Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waves of sand

At Point Betsie, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is a large area of protected dunes managed by the Nature Conservancy. I've painted here many times and love to take my camera and explore the shifting sands. Just like the waves on the lake, the sand is blown up into dunes from the prevailing westerly winds. This particular “bowl” was probably 25 to 30 feet deep. The grass, with its reddish roots, holds the hills in-place—for a while, anyway.

Blue dune, oil, 24" x 36"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I've been spending a lot of time in the studio lately doing larger versions of summer plein air and working from studies and photos. I have several shows on the agenda for next year, starting in January, that I am preparing for.

During my artist residency last June, I did a painting in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore of the Burfiend farm. Here is a larger version with a slightly different point of view. When I first started getting back into painting six years ago, I really didn’t want to be bothered with studies. I just wanted to get right into doing a finished piece of art. Now I’m learning what it can mean to bringing ease of production and higher satisfaction with the end result. With this painting and the one in my last post, there was a lot less trial and error or struggle over where to take it. I’m also enjoying working larger without the time constraints of plein air. Next up, a 24" x 36" dune.

Summer afternoon, Burfiend Farm, oil, 18" x 24"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A favorite spot

One of my favorite locations for plein air painting is the beach at Portage Point. It’s a beach park along Lake Michigan on the north side of the Portage Lake channel. Dunes, grass and beautiful coastal views. I’ve painted there more than a dozen times so doing a studio painting came easy with all the studying I’ve done. I particularly love being there in the morning on a sunny day for the shadows.

Morning shore, oil 16" x 20"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Summer memories

Here’s another new studio painting based on a plein air piece from a couple of years ago. The original was an 8" x 10", this is 14" x 24". I’d like to start doing more of the larger size on location. I think the largest I’ve done plein air, was 16" x 20". Recently I’ve been reading books on Joaquin Sorolla and Edgar Payne. Both great artists who didn’t just think of plein air as being meant for small studies. It’s inspirational to see them pictured outside somewhere with these large canvases. I have not yet reached the limits of what my French easel can hold, but I hope to some day.

Silver canoes, oil, 14" x 24"

Joaquin Sorolla painting on the beach in Spain.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Big Pine

Last summer I did a 16" x 11" plein air painting at this spot in Glen Haven, Michigan. Here’s a new studio version. I like selecting a canvas that fits the subject instead of making the subject fit the canvas. I’ll custom cut a panel or stretch my own canvas to get the size and proportions I want. Of course the drawback is that the frame then has to be custom made as well. But I’m happier if the composition is right.

Big pine, Glen Haven,
oil, 24" x 12"

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Manitou Passage

One of several new studio paintings, this is a view of the the Manitou Passage, the name given the shipping route between the Manitou islands and the Leelanau peninsula in northwest Michigan.The morning shadows in the dunes always catch my attention.

I'm missing those warm, summer days of plein air painting in the sand. But, I vow to do some snow painting this winter. I’m just hoping for some sunny days to do it.

Morning passage, oil, 14" x 20"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rain delay

I just finished this painting I started en plein air last month looking north from Point Betsie. I only got it roughed-in at the time before a rain shower ended my fun. Luckily I had photos for reference that showed the brighter light before the clouds moved in.

A Northern Shore, oil, 12" x 12"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Workshop demo

I did a one-day workshop for a few people in Manistee, Michigan last Friday. A beautiful, mostly sunny day at Fifth Avenue Beach. This is the demonstration painting I did in the morning. I'd hoped to have a long weekend of plein air painting up there, but Friday turned out to be the only nice day, so I headed home and went back in the studio.

Fifth Street Beach morning, oil, 10" x 14"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

New studio painting and a workshop

Next Saturday, October 13, I’ll be giving a one-day workshop in Manistee, Michigan—“Plein Air Basics.” A demonstration and a day of painting along the Lake Michigan shore. Contact me if you are interested in joining us.

Lately I have been working on some new studio paintings for some upcoming shows. So often when I'm painting in the dunes, my attention is drawn to the sand formations and shadows. Here I wanted a composition emphasizing the sky above the dunes.

Late-summer sky, oil, 24" x 18"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I have a painting in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Most people, unless they’re from Michigan, haven’t heard of ArtPrize. It’s a large, city-wide competition with probably the biggest monetary prizes in the world, totaling over $500,000. Begun by the DeVos family (of Amway fame) a few years ago, artists submit their pieces online and must “connect” with one of the official hosting venues. Museums, restaurants, bars, schools, churches, and other establishments, become art galleries hosting anywhere from a few to dozens of artists. These venues act as the jury and curate their own show. More than 1,500 artists are participating and over the three week period some 200,000 people will view and vote on the art. The whole show was set-up as a “peoples choice” award. Pretty amazing, $200,000 to the winner, various other amounts to the rest of the top ten vote-getters. Needless to say, what is big, impressive, and in a high-traffic location, gets a lot of votes. The best art does not necessarily win. That the average visitor doesn’t know what good art is has been a criticism from the start, so this year they added some credentialed judges handing out an additional $200,000.

