Thursday, June 13, 2019

Prairie Skyscrapers

Prairie Skyscrapers 8  x 8 oil on a Raymar panel

Impressionist, semi-abstraction, abstract, landscape

Where does inspiration come from? What is an artist’s point of view? How does reality play with invention? I’m not sure that I can answer each of these questions. I can share a small part of my own process toward the creation of a painted idea.
There are times when I snap photographs to remind me of a moment, a shape, or a detail that I feel might escape my memory. I rarely use photographic references to paint the photo.
I have a long history of traveling the backroads in Northeast Wisconsin. Often, I find myself  studying the old and worn structures that have a story to tell me. Growing  up in the Midwest I have always felt that it’s agricultural heritage is close at hand. Often, the tallest and most prominent architectural elements  of a community were found in it’s taverns, barns, church steeples and grain elevators. They rose like prairie “skyscrapers” across the plains and throughout the state.
The structures below caught my eye one winter day. We had been driving around the small towns of  Algoma and Kewaunee , out hunting for images and ideas.
This past week I pulled up this photograph and I let my imagination and emotions guide me to the finished painting you see here. The road to art from idea is often a bumpy one. It is a process of trial and error that always creates both discomfort and excitement.
I find that if I can let go of what I see and strive to paint what is true for me, then I have a painting that has something to say.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Blossom Time

Blossom Time 8 x 8 oil on a Raymar panel

Wisconsin,rural,landscape,architecture, impressionist

Whenever I see the exuberant blossoms of late spring I am reminded of my grandmother Adeline. The Great Depression and subsequent illnesses took an immeasurable toll from my mothers family. They lost a beautiful farm and lifestyle in rural Ozaukee county, Wisconsin. My grandparents were forced to move to the city and my grandfather traded farming for a job in a factory. Their home became a rented upper flat. I don’t believe they ever  fully recovered from that loss.
When I was  a child I  could walk to their apartment from my grade school and I often stopped in for the cookies my grandmother always kept for company.
During these visits she would take me downstairs to her garden, the strip of soil surrounding the building, and show me her flowers. Sweet William, Bleeding Hearts, Peonies and Lilacs were punctuated by the flowers from  bulbs she added each year.
It is a poignant memory, as sweet and fragrant as the blossoms she nurtured. Fragrance is a powerful trigger for memories. Recently, the scent of lilacs took me back to that small strip of land so carefully tended. And, to the farmstead that inspired a labor of longing and love.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Geraniums 8x 8 acrylic on a Raymar panel

This painting began with a desire to capture a feeling of summertime. I wanted to share the joy of planting and of  watching the fruits of that labor grow. The glorious color of these flowers following a long gray and rainy spell inspired me to head outside with my gear. I also felt a sense of urgency and perhaps impatience as I  recovered from hand surgery. Some of that energy found it’s way into this painting.  When I paint outside my goal is to be direct and  uncontrived.  It can be a difficult judgement call. How do I know when to stop adjusting and adding to a painting?  The truth is that often a moment will  come when a painting feels just right. One of my guiding principles ( if I am truly paying attention ) is to listen to my intuitive “voice” the one that says enough, done. Confidence can be shaken by moments like these when the purest form of expression might be judged unfinished. Often my best work is about less, rather than more.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Beech Leaves

