Monday, December 24, 2007


This is another pastel, 5" X 7", of a farmhouse along Highway 20 in southern Wisconsin. The road wends its way through East Troy, Waterford, Honey Creek and farms along the way. There are many of this style house along the road -- old farmhouses. They look great no matter what season you drive by. In the more than 20 years I have passed through here I can spot one house or farm after another that I have done in an oil painting or pastel. Some of the houses I did many years ago are now obscured by the growth of trees and would no longer look as good as a subject. When I was an art student (although one is always an art student, I guess) I did the portrait and figure every day. After that I still did a good number of portraits and basically had to learn landscape on my own. At some point you wonder, how did I fall into doing this? What makes one artist do a majority of still life and I wind up doing this series of farmhouses and farms? It's Christmas and I'm no psychology major; I'll think about that later. Have a merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Farm house, Walworth County, Wisconsin

When I was taking a class in Cody, WY last summer, one of the painters, Sarah, asked if anyone worked in pastel. Since I had done a few, she told me about Wallis sanded pastel paper which I had never heard of. I ordered some not knowing what to expect. I've done enough woodworking and woodcarving to know sand paper when I see it. This is archival sanded paper, but very nice stuff. It probably takes more off (sands off) your pastel stick than ordinary paper, but it has a very substantial surface to it. The pastel shown is a 9 X 12" work of a farm along the road in Walworth County, WI where I have found many of the farm houses and scenes I've done in the past.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


This is a 13 X 17" pastel. There's a small farm west of Waterford, Wisconsin that is open to tours and children's groups that these horses call home. I grew up in the city always wishing I had grown up on a farm or ranch -- although I may have watched too many episodes of Roy Rogers and Lassie to appreciate all the hard work I was missing out on. My son is now too old to get the charge out of it that he did visiting Green Meadow Farm when he was 5, but I never get too old.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Three PAs

The plein air work here is really fun now. The trees are changing color and the leaves are falling which leaves a warm color over portions of the ground. The tree paintings are 6 X 8s and the Wyoming painting from my plein air workshop is an 8 X 10. This is the view looking west from the back of Open Box M which hosted the workshop -- and the makers of pochade boxes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Plein air and a watercolor

The watercolor was something to do with only a little while left in classtime -- a portrait of John Muir. The plein air is an 8 X 10 done this week on a very cold day. It was windy and I was standing in the shade to avoid having the sun on my palette and painting. About an hour into it I was having to stand in the sun to get warm. The layers of clouds were really fun to paint and they just kept coming. I'm looking forward to painting as the leaves fall and then the snow begins falling as long as I remember to dress warmly enough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I know it's a little odd for an oil painter (and an outdoor painter at that) to be posting watercolors, but I have an evening class in watercolor and I work from photos when I'm not doing a still life. I consider it practice and it helps. I recently sent out two packages of slides to upcoming shows and hope to get a couple paintings accepted. One is in Texas and the other in Illinois. Meanwhile, I will be going outside to paint over the next several days.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Plein air in October

These are the first two landscape paintings since my return from the Cody, Wyoming workshop. The top one is a 5 X 7 and the other an 8 X 10. I took a little over an hour with each one. I can say that I had a lot more confidence with my work than I had before. I'm working with a limited palette - Frank Serrano's - and finding it easier.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Plein air and Pete

The two landscapes were done in Cody, Wyoming. One is an 8 X 10" and the other is 7 X 13". I did the 7 X 13 on an 11 X 14 canvas and cut it down. I wanted to do a more panoramic view than the squarer shape permitted. The 8 X 10 was done on the last morning of the workshop and was still wet when I loaded it into the car. I got turned around at night driving back home through Buffalo, Wyoming and had to make a sharp left u-turn which made my easel slide over the surface of the wet painting leaving a couple grooves through the paint surface. Unfortunately I don't have one of those wet painting boxes which I once considered an extravagance, but obviously have a useful purpose. Once home. I tried to match the colors and brushwork. The last painting is a watercolor which I did of another artist, Pete, in the watercolor class. I worked on several paintings from photos that night, but now that I've been working outside I think I am spoiled forever. Painting outside is such a great experience.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More from Cody, WY