I had no expectations of winning anything going into it. And my 2' x 3' painting was probably seen by a fraction of the attendees. But it’s a way to get my work in front of more people and a fun event to attend. Grand Rapids has a revitalizing downtown with some great restaurants, bars, and brew-pubs. My wife and I toured around with friends for a whole Saturday and saw only a small portion of all the works.

I connected with Pub 43 to host my painting. This old-time tavern is long and narrow, and on the wall opposite the bar they are always hosting art shows.

Next year I’m going to try to do something larger and hope for a little more prominent place to hang it.

Morning on the Dune, oil, 24" x 30"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Platte Bay

I did this painting last week near the beach on Platte Bay on the northwest Michigan shore. I've painted along here before, just a little north at Esch Beach. From there looking north you just see the Empire Bluffs (the dune on the right), but I was happy to find this location farther south which has the more distant Sleeping Bear Dunes as well. It was almost a two-mile, winding, dirt road drive through the woods to get here. Worth it, I'll be back.

Platte Bay morning, oil, 12" x 16"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Good timing.

Here's a small plein air I did a few weeks ago. The dirt road to Esch Beach on the Lake Michigan shore, is through the woods of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. From the parking area there is a straight sand path through the grass to the beach, but just to the side of that is this more interesting, curving path with a view to South Manitou island.

I shipped this to my gallery up in Glen Arbor last week. It arrived at just the right moment. A customer who saw it being unwrapped said “That's one of our favorite beaches!” and bought it.

Esch Beach path, oil, 8" x 6"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Island morning

A bright morning along the Maui coast. Sunshine, palms, sand, and a view of a distant shore. My kind of spot.
Daybreak, oil, 12" x 12"

Friday, August 31, 2012

Standing by the shore

I've driven by this white pine many times. The afternoon light was just what I wanted.
Lakeshore pine, oil, 12" x 12"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Long shadows

To me one of the most interesting things about a painting location are the shadows. I get much more excited about painting a landscape that has dappled sunlight or long, cool, morning or end-of-day shadows. Especially on the sand where you have the obvious warm/cool dynamic.

While hiking around in the dunes looking for a painting last week, the afternoon sun was creeping westward and I came across this view.

Footprints in the dune, oil, 10" x 8"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Weekend painting

A perfect day to paint last Saturday in Douglas/Saugatuck, Michigan—two small, quaint, and artsy towns just separated by the Kalamazoo river three hours from Chicago. Water Street Gallery hosted this one-day event and reception. With the morning light hitting it, I chose the Summertime Market to paint first. And I stood in the front yard of another gallery to do it (the Button-Petter Gallery which is having a great show of Ken Cadwallader paintings right now). The evening reception was in a nice, park-like area behind the gallery and the painting sold.

I did another too, which I'll post later.

Summertime, oil, 11" x 14"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

And another paint-out

This weekend I’m heading to Douglas/Saugatuck, Michigan to paint in Waterstreet Gallery’s annual “Wet Paint” show. About 25 painters spend the day Saturday painting the area and then gather for an evening reception and sale. A fun time, some great artists, and a wonderful location.

Here is a painting I started en plein air earlier this summer and have just gotten some studio time to finish. Always have to work to keep that plein air spontaneity and freshness when back at home. This one got a little tighter than I’d have liked.

Also, if you get Plein Air Magazine’s weekly email newsletter you may have seen my “Peoples Choice” award painting from a couple of weeks ago. It links to a short story with even a picture of me!

Through the trees, oil, 14" x 11"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

MacBeth & Co. Reception

A small showing of my Michigan paintings is happening at the Glen Arbor location of MacBeth & Co. They had a very nice reception for me on August 3, while I was up there for the Art Associations paint-out. Thanks to Deb, Kathy, and Beth and everyone who came. I’m happy to say that five paintings found new homes that night and a couple of more since.

This painting is one of the larger plein air pieces I did earlier this summer at Pyramid Point on Sleeping Bear Bay. I followed a trail about half-a-mile through the woods and up hill to this great view. I stood at the top of a dune about 30 stories high, looking toward North Manitou island. The lake water has an amazing, caribbean-like color there.

Summer is too short. I'm going back for more Michigan this weekend.

Atop Pyramid Point, oil, 16" x 20" SOLD

Monday, August 6, 2012

Glen Arbor Paint-Out — Awards!

