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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Time out for horses


Mac and Jacques, painted from Mary Landry Decker’s original photo.

Mary was a long-time client of my barn manager Wendy, and they are still great friends. So when Mac crossed the rainbow bridge to join Jacques a few weeks back, Wendy wanted a painting of them together for Mary. Fortunately for me, one of Mary’s beautiful photos (she’s a pro) of them running together has been hanging in our barn office for years. The photo was originally of a trio, the third horse being one of Wendy’s favorites. So I worked the composition a bit to remove the third horse and push these two a tiny bit closer together.

I had to wait for the gifting to happen before I could post, and Wendy reported back to me yesterday that I did a good job–meaning Mary cried when she received the painting. That’s probably the only time sadness paradoxically makes me feel good.

This one is an 8″ x 10″ oil painting on 3/4″ cradled Gessobord™.

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Is someone trying to tell me something?

I spent two sultry sticky suffocating days at the inaugural Valparaiso Art Festival. Which would have been fine except for a couple of problematic details—but let’s do the good stuff first.

The event was in a popular location, had a good assortment of artists and crafters and, best of all it had a wonderful 2-man band who somehow managed to play the best music all day long in spite of the heat. There was super attendance too, which is really appreciated at a first-ever event.


I had issued a Facebook challenge to my Indiana peeps to see who could actually show up on this overheated weekend. A couple of friends I hadn’t seen in years surprised me by driving half way across Indiana to get there…behold, Ward and Kay!


Things would have been fine if the weather hadn’t suddenly changed mid-Sunday afternoon. We got word that some nastiness was headed our way with wind gusts up to 70 mph. Not good news for vendors sitting in tents and surrounded with potentially deadly merchandise. We were told to start breaking down right away, which I did. I got all my paintings off the walls and was in the process of ferrying them to my truck when a huge wind event hit us. I managed to get two loads into my truck and when I returned for the last one I could see that my tent, although heavily weighted, had been lifted up and dumped on its front, trapping the last paintings underneath it in the process. The wind was so strong I could hardly make my way over there and stuff was flying around like crazy. Somehow it was basically over in just a few minutes—but my thought was if it was going to go away so fast why did it bother to show up in the first  place.

I did not stop to take any photos of the wreckage. However, I was quite lucky that none of my paintings were damaged, not even the ones trapped under the tent frame. Two of them had some frames cracked but the paintings themselves were safe. The tent, not quite so good. I will have to order a few replacement parts and hope I get them in time for my next show. Two leg extenders, one complete leg, and two stabilizer bars.


I ought to be, and am, glad that so few parts were damaged considering the beating that tent endured. Now all I have to do is get the warning light that came on in my truck on the way home attended to…wonder what the third thing will be???

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OMG #23!

Sky Pads 23–background

This is the first time I’ve been able to create a paint pour background that runs in two different directions. I have something special in mind for the lily pads which will accompany it but will wait for viewers telling me what they see rather than giving it away ahead of time. I really adore the motion in this one!

Posted in art, landscape, light, oil paintings, painting techniques, Poured paint, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Weekend in an antique gas station

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember this place–it was originally a gas station, then became a victim of neglect, then was resurrected as a nostalgic tribute to the 50’s gas station. It has now become the site of the “Dino Project” (look closely to see the Sinclair dinosaur on the roof) whose aim is to provide an art space for the benefit of the entire community. Cass Area Artists held a show here last October, and we did it again this past weekend in conjunction with the Village of Cassopolis, Michigan, which sponsored a concurrent art walk.

We had work from 13 artists and artisans filling the garage space and also were lucky to have our own sugar source in the person of local baker Phyllis who supplied artists and visitors with a copious array of cookies, muffins, and bread.

Cookie lady (and a lot more). Anybody for a rhuberry (rhubarb and blueberry!) muffin?

I’m just going to hit the highlights here because 13 exhibitors is a lot to talk about and if you know me, you know I’m not going to write a really long blog post except under duress!

It was a good day for kids as a local 4-H group huddled around wood turner Neil Benham’s table. First let me show you the lovely work he does–and mention that Cass Area Artists is going to raffle off one of his gorgeous bowls at our summer show on July 20–and I won’t say that I’m exactly “stuffing the ballot box” but I really want this bowl so I bought a couple dozen tickets for myself.

Neil’s turned wood. I love his business card holder!

Fourteen 4-H kids learned a lot in just a few minutes.

The kids learned about various types of wood and the patterns each produces, how a lathe is used to turn the wood, and the care of the wood after it becomes a functional object. They were really astounded by the smooth velvety surface of a finished piece.

A couple of our Cass Area Artists members chose to do some on-site demos for the show. One of our purposes as an organization is to bring an understanding of how an artist actually works to the community at large. People can be intimidated by something they know little about, but a demo usually opens up the opportunity for questions and education.

Sharron set up an easel in the corner of her space and painted all day!

China painter Diane worked with the tiniest brushes known to man…I didn’t ask her, but I’m pretty sure that’s a deviled egg plate she is putting the most delicate of painted flowers on.

