Jumping ahead (no, not the horsey kind)

The title of this post just came to me out of nowhere, but I had to laugh because it reminded me of what my biggest fault was when I used to jump horses–it was called “jumping ahead” and it meant that you got into your jumping position before the horse even started to lift up over the jump, instead of waiting for him to lift you out of the saddle. That mistake made things a bit more difficult for the horse, although mine never seemed to complain.

So, that said, I am jumping ahead here with a purpose–namely, to beat Michigan cold winter temps while I can and pour paint bases for a couple more Sky Pads while it’s still hot and sticky outside. It’s fall in Michigan, and it IS still hot and sticky outside. I haven’t even started the next layers on #24, but here’s a look at Sky Pads 25 and 26 base coat paint pour.

Sky Pads 25, poured paint background

I used that weird new milky paint thinner again and was initially less than pleased with what it was doing. If you look closely you can see specks of red paint which didn’t dissolve in the thinner because I used a mixing technique I knew was problematic. That’s what happens when you’re in a hurry. The mix was rather concentrated but for some reason which shall probably remain perpetually unknown most of the pigment slid right off the canvas along with the paint thinner instead of separating into those striated patterns I love. True to form, I decided I would go with what the paint gave me, and after looking at it for a while I grew to appreciate the delicate pastel colors and the subtle shifts of color. Even the red specks eventually settled down and flattened out, drying in the process. So I know what I have to do next, which is to be light and delicate with the next lily pad layers so as not to lose this lovely floaty effect.

Sky Pads 26, poured paint background

The second effort with the same paint thinner was closer to what I expected and has a nice flow to it. I was trying to get close to the color scheme of Sky Pads 17 but of course this one is not all that close because this process is intrinsically haphazard. I think it will work out quite well.

Meanwhile, the last outdoor art fair of the year is coming up. Also I will have 5 Sky Pads paintings in a group show at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan, and–if I’m lucky–maybe another group show at the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, Indiana. Should know about the Museum in a week or so.


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The school of unintended consequences

Sky Pads 24, background paint pour

I don’t think I could ever get anything like this again, even if $1,000,000 depended on it. Let me list the ways this thing defied me:

  • The paint colors (blue, magenta, yellow) did not mix in any manner that I expected them to (there was a ton of blue–where the heck did it go?).
  • The canvas was a cut-off leftover from an unidentified roll. It felt a little rougher than what I ordinarily use but not so much that I anticipated the paint skipping all over it at random.
  • I had bought a new kind of paint thinner (didn’t know it was “new”) that came in an opaque plastic bottle. When I opened it, this milky white stuff came out. Then I read the label that said it was “supposed” to be that way. Less toxic whatever. I didn’t know if it would work for my purposes but used it anyway.
  • I had to get innovative with some of the white areas which were too white. Enter my trusty turkey baster filled with that weird paint thinner.

As a result, all my plans for a lush color background were foiled. I don’t care. This one is really intriguing. I don’t know what canvas I used, so I will assume that this painting will be a one-off not to be replicated. The paint mix I used was really thin, and usually this results in a solid color cover that separates out into patterns as it dries. But this time it wanted to flow in rivulets, leaving all kinds of white chunks of space in various sizes. I messed with them, changing the direction of the runoff,  until I got them down to a size resembling pebbles. I like the pseudo-pebbles. They make nice ripples in the “water” and along the imaginary “shore”. There was so much white at the lower edge that I dribbled plain colorless (except for that “milky” look) paint thinner over that lower area which softened some of the hard edges by loosening the pigment that was starting to dry in place. Voilà–more nice ripples.

Now to let this marinate a while as I try to figure out what color the lily pads will be. I already know their pattern. If you’re up for a hint, think “flotilla”…

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Even better than déjà vu

Déjà vu is defined as a “feeling” of having experienced something before–this last weekend was even better. It was real.

A nice little bench to plop your tired art fair body on while gazing on the lily pond at Wellfield Gardens.

