Sunday, December 10, 2017


Forest - oil on canvas, 12x24 inches

This painting is unusual for me.  I don't paint landscapes very often, since my usual preference is for figurative images.  But lately I find myself playing around with drawings of trees, fields, and water.  Maybe the weather has something to do with it - since I'm not outside as much as I was in the summer and fall.

I fell into a strange rhythm while painting this one.  One day I would like what I had, though still knowing that I wanted to work on the composition, or the range of values, or the simplification of the image.  The next day I'd work, and really dislike the change.  The following day I'd be happier with the changes I made, and the day after that I'd be ready to toss the whole thing out the window.  But eventually, after about a week or a bit more, I liked it well enough.  So I quit.

I think what I need to do now is wire the painting and live with it hanging on a nail in the studio for a while.  Then I'll know better if it's really finished or not.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Amy for JKPP

Amy, for Julia Kay's Portrait Party
colored pencil on toned paper

This is my most recent portrait for the online group, Julia Kay's Portrait Party.  I find using colored pencil to be very engaging, and really soothing to do.  Lately, with the health problems I have been facing, working on a drawing like this takes time, and focuses my mind on something positive.  It's not obvious in this photo of the drawing, but the darkest areas are built up with browns, Tuscan red, indigo, and black colored pencil.  In the skin tones I also add a light warm brown, so there is some tonal variation and complexity.

I enjoyed working on this portrait because of her warm smile, and because there was a wide range of values, something I look for in a source photo.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fiona, JKPP

Fiona, Ebony Pencil and White Colored Pencil
for Julia Kay's Portrait Party

This is my most recent sketch for the online group, Julia Kay's Portrait Party.  The group started on Flickr, but more recently has an offshoot on Facebook.  I've tried all sorts of styles using the photos pf Portrait Party members worldwide - blind contour drawings, watercolors, realistic and very stylized paintings, monoprints, all sorts of things.  Over the past year or so I have labored over detailed colored pencil drawings, many with added background textures, drawings that took days.  

This time time I decided that what I got done in two hours was it.  No long drawn out laboring for me this time.  So here is Fiona, with just some simple cross-hatching and white highlights.  

And I like her fine.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sauntering at Carver Roehl

John Muir didn't like the word "hike," and instead preferred the word "saunter."  I suppose sauntering sounds more pleasant than hiking, less like exercise and more like an easy appreciation of nature.  My husband and I sauntered through a local county park this afternoon, and while the colors so far are not brilliant, there is a real feeling of autumn in the air, as there should be on the first day of October.  I took several photos, but I think this one captures the feeling of the place best.  The landscape at Carver Roehl park is varied, some flat, some hilly, and there is a little creek that has carved out limestone outcroppings that are scattered with ferns. 

We didn't realize it, but a local friends group was sponsoring a fall gala, with speakers, picnicking, a petting zoo, and horse-drawn hayrides.  It was charming sauntering the trails, and hearing the sound of the horses' hooves on the road.

Sometimes the only cure for brain fog is a walk in the woods.  I'm glad we went.

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being begiled.
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all.
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost ---
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Embracing the Seasons

After a wet summer, it looks like autumn will be dry.  We enjoy taking the convertible out on fall road trips.  These photos were from our overnight to Wausau.  The colors are a bit ahead that far north, but certainly not peak yet.  Still, the journey is the pleasure, not just the destination. We had a nice meal at a supper club, and did a bit of hiking, and took in the Birds in Art show at the Woodson.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

No Time Like the Present

24x24 inches, oil and cold wax on canvas

I used to laugh at people who claimed to be blocked.  No more.  The past year has seen me change from a person who drew or painted almost every day to a person who often sits in the stdio staring at sketchbook and canvases and big sheets of paper and thinking.  But not doing.

I have reasons/excuses.  I attended a couple different workshops with people whose abstract work I admire, and came away feeling like a zero.  A person incapable of taking any sort of risk.  Then this year I was diagnosed with cancer, had extensive surgery, and am in the middle of chemotherapy.  For a while I was too stunned, too sore, too scared to think about painting, and in fact my hands were too shaky.  

