacht Club

 

Day two I went down to a public yacht club and painted from across the lake to capture the back views of the yachts at the dock. The morning light made for some soft shadows and some gorgeous lights on the water. It was quite a contrast to the landscape behind me, the towns hospital and commercial buildings loomed along a busy road. Only a few minutes into the painting and all those distractions melted away and I was soon in my own peaceful place by the waters edge. 

 

 

Reflective Times at the Marina


Day three took me onto the yacht clubs docks so I could better surround myself with yachts and water. The results of this painting are fresh and gorgeous, from the way the light is captured on the water, trees and yachts, to the colors used and the effects of the different textures of the trees, boats and water. While painting this marvelous seascape, I met a couple who have been married for 56 years and delighted in their image as they held hands and strolled down to their yacht where they picnicked on their small yacht for an hour in the sunshine. The yacht never left the dock. Content with their morning the couple strolled back arm in arm happy to be out and about that day. This is what plein air painting is for me, a reason to be out enjoying the great outdoors and slowing down long enough to enjoy just what is in front of me. Leaving the confines of my studio opens up a completely new world and each time its different and always rewarding. 

 

 

Peaceful at the Yacht Club Tiny Art

 

After spending a rest day admiring these three new paintings I decided I needed a miniature of one of these paintings. The colors of Peaceful by the Yacht Club won me over. I enjoyed painting this 3" square tiny version of the same view painted Day Two on the last day of this week. 

 

This won't be my last Boat Week! With the water gently rocking the yachts, the clacking of the rigging on masts, the jumping of fish only feet away, the call of the seabirds and the conversation with the occasional sailer departing or arriving, makes it a wonderful experience to paint by the waters edge no matter how far inland. 

 


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Some thoughts on the flow of the creative process and how it seemed to change over time. I avoided clutter in life before I painted full time. Now I truly keep it to minimum to concentrate on my growth as an artist. I use my gut to try quickly sort through what is healthy and beneficial to my work. Previously avoiding visiting local galleries and shows, seeing them as clutter, however my gut now says you need to do this. So I did. It was so great to be with other folks who have a passion for their art and enjoy the camaraderie of sharing. Truly a voice of communication. Its so important to attend shows. This is when the artist is speaking about what matters to them. A low attendance is like turning a deaf ear. Terribly lonely for the artist. In my case, my work is not political nor is it a profound social statement. Usually its an expression of happiness and beauty from the world around me to be shared and enjoyed. To ask folks to really stop and look and hopefully make a connection. Glad to have gone to two local shows this week. Hoping to encourage others to do the same.

 

Wisteria by the Guardian at Allerton 

 

Another activity that feeds my muse. Like many artists gardening has a profound affect on my creative bucket. It directly refills my desire to be painting and is a powerful way to leave the crud with the garden and bring my best to my work. Daily life crud seems to just drop into the dirt and stay there. I come away from gardening renewed and ready to paint up a storm. My garden is nothing spectacular, I hope over time to build it up to a painters muse of perennials and lush pockets of inspiration. For now tending the few beds I have in the warmer weather of Illinois gives me ten-fold of renewal for my work and for that I am grateful. 

 

Dog Rose in Bloom


June has been good to me, with two new commissions and a small, successful show of my new work this year. While finishing these commissioned artworks I am reminded again its about the people as much as its about the art. They have something wonderful to say to another person that is significant. It is humbling to be creating something that is a gift from one person to another. That a person will trust me and bring my artwork into their circle. Their act of kindness brings so much positivity into multiple lives. I can only hope to capture what it is they wish to convey and bring something special to the circle. As I go deeper into each work there is something special occurring that I can see and feel and paint into the artwork. Proof that we are all connected in this world by a greater unseen power. Expressions of love can be seen in artworks given and received and being a part of that is truly rewarding. Its an intangible experience that I don't think I want to give up. Commissions welcome because they bring out the best in me and others. 


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