You know how sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and you just can’t get back to sleep? And then you just don’t feel like yourself all the rest of the day?
Yeah, these things happen. Fortunately, there are naps. I love naps.
This is a painting that I did because I had an unfinished version of it from who knows how long ago. I spent a bit of time searching for the photo reference in Google photos, finally typed in birch in the search bar and bingo! there it was. Google photos doesn’t know from poplars.
I have to say, I wasn’t crazy about this when I left the studio to go have lunch, but by the time I got back it had grown on me. So I thought I’d share it quick before I changed my mind. I still want to fiddle with it a little bit more, but later, after I’ve had some more sleep.
Another angle on the dunes in the Ludington State Park. I was out walking with my husband and one of my daughters and our two dogs when I took the reference photo (below) for this painting.
We all kept telling each other how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such a beautiful area whenever we feel like it. It’s why Steve and I moved back here after living in another state for ten years. Once you’ve got the bug for Ludington, nothing else really compares.
Even in the early spring, when there’s no green anywhere and under cloudy skies, it’s still wonderful to sit and just be yourself outdoors. There are lots of places available for doing not very much for as long as you want. I love it here.
This is a pastel painting of the view looking toward the top of a dune in Ludington State Park in Ludington, Michigan.
Finally, the weather is good enough to go traipsing around on the dunes! The dogs and I are so glad to be able to broaden our walking habits a bit. It seems like a lifetime since we’ve been anywhere but our own backyard. Woohoo!
This is the reference I used for this piece. It was around 8:30 in the morning, the sun was peeking in and out of a cloud bank to the east and the wind was just whipping us around like crazy. Glorious.
My dogs love wandering around in our “back forty” now. So many little critters to roust out of their beds! I like being out there, too. Especially on mornings like this, where the sun and the clouds combine to make a colorful layered palette in the sky–blue, purple, pink and gold. It’s just glorious.
Here’s the time-lapse for this painting:
And here are the studies I did first. Each one is 4×2.5″ on sanded paper.
This painting is part of a series I’m doing for the Holiday Artsie Craft Show coming up soon! Read all about it here.
If you’re interested in purchasing this painting, please email me.
I love walking in the woods in the spring. No wearing three layers of clothing, no mittens to keep track of, no boots! I can just slip into my regular tennis shoes and a jacket, throw the dogs in the car and off I go.
Unfortunately, when the snow melts the other thing that’s out in the woods besides me is garbage. I don’t mean beer cans, although there are a ton of those out there. I mean garbage like television sets, shingles, plastic containers, tires, diapers… Just crap, really. A whole ton of crap.
I go from euphoria at being outside all the way to absolute fury at the way some people use the woods as their personal dumping ground.
I wish there was a place where people could drop off all their crap. Oh wait! There is! It’s called a dump! But it costs money to take your crap to the dump or to have someone haul it away and it’s so much cheaper to drive down a two track out in the forest somewhere and throw it out there.
I wish I had a superpower that would let me zap all the crap in the woods so that it would disappear from the forest and reappear in whoever’s house it belonged to. Right on their living room floor. Or maybe on their bed. Yeah! Take that, you littering litterer!
Anyway, after walking the dogs I was so depressed at all the fresh garbage out there, I got out my pastels and painted a scene from another walk I’d taken recently with my family. A beautiful day on the Pere Marquette River, sun shining, water flowing, birds twittering. A gorgeous, gorgeous day.
Of course, we also found snarled fishing line, bait containers and cigar wrappers along the banks. Wherever you find beauty I guess you can also expect to find evidence of thoughtless humans. We picked up what we could on the way out.
I guess I’ll start bringing a garbage bag with me on my daily walks. It’s little enough, but it makes me feel a little better to at least clear the areas where I love to wander. Painting also helps. Although having a crap zapper superpower would be nice, too.
A month of painting on location equals a lot of new work!
You know what the biggest surprise was from my time away? How much I enjoy painting outside.
To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of plein air painting because I just always thought it couldn’t help but be a pain. First of all, you have to lug around a lot of stuff. The weather can be brutal. And what if you forget something important, like paper? What if it’s windy out? What if there’s bugs?