But then I thought, if not now, when?  What have I got to lose?  I took an old canvas that I rescued from the Goodwill, gessoed over it, and got out my old oil paints and new jar of Gamblin Cold Wax medium, and just played.  Since I don't really know how to clean my brushes with this wax medium, I used palette knives and my fingers - something totally new to me.  And guess what. I sort of like the results, even though my only goal was to see how the cold wax and oil paint behaves.  I layered, and sqeegeed and scraped.  I even added some collage papers in the first layer.  I mixed up too much paint and then gave myself permission to waste it by throwing it away.

So, whether this ever sees the light of day or not, I am pleased that I finally took some action.  I'd hate to never have tried.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Wild Flower Friends

Last week I took a quick drive north or Kewaunee and Door counties to see my dear aunt and my sister-in-law.  I had an urge to see visit them both, see Lake Michigan, and get some more smoked fish before fall.  My sister-in-law has lots of naturalized gardens filled with mostly native plants, and these photos are from her flower beds. The trip was good for my soul in all sorts of ways, and I think they were relieved to see me looking well.

I also have had a number of friends gifting me with all sorts of things - scarves to cover my bald head, nice hand written notes, vintage pottery, and sometimes old books they think I might like to include in my art.  One woman friend gifted me a small volume of poems published in 1931 that had belonged to her mother, and this poem was in that book.  The style is not modern, with all the lines capitalized and a regular rhyme scheme, but I liked the sentiment and appreciated the gift.

Wild Flower Friends
by Emma Peirce

One of our rarest joys
   When we country roads explore,
Is to welcome wild flower friends
   Of the seasons gone before.

They come crowding all about us
   As if with welcome too;
They give high lights of color
   To every distant view.

They are clambering up hillsides,
   They are massed in meadows sweet,
They are roaming through the woodlands,
   They are right here at our feet.

So true they are and loyal,
   We can always count the day
When we will find them ready
   To greet us on our way.

Some are shy, in hiding,
   For those we have to seek:
But we're sure to find them waiting; --
   We know the very week!

So individual are they,
   For all occasions meet:
Though different in myriad ways,
   They all are passing sweet.

They are marvels of shape and contour,
   Through the gamut of color they run;
Oh! They are wonderful pals of ours,
   These children of the sun!

While radiating beauty,
   They are serving their own ends:
But they make us more than grateful
   For those hosts of flower friends.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Melinda for JKPP

Melinda, colored pencil on toned paper

I keep thinking about painting, and then going back to the trusty sketchbook and working with colored pencil.  This is Melinda, and I did the portrait for Julia Kay's Portrait Party.  I took way too long with this, going back and adding darker and darker values to make her face stand out.  I probably could have pushed the dark values more, but I wanted to be done with it.  I usually choose reference photos that have dramatic shadows, and that was true here.  But mostly I think I liked her direct gaze.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flowers From Friends

It has been almost five weeks since my surgery, and still my dear friends are sending cards and an occasional bouquet.  This pretty arrangement brings some of summer's colors inside.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Susanne for JKPP

I haven't done any art since my June surgery, but I did manage to finish up this colored pencil portrait for the online group Julia Kay's Portrait Party.  For a while I was just to tired and shaky, but lately I just have been procrastinating.  So yesterday I just told myself I'd sit down for an hour and whateer happened, happened.

Why is it so hard to return to something you enjoy, after a long break?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


I live in an old neighborhood, full of grand old houses, but also full of young families with children and dogs, which is part of what makes the 4th of July fun each summer. The houses around the local park invite the children to decorate their bicycles, skooters, wagons, or whatever, and they parade around the block and end up at a local nursing home to sing patriotic songs.

