Celebrating Plants

IMG_0821 2When I was in my first year of college, a friend of mine put Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers into my hands and taught me how to use the key system to identify the wildflowers we were finding. 

It was the beginning of my life-long love of plants. I enrolled in botany courses and, having decided I would become a botanical illustrator, I took my portfolio of plant drawings to the University of Michigan herbarium. 

To my delight, I was given a job, not with flowering plants, as I had expected, but with Sphagnum mosses.  For the next year I made pen and ink drawings of the mosses and cross-sections of their leaves, working with a microscope and camera lucida, stippling in shading with a crow quill pen.

I've forgotten much of what I learned in my botany classes, but my love of plants is undiminished. In fresh bloom, or in the skeletal remains of last year’s roadside weeds, even the simplest forms of plants achieve an elegance in their own right; that is what I’ve tried to capture in my latest paintings.  

Juneau CARES ArtWorks Grant Award

In December 2020, the Juneau Cares Artworks program sought proposals from local artists for public art in Juneau.  It felt like the continuation of a great tradition, an extension of the Works Project Administration (WPA), and I am honored to have been selected to participate.


I painted two three by four foot canvases that can be shown individually or as a single eight foot wide painting. My goal was to create an immersion experience in colors and images inspired by fireweed, specifically, the progression of fireweed, from seed to flower. 
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As one of the first colonizers of a devastated landscape, fireweed is a symbol of rebirth, and a reminder that, despite our current hard times, things will get better again.


Plein Air Painting in a Rainy Climate

You would think that record breaking rainfall might put a damper on outdoor painting, but that just hasn't happened!  Due, in large part, to “the buddy system,” my painting in Juneau's rainy climate has continued without a break.  Making commitments to meet and work with my friends and fellow artists, rain or shine, has kept the dark and wet summer lively and bright; getting outdoors to hike and paint has kept up my spirits up through Juneau's rainiest summer in history.


A collection of my summer work will be shown at the Annie Kaill Gallery in Juneau in December.  I have posted a preview in my photo album on this site labeled, “2020, Summer Paintings." My recent paintings can also be seen on my Instagram account.

Details, Details!

Sure, the big picture is important, the overview, but there is joy in the details!  I've been having so much fun in my new studio!  I'll post an album of my recent work, but, in the meanwhile, here's a preview...details of my newest paintings.



Roadside Attractions

I can't imagine a more scenic road system than the one we have here in Juneau, Alaska.  No billboards allowed; instead, attractions include shimmering waterways, majestic mountain ranges, a busy fishing fleet, and the salmon themselves, jumping free of the sea only to slap down hard again. The seals poke their heads up from the sea and the whales spout in the distance. For a Plein air artist, there is nothing more satisfying than to take a little bit of all that home with you; the sights, sounds and scents, are all wrapped up in the painting of the day.


For painting watercolors outdoors, the weather this spring has been wonderfully cooperative; it's a tricky medium in rain country, and I've yet to find an umbrella that will stay put in the usual accompanying winds.  But, no worries this week!  The weather continues fair for the holiday.  Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

A collection of my small watercolors will be shown at Kaill's next First Friday event, July 6, 2018.

New Work Featured at Coppa, First Friday, June 1st, 2018

In a weaving, one set of fibers is strung on a loom in a consistent parallel spacing, while the other set wraps around them, creating a design or pattern. The warp is the steady constant; the weft is the variable element; the options are limited only by the imagination of the weaver.

My new paintings are a different kind of weaving; the variable element comes in the initial color glazes as pigments blend, pool, travel and interact. After guiding initial washes by tilting the board, blotting, brushing, and drying, I weave in specific, structured, and representational imagery. The warp and the weft here are color and image, the weaving is a blend of abstraction and represention.

Coppa will feature my new paintings and the paintings of Barbara Craver on First Friday, June 1st, 2018. There will be an opening on that date from 4:00 to 6:00 pm and the paintings will be on display through the month of June.  I hope you can stop by.

The Fever

It's been only a few weeks since Spring Equinox and already the days in
Alaska have become luxuriously long. Suddenly we have more hours of
daylight to work and spend outdoors. A recent stretch of sunny dry weather,
following what seemed like a particularly long dark winter, brought on a
fury of activity-- in the home, garden, and studio. At home, I tackled
Spring Cleaning at a frantic, fevered pitch and in the studio, I dealt with the sorry
half of "win some, lose some," that unfortunate stack of paintings I'd
accumulated over the winter that just didn't work. I hauled them into the yard to determine what might be saved. For work on canvas, sometimes only the stretcher bars can be salvaged, but Gessobords can be sanded down to the original surface and re-gessoed to make way for new and better work.


