From a Painting Workshop I Taught

Sumac and Poplar
Watercolor on Rag Paper, 11×5.5″


This was done during the workshop from the end of last month. There were lots of painting subjects at the boat launch. All one has to do is nose around a little to find them. All it has to be is some small cluster of information to latch onto. 

One looks at the world differently when going out to paint. You are not navigating through the world to get from point A to point B. You are looking for things that will fit on the rectangle your are carrying with you in an aesthetically pleasing way. Once deciding on that cluster, then the challenge is to make it work on that rectangle.

I have nothing more to say that is profound so I’ll stop typing. Just paint!


T F m
July 26, 2013

Rediscovered Landscape Watercolor

Across the Fields to the Lake
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 7.5×20″


I often do this—make a work, put it away, then forget that I ever did it. Usually, months later, I go through my work to organize or cull the work that is not up to snuff. Then, I rediscover things I had forgotten months before. For me, art making is a compulsion. I can’t speak for other artists, but I just don’t feel right unless I am working on something. So I often tuck completed things away and go focus on the next project.

This was done early last spring. The snow had melted away and foliage had not yet begun to appear. I was riding with my hubby to our Wisconsin house and saw this along the way. It wasn’t exactly this. This is an invention from memory. 

It’s a gorgeous sight in any season but, I have a particular fascination for winter color. It has wonderfully subtle earth tones of differing temperatures. It’s also very close in value. It’s not all grey. While it has color, it is low on the value scale. That’s always a challenge to control in a painting. I love a challenge!

T F m
July 23, 2013

Now the Water is Blue!

On the Rocks
Watercolor on Rag Paper, 10×7.5″


A day or two passes and the water is blue! Go figure! The conditions changed just slightly enough to produce a steely, blue-gray color on the water. The wind changed to a breeze and shifted slightly to the west. That, along with brilliant sunshine, changed everything.

This is the edge of a boat launch with a large parking lot. It was July 4 and the launch was very busy.  My friend and I slipped off onto a very rocky beach. But for the big breakwater rocks, most were the size of a typical russet potato. From this view no one would ever guess that a mass of people with cars and pick-ups hitched to boat trailers were actively putting boats into and taking boats out of the water all afternoon.

Rocks are a challenge to paint. I like to have them in front of me just to get a feel for what they are like. These are not exactly what was in front of me. This my sense of them. After all, none of us are recording devices and I am not out to make rock portraits. I wanted to express the jumbled quality and some of the textures. I also liked the arc formed by the rocks as it receded away from me. I am pretty pleased with this result. It was painted on a beautiful day, too.

T F m
July 12, 2013

Water Is Not Blue

On the Shore
Watercolor on Rag Paper, 5.5×11″
This is the product of my no hovering strategy while teaching. I paint while my students paint. It’s to keep me out of their hair. Nothing is more unnerving than someone constantly looking over your shoulder while you work. It’s especially annoying if you are struggling with new materials for the very first, or second time, or third time.
I painted with watercolor while they painted with oil. I’d get too self-involved with oil. I can do several small watercolors in a short time. Between paintings I check on my students’ progress and offer advice. Each, but one, had an idea as to how the painting should look. The lone newbie was still deciding. He will continue to decide for several paintings as he struggles with painting in oil outdoors.
This little painting was done on the shore of Green Bay in a county park. The sky was threatening rain on and off all day. There was an on-shore breeze all day. The water was blown towards the shore by the wind and was choppy. The conditions made the water appear to be a yellow ocher. This is looking north and slightly east. The land in the painting is a continuation of the shore in the foreground as rounded of the the north, northwest.
I don’t know if it was the shallowness of the water, or the wind direction, or the northward view that made for such an unusual color. Water is really never blue. It’s black. That’s because it absorbs all the light that hits it. Any color is a reflection of surroundings and weather conditions. Blue is a reflection of blue sky; ocher might be the color of a shallow limestone lake bed; brown might be the color of tannins from a stream emptying into the lake. I’t endlessly changing. That’s what’s so fascinating.

T F m
July 11, 2013

Wonder Dog

Winston, the Wonder Dog
Watercolor on Rag Paper, 3.25×6″
Winston, the Wonder Dog neither skate boards, snow boards, nor surfs, but he is a wonder dog none the less. He is an avid fan of swimming in spite of the fact that he is as buoyant as a boat anchor. He also loves killing the tire swing in the backyard at least twice a day. He’ll grab onto it with his bull dog grip and swing suspended from the tire until he gets too hot and collapses to the ground. Then it’s back to the house for a drink and a cool down on the tile floor. 
He also likes to rough house with his favorite boy. In his mind, my son Ken, is Sherman to his Peabody. He will stand an stare to indicate he wants a tussle and if he doesn’t get it he lets out with a firm “Woof!” If he can’t have Ken then he’ll settle for my hubby, and, on occasion, me.
His greatest wonder attribute is his sweet, mellowness. He is the sweetest, most mellow dog I have ever encountered. That’s wonderful enough for me!

T F m
July 7, 2013

I’ve Been Busy Teaching!

Watercolor on Rag Paper, 10×6″


I have been a busy geeza! I am retired from my teaching job, but I have not given up teaching. I hosted a four day pleine aire workshop at my house in Wisconsin. After my last day teaching at the college, I began planning for this session.  I scouted for sites in public parks and got permissions from the owners of private property. Then, I prepared my house for the arrival and stay of the participants. I had five very dedicated work-shoppers.

It turned out that one site provided two days of painting activity and could easily have provided more. One location was on private property. The owner of the property gave us permission to work using this old barn as our subject matter. This kind of barn, with its stone foundation and upper timber frame construction, was very common in Wisconsin until the advent of the steel out-building. This old style barn is now disappearing due to their abandonment to decay and eventual collapse.

What is remarkable is that six people, with the same subject matter, could produce such widely differing painted interpretations. This is my interpretation. I used water color while other painters’ medium was oil paint on panels. If I had done my paintings with oil, I would have become too lost in my work to offer any advice to the others. This little watercolor is to be mounted, matted and shrink wrapped as a thank you gift for the owner of the barn property. More to come!

T F m
July 6, 2013