Wellfield Botanic Gardens in Elkhart, Indiana put on a superb version of their always superb Taste of the Gardens event on Sunday. Even the weather cooperated, providing the first really nice day of the summer outdoor art fair experience for me this year. The attendance was stellar, I hear the food was great as usual, you could dance to the music, and the artists and artisans were on top of their game.

I took a quick tour of the art and craft booths in the half hour before the event opened to the public and swiftly rated my chances at “best of show” as remote–there was so much really good stuff there! Some of it was purely whimsical and probably for that reason caught my eye.

Susan Staszewski is the architect of these repurposed glass bottle wonders and she says they are quite sturdy and handle the wind and weather exceptionally well. You can see more of her dazzling originals and get contact information at www.facebook.com/WineChimesWindchimes/  Don’t try to type it in, you’ll probably get the “wine” and the “wind” mixed up like I did; just click on the link, or if that doesn’t work, copy and paste in your browser. You won’t regret it!

Another intriguing artisan experience that grabbed me right away was the very weird (to me) but exciting form of woodburning Kevin and Chanda Dilks use to make fantasy designs that take on a shape of their own.

And here’s how they do it–with a power supply source (don’t try this without someone who knows what they’re doing as the power needed here can be quite dangerous) some wire and a couple of metal pins.

They’re in Bristol, Indiana and you can contact them at kandcdesigns@yahoo.com


And of course I still have left you all hanging about that déjà vu thing. Nutshell version, the judges came by, said barely a word, and went on their way. A few hours later, a contingent of four smiling faces showed up at my booth to announce that they couldn’t help themselves, they just really loved my work, and were awarding me Best of Show once again. I was caught really flat-footed because giving someone that prize two years in a row is just insanely unlikely. Upshot is, I got a nice fat check and Wellfield Gardens now owns Sky Pads 20. It’s the one hanging on the right side wall, in the lower left hand corner. Since that’s too much word salad, I’ll just show you which one it is–



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A few hours later–#23

It’s amazing how quickly I can arrive at a destination once I have a semblance of an idea of where I’m going! To see two previous versions of this painting click on the ← above the title of this post.

All this one needs is a wire hanger and a frame and we’re ready for our next-to-last art fair for this year. These won’t be our last exhibit opportunities–if the judging goes my way–so stay close for future announcements!

Sky Pads 23 finished, photo taken in good light with a real camera (I love my phone, but…)

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23, 1-1/2 layers and 1 month later

Because a few weeks have passed since I posted the background, I thought it might be a good idea to refresh everyone’s memory. Besides art fairs and a horse portrait and a horse show stalling things (sorry about the unintended pun) I had quite a bit of manufactured delay because I couldn’t decide what colors the lily pads should be.

When indecision happens I have to just let it be until my brain has had time to consider various alternatives and somehow arrive, with no predetermined strategy on my part, to an answer that seems right. And that takes whatever time it takes. A mix of golden yellow and brown appears to be doing the trick. The brown is made from a combination that wouldn’t seem to be possible, but it’s one of my favorites and I use it for everything from trees to horses. Curious? It’s two transparent oil colors, Indian Yellow and Dioxazine Purple. I paint most everything with transparent oils because I want the background to show through. The last layer will probably be just purple.

By now you should be seeing the lily pads suggesting something besides lily pads. Feel free to comment…

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Half a weekend in (or mostly near) a white tent

I suppose not just the Midwest, but most of the northern hemisphere, has been plagued with a heat wave of some sort since late spring. It was our turn here in Michigan this past Saturday, just in time for the fifth annual Cass Area Artists summer show. As one of the organizers of the event, I became a bit distressed as the 105° heat index that was forecast  caused a number of cancellation emails to arrive in my inbox the night before. Earlier I had sent out an encouraging email to all participants letting them know that the venue site always had a breeze, if not a stiff wind, blowing. And that if they had chosen a space in the covered pavilion they would be in the shade. Even if they had a tent, the setup was such that the tents faced toward the pavilion and they could just step across to the shade and still keep an eye on their booth. Then I prayed that the weather wouldn’t make a liar out of me…

Amazingly, those who showed up got to experience what turned out to be very similar to an ordinary summer day.