The photo was taken of the Open Box M location -- Coletta's home. The painting of the haystacks was right across the road. The river painting was about a mile from there -- both 8 X 10s. There is all kind of nice scenery (fantastic scenery, I should say) to paint around Cody (why do I live here in the Midwest?). More than a week has gone by and I still have not gotten back to painting -- oils that is. I did go to my watercolor class, but that was rather uneventful as I just did not like what I did. I came home and got right to work again -- book indexing and a host of other things to catch up on while I was gone. I still have the dust from Cody on my unwashed car. Maybe I'll leave it there until I get painting again. People (non-artists) always ask how it was being there at a workshop and of course it's always hard to answer that. So much is taken in subliminally and may not show up in the few paintings one does at the workshop. I did about two per day, hardly enough to process everything. Anyway, I'm feeling awfully guilty not taking the easel out, but next week should be my opportunity to get the easel outside and painting again. It's not always as cranking out so many widgets per hour. Painting is a fun and funny occupation -- always a great time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Plein air workshop in Cody, Wyoming

Last week I drove 1300 miles west to Cody, Wyoming for the weeklong plein air workshop with Frank Serrano (pictured). As I drove through South Dakota at night an odd sound, there were so many bugs hitting my windshield and the hood of my car it sounded like rain. The ride through the Big Horn mountains just south and east of Cody was a little scary: the clouds were low and it was like driving through fog with the temperature 20 degrees colder than the surrounding area. I arrived at Open Box M, which hosted the event (makers of pochade boxes) early on Monday and met Frank there. He's articulate and knowledgeable on plein air painting and a very nice guy. Our first location is pictured and Frank began a demonstration at about 9 o'clock with a temperature of 39 degrees and very windy. His hand was cold and the pochade box was shaking, but he turned out a nice painting and then we began. The temperature rose and the rest of the week was a lot nicer. I painted with eight other people who had a great time. It's always great to meet other artists who are enthusiastic about their work. Open Box M provides the lunch --- a great lunch, definately worth the price of the workshop. Coletta also provides baked goods and coffee at 8 am. I will post a few other paintings from the workshop later. As I drove home and got turned around trying to find the correct highway entrance, I did a sharp left turn and my paint box scraped across a wet painting (a painting that Frank looked at and said: "That's your best one so far."-- so I have a correction to do. A great experience for me -- give Open Box M a look -- they are done for this year and will have another couple months of workshops next year. At one point on the last day I was standing on a narrow bridge painting a river scene before me and was so excited about being out there painting as the river ran below me I thought I was hyperventilating -- I had an excellent time in Cody.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Wisconsin sunflowers

This time of year the sunflowers are harvested in Wisconsin. It's just an incredible sight traveling down a road and coming upon a field of these flowers. I'm told that most of the harvest is used for feed to birds rather than humans. I've heard that most of the corn that's grown goes to animal consumption and not human also. I've included one of the shots I took of a Kewaunee, Wisconsin farm and two of my pastels -- both 5" X 7"s. These two were both done fast -- in a couple hours and not fussed over.

Next week I am headed for Cody, Wyoming. I will be driving there for a plein air painting workshop with Frank Serrano (you can check out his work on one of my links), a California artist. About a year ago I was looking at another artist's blog and came across Frank Serrano's work. I liked his work and saw he had a workshop in Cody and that started a whole thing for me -- about being there a long time ago. I was in Cody the summer after I left art school, painting in the mountains with a buddy from art school. I left town with $200.00 and came back with about $3.00. We did all this without a cell phone or a credit card. Looking back on it, I must have been nuts. Anyway, it all worked out. I painted in Jackson, Wyoming mostly and only traveled through Cody. After all this time I am going back looking forward to painting there and meeting Frank Serrano. I will post photos when I return -- and hopefully some paintings. I'll be stretching some linen this week. This will be fun.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I have never worked in pastels, although I once was a Waldorf teacher and did chalkboard drawings for the children's main lesson every day so I guess that's pretty good training. One of the art suppliers that I use had a sale on a box of pastels, so I bought them a couple months ago. The first one I did was the stream (a 5" X 7") which is from the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. The farmhouse (an 8" X 10") is from somewhere in southern Wisconsin. I had just spent a lot of time on an oil painting which I just plain don't like very much, so I thought I'd give something else a try.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Followup to Barns & Farms show