This past weekend was the Glen Arbor Art Association’s 4th annual paint-out in Michigan. In years past it was a one day event, but this year they added a Friday afternoon quick-paint. 40 artists showed up for the two-hour, timed event at Thorsen Farm in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. This was where I'd spent time during my artist residency in June so I had an idea of what I wanted to paint. I stood off to one edge of the property looking back toward one of the barns and the corn crib. We hung our paintings in the re-done barn/shed to be judged while potential patrons viewed our efforts. And, happily, I was awarded First Place and soon after, a red dot for a sold painting.

Birch at the farm, oil, 10" x 8" SOLD

On Saturday 60 registered artists checked-in at 8 AM to get their canvases stamped and head out to paint wherever they wanted in the area. I first headed to the historic D.H. Day farm, with it’s restored, 100-year-old barn.

Old Oak at the Day farm, oil 12" x 16"

Next I headed into town to paint the well-loved Art’s Tavern. Standing in the sun on very hot day for 3 hours would have been a real chore except that Eric (in the orange shirt) brought me ice water on his walks over to check on my progress.

Two beers, please, oil, 10" x 12" SOLD

Everyone brought there paintings back to the Art Association at 4:30, framed and ready to hang. Judging and then a crowd entered and a bell was rung to start the purchasing. Glad to say this one sold right away. All the artists and attendees each received a vote for a “Peoples choice” award. I voted for a watercolor by Phil Fisher, but my “Two beers” won!

Oh, and I had opening reception for a show too—next post.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Old barn

The Leelanau peninsula is like the tip of the little finger in the “mitten” that is the Michigan lower peninsula. It’s right across Lake Michigan from Door County Wisconsin, and shares a lot of the geographic characteristics. But, with the dunes, I think Michigan has more sand. The whole area is covered with farms, orchards, and more recently, vineyards. A great location for painting.

This is a farm I came across while traversing as many of the backroads as I could when I was up there last month. It will be a part of my show, opening Friday at MacBeth & Co. in Glen Arbor.

Leelanau barn, oil, 8" x 10"

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Show and reception

Next week MacBeth & Co. in Glen Arbor, Michigan, is hosting a small show and reception for me. All Michigan pieces, mostly paintings done during my artist residency up there in June. The same weekend is the Glen Arbor Art Association’s paint out which I'll participate in on Saturday. Summer fun.

Here’s another painting I did earlier this month by the lake while we waited for darkness and the 4th of July fireworks. A quick one done in the hazy, evening light.

Evening impression, oil, 10" x 9"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Port Onieda shore

Most beaches in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area of Michigan are all sand or pebbles with small rocks. This beach, just north of Glen Arbor is one of the few I've found in the area with some large rocks. They made for a little more interesting composition. This is looking north just up the beach from the south view posted on July 11.

Rocky Beach, oil, 12" x 12"

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sonny’s farm stand

Just south of Leland, this little farm stand is a well-known landmark in the area. An old farmer sold his fresh-picked produce out front of his farm here for years. It was always on the “honor” system. No one was there, you just left the money for what you took. I guess he passed away several years ago, but it’s being run again by a dedicated young man right out of agricultural school. I had some amazing, right off the tree, cherries.

I wanted morning light, so I arrived first thing. He wasn't open yet, but I painted anyway. I'll have to go back and do it again. I think it may be better when it’s open.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Along the shore

Catching up since coming back from my two-week Glen Arbor “artist in residence” trip. I painted this standing in the sand a couple of weeks ago. I don't have everything I did photographed yet and a few pieces need some touch-up. I’m also anxious to get some studio work going from the plein air studies I did. Lots of framing to do too for a show I will be having in August.

Along the shore of the bay, oil, 12" x16"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One-room Schoolhouse

The Port Onieda schoolhouse is just down the road from the farm I painted in my post last week. Had to get there early to get the morning shadows. Just about the time the kids would have been arriving 100 years ago. I'm glad these spots are being preserved.
Port Onieda School, oil, 8" x 12"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dunes afternoon

Up in the dunes at Sleeping Bear Point. Again more interesting shadows. Painted here in April, slightly different angle. Less green then, and not so warm.
Oil, 10" x 10" SOLD

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Port Onieda farm

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has a preserved “rural district.” There's the small village of Glen Haven and several farms in an area known as Port Onieda. These are turn-of -the-(last)-century, homestead farms that are now a part of the park. This is the Carston Burfiend farm. The family first had a log cabin here, then this house and other buildings built in the late 1800s. A great location to live, Lake Michigan is down a small bluff just beyond the trees.

I was attracted to the great late-day light on these long, summer days. I started this at 5:00 the other day and painted till 7:30. I came back the next day to finish at the same time. Exactly the same weather conditions, clear and sunny.

Summer evening, Port Onieda, oil 12" x 18" SOLD

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Artist Residency

I have been here in Glen Arbor, Michigan, for a week as the Art Association’s ‘artist in residence.’ A great opportunity for a mini-sabatical away from everyday responsibilities and a chance, hopefully, to grow as a painter. I have been out painting plein air everyday and during some rain, painting in the provided studio. It’s been great and I have another week to go!