Inside my new studio, I've installed shelves and a pegboard on the wall in
the eternal quest for organization. I washed the windows, cleared drawers
of junk, and sorted and cleaned brushes. Best of all, I've assembled a
travel kit, hanging by the door, ready to grab and go. In it I've packed
paint, brushes, easel, water, sketchbook, pens, pencils, and bug dope in
anticipation of the next sunny day. The fever is broken; it's time to ditch the broom and dust cloth, and venture out with those beautiful new painting surfaces, so full of potential and promise.

Living in the Moment

Sure. Yes. Live in the moment. But...I also need to set goals for the future! Goals are what motivate me. In my work as an artist, it is thinking ahead to scheduled shows that gets me into the studio. Life is a playground of distractions: books to read, a garden that needs work, cleaning and organizing, meeting friends for walks and swimming; activities that require living in the moment, being physically and emotionally present.


Yet, once I'm at work at the easel, living in the moment, the moment slips right out of the space/time continuum and I am nolonger present. Deep into a painting, I disappear into what the work demands. I see and obey. The painting requires color here, lines there,shapes here and there, more color, more lines, more, more, more, until it's three in the morning and I've had no sense of the passage of time.


And when I return to the studio and see the painting, I study it in wonder. How
did I do that? How did it end up the way did? How? The answer is inexplicably simple; the painting told me where to go and what to do, and even managed to stop time while I was working at it. Weird! Awesome! Hard to get started. Hard to stop. If not for working toward the future, I would never experience getting so lost in the moment.

Plein Aire Extraordinare

Forget painting in the quiet evening sunset by the side of a slow flowing canal, trees swaying in unison with the passing of a warm breeze; forget painting outside the café, sipping strong coffee, watching the light change on the cathedral across the square or on fields of grain and haystacks in the sunset. Of course, Monet did it all, and so well, in the loveliest of circumstances...well, okay, he did have the pressure of needing to feed a large family by brush alone. But, forget Monet. Who goes painting en plein aire in Alaska in December

My art buddies, that's who! Sometimes it takes more than one artist to make some paint come out of the tube. That's where the art buddy system comes into play; our mantra, "If you'll go, I will, too," is really put to the test in winter.


We dress in layers, layers, and more layers, and end up looking very much alike in our long coats, multiple scarves, hats, and gloves. All but one of us, one who is impervious to the cold; she who sits at her easel wearing a jaunty straw boater as the wind whips the icy cold water on the channel into tiny cyclones that speed north toward town.

The rest of us, after a walk up and down the beach and around the old mining buildings, beat a retreat to the relative warmth and shelter of our car, there to devour a picnic of scones with jam and butter, a treat provided by our good friend and neighbor who knew better than to actually join us.


We took photos, made sketches, and banged our hands together in futile attempts to get our blood flowing down to our fingertips while our intrepid friend completed her small oil painting. Not a lot of art was committed onto paper or canvas that day, but, dazzled by the beauty of sunshine sparkling on the water, ice on the beach, and fresh snow on the mountains, we went home with our fellowship confirmed and our heads full of imagery that might someday become paintings, but that was already securely locked into our memory banks.

New Digs



There is a corner of my little lot that has an unsurpassed view of Mt. Juneau. From inside my home, you can't see the mountain at all, but from that corner, the view is spectacular. I've been planning a little studio/view room for that corner for years. I have files and drawers overflowing with careful drawings of floor plans and elevations, photos from magazines, and books about cabins and tiny houses; I've talked to builders, looked at portables, DIY kits, and searched the Internet for ideal little structure. Then, one day on Craigslist, I found a little building for sale that would suit me perfectly. The roof line matched that of my home. It was well built and in my budget. Most amazingly, the seller would help me move it to my home.


This simple 8'x12' structure came to me like a life ring. Cast out of my studio downtown because of remodeling, I was without a decent place to work. Having infinite possibilities and a minimal budget had left me petrified; there were too many choices and there was not enough moolah to make any of them from scratch. Before my new studio came to me, I was trapped in the Paradox of Choice.


In the process of preparing the foundation pad, my energy reached new heights. In the cold rain of October, I built a frame, dug out the soil, and filled it in with three tons of gravel and four tons of sand, wielding my my little shovel and pushing my wheelbarrow with real joy. We pulled the building off the trailer with a truck and pushed it across the yard on scavenged PVC pipes.


After years, literally, of planning so many structures, it was a huge relief to be presented with a simple, ready made, solution! I'm so grateful to the young man who sold me this building and helped me move it with infinite care and a hearty can-do attitude. I've added insulation, and got myself back in the habit of showing up for work! Come spring, I'll add a few more windows, and pull in some more of that spectacular view.