August 29, 2016 I just spent two weeks in heaven. The Darwin Ranch, the highest and most remote guest ranch in Wyoming, has been a vacation retreat for me and my husband every year since our honeymoon there 27 years ago. Nothing “resets” our clocks like hiking, fishing and horseback riding in the mountains (the Gros Ventre mountains), AND I take my paints to sketch as well. Though I hiked and rode many miles, and missed more trout than I caught, I did find time to create a series of small works, views of the Tetons with different sky backdrops. This is how I determine what larger paintings I will paint – whichever small works strike my fancy become larger works. Each of these became gifts for the terrific staff at the ranch.
July 27, 2016 I am a bit tardy in adding a new post, which means I have been busy in the studio! Last month I participated in my 5th Plein Air Fest at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, WY. 47 artists were invited to paint “plein air” style (in the open, outside, on location) a scene anywhere in the entire valley. We finished up our paintings on the museum grounds with crowds watching and then they were all offered for silent auction, to benefit the museum’s educational programs. I painted the Grand Teton from a view that not many people paint – from the south end of the valley (South Park) looking north. Early summer is my favorite time for viewing the mountains because the valley is SO green, yet there is still snow up on the mountains. Okay, I may have used my artistic license a teeny bit to add more snow than was there that actual day, for contrast. Here are a few images of my location and the final painting, Mountain View from Melody:
June 13, 2016 Recently travel author Tim Cotroneo of Travel Dreams Magazine wrote an article about my recent trio of paintings that I have begun to call my “Joni Mitchell” series, and is now posted on Joni’s website and Travel Dreams Magazine website ( They weren’t conceived as a trio but when I began to name them, lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock” came to me and seemed most appropriate for each painting. And they do look nice altogether, having been painted all in the same week and with complimentary color palettes. You can read the whole story here: http://jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=3266 How exciting, yes!?
May 26, 2016 Recently I was accepted as an associate member to Women Artists of the West, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in the profession of women’s fine art. Why do we need such an organization? That is a very interesting and good question! It seems to suggest that women artists need to be separated from male artists, or that it excludes male artists in a negative way. But that is not the intent of the organization at all. Studies and statistics show that women artists have been underrepresented throughout the history of art. I have noticed that although there are many women artists in the higher ranks of professors, jurors and judges, there are more men in that strata. That is definitely changing, yes, but until it is a “non-issue” perhaps it is a positive thing to specifically and publicly acknowledge women’s accomplishments. Awareness of disparity in the least, and discrimination at the most, in all areas of human equality is a step forward. All that said, women and men certainly are equal in terms of artistic talent. That I can be part of a organization that emphasizes excellence and awareness is an honor.
February 17, 2016 I find that many people are very curious about my studio – what does it look like? How do I work? Are there Keebler elves there? 7 Dwarves? Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here is a photo walk-through of how my studio is arranged, and how I use it’s contents.
Below: It would make a terrific guest bedroom but I have appropriated it for artistic use. It is the only room (besides a bathroom) on the second floor of our house. 24′ x 13′ All mine. 🙂 The large windows face east (a bit bright in the early morning so I pull the blinds for those few hours). There is also a skylight on the north side/sloped ceiling that makes my room very light filled. The skylight also opens so I can have additional ventilation. There was existing carpeting, nice quality but not very pretty, no problem. I place an area rug under my painting table to protect the carpet from errant wet paint brushes, but it is an art studio and eventually the carpet will get trashed. Or enhanced. It depends on how you view paint splotches.
Below: The other end of the room has a wall of shelves holding many art supplies. I label most of them in see through plastic containers, so I can pull items out quickly and easily. Truly, organization is KEY. There is a sofa for afternoon contemplation, and it pulls out into a queen bed so if guests are willing (or we need the space) they can sleep in my studio. All I ask is that they create a painting before leaving. 🙂 You can see two doors at the far end, one is a small door into an attic space which holds lots of boxes and shipping materials (too ugly to have visible) and the other is a large closet with more art supplies on shelves from floor to ceiling.
Below: more bookshelves filled with art books. The walls have many small works by friend/artists and a shelf where I lean works in progress while I contemplate their fate. Invaluable is my “flat file” which stores papers, matting, works in progress, and shikishi boards.
My painting table, where it all happens. A 3′ x 6′ plywood board is on top of an old drafting table. It is high enough for me to stand and paint comfortably, without having to stoop over. You can see I love The Container Store – several handy rolling drawer units flank my table with paints, brushes, hair dryer (cuz I don’t like to watch paint dry, slowly), water and spray bottles, etc. So far I have been careful not to trip on my way to the bathroom to empty dirty paint water. And I have NOT stained the sink either. To the left of the painting table is my computer (Mac person, am I) with scavenged file cabinets from dumpsters and resale shops, and an old door for the table top. Someday I will win a studio make-over and everything will be stylish, and match. 🙂
Painting table in action:
Now for my last “reveal”: I do keep track of appointments and work projects on my computer iCalendar, but have found this low tech project board MUCH more useful. Post-it notes with each task are posted in the appropriate column (Do Now, Do Soon, Do In Time, and Waiting for Further Input) and moved or discarded as appropriate. It is right in my face, I don’t have to turn anything on, or get my glasses to squint at tiny screens. I don’t have to type or rearrange electronically. Simple.