This is a view from one of the overlooks on the Pierce Stocking Drive, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, looking south over North Bar Lake to the Empire Buffs and Lake Michigan.

North Bar overlook, oil, 9" x 16"

More to come.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Morning song

Back at my studio easel. This is a beach on Lanai I painted at several times when I was there. I developed this one from photos and memories. I love being places like this where all you hear, feel, or see is nature.

Morning song, oil, 18" x 14"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Paint America

Here's a painting I did a few months ago of my son exploring the tidal pools on Maui. I entered it in the Paint America competition and just heard it was chosen for the Top 100 traveling exhibit. I'm shipping it off to Kansas for it's first stop at the Coutts Museum of Art next week. It will be on the Paint America website (not there yet), and be published in an exhibit catalog.

Exploring the tidal pools, oil, 24" x 30"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another from St. Thomas

The resort we stayed at on St. Thomas faced west on Pacquereau Bay. It connects to the main harbor on the island, so we could wave to the cruise ships as they passed. This is kind of a north view toward the town of Charlotte Amalie. Some expensive real estate here.

Again, this is acrylic, not my favorite medium, but I'm satisfied with the result.

Back to some studio work now with oils.

Toward the harbor, acrylic, 12" x 9"

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Acrylics in St. Thomas

Just back from a week in St. Thomas for our 20th anniversary. I planned on doing some painting, but because it wasn't a primary part of the trip, I didn't want to deal with the hassles of mineral spirits and wet paintings. I brought along a pochade box with acrylics, a few small panels, and a pad of heavy watercolor paper.

Lots of great views, great subjects and caribbean colors. This would be a good place for an extended painting trip.

I wasn't happy with the acrylics though. I've worked with them many times through the years, but was reminded again, of what to me, are their short comings. The fast drying has always frustrated me. It also seems harder to capture clean, bright colors, especially the turquoise of the water. I'll be happier doing studio versions of some of my sketches with oils.

This is a morning view from our balcony of Charlotte Amalie Harbor.

Balcony view, acrylic on paper, 9" x 7"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bright morning

Facing East on Portage Lake in northern Michigan, the Portage Point Inn has been around since 1903. With that classic old-inn feel, it's ripe for some plein air. This, however, is a studio piece. Hopefully I'll get some time this summer when I'm in that neck of the woods.

Bright morning, oil, 16" x 12"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Artist Residency

I'm happy to share (with my 200th blog post), that I have been chosen as one of the Glen Arbor Art Association’s 2012 Artists in Residence. I will be spending two weeks in June painting in northwest lower Michigan. The association provides housing and a studio in a renovated barn at one of the historic farms that is a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I’ll use the studio when it’s rainy or dark, but I plan to spend most of my time painting en plein air. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I paint in that part of Michigan every summer. Usually it’s just for a few days at a time. So having two weeks, by myself to concentrate, will be a nice little sabbatical.

Dunes, water, woods, farms, and quaint towns—I won’t run out of subjects to paint. I could probably spend a week alone at Thoreson Farm, where the studio is. The view from the hill above the farm looking west to Lake Michigan is beautiful.

Even the outhouse is paintable. It’s right next to the egg hatching hut. The idea being that every time you made a visit, you checked in on the eggs and hatchlings.

The painting at the top is one I did a couple of years ago. It’s the Burfiend farm also a part of the park.
Farm along the shore, oil 16" x 24"

Friday, April 20, 2012

In the dune

Just had time for one little one last week in Michigan. I climbed the dune at Sleeping Bear Point for some late-day light. The dunes are full of “bowls” or “blow-outs” making for interesting morning and afternoon shadows. This is looking North toward one of the Manitou islands.

Afternoon on Sleeping Bear Point, oil, 10" x 9"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I took a trip up north to Michigan to deliver paintings this past weekend. First stop was the gift shop at the Muskegon Museum of Art. Good timing, it was free entry day so I did a little touring. They have a Robert Ried I especially like and a Whistler. Also a Henry Tanner painting, it was out on loan, but exchanged nicely for a Mary Cassatt. Next I went to River Street Gallery in Manistee with a dozen for their season opening this week. Then on to Glen Arbor with a couple for MacBeth & Co. And as long as I was there I had to climb a dune for a little painting (haven't had a chance to take a photo of that yet). The painting above is a studio piece from last month that I delivered.

Harbor Buoys, oil, 18" x 18"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Old Key West

Another stop on our Florida trip was Disney’s Old Key West. A picturesque resort of “Conch” style cottages like those found down in the Keys. Low-rise units spread out among ponds and a golf course, though less than authentic, still a lot of interesting vignettes to paint. I'll get down to the real Keys on another trip.

Old Key West Cottage
oil, 8" x 6"

Tin roof and palm, oil 12" x 9"