Monday, September 16, 2013


Lake Huron tried to thwart my progress, but I did not end up at the bottom of it like so many before me (mostly plein air painters, that I know of). I kept my feet firmly planted on the shoreline and my eyes on the soggy wet skies in hopes of seeing a patch of blue. I saw all manner of threatening grey/black clouds. I saw rain driven sideways. I saw lawn furniture becoming airborne...and finally I saw a peep of blue. After a long morning of looking, driving, drinking coffee and trying to be patient, I knew just where there was a large beach pavilion with stone piers perfect for lashing my easel to. Yes, bungi cords of several lengths are a crucial part of my plein air gear. I chose the smallest board I had (8x10) because in those winds I did not want to be hoisting large sail.

Much to my surprise, as well as that of the three other people crazy enough to be on the beach that afternoon I was able to make an energetic little pastel painting. This is what I love about plein air painting; challenges met and spontaneous paintings-of-the-moment! Did I say it was barely 50 degrees and that it continued to rain sporadically, but thoroughly, all day? Oh yes, there was the 1200 miles driven, too. It was a great trip...this kind of exciting stuff rarely happens to me at home.

Flexibility is an important tool to pack in the plein air kit. Patience would come in handy, too, but I'm always losing the darn's so small.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Jefferson County is where I finally found the cattle I'd been looking for. Really hot, they'd been fed and now they were headed for the watering hole. I'd never seen cows wading up to their eyes before, but, as I've said the temps were broiling hot and I was wishing for water up to my eyes, too. I had a great hour and a half working on this painting - I was in the shade. Different beefers would come up to the fence to investigate me. Satisfied that I was not bringing food or harm they would watch with those great brown eyes and then, bored, go off for more swimming, eating and mooing. I was thoroughly entertained by them. So, don't tell me there is nothing in Kansas. I am easily entertained by stock, clouds and huge open expanses.

This is the last of the Seven HOT Mid West States Trip. Not everyone thinks driving around the mid west is fun, but I do. Only eight states to go. I think I'll get on I 90  west soon for a couple days and paint something in Michigan, but I'm saving Louisiana for cooler weather. After those it's all West Coast, Nevada, Utah and Alaska. With any luck that will be in 2014.

All paintings unless marked sold are available for purchase by contacting me. 

Monday, July 29, 2013


Vinita, Oklahoma gave me the biggest challenge yet. The main street is a wide boulevard typical of Western cities. Early Saturday morning it was just me setting up my easel by the curb and the guy hosing down my main subject...this sparkling brick 5 story monolith. It wasn't long until trucks were rumbling past regularly. Their trailers carried hay, grain, poultry, cattle, hogs, goats, horses and equipment.   I was aware of the smells and sounds as they breezed by and now I know that goats do not go quietly like the other cargo. Two hours of that and It was becoming hard to concentrate so I pulled up stakes and hit the road myself, less than delighted with my choice of subject and it's execution. I knew I had most of a painting and it could be tinkered with back in the quiet of studio. The paper held the essence of morning light, at least. That is why we love plein air's authenticity and freshness.

Vinita is a rodeo town on the professional circuit; once a year there is a four day event at the rodeo grounds right across the street from my hotel, but not the weekend I was there. Too bad. I'd like to paint a cowboy portrait. I suppose some of the ropers and riders leave Vinita feeling a little defeated, too. At least I wasn't sore and broken.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Searching for far too long for a compelling scene I finally settled on this one somewhere south of Nauvoo along the Mississippi River. Man, was it getting hot! This place had shade, not like the drifts of wildflowers right along the broiling river bank that are still calling to me. Next time. 

Three cedars 9 x 12 pastel on paper

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Windmills! I did not realize how loud these big ones can be...but who's to hear? While I was painting this picture a handsome farmer with two little boys stopped his truck so as "not to spray me with dust" (as the previous 20 vehicles had all ready done).  I guess those white gravel roads are limestone? All vehicles, even the ones going less than 50mph leave huge white plumes blowing behind them which you can see for miles. He also invited me to drive up a dirt track on his land, to get closer to the windmills, which I did, later after packing up my painting. They are truly huge. I fear I did not successfully convey their size in my small painting. The small water pumping windmill offers some scale...but all in all proportion and scale were a problem in this painting. Challenges are what this project is all about. I like that the windmills are grey and do blend in with the sky at times in a surprising way.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I arrived in Falls City on a sleepy,  steamy Sunday afternoon.  I ate some ice cream and drove around the streets looking for something to make a picture of. A hundred or so years ago this little house was someone's prairie dream home. I loved the light and the two peaked gables...and even the satellite dish.

Between 1979 and 2000 I did 630 commissioned house portraits. Now I rarely choose to do a house (never on commission) but when I do, I still wonder and imagine the lives of the people who have lived in those houses, planted those lilacs and apple trees, raised their kids and come home after work.

