Category Archives: waterways

Thirty minutes to paint

Quick draw events are fun, frightening, sometimes furiously fast and often rewarding!  Many are an hour or two in length which is not a lot of time to execute a painting but easier compared to the 30 minute events.  In a 30 minute event there is no time to ponder.  You need to have pondered and made choices in the preparation stage!  You need a limited palette and a distinct plan of action when the horn blows to begin your work.

So goes the story of the popular quick draw at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale sponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum held every May as part of the world famous Bucking Horse Sale that brings thousands of spectators to the town of Miles City.  Only a few (25 or less) artists participate in the Riverside Park QD at the culmination of the annual parade.  The QD is sandwiched in between the parade and the Grand Entry of the sale and horse races and once the 30 minute draw is complete, the artists have 10 minutes to get their piece framed and the live auction of art begins.  It’s fast and furious and the crowd is filled with art collectors and spectators.  The QD is strategically timed to be certain those spectators can get to all the BHS activities and maximize the crowd attendance for the auction that is a benefit to the WaterWorks Museum and Art Center.

This year I lived on the dangerous side…I decided to paint a larger than normal piece, 26×12 vertical pastel.  (Most works are less than 16 inches square.)  I prepped my paper by gluing it to a foam core board for stability, then selected a very limited palette of pastel sticks.  I planned a painting of buffalo from a photo I shot on my way to MT via Yellowstone Park.  The day before the event, the preparatory chores were done. (I could have saved a little stress by doing this 3-4 days earlier!).  I did numerous pencil sketches arranging my composition, as the photo was a horizontal format and I was painting it as a vertical.  In my sketchbook I made lines of quadrants and adjusted the subject to best fit the format of the proposed painting.  I “roughed-in” focal points and large shapes to make what I believed to be a good composition.   I put all my supplies – selected pastels, 91% alcohol, sponge brush, Workable fixative, wet wipes, paper towels, gloves and framing equipment in my backpack.  I had a plan and felt I could make it happen, but knew I would have no time to spare.  Before the event started I found a place to paint…in the park’s gazebo  where there was some protection from some gusty winds (not helpful when painting is a tall piece!) and a place to sit if one wanted to before and during the event.  And I was able to tone my painting  with one color – a mix of dry pigment and alcohol before the QD began.  Doing an underpainting like this assists one in pastel application by speeding up the process.

The QD begins with the sound of an air horn…now it’s time for autopilot.  Your colors are laid out and you instinctively apply them, not second guessing your choice.  Large masses are painted carefully noting that  the values are where you want them.  When someone says “you have 15 minutes left, you want to be at least half way thru your painting.)  I am, but there is no option to make changes.  I stick to my plan.  Once the landscape is satisfactory to my eye, I draw in and paint the buffalo.   As I put the final touches in the most distant animal, the horn blows signifying the end of the QD.  Hands go up (no more pastel to the paper), I am satisfied, pleased to have finished what I had planned and the framing begins.  I had hoped to get my piece in the auction so it would be auctioned somewhere in the middle, but I needed all the time allotted to get the framing accomplished, so the painting was in the last spot on the auction docket.  Not my favorite spot to be, but as it turned out the auction was  a surprise.  One know there is not always a predictable outcome to auctions and this one was not an exception.  Early pieces were sold  from $200-500. Then one sold for about $800 and another for $1700.  I saw a couple of pieces of work of popular artists sell for less than I have seen before.  Now I begin to have some anxiety.  It’s now the time for my piece to go.  I hold the painting up and the auction starts.  Bids start immediately and I hand the work to one of the guys on the platform to show.  Bids continue to be raised and my anxiety lessens.  The auctioneer worked his way to $1500 +.  I am relieved and happy to have completed a sought after piece of art and for sharing the sale with the museum.

So, when the opportunity arises to compete in a quick draw, do it.  The key is preparation and planning.  Then execute the painting in a confident manner, not second guessing palette and composition.  If you are an art collector and someone who appreciates the arts and the process…know what happens for these works to come to be!





Gallery Representation – thank you!

I am honored to be able to show my work in some of the best galleries in the west.  These originals can be seen in Yachats, OR at Earthworks Gallery, The American Art Company in Tacoma, Wa, Dodson’s in Spokane, WA, Pendleton Art and Frame in Pendleton, OR, Valley Bronze in Joseph, OR, Caswell Bronze in Troutdale, OR, Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA, Eagle Art Gallery in Eagle, ID, The Depot in Red Lodge, Mt and Moccasin Mountain Art in Lewistown, MT.