I hope you enjoyed your tour!
January 12, 2016 I have been asked several times how, or why, I arrived at my current painting style. Usually I give the short answer, but here I can explain in more detail. Having begun my painting explorations some 33 years ago, it is reasonable that my style and approach has evolved. It is, in fact, simply inevitable. Careful study and practice for several years with brush painting masters allowed me to become confident in traditional Asian brush painting, which is called “sumi-e”, translated as “ink painting”. There are traditional subjects, composition and materials that are taught and I respected the discipline required. My focus was on floral and bird paintings of ink (sumi) and watercolor on rice paper, and after awhile I branched out into landscapes as well. After initial concentrated study with my mentor (and friend) Susan Frame, I took numerous workshops with a variety of Asian style painters. Each one brings their own techniques and outlook to the proverbial drawing board. I absorbed all of them and placed them in my own artistic stew pot. The result is my own unique “fingerprint” which you see now. Splash and pour (p’o mo) techniques on rice paper became splash and pour techniques on shikishi boards, landscapes on rice paper merged with landscapes on shikishi boards. Since I am predisposed to being unique I invented some techniques of my own to set my work apart. I am told that there still is an Asian look to my works, but I do admit to adding my own “western” perspective. That said, I mix both eastern and western to suit my outcome. (As my art degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead was in Graphic Design, I also seem to have incorporated that aspect of my previous life into a more graphic approach to watercolor, which is also a bit unusual.) I call my style “controlled spontaneity”, an oxymoron if there ever was one!
The aforementioned short answer to this question is “Because that is what artists do” 🙂
Here are some examples of my stylistic evolution:
Traditional floral brush painting:
Contemporary floral painting:
Traditional landscape painting:
Contemporary landscape painting:
December 23rd, 2015 A recent road trip to Arizona has energized me to branch out and explore new landscape “horizons”. Since I so often paint skies, this has become the consistent thread that ties most of my paintings together, regardless of the location. While visiting family in Flagstaff to friends in Tucson, I have found quite a variety of desert landscape to express in paint. Here are two I painted after returning. Both are of the Sonoran Desert region, one near Carefree, and the other of the Four Peaks near Phoenix.
OCTOBER 15, 2015 September is always a busy month for artists and art lovers in Jackson Hole. I participated in the annual Quick Draw on the town square – 30 artists create a piece from start to finish in 90 minutes, (it was 39 degrees at the start), surrounded by hundreds of onlookers, and the works are auctioned off immediately afterwards under a block-long tent with a rowdy art buying crowd in attendance and lively auctioneers. Painting in front of hundreds doesn’t bother me, but introducing myself and my painting with a microphone on stage scares the bejeezus out of me. I stayed cool, and my painting was sold with lots of bidders vying.
At the end of September I held my annual Splash and Pour Weekend Workshop at the gorgeous Turpin Meadow Ranch in the north east corner of Jackson Hole. It was quintessential autumn splendor – the colors were at their peak and were inspiring to all of us participating. From Portland OR to Cambridge, MA all coasts were represented. From “never held a brush”, to professional watercolorist, we all had a blast – including me. The exchange of conversation, information, questions, explorations, and “aha” moments were so delightful. A wonderful bonus were the amenities at the Ranch. We never missed a meal because all were 5 star delicious. Hats off to all staff for making us feel most comfortable.
I learned last week that my painting, “Raven’s Spring” which had been accepted into the 52nd annual national juried Sumi-e Society of America (SSA) exhibit (hanging for the month of October in Mobile AL) received an award. I am honored and humbled – my thanks to Shozo Sato, the juror and judge, for bestowing the award, and the Blue Heron chapter of the SSA for sponsoring that particular award.
Some of you have followed my evolution from traditional sumi-e to something more personal. Some may think I have “drifted away”, but what has happened is that I have absorbed information from so many varied artists through workshops around the country and my own experimentations, and stirred it all up in my own stewpot to create my own “thumbprint” or style. It doesn’t resemble sumi-e much anymore – no black ink, no individual brushstrokes, no rice paper, but I cannot and will not abandon the essence of asian art that I have absorbed over the years. I don’t brand it as “Asian” in style, but people get a puzzled (or dreamy?) look on their face and declare that it has some “sort of Asian flavor”. For that I am glad.
This leads me back to my painting “Raven’s Spring”: Understandably the eligibility rules for the SSA exhibit require the predominant element to be ink and brushwork on a base such as rice paper and including the shikishi boards that I now use exclusively. The raven IS painted with sumi (Japanese word for Ink), which a friend acquired for me in Japan. It has blue iridescence suspended in the ink, which allowed the feathers to shine with the natural iridescence so many bird feathers have. Though I seldom use ink any longer, I pulled it out to deliberately paint a piece that I hoped would be accepted into this show.