This year the weather is perfect, and lots of folks showed up. To tell the truth I don't even know the people in these photos, though some of the more mature ones look familiar from previous years. Later in the day the street will be closed off and there is a big neighborhood potluck, and games for children.

The rccord keeping for these events is a little shaky, but organizers this year think it might be the 50th year - unless they missed a year and it was actually last year.  It doesn't matter, really. What matters is that neighbors get together to greet one another, ooh and ah of wee children and pet the pooches.

Happy Independence Day.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Moving Forward

I have always loved summer, the warmth, sunshine, birds, flowers blooming.  I knew I was having surgery earlier this spring, so I did not plant too many flowers, but this little pot of petunias catching the morning light has been giving me pleasure.

I'm feeling a little stronger, more wide awake, more mobile each day.  I'm enjoying eating again, and have had some visitors.  This isn't going to be a normal summer, but I don't want to miss it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Reality

I have gone back and forth about posting my new reality here, but have finally decided to go ahead with it.  Ever since I began this blog, after retiring from three decades of teaching, I have used the site to record images of beauty in my every day life, records of our travels, and some of the art I have created.  I hope to still do these things, although there is a new issue that has taken over most of my time, and that is my health.

In April I was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and on June 16th I had surgery at UW Madison hospital.  After four days there I returned home to recuperate, and consider how my life will be changing.  I still do not have very much energy, though I am up and about, eating, reading, petting the cat.  I know that soon I will be meeting with new doctors to begin chemotherapy, and that will be another different set of challenges - not the least of which will be that I will lose all my hair.

But in a real way I am more anxious about who this new person will be, the one who no longer leads groups of people on historic cemetery tours, who has to be careful about what she eats and drinks, who requires rides to numerous medical appointments, who suddenly throws a whole new anxious feeling over meetings with friends.  One who is a little jealous of other people's lunch meetings, field trips with grandchildren,  time spent gardening.

I also am concerned about my art.  I haven't felt brave enough to draw or paint yet, partially because moving around has been uncomfortable, but also because I wonder what will become of all of the notebooks, sketchbooks, watercolors, collages and other paintings.  I sell little of my work, so it stacks up in drawers and closets.  What will become of it?

So many questions.

But it is summer, and there is beauty.  My lilies are in full bloom in the yard.  Fireflies light the evening lawn.  People drop by with baked goods and flowers.  In many ways the good things of life are still there to be enjoyed.  I hope to keep appreciating them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass
--Cat Stevens

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Forty Days, Forty Nights

It has been dribbling, hailing, storming, pouring.  We're soaked.  There's a big maple at the back of our property that lost a large limb in a wind storm, and while the good news it that the limb missed the fence, the bad news is it smashed all sorts of bushes and spring ephemerals. This graceful jack-in-the-pulpit was laying flat, so I brought it inside for a closer look.

Why did I never do this before?  Such elegance and grace in a simple plant.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In the Japanese Garden

A week or so ago I went for a walk in the Japanese garden at our local botanical gardens.  This part of the garden is always cool and quiet. I was delighted to find a magenta azalea blooming. 

                                              “Instructions for living a life.
                                                Pay attention.
                                                Be astonished.
                                                Tell about it.”
-- Mary Oliver

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sandro for JKPP

Sandro - colored pencil

I keep thinking I am going to be more experimental with my portraits for Julia Kay's Portrait Party, but in the end I muck about with some contour drawings, some doodles, then go back to working quite realistically.  I think I'm getting better at achieving a good range of values with colored pencils.  Sometimes I use warmer colors, but this time I just used back, white and indigo. I basically eliminated the background, starting quite dark at the top to contrast the hat, and light at the bottom to contrast the shirt.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

History Makers

Just a little sharing of the joy.  Last Saturday night the Rock County Historical Society gave me a beautiful "History Makers" award for the work I have been doing in leading tours through Oak Hill Cemetery.  There was the stained glass and engraved award itself, but also a humbling video introduction, and a lovely evening of food and drink and music.  The decorations were all based on a USO theme, and some people came dressed in uniforms or 1940s garb, and there were displays all over the former armory where the event was held.  I had a blast, and enjoyed seeing lots of local folks who are associated with or just support the RCHS.  I am very grateful.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Passing Through