The Barns & Farms show ended on August 5th. I sold one of the paintings and just picked up the other today. I went to the opening of the show last July 7th. The barn photo is of the Barnsite Studio and Gallery. The other two photos were taken after the opening show -- about 8 PM when the sun had set. Today the field on the right of the road is full of sunflowers. Oddly enough, as I looked at the show I found someone that I had not seen since art school -- dare I say, 30 years ago! That was fun; being in the show was fun; selling a painting for more than I ever had before was even more fun. Today, August 6th, I drove to Kewaunee, met with the gallery owner, put the painting in the car and then headed north to Algoma where I gassed up and then drove around, taking a few pictures of the harbor and eventually pulling over to find a place to paint. I took my little portable watercolor rig to the shore of Lake Michigan and painted a 8 X 10 watercolor. I had to navigate a rocky path to the shore and would have had a hard time with my French easel. I was happy with my little painting and then drove south back home. I really love those barns and farms in Wisconsin, so the four hour drive was a nice trip. I will be trying for that show again next year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Barns & Farms

I sent out slides of three paintings a couple months ago and had two of them accepted to a national juried show called "Barns and Farms". The show is in Kewaunee, Wisconsin and about a four hour drive for me. I dropped them off there and darned if the place wasn't a barn building which houses a gallery and a school of art. The show begins this Saturday, the 7th of July, and ends in early August. The large farmhouse painting is a 30" X 40" oil on canvas and the cattle at the shore painting (14" X 18") was a from a place I stayed in Scotland on the Isle of Skye in Lower Breakish. So if Clint Eastwood ever asks me "Do you feel lucky, punk?", I'd have to say "Yeah" and then duck.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Plein Air with the Cicadas

I went to Wagner Farm in Glenview, Illinois last week with two old painting friends. Usually I paint alone. While I stood out in the hot sun to do the painting of the large building (like an idiot), they were in the shade. I had cicadas on my easel, on my pallete, in my paint and on my clothes and the back of my neck. I've set up in the woods and had spiders crawling up the easel; I've set up in the mountains and had mosquitoes buzzing me, but this was about the most annoying. Funniest moment came when I looked down at my shirt pocket and met the gaze of two beady red eyes looking back up at me. The darn things are harmless ---- but they are annoying -- noisy too. The larger building is a 9 X 12" and the smaller (the barn door) is an 8 X 10" -- which I did in the shade! Now I have the farmer tan -- I'm a redneck.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The watercolor landscape is a 4 X 12" winter prairie scene on gesso prepared rough w/c paper. This scene is something you see often in the midwest in winter -- the fields are at rest and the landscape looks wide and barren. The photo was taken four years ago when I had a class of eighth graders. I just attended the high school graduation of some of these boys (their German teacher Frau Mauerman is second on the left). It was my pleasure to teach them during 8 years. We also took wood carving from another teacher. From the left: Lukas, Frau Mauerman, Danny, John-Charles, Rahsaan and myself. Most are going on to college and their teacher is going on to more art. The best thing is that they are just as happy to see me as I am to see them.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Grain elevator or granary?

This is an 8 X 10 watercolor completed last week. The color seems a little weak from the original. You see a lot of these in the midwest farmlands near the railroad tracks. When I was a teacher I would take opportunities to take the kids out to the farm and let them experience another way of life. The life a child experiences in a city is far removed from the source of things. A city kid grows up seeing the grocery store as the source of everything they eat. Several times the kids in my class planted vegetables, cut watercress from a stream, pulled rocks from a field, harvested, fed the animals and milked the cows. I'm a city kid too, so what do I call this? Grain elevator or granary?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Plein Air?? and a couple watercolors