Beech Leaves 8 x 10 acrylic (fluid acrylic markers ) on a toned panel

Every once in a while I feel like a kid with my first set of crayons. It usually happens when I discover a new art medium or a new way of expression. Recently, I noticed a friend posting lovely paintings done in acrylic markers. I immediately sensed that this could be a great tool for sketching, doodling, accenting and illustration. This week I picked up a small set and played around with them. Play is a word that gets knocked around. It suggests being childish and perhaps immature. Instead of celebrating the beginner and the child within us there is a pressure to look a certain established way. It sometimes seems that a one way only sign is posted for mid career artists and other professionals who want to explore different pathways.
I think that’s a shame. Exploration is a hallmark of creativity. It’s an intimidating  one too. When I share a work that I feel is experimental, and outside of my wheel house, I feel vulnerable.
Risk taking is a part of creating and so is failure. We tend to embrace the success of others and in this age of selfies and photoshopped lives the difficulties and discoveries that lead to success are stripped away.
Some of my best work has come from opening myself to something new. Introspection, intuition, and a new way of seeing can come from taking risks.
This little painting was fun, challenging and helped me rethink my relationship to line. It felt like writing a poem with paint. The idea for this piece came from  observing the new greens of early summer. I know that this common color hides a riot beneath, waiting for fall.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Harmony in Silver and gold

Harmony in Silver and Gold 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

Landscape, impressionist, waterfall

Last summer we took a trip to Marquette, Michigan and on our way we took a few side trips to explore the many waterfalls that create exciting views along the Wisconsin and Michigan border. Like many of my studio paintings this one began with loose washes of color and value to suggest the movement of the falling water. It is essentially a painting of the atmosphere of a gray day. My goal was to present the feeling of being surrounded by the mist of the falls. The sound of the falling water made such a strong impression on me that I used the memory of those sounds to develop this painting to the accompaniment of bold classical music.
I often turn to poetry, to inspiring writing, to music, to artwork I admire  and to being in nature to work through my own creative efforts. Sometimes I will create a picture of a word, such as waterfall, by seeking memories of  the smell, sight and sounds of a moment that has captured my attention.
A painting process is filled with many, many decisions.  Most of these are facilitated by striving to present an edited point of view. Our art tools are color, value, composition, edges, dominance, rhythm...something, one of these elements often has to rise to the forefront to create a picture of a word.
Painting courtesy of FineLine Designs Gallery oF Ephraim, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Chicken Feed

Chicken Feed, 11x14 oil on an archival panel

Landscape, figurative, barn, chickens, rural

For many years I had the great pleasure of teaching week-long art retreats at the Clearing Folk School  in northern Door County. There, the cedar scented bluff and the quaint log cabins held a promise for each and every student and instructor. One day I began a plein air painting demonstration of one of the small cabins. It turned out to be more of a talk than a painting session as I was peppered with question after question. I never finished the painting. It lingered in my studio for a long time and occasionally I’d make an attempt to finish it without much success. So, it and I sat and waited. Other paintings came and went. One day the overwhelming desire to paint the structure as I remembered it disappeared and I could paint the scene as I wanted it to be.
The little cabin became a pioneer homestead. The story-teller in me was finally at play with a sense of rural life and of course chicken’s. I’ve often heard and felt that painting “what you know” is a powerful creative tool. Imagining and embellishing “what you know” is also a means to share a feeling or emotion with a viewer. We had the great experience of living in the country for a time. There, we learned to garden, to raise chickens and sheep and to be a part of a rural community. Bits and pieces of all of that are a part of this painting.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Remember the Rain

Remember the Rain  20 x 24 oil on canvas framed

Impressionist, cityscape, larger paintings

I’m often asked “Where  is this place?”. It happens when studio or gallery visitors view a landscape or cityscape. I can see the question in a wrinkled brow and in an inquisitive eye. To my discredit, I am sometimes loathed to tell them.
More often than not my paintings are intended to convey a sense of place or an atmosphere that is quite personal. For me, the initial spark that inspires a painting creates an evolution that I am not fully in control of. A certain white hot painting zen can take over and suddenly the street, the lakefront, the land begins to reflect other times and other places that belong to a lifetime of experiences.
If I tell a collector that, it’s New York, Chicago or Ephraim, what does it matter other than to cloud the image in their minds eye?
Remember The Rain is about just that. The place is of no consequence. The details can get in the way of  things in a painted idea. Do you remember a rainy day?
Courtesy of FineLine Designs Gallery , Ephraim.