Every year about this time the rose breasted grosbeaks pass through on their way north.  They are big and bright, and they dominate the feeder.  They also are not afraid of my new camera.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May Flowers - Before the Rain

Last winter we took a cruise, and in our cabin were two paintings, extreme close-ups of striped parrot tulips.  I was fascinated by these paintings and was anxious for it to be tulip time here in Wisconsin.  They are wonderful, pops of bright color after the gray of winter.  My photo probably doesn't do these justice, but I guess the real joy was in the looking.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring at Oak Hill

I was out photographing stones at Oak Hill, and noticed this tree in full blossom, near one of the more impressive obelisks. I snapped this picture, even though I would have preferred a blue sky. Looking now, I like the limited palette of the image, very little color except the green of the grass and new leaves.  Life, returning, as it does each spring.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fawn, Spotted

I spend lots of time at Oak Hill cemetery, photographing stones for Find a Grave, and planning walking tours for the community.  But sometimes I just sit and watch, and am rewarded with a glimpse from nature.  There is a small herd of deer that lives in the woods at the back of the property, and I got lucky last week and spotted this growing up fawn.  Sometimes that's all it take to make my day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Japanese Serenity

Recently I took the short drive over to Janesville's Rotary Botanical Gardens. I like visiting early in the season before there are many visitors.  It's quiet then, and I like to sit in the Japanese garden and simply listen to the birds.  The beautiful thing about this part of the garden is that it doesn't depend on much by way of flowers, although some azaleas were in bloom.  Water, rocks, moss, and some neutral colored pots and sculptures makes this part of the garden peaceful.

Peaceful is good.

It's all I have to bring today --
This, and my heart beside--
This, and my heart, and all the fields--
And all the meadows wide--
Be sure you count--should I forget
Some one the sum could tell--
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the clover dwell.

                              Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I began this blog a decade ago, when I was inspired by another woman's blog that had one beautiful photo a day.  I took photos of things in my corner of the world, and sometimes added poetry.  Then, over time, I began to concentrate almost exclusively on my art making, and my original intent was mostly pushed aside.

I'm feeling the need to go back to my original intent, at least for a while.  Winter seemed long to me, and I was plagued by nagging illnesses - nothing too awful, but enough to sap my energy and enthusiasm for making art.

So, for now, I want to return to more frequent photos of things I find beautiful in my life. I have a new camera that I really enjoy, so that is part of it. And maybe I'll hunt around for some poetry too.

 This is our local library, the Hedberg Public Library.  It's quite close to our house, so I visit several times a week, to find books and books on CD for the car, and to research for my cemetery walks. In the spring the Bradford pear trees out near the road are glorious, as are the tulip beds. We've been given nice weather for a few days, so they are showing off their blossoms in a spectacular way.

Yes, I am aware that Bradford Pear trees have their detractors, but today I am enjoying the blossoms.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Portrait Revolution

Spring is, well, springing in southern Wisconsin, and I have not been in the studio very much at all.  In fact, most of my time has been spent working outside, especially at the local cemetery where I photograph for Find a Grave, and also planning my upcoming May walking tour of the historic parts of the cemetery. I enjoy both doing research and getting outside to stretch my legs.

I have been working in sketchbooks a bit, and on a self-portrait. But today I'm tooting my personal horn about being included in a new art book called Portrait Revolution: Inspiration From Around the World For Creating Art in Multiple Mediums and Styles, by Julia L. Kay. Julia Kay started an online group on Flickr devoted to drawing a painting portraits.  People join the group, post photographs of themselves, and then are free to interpret the photos in any way.  Some people draw, some paint, some use digital media, one even did portraits on an Etch-A-Sketch. Some portraits are realistic, while others veer into abstraction or caricature.  All are interesting.

