Painter’s Joy

Ruebush Mountains

Usually, my life is pretty quiet.  Not this week, though… it has been a whirlwind of appointments and varied urgencies.  What a relief when I could slip down to my studio and lose myself in a painting.  This one in particular has been a delight.  It is a commission from someone whose blog I have been enjoying for some time now.  I have been lucky here in blogland, “meeting” some wonderful people that I would never have gotten to meet otherwise.  Being trusted with a special memory is such an honor and I really wanted to get it right.

Today was the day.  To my delight, my client wanted me to meet him and his wife at the Oregon IL. library, a halfway point for both of us.  The library there is a very beautiful old building, with an art gallery in the upstairs.  How great is that?  The area was once the site of an artist colony, and the library would host their events.  In return the artists donated work to the library, and these are the works that are on display.  I was amazed to find paintings and sculptures worthy of a major art museum tucked into the upstairs of a library in rural Illinois.  I am not doing justice to the story, but if you are ever in the area I strongly recommend a visit~it is wonderful.

We arrived at just about the same time, and introduced ourselves.  In the library we were shown to a room where we could visit and the painting could be revealed~ he had commissioned it as a gift for his wife.  I was holding my breath as the wrapping came off, I can tell you!  Her reaction was everything I could have hoped for.  It was a very moving moment, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, my two new friends.

Shifting Light

November Forest

“November Forest”

More commissions are in progress in my studio, but I wanted to share this painting with you.  I started it quite awhile ago and it just needed a few touches to finish.  The inspiration came from a new forest preserve here.  It isn’t very high quality right now.  The task the preserve district now faces is restoring habitat in all of the land they have bought over the past several years.  But lots of land has been saved from the greedy developers, so whew!

Although this preserve as a whole is pretty degraded, it does possess this regiment of oaks taking their stand on a hill.  Walking along that day, I was struck by the beautiful soft light coming through the trees as the afternoon drifted to evening.  I could whine for quite awhile about November, and its cold dry air making my skin and hair miserable and my feet cranky in boots when they’d rather be bare.  But just look at that light!  It is a gift to be savored for sure.

For this painting I started out with that light in my mind, and painted the background with wild abandon.  Just color, with a hint of land form.  Then I began adding and subtracting trees until it felt right to me.

I hope, as we roll on into winter, that you are showered in gifts like good health.  And Light.  Lots of light.

The Trees Come Marching In, Hurrah, Hurrah…

DSCN6118 Working intensively in my studio can make me feel like I’ve been underwater for quite awhile.  When I went in, the temps outside were in the teens…today it is 53 and rainy.  Perfect!  Well.  If you like that sort of thing, which I do.

So here you can see the next step in the painting.  I begin roughing in the background, in this case, the trees and fence.  I rather liked this, but then I remembered that my client wanted the canopy of the main tree to show.  That required some finessing, to squash a tall tree into a horizontal format.  Things had to shift.


I like to stay in contact with my clients so they can offer input.  A lot of artists abhor this, but to me, if I’m not hearing from the client, then how do I know they like what they are getting?  The painting is for them, after all.


So we went back and forth a little bit, moving dogs around.  Here is the final version.  I delivered it yesterday and was absolutely bowled over by her response.  What a privilege it is to make someone happy doing something I love to do.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane in the Fall Reeds

Here is the latest oil I have been working on.  I can see why people like oil, especially when you are mixing your own.  There is something so delightful to my senses in pouring out a bit of the dry pigment, adding a bit of walnut oil, and mixing away until it has the feel that I want.  Takes me back to my mudpie days!  Then I get to apply it to canvas.  You can get completely lost moving this stuff around.  But then, when you go look at all that delicate brushwork you did the day before, you discover that all the colors melted together!!!  What a shock.  Clearly there will be a learning curve here, and I won’t be able to construct a painting the way I do in acrylics.  Despite all that, I hope you enjoy my monochromatic friend here.

From time to time I am asked about my process, so I thought I’d invite you all into my studio while I work on a commission so you can see the steps I take.

Warm underpainting

Here I’ve painted a warm underpainting on the canvas.  I like to do this because it influences the tone of the painting, and ties all of the colors together as I go along.  The woman who gave me this commission had a slug of photos for me to use as reference.  This is very useful, but at this stage of the game I’m not looking at them much.

Laying in the sky

Now I’ve begun laying in the sky.  You can see how the blue and white respond to the warm underpainting.  Turns out if you do this with oils, you get mud.  Just sayin’.  I’ll be doing commissions in acrylic until I have a better handle on oils.  Or, perhaps, I will always continue to work in acrylics for some paintings.  Is that what it is like for you photographers~some cameras serve you better in some situations than others?

In the photos, the sky is a much more saturated blue but I like this softer color better.  This is how I will leave it for now, until I have the rest of the elements in place. When the trees and so on are in, that is when I look at values and make changes if need be.  I’ll be bringing in the background, so stay tuned! :)

One Spring Day at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Night Heron and Cherry Buds

Gardens delight me.  At their best, in my eyes,  they are the hand of man working with nature.  This can lead to a lovely dance, filled with unexpected grace notes.

This painting, fresh off the easel, takes us to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  The CBG is a wonderful place to encounter those delightful juxtapositions, because on the one hand it is a thoroughly groomed garden fit for the exacting North Shore, but it is also a research garden focusing on the ecology of this area.  As any good garden should, it has water woven through it.  In this case the designers used lagoons from the Des Plaines River (if I remember correctly; they are called the Skokie Lagoons).  So, a river runs through it, complete with wildlife.  That makes for some fun surprises, such as seeing a Night Heron lurking beneath the branches of a weeping cherry about to bloom.

When I composed this painting, I wanted to capture the liveliness of the bird against the stillness of a moment in a garden.  I was also thinking of those beautiful Japanese screens~ lovely and minimalist.