Category Archives: Travel

Join me on an Italian adventure

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Painting near Florence in the Tuscan hills

The calendar has turned to April. Spring feels like hope, even when it’s cold. All those hours of daylight feel like a gift after a long winter. You can hear the song of the birds and everything is golden. The grasses turn the most beautiful gold color when they die, and spring is filled with these monochromatic landscapes. It is always, always beautiful in the woods.

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Plein air painting is on my mind. The British say there is no such thing as bad weather, just ill-prepared clothing. I agree, except when it comes to plein air painting. I’m a wimp about rain and wind whipping at me while my fingers and toes freeze. I’ve yet to find gloves that allow me the movement to paint and warmth at the same time. But some artists do it even in winter. I’ve determined that they are just sturdier than me.  Still, my mindset is starting to lean in that direction, dreaming of time “Up North” with days spent in nature and a happy fur baby by my side. In preparation, I’m doing a lot of drawing — figures and trees — and thinking about the rules: perspective, proportion, light, shadow, gestures, all the things that figure drawing and nature teach you.

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Studying from life

I’m also preparing to leave for Italy in a few weeks. I’ll be in Florence the first week, studying from a live model every morning and in the afternoons visiting the gorgeous art the city holds with an art historian as my guide. The following week, I’ll be in the rolling hills of Tuscany near Lucca. Here, we will spend our mornings painting from life, and our afternoons landscape painting.

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The relationship between these two art forms becomes clearer and clearer to me with time. The undraped human body forces you to be accurate when you’re off: The mistakes jump off the page at you, and nature makes you at least attempt to pay tribute to the rules of art, even if your plan is to break the rules. One must know them to break them.

Florence is a Mecca of classical art, and art schools that teach the classical way. When you’re the birthplace of the Renaissance, I suppose it’s hard to move past that. It’s as if Italy in general watches the striving of the rest the world and sits back in its chair, takes a sip of wine, and says, “You know, we are good. We did, after all, give you the Renaissance and oh so much more. Yup, we are good,” with another sip of wine.

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All that mind-blowing art can make one feel faint!

I hope you’ll join me this month in my preparation and exploration. We will first be traveling without ever leaving home, and then packing our bags for an adventure — an Italian adventure!

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A perfect place to plein air paint

What are the places that have taught you the most? And what places do you think you can learn from? I love hearing your thoughts. Join me on Facebook and Instagram where we can continue the conversation and adventure.

Cheers!

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Two years ago, I spent a month studying in Florence. It was so good, I had to come back for more!

A Fall Guide to Leelanau

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We are really lucky this year. The fall colors are lasting, and as I type, on Oct. 23, color has not quite reached peek in a Leelanau. This is rare, and I think you should take advantage of it and book your trip north. There is still time. Today I heard we are at 70% color; my eye agrees. So good news, people: still lots of fall goodness to be had.  Here’s my must-do fall list for Leelanau.

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I’m always influenced by my latest projects, and having just finished Project 24, a series where I painted on location at all 24 (26, by the time I finished) wineries in the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association. And I just launched a project with the Leelanau Conservancy to paint their protected lands. (A side note: On the Conservancy’s website is a book you can not leave home without, “The Trails of M22: 40 of the Most Beautiful Paths along Michigan’s Most Beautiful Highway.” My copy is dog-eared and very loved after its first season.”
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Fall goodness off of M-22

That being said, here’s how I’d spend a perfect day in Leelanau:
I’d get up early and head down Bohemian Road towards Bohemian Beach. About halfway down the road, you will see swamp lands on both sides of the road, where the cold mornings create some amazing fog and mist. Teamed with fall colors, it’s spectacular.
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Moon rise over the swamplands on Bohemian Road

After you snap your photos, head on down to the beach for a stroll in the magical morning light. Take note of the pine trees lining the shore. They are very expressive and always bring a smile to my face.
You’ll be hungry now, and stoping at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor is how I like to start my days. It’s an experience and by no means a secret. It will be your new favorite dive that’s not really a dive at all.
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Then I’d head down M22 to Clay Cliffs for a hike. The lookout point over Lake Michigan is a breath catcher, and  the view over Lake Leelanau in fall is not to be missed. Enjoy!  I’m excited for you just thinking about it.
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The view of Lake Leelanau from Clay Cliffs

Now that you’re done hiking, you’ve earned a treat: It’s time to hit a few vineyards, many of which serve small plates along with their delicious libations. I’m not biased: They are all wonderful. A few with views that will show off fall colors include L.Mawby and 45 North; both of these vistas are protected by the Leelanau Conservancy. A few others where you can sip and enjoy the  fall color parade are Rove Estate, Black Star Farms and Blustone Vineyards. There are plenty more — just check a few out, and next time you’re up, a few more. They all have maps with all of the wineries listed. They are ALL worth the visit (just not in one day, ha).
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Fall goodness at L. Mawby

The sun is setting earlier these days, but it’s no less extraordinary. Head over to Van’s Beach in Leland to watch the sunset and finish off your day with a meal to remember. You know the saying “October skies”? You’ll see why. But bundle up, it gets cold on Lake Michigan this time of year.
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Dinner time? This is foodie country, so you can’t really go wrong. Since you’re in Leland, the Riverside Inn is always exceptional, but there is so much good food in Leelanau — I recommend them all!
Now, have fun editing up those amazing photos, and patting yourself on the back for throwing caution to the wind and spending the day in Pure Leelanau! Cheers!
As always, I love hearing from you. I hope you’ll post your favorite things to do in the fall in the comments. And to see many more photos, art and adventure, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.