One of our heat-defying exhibitors had this intriguing collection of hand made yard art, everything from glass wind chimes to huge flowers made from repurposed tin cans!

My booth was set up outside the southern end of the pavilion, which was kind of a strike against me in terms of heat–the wind was blocked from the sides. The sun pretty much stayed on the back side though, and really lit the booth through the top skylight.

I had a special guest visit, probably related to the same special guest who visited my booth (scroll to the bottom of that post) back in 2017…

A mayfly–which after a year or so at the bottom of a pond–is born, mates, and dies all on the same day! They seem to think my lily paintings are real leaves–maybe for lack of education in such a short life?

First place, overall excellence

This must be my year for awards, which astounds me because until last year I hadn’t won anything since 2010. Because I’m friends with the judge for this event I had recused myself from award consideration. However, the judge insisted that I accept the award because my work was truly outstanding. I was still hesitant but decided that to make myself feel better (I was really concerned about bad optics of the situation) I would donate the money back to Cass Area Artists and just keep the ribbon and certificate. I didn’t even hang the ribbon up until too many people had asked me who got first place. Much to my relief everyone agreed that I deserved it, so I guess I can set aside my fears of unbridled cronyism for now! There are still two more shows for me this summer season, but thankfully they are a few weeks apart instead of every weekend. Hoping for uneventful events…

Posted in art, awards, Cass Area Artists, exhibit booth, landscape, oil paintings, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Weekend in a Chicago white tent

This was an art festival that I was determined to be a part of even though fate seemed to think otherwise after the windstorm the weekend before crushed some paintings and twisted some tent parts. Miraculously–or so it seemed–I was able to order the tent parts on Monday and receive them on Wednesday. I couldn’t wait longer because Thursday was Independence Day holiday and Friday I had to be in Chicago to set up for the preview show that evening. I was also able to repair the crushed frames and to my surprise the canvases themselves had no damage whatsoever. So here’s my booth at the Chicago Botanical Garden Art Festival in Glencoe, Illinois.

You can see a portion of the left front tent leg which wasn’t exactly perpendicular to the ground. The corner piece that fastens the leg to the roof was the one part I didn’t notice was bent. Lucky for me it wasn’t bent so much as to be useless!

We had a terrific crowd all three days. Sunday, which has a habit of being a rather slow day at most art fairs, was probably the busiest one of all. There were several steps up to one of the garden buildings at one end of my row, and a lake with a fountain at the other end. I climbed the steps to get this shot of the crowd, which was pretty typical most of the time during the three days.

You can’t see much of my tent, but it was the third one down on the right. There were eight lines of tents in all.

Some of my readers may remember that I received an award for outstanding achievement in oil painting at the Barrington Art Festival back in May. Never did I expect to be so honored again. I watched as the festival promoter walked down my row announcing awards, fully expecting her to pass right on by me…when she made a sharp left turn and announced my name and handed me another of those hard-won ribbons…

Award for outstanding achievement in oil painting

The last day in the last moments of the show the event was capped off by a sale! A couple came in and spent considerable time looking, discussing, asking questions, looking some more, discussing some more. Normally after making a very short introductory statement about my art and answering questions I try to make myself scarce. By that I mean that I generally stay in the neighborhood but I might busy myself straightening out crooked paintings or smiling and chatting with passersby, or, in this case sidling over to the booth next door where I could chat but still keep looking out of the corner of my eye at what appeared to be some serious discussion going on with the couple. Sort of like granting privacy in a public space. As I wandered back they came right out and said we want to buy this painting…

Sky Pads 17

Since this one is one of my top two favorites I was overjoyed to see that they had chosen something I myself am in love with!

As a bonus, my booth was also visited by a couple of interior designers looking for a new painting source. They said they were happy to find something that didn’t look so much like most of the art they see every time they come to one of these festivals. And they already had in mind some possible paintings for one of their clients. We’ll have to see what the future brings on that one. It would be great to have a relationship with a business that you know loves your work.

All’s well that ends well!


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