I am very pleased to work with these galleries who in my opinion, represent their artist well.  That is so important to an artist to have a gallery or galleries that  promote your work and really try to sell the art pieces.  And ones that pay promptly, according to your agreement, when works sell.

When you are in these towns and cities, please visit these fine businesses and be prepared to be treated well as a customer too!



Pastel Dust on the Road 3…

Moab…this is such a beautiful place.  From the moment I drove down into the Colorado River valley that holds this town I was in awe of the overwhelming beauty.  Extreme describes it….cliffs in reds and yellows, intense skies something different to look at all around you .                                                                                                                     .            I went to Moab to participate in the Plein Air Moab painting event Oct 7-15. The event includes 3 quick draw sessions, a main competition, a paint out, receptions and more.  The Moab Art and Rec Center (MARC) is hosting their 2nd plein air.  The team that organized this were incredible.  Everything; every event ran like clock work.  One day the quick draw was at the Castle Valley Winery where we painted on their property and submitted it to the show and sale.    for 3 hours, we painted  ,then framed.  Two more quick draws on other days happened downtown Moab with same rules and events.  The final event was the main competition – a painting of the artist’s choice that they had completed during the time in Moab.  Other paintings could be displayed for sale at the MARC as well…but only one entered into the competition.  Friday night we entered the MARC to one room filled with the artists’ best work.  Many had signs on them “Award Winning Painting”.  I looked for mine and it was included in that catagory!   That’s the icing on the cake!

During the paint out, several pieces of art sold which wonderful – since that is the ultimate goal!  But it is also equally important to develop new friendships and learn new things from fellow artists, judges, etc.

And there is taking some risks in our work, try new techniques and see as much of the area and photograph as much as  you can for future reference.  I had shied away from driving the LaSal Loop which is a road that takes you south of Moab, then westerly over some mountain passes, down into the Castle Valley and back to Moab via Hwy 128.    The first while I was in Moab, the weather was cold and stormy with snow on the mountains, so that detered my thoughts of doing this drive in the mighty Prius.  However with warm weather for several days, the snow had all but disappeared so I decided that I would drive at least part way up the pass to get  some views of colorful fall leaves and different terrain.  I soon found that it the road was really steep and narrow and I wasn’t comfortable trying to turn around on the narrow roads and minimal turn-outs…so I kept driving over the passes, a little timidly on the ascents and descents with switchbacks at a max of 10 mph.  It was beautiful and when one was atop each of the passes, the view below was incredible.  I admit that when I saw the familiar terrain of the Castle Valley, I breathed a sigh of relief!  Once I got down into the valley, I decided I would paint one more work so elected to paint a scene near Onion Creek…a stream that barely runs water when the weather is dry…but is one that carries water that is poisonous leeched with selenium, arsnic and saline.  The creek bed has no vegetation and it is strangely quiet with no birds in the immediate area.

Saturday came with the realization that the stay in Moab was coming to an end.  Work was to be picked up at the MARC at 6 that evening.  In the morning I stopped in to listen to the judged talk about the work selected for awards and decided that I would go somewhere and paint one more session.  Sandi who organized the event came up to me and asked what I was doing for the day.  I told her and she asked if she could go with.  Happily I invited her and we drove up Kane Creek beyond where one leaves the Colorado and heads up another canyon.  We painted and visited for about 2 hours.  It was the perfect way to end a great 10 day visit to this spot.

Sunday morning I was ready to head out for points south into New Mexico.  I stopped at the little cafe that sells great Moab coffee, grabbed a 16 oz cup, bid farefwell to the MARC and headed down 191 to southerly  points….

happy painting….

Pastel Dust on Whidbey Island

5 days of nothing but painting, photographing, enjoying fellow artists on one of the prettiest islands in the northwest.  Whidbey  is an island you can reach via ferry from Mukilteo (near Everett and Edmonds, WA) on the south end or via Hwy 20 from the mainland through Anacortes and over the Deception Pass Bridge.

The event was the annual Northwest Pastel Society Paint Out organized by a couple of NPS members who took on a big project of finding suggested painting spots, dining, demonstrations by artists and lodging at Fort Casey.  Jan Wall and Karen Schroeder made the event what it was and by all testaments by attendees it was a success.

I coercer-ed my friend and fellow artist Lauri Borer into going and we had a great time exploring, painting, photographing and laughing.

It is a challenge to get out and do plein air work….the light changes quickly, there are bugs and nettles, there is wind and not all desired painting points are a “drive to.”  One morning we headed out and after not finding something that we wanted to paint at the suggested spot, came upon this hidden rhodie farm and 10 acres of gardens hidden away.  We hiked around the property which was beautiful and each settled on a spot to paint.  Later a few other artists found this spot as well.The rhodies were not blooming this time of year, but the other plants were providing the show.