But it was either paint outdoors or don’t paint at all on this trip and we planned to be gone for a whole month, too long to go without pastels. So I decided to make an effort because art is important, dammit.
I prepared as well as I could by fitting everything into one big backpack and trying it out once or twice before we left to make sure I had everything. I also did some research on southwest color palettes so that I’d have the right pastels for the job. I cut up a lot of paper to take with me, with different textures and tones to keep my flittery fluttery mind engaged. I ran into one snag at the beginning when I discovered the foam core boards I’d brought to work on were too small, but I clipped two of them together and it was fine.
The only day it was too windy to paint was while we were traveling through New Mexico on day four. It’s pretty scary pulling a trailer in winds gusting to 70 mph. After an hour of that we were only too happy to find a place to wait out the weather. We ended up sitting in a gas station parking lot in Vaughn for seven hours. I doodled semi trailers in my sketchbook and Steve and I took turns watching the cover over the gas pumps to see if it would break loose and go flying off across the prairie.
After that we had non-stop beautiful weather right up until we headed north again. We put off visiting Taos on the way home because camping in the snow is just not a viable option at our age. Most of the time, though, I was up bright and early and working in my pajamas, coffee in hand. It was lovely.
As for bugs, I saw exactly one while I was painting, and that was a bombardier beetle at Las Cienagas National Preservation area. He came perilously close to running into my foot, aimed his butt at me for about five seconds while I held my breath, and then went on his way. Everyone’s a critic.
So now that I’m back I’ve decided to get out there and do more painting outdoors because who doesn’t have as much fun as they can? No one, that’s who. I have to say I like the look of my landscapes much better when they’re done on location than from photos in the studio. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more. It’s going to be awesome.
I’ve posted the best of my southwest USA plein air efforts on eBay this week, so be sure and check them out, a new painting every day at 9pm for the next week or so, and then it’s back to local landscapes, but with a new (for me) outdoor twist. If you see me out there, be sure to stop and say hello!
My husband and I are camping on a friend’s property for a week or so here in Tucson, AZ, and I’m taking the opportunity to paint horses!
This morning’s effort is a painting of a horse eating her breakfast in a small paddock.
I have always liked horses as subject matter, although I was never a riding enthusiast growing up. That said, when I was twelve or so, my sister and I pedaled our bikes for miles to a small farm every Saturday where we’d ride ponies all day long, stopping only for lunch. The farm belonged to Mr. and Mrs. S., friends of our parents whose kids had long since moved on to mini-bikes. They were happy to have us exercise the ponies. I didn’t much care for the long bike ride, although I’m sure my mother felt I needed the exercise. Mary probably would’ve have biked three times as far for half the riding time. She was crazy about horses.
I remember the air was hot and full of buzzing deer flies. We rode along mini bike trails out in the piney woods for hours. Socks was a dapple grey, the smaller of the two, and she took good care of me, patiently putting up with my considerable lack of riding skills. My sister’s mount was another matter. A beautiful appaloosa, Gepetta was almost horse-sized, very smart and an opportunist, as she regularly tried to buck Mary off at the first available sandy patch on the trail, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Once while we were eating sandwiches at the house, Mr. S. happened to overhear us telling Mrs. S. about Mary getting dumped. Mary hadn’t been hurt by the fall and we’d just followed Gepetta back to the house as usual and planned to go out again after lunch. But Mr. S. immediately went outside to where the ponies were hitched, and picked up Gepetta and threw her onto her back, saddle and all. She scrambled back up and stood there, shaking, while he yelled at her. Gepetta never bucked Mary off again, but I think Mary would’ve died before she’d have ratted Gepetta out to Mr. S. again anyway.
Eventually the ponies were sold or maybe I refused to bike over there, I can’t remember how or why we stopped going. Mary continued to find horses to ride, I continued to accompany her when she pestered me into it. I never have been a confident rider and in general I prefer to paint them, although our friend here put me up on her horse Easy last night and it was sweet. He’s a patient horse, too, very gentle, just how I remember Socks.