Diane does more than paint–she creates the most intriguing “drums” I’ve ever seen. They’re made from natural gourds, with the drum head on the larger ones made of hide and on the smaller ones of a synthetic material. The size and shape of the gourds, along with the type of drum head, determine the pitch and reverberation characteristics of each one. They each have a long metal spring-like tail embedded in the drum head. So…you ask…what the heck do they sound like? You shake them instead of beating them! They aren’t called “thunder drums” for nothing! The large ones rumble and throb and the smaller ones crack and spit and whine! How quickly or hard you shake them will also change the sound. I would put up a link to the sound but I couldn’t find any that sounded as good as Diane’s drums!

Thunder drums!! They’re kind of hard to see, hanging from their display tree. So I circled them for you.

One of my favorite artisans is Diana (we have a lot of “D” names in the Cass Area Artists group–but bear with me, this is Diana with an “a”, who makes the cutest whimsical dolls on the planet). Everything is completely hand made–cut out, sewn together, stuffed, glued, and painted. At the last show I bought a bunch of hand made pumpkins from her (it was October, after all). So of course I had to buy something this time around too. All of her ideas are original, and the little mouse sitting on the trap contemplating the cheese was irresistible.

Diana and her helper Roz having a little fun. Check out the mouse next to the orange arrow, right below Diana’s hand on the left side of the photo.

So I suppose you are wondering where my work is? I put three paintings in this show, but my main “work” was really installing the paintings of all the artists. This building, as you can see, has lots of windows (yay!) but no real walls to hang anything on. So I came up with a system using small-gauge unobtrusive chain zip-tied to rails running above the windows. The paintings hang on the chains by S-hooks wrapped around very small screws on the back of the top corners of the painting frames. It’s a totally adjustable system and so far it’s worked really well for us.

The windows make the paintings look like they’re floating.

My three “floaters” are on the far left.

Early morning, just as we opened up the big garage doors. For once, the Michigan weather was perfect!


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Weekend in a white tent

I spent the weekend perched on a director’s chair in my vendor booth in Barrington, Illinois. This is renowned horse country, but I was not selling horse paintings. Rather, I was basking in the soft light of Sky Pads. Most of the time. When it wasn’t raining. Here’s a little corner of my booth.

My Trimline booth has a skylight feature that makes it perfect for art even on an overcast day.

It was alternately rainy, windy, and delightfully sunny. You can see my tablecloth trying to lift off in the photo. Both days it rained from about 10 till noon, then was patchy sun the rest of the time. During the rainy periods there were a few brave souls out with umbrellas and raincoats, but as soon as the sun appeared it seemed like everyone had been hiding in the stores that lined the street where the art booths were. All of a sudden the streets were swarming with people.

Looking north.

Looking south. It was really a lot more jammed than this, but I didn’t feel like climbing up on my chair to get a more overhead view.

Surprise! I won something!

Award for overall achievement in oil painting

The award came with more than just a ribbon–a free booth at an upcoming show thankfully a lot closer to home than Barrington. That’s $350 worth of booth space! I’ll take it!

I had many, many conversations with festival-goers. Mainly I wanted to know what attracted them to my booth; that way I could find out if what I was trying to convey in my paintings was having the intended effect. The first comment from a visitor was almost always “the colors”, emphasized with a definitive nod of the head. The second most popular comment was a feeling of peace, relaxation, calmness. Several people also noted a bit more complex observation which surprised me with the consistency among commenters–they noticed the white misty quality of some of the paintings and felt that it helped separate them from the intensity of the painting, or kept the strong colors from hitting them in the face, or a combination of these two elements created a transparent depth that made their eyes explore the entire painting. Wow!

Posted in art, awards, exhibit booth, exhibit opportunity, landscape, oil paintings, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Probably ripe (cranberry)

I think it’s finished. Unless I have sudden thoughts to the contrary.

It was a long meditation to decide what color would work with that bit of muddy background that I started with. Below are photos from the beginning up till the one above. All that cranberry at first looked too brilliant to make a good partner to the mud, but in the end toning it down seems to have worked.

So I guess some of you may be wondering how I toned it down. It was not a likely color combination, but since I only have 12 colors on my palette it’s pretty easy to intuit what combination might do the trick (once I’ve decided which direction to go, that is). In this case, I mixed the tiniest bit of phthalo blue into mars red and used that mix in various states of transparency to lay over the original magenta.

The one oddball colored pad in the center is there on purpose. It was different from its companions in the source photograph and I liked the fact that it lent a bit of curiosity and variety to the painting. I used the same color mix for it as for the rest of the painting, but with the proportions reversed–mostly phthalo blue with a bit of mars red.

I’ve spent a few decades playing around with all the combinations my 12 colors can produce. It’s nothing I invented. It just happened that the classes I took for years with my mentor were done with a color system he recommended. The paints and the mixing system were the product of a company in Australia that stopped being available in the USA years ago and I don’t think the company exists any longer. Most of the paints were toxic! Fortunately I’ve been able to locate safer oil paints over the years. I really like the fact that I only need to purchase 12 colors to make just about any other color I could possibly want! Keeps my palette a lot neater too.

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