We  visited the sites at the state parks and the reserves of Ebey’s Landing, the farms, the light house at Fort Casey, the towns of Coupeville, Langley and Oak Harbor.

Deception Pass points of interest were there to be painted – and we trekked out there early one morning only to be met with chilly winds so we elected to drive to Anacortes and down to Mount Vernon and introduce Laurie to Dakota Art Pastels Store.  After lugging around a full size French easel, I took the opportunity to buy a new easel for plein air work and that would lighten the load of packing  by some 10 pounds, at least.  Unfortunately, we did not stop back at Deception Pass because later we learned the weather moderated and painting was good.  Lesson learned…maybe not go racing out the door too early in the morning – OR – wait a bit at the destination – the weather might change!

    One other morning we woke to fog coming in from the west and it gently settled into one of the valleys near the Keystone Ferry…but not for long!        

It was great to spend time to get to know some fellow artists better and to watch their demos and learn how some make their own pastels, about an intense workshop for artists in NM, how they do an abstract composition and more.

It was a best of times with tons of photos and memories.  Do a paint out sometime if the opportunity comes your way…tips…pack light, make sure  you have bug spray, sun screen, attire for cool and hot conditions, condensed supplies, camera, water and a good buddy to share with!  happy painting…

Pastel Plein Air Dust…

Another trip to Montana in mid July to just do some photography and paint “en plein air”…

My son and family came to WA for a wedding the first part of July and Chris’s schedule required him to return to  MT afterhis week of vacation while his family stayed another.  So he and I loaded his car with pastels, paper, hats, insect repellent, etc. – all things to occupy me in my quest to paint MT.  We spent the first 3 days in Billings – where I used to live – visiting with friends in the evenings, but spending the days scouting the area for places to set up an easel and paint and take reference photos for future use.   It was hot and dry til late afternoon when the thunder clouds rolled in, which meant you had best be under cover with the pastels all tucked away.

So I got a few paintings done.  Southern Montana had more than it’s share of rain this spring and a lot of snow melt which caused some major flooding through several areas.  One such spot showed the water still standing in some fields…the object of this painting…

I have been using some of the Pastelmat paper for paintings and liking how it takes the pigment and the colors of the paper.  I chose a neutral color and sketched in the basic layout with a piece of charcoal.  Beginning with some basic sky, I get that color on the paper, then working down to the distant landscape.   There is some hint of rain showers in the distance, so I want to convey that in the painting.  Less is more when painting such an impression…you don’t want a huge amount of pigment to  fill the tooth of the paper.  A note about this paper…it is quite “velvety” in feel, and it will hold a good amount of pigment, workable fix for texture…but you don’t want to use a heavy hand and fill the tooth up immediately!  Once the distant landscape and sky details are completed I continue my painting, adding the tree line and while I am painting the background trees, I add some of that color into the lower part of the  painting for reflections that will be established in the water.

     And with water and reflections…again, keeping a minimal amount of pigment on paper adds to the “look” of the water.  A gentle stroke with the side of a soft pastel stick gives the water a nice, soft look with some of the background peeking through the water’s surface.

The pastels…I used a mixture of Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig and some Diane Townsend.  Great darks in the Ludwigs…good texture with the Townsends…often for the shimmery last stroke for some special detail, Sennelier 463 and 179 for my base for trees to create depth…

As a note about this paper…I bought a pad of the paper for traveling and doing plein air painting in the field…1) because of the ease of transport and the size; 2) because it is inter-leafed with a protective sheet of Glassine or some other type of paper that aids in storage during travel.  One thing I have found is this paper says it is 9×12 inches; it is a little shy of that…so that can cause a problem if one is trying to put that painting directly into a plein air frame without matting…I use a lot of the stock Plein Air frames sold by Jerry’s Artarama and have not had a problem with other pre-cut paper…so something to keep in mind when you go to frame the work when using this particular paper.  I do love the feel of it, however and it does come in other larger sizes, which I love.

So enjoy some painting time out in the field…and try some of the great papers available now…I love the Pastelmat!