Anyway, months ago I was asked to submit a couple portraits for the book.  I was flattered to be asked, but had no idea what the final product would be like.  This past week I ordered and received my copy, and was thrilled to see what a beautiful book it is.

When I was first contacted about including two of the portraits I did, I was a little disappointed that the ones they chose were not favorites of mine.  But looking at the book now I can see what an effort was made to include a wide variety of artists, and a wide variety of media and artistic approaches.  I tend to experiment a lot, and both of my portraits included here reflect that. One is rather abstract and brightly colored, the other is a monoprint, enhanced with colored pencil.  I love seeing the way the folks who compiled these portraits show the original photo, plus several different approaches JKPP folks used to create art.

So thank you, Julia Kay for bringing together so many diverse folks from around the world to create art, and to find artistic kindred spirits.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Coming Back

This morning I'm honking into my Kleenex, barking out ragged coughs, and slouching around the house in my wooly socks and slippers.  And the thing is, I'm feeling much better.

What is it about taking a nice winter vacation?  Why can't I just pack my bag, go have fun, and be done with it?  Why must I be a magnet for other people's viruses?  It happened last year in Mexico, and this year it happened again, after our cruise into the eastern Caribbean.  I'm not sure If I was infected by our chatty team trivia players from Memphis, or from one of the many coughing and sneezing fellow travelers in the Fort Lauderdale airport, or even from other human sardines on the airplanes.  It's a mystery.

It doesn't matter.  Colds happen.  And they spread.  Now my dear husband is sneezing and coughing and stretched out full length on the sofa.  I used up all the cough medicine, so I need to go out and buy some for him.

But back to the trip.  It was good.  Windy, but good.  This was our sixth Holland America cruise, this time from Fort Lauderdale to Aruba, Curacao, the Panama Canal, and Costa Rica.  We were supposed to have a day at Half Moon Cay, but there were 40 mph winds and high seas, such that the ship could not safely tender in, so we had an extra day at sea. Oh well. The cruise accomplished our greatest winter goal, which was to warm up and to see green. 

What I like best about cruising - coffee delivered to our cabin in the morning and then sitting on the little verandah to drink it,  the incredibly pleasant staff, walking around the navigation deck looking at other passengers and whatever else is out there in the sea (other ships, islands, flying fish), playing trivia in the Crows Nest, cocktails in the Crows Nest, catching some sunshine, meeting interesting people from around the world, seeing new places and wild creatures. Seeing masses of Pepto-Bismol colored flamingos standing in a salt flat was a wonderful surprise. I also enjoy having time to read.  This time I plowed through three enjoyable books: Life after Life; Life Itself; and Miss Hargreaves.

Things I don't especially like - worrying about how the cat is doing back home, sleeping in a strange bed, constant time zone changes, constant commercials for spa services and consumer goods, clueless people in the buffet lines, loud music piped into every public space, toxic individuals at dinner, the mild vertigo I get from the rocking of the ship, getting there and getting home again.

Anyway, I took a few photos, some of which follow.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Month Off

I see that I have not posted for an entire month.  In fact, while I have not been doing any painting for portrait work, just some sketching, I have been busy with other pursuits.

At the beginning of the month we spent a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We've traveled there several times, because we crave sunshine during gloomy January, and for the whales in Banderas Bay,  for the interesting art galleries and for the food. It is also fine to be able to walk outside without bundling up for the cold or worrying about slipping on ice. 

This time we made it a priority to try new places to eat, a little off the beaten path.  I found myself falling in love with all sorts of tacos, pork carnitas, fish, barbeque shrimp.  All were delicious.

We've been back for a while now , and the sun already feels like it was long ago.  I've been busy with mundane things since we returned - replacing my nearly dead iMac and printer, figuring out how to use the new equipment, and purging parts of my wardrobe that no longer fit or are useful. 

What follows is a handful of photos from the trip to Mexico.  Maybe I can figure out a way to incorporate some of them into paintings.