I pack pre-cut sheets of sanded pastel papers when I travel by airplane. I am limited to a 9 x 12 format, which is really stretching my comfort zone. I usually work 11 x 14,  or larger,  in the field. My 9 x 12 Guerilla Box is self-contained and is carried on the plane as I do not like to have my finished pastels out of sight. I guess most of us travelers have arrived without our checked luggage. Clean clothes I can do without...not my art supplies. I put the tripod necessary to support the Guerilla Box in my checked bag, knowing that I can use the rental car trunk lid or picnic table if that goes missing. I pack a lightweight linen cover up smock and then by removing that, dusting off and scrubbing my hands I am ready for an art museum (not a white tablecloth restaurant).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


A good night's sleep and a walk around the neighborhood of my motel in Rogers, Arkansas, I found my next subject....sometimes it pays to peer over hedges. I usually have to work a little harder than that to find a compelling scene, but I could not pass up this piece of shiny clean equipment...(is fire engine red emerging as a theme on this trip?) As far as equipment yard/garages go this one was well cared for. I am calling this machine a crane...more red sections were lying out of view...please inform me if that is not what it is. 

The temperature was pushing 90 at 9am so I drove to Bentonville...home of Walmart and Crystal Bridges; Museum of American Art. I spent the entire day inside soaking up the art. It was too hot to explore the lovely landscaped grounds and trails. The architecture alone is worth the trip...thanks to Moshe Safdie.  I loved the special exhibit Angels and Tomboys: Girlhood in 19th Century American Art organized by the Newark Museum. And women painters and sculptors were generally well represented in this museum's collection of American's not often you get to see 2! Grace Hartigans  (anywhere, let alone the Ozarks). This was a breath of fresh air to an old feminist who has been counting heads for decades (gender and race) on the walls and pedestals of public art collections.Alice Walton has brought a beautiful art museum to middle America...and it's free. (special exhibitions entry is $5)

Monday, July 22, 2013


In celebration of my wonderful new knee* I spent nine days covering 1400 miles of the midwestern United States. When I left home in New England with an airline ticket and a rental car reservation I knew there was a possibility of painting in seven states. I also knew everything would have to fall in place perfectly for that to happen. It was raining when I picked up my snazzy little screaming red Fiesta so Avis gave me a big umbrella to use and return with the car. That must have been the lucky charm. I never saw another drop of rain for nine days. I spent the afternoon at the St. Louis Art Museum and checked out downtown a bit for prospective painting sites.

When in doubt, do the waterfront; early morning found me trying to be inconspicuous in a sparsely populated derelict neighborhood on the banks of the Mississippi River.  But I loved the view of layers of urban architectural history including the famous Gateway Arch. It was good enough for Lewis & Clark to start their monumental voyage of discovery there, it was good enough for me to start my little sojourn as well. 

Reasonably happy with the morning's results I pulled my "stealth! brightest red on earth" Fiesta out of the bushes where I had attempted to hide her (and all my valuables) and I put in my longest day of driving to Rogers, Arkansas due south west.

 9 x 12  soft pastel on coated paper 

*I had a total right knee replacement on February 25th and wish I had done it way sooner. So if any of you are contemplating this surgery, I encourage you, "Do it". Once you've survived the first month of hell things start looking up and at my age the months do sort of fly by...before you know it you'll be doing stuff you haven't done lately. I must thank my All-Star Cast of supporters ( husband and family, surgeon, nurses, physical therapist, doctor of accupuncture and chinese medicine, massage therapist and my friends) for my complete and speedy recovery. YES! (oops, forgot all the rest of you taxpayers for medicare)....thank you...I mean to use it well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How? What? Where? 2013?

What is in my mind when I choose what to paint in each state? I will say that my painting is like a well-thought out snap shot in that it is a particular day in a particular town on a particular corner at a specific hour. It is unlike a photograph in most other aspects.

Even my lightweight Guerrilla box full of pastels and the tripod that supports it is way larger and heavier than most commonly used cameras. It is a substantial investment in travel time as well as  having to carry the equipment through airports or down the beach or up several flights of stairs. And it is a commitment to spend an hour or four working on one small picture. 

I usually post one painting per state on this blog, but often I make more than one picture per state.

I am not interested in super-realism. I want to interpret the scene and make it my own as to color and "feel".

I love plein air painting for the same reason I love drawing...inspiration followed by time and attention devoted to close observation. Shapes and composition are important, but what my work is known for is the portrayal of light; that is what can turn your string of grimy tankers into a sparkling outdoor still life.

my car photo of leaving home in Vermont
California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alaska! Those await me. With luck and surgical team skill I will have a new right knee to complete my project on. I'll be back on the road this summer to visit some of the remaining USA.