Happy painting…

Pastel dust demo


So I had planned to do a post about the Higbee Gallery Show this  time…but changed my mind in favor of doing a bit of a demo with pastels. When I was in eastern Montana last fall I took a 100 mile + drive south and west of Miles City, following the Tongue River about 50 miles and then heading north on dirt roads about 40 miles to Rosebud where I got back on I-94 to Miles City.  I took a bunch of photos along the way of the river, the fields and whatever looked interesting.  Once I got on the dirt road with the warning signs posting “this road is impassable when wet”, I was following near Rosebud Creek.  There were these beautiful sandstone cliffs with a lot of pine and juniper.  I have long been impressed with Albert Handel and Richard McKinley’s  paintings of such cliffs and rocks, so I shot a bunch of photos of the area and thought that one day I would do some paintings of the rocks and brush. A side note…”road not passable when wet” is a reminder to me of living in eastern Montana and when it rains, the earth turns to gumbo…not the culinary delight – but a mud that is sort of clay like and as you walk in it; it collects on your feet until you can hardly lift your mud encased appendages.  It is really like clay…you can actually form 3D items of art with it.  My mother used to sculpt with it for fun.  You couldn’t go out and hike around until it dried; so one might as well spend some artist time and make things out of the mud! Fortunately in October there is little chance of rain and had there been a cloud in the sky, I would have turned around and retraced my tracks back to Miles City on the gravel and asphalt roads. So today I painted a second painting of the rock cliffs and shot some images as I progressed through the painting…I chose a piece of Art Spectrum paper and toned it with some reds washed with alcohol.  Once this was dry….an alcohol wash takes minimal time to dry…I roughed in the sky and tree line. Then I added more detail to the trees and basically finished them before tackling the rocks.  I used Unison, lonelier and Mungyo pastels for the trees, starting with a  dark lavender for my base, then adding some dark blue and the dark green..  Once I had the darks in, I sprayed the trees with some workable fix lightly to allow some of the tooth of the paper to come back so I could add some highlights to the tree branches. So once the trees are in I can start to work on the rocks.  Before I leave the trees, I make sure to have highlights of the branches visible and some light peeking through the branches as well.  Now I s tart with the rocks; putting in some general masses, some hints of color and definition.  A light spray of the fixative will help to create texture in the rocks, then more color and definition.   Next the  rocks get to share space with a “cow trail” that meanders down the hillside and more definition of the rocks take place and a bit of vegetation – weeds- sage, etc sprout up near rocks and trail. I like to sometimes leave some of the initial wash showing through for interesting texture and color.  The goal is to invite the viewer to think the scene  is interesting enough to want to get on that trail and hike to the top of the rims and see what’s on the other side of this ridge…and wonder where that trail goes…they almost always lead to water, to shelter or… Hope you enjoyed the “demo”….happy painting!


Pastel dust on the road

Columbia River Art Center

Last week we drove over to Hood River and Portland, OR to visit a couple of galleries  seeking future show spots for the Northwest Pastel Society.  The route follows the Columbia River and is a beautiful drive.  The Columbia River Gorge is deep and there is enough history and geological facts to fill countless blogs, but I am going to touch only on the aesthetics of it for now :-).  The bottom line is, for an artist, there are tons of wonderful places to paint almost anywhere along the 200 or so miles to Portland.  Once you leave Walla Walla, you drive 30 miles before you get to the river at Wallula Junction.  At that point state route 730 takes you along the river at close proximity on a 2 lane road.  Near Umatilla, OR you start to move away from the river edge and get on I-84 near Boardman.  You take that road on to Portland and once again follow the river closer.  

One thing about the Gorge is the fact there is often wind.  Really good winds; blow  you off the curb good; forget that hat forever good.  The water on the river can get some pretty high swells during the windy times, but when there is no wind…the water is smooth as glass and the gorge is beautiful.  Not that it isn’t beautiful when it’s windy…

There are some good places to stop and explore along the way…Hood River is one.  It is the self-proclaimed Wind Surfing capital,  near Mount Hood and skiing and hiking and has a first class Community Art Center.  The Art Center was our point of interest for the day.  It is not only a visual art center but a performing one as well with great gallery space for their members to show 2 and 3D work as well as space to host major shows.  There is a performing arts auditorium as well as a studio/workshop space.  This gallery is certainly a good venue for a professional show.  Typically the NPS show has a workshop at and around the time of the show opening and the Columbia River Art Center would certainly fit that bill.

I also visited the Gallery 903 in Portland as they had expressed some interest in a show.  It is beautiful space in the midst of the Pearl District, however, we determined that with their current space and artists represented, a show such as the NPS show would not work there.  It is always a quest to find galleries that are willing to host a show of 60-80 paintings or have a space that can accommodate.

Bottom line…I need to take more time meandering down the gorge and stopping and doing some plein air painting or even some good reference photos.  It’s a great view and with spring almost in full force, the hills of the canyon are green with fresh grass and waterfalls are flowing in lots of places.  Take the drive…

Next blog…look for some images for the Higbee show in California…

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