As all of you painters know, you never know what you will be asked to do. For example: the little oil painting was done from a black and white photo taken probably in the 1940s. This is a farm in Iowa featuring the grandmother of a friend (Lynn Dykstra Davis -- see her quilt blog) feeding the chickens. It's a 5 X 7" which I did in a couple hours, cropping the photo and trying to give it a plein air look. The other two are watercolors: a small portrait of the artist Lyonel Feininger; and two lumberjacks, a painting which I had in a recent show (unfortunately they came back home with me. I did sell several others).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Down a country road

I was driving through southern Wisconsin via my usual route and then came to a detour sign. Figuring that I would be losing time on the detour, I was not happy about it. A few miles later I came upon a farm with a field of sunflowers and a painting in the making. So I made it. I did a 12 X 16" oil and I suppose because of the beauty of it, the painting sold very quickly. A lucky turn of events for me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A great woman/artist

After being in a mall art show about 30 years ago with my stack of oil paintings, I was contacted by someone about doing art classes. I was just out of art school and had no experience, but still they wanted me to start -- they liked my work. One person who showed up that night was Mary. She had a lifelong love of art which she said came from her mother, who also painted. Mary wasn't a Cecelia Beaux, but she did an original from time to time or just copied paintings by others out of those Walter Foster books or magazines. At the time she started she was 67, when this picture was taken. She was the editor of a newspaper at that time. The class moved from one person's home, to a welding shop, to Mary's newspaper composing room, to her home and eventually to her nursing home. Her painting class helped make the hard transition from her home to the nursing home. She continued to paint, finishing one 12 X 16 about every 3 sessions --- pretty darn good for someone who is 97. We had just celebrated her 97th birthday a couple weeks ago then had to cancel the class last week because her foot hurt. She hated to miss class. Her daughter called to tell me she died on Mother's Day. She was one of the nicest, kindest and wonderful people I have ever met. It's just a small part of her story and how art brings people together of all ages to experience the work and fun of art. She leaves behind 3 children, 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren and 1 sad but thankful art teacher. She meant a great deal to me and I will miss her.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Recent work on paper

These are a few of the watercolors I've done recently. The portrait of the engineer with the soot on his face was done from a black and white picture in a book on railroading; color is mine. I pretty much just started with washes of color and drew as I painted. I really love doing portraits and it usually comes pretty easy for me. The industrial scenes were done with little drawing; I trust myself to get that right as I work. The bluish scene was done on watercolor paper prepared with gesso. The photograph was taken at the Waterworks show which is currently at the August House Gallery in Chicago. My teacher Ed Hinkley is at the left, my son in the center and I'm at the right. Some call me "Slim" -- not sure if I look it there -- gotta do something about that. Maybe dragging my easel outside up and down a few hills will take care of that. Ed has inspired me to work in different ways. He has a great imagination and work ethic and has encouraged me to expand my horizons.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Once Upon A Time.....

Once upon a time I was an elementary school teacher (actually last year at this time) and these are some of the images I created in chalk. Ninety percent of what I do is oil paint, but when I taught I worked in chalk ---- not pastel, just blackboard chalk. After I told the children their morning lesson story, I would do the image that they would then put into their morning lesson books. You do the math: 175 days of school times 8 years -- a lot of stories and drawings. I told a story a day for all eight years beginning in first grade with Grimm's fairy tales and ending in eighth grade with stories of the Dust Bowl and Physics. We did everything from history, geography (maps of the entire world), math, chemistry, earth science, the inventions of the nineteenth century. The first picture was done in a 3rd-4th grade class (I was a sub. last year) -- one of those Norse myths as one of the heroes is sent off in his Viking ship to burn at sea. The giraffe and the alligator were done in the animal block and finally, my claim to fame --- the Waldorf Curriculum poster. This was done in colored pencil before I actually started teaching in 1995 and lithographed, about 1500 copies. The poster is still sold and hangs in numerous Waldorf school all over the United States. Many of my former parents purchased them for their home and the kids followed them as we went along through the years. My former class will be graduating high school in June this year. I've moved on to oil and watercolor. All those chalk drawings and I only brought my camera about a half dozen times -- the rest were erased. Oh, well, I had the fun of doing them.