Tag Archives: outside

It’s There Every Day — You Only Have to Look Up



“There is a party in the sky every day, and so many people miss it.” I can’t remember who said this, but when I heard it, it stuck with me. I had always noticed the sky — as an artist, I feel like I notice everything — but the comment prompted me to look closer.

I’m super blessed to live in this amazing place up on a hill, with a expansive view of the sky. It’s really breathtaking. But as an artist, I had not yet “owned” the skies in my painting. I had fun with them, but I didn’t really dive into the sky as a subject. Then something happened … a happy accident.

I have a newfound fascination with plein air painting, and as my prior blog points out, it comes with a learning curve. So in an effort to tackle this thing — painting outside — I ordered an instructional video on the topic online. Or at least I thought I did.


What arrived turned out to be a video offering guidance on how to paint a sky. EUREKA! The video was by Brian Keeler and was a bit dry (with all due respect to his artistic genius) and, at first, I was only half paying attention as I did other things. Then Brian began to really work on his sky, and it was so beautiful: He really dissected all the layers and colors and light, not just pushing paint (which is great fun), but really making me notice the details even more. By the end, I was riveted; I found his skies taking my breath away.


I went into the studio the next day a new person. I had all kinds of energy and a mission: to attack this sky thing. And I did. I set a goal to do 100 paintings by the end of the year where the sky and light are the focus. I’ve done close to 40 already, and I’m having a blast.

As for that view out my backyard — well, it is getting even more closely analyzed by me everyday, and I’m photographing it like crazy and appreciating the beauty even more than ever before.

It forces me to slow down and be really present. I like to say that if you really want to know something, paint it. Look up every day, take a deep breath and enjoy the power and beauty of being right here, right now.

If you would like to join me on my journeys exploring the sky and other adventures, you’re invited to sign up for my email; just click here! You’ll automatically be registered for a monthly drawing for artwork, and you’ll receive great insider information.

If you’d like to get even more interactive, you can sign up for an art class where we can explore the sky and so much more together! For more information, please visit my website’s event page by clicking here.

With gratitude,


Three Reasons Changing It Up Expands You as an Artist



“I am a studio painter,” I have always proudly declared, following it up with, “Plein air is too frustrating; the sun dries the paint too quickly, and the wind blows everything all over. I like my studio.”

That’s what I’d say aloud, but then I’d see plein air painters and find myself envying the time they were able to spend surrounded by nature while exploring their craft.

Nature is good — it’s healing — and outside is where I long to be. So within me, two warring factions were at work: the longing to be in the great outdoors versus the comforts and convenience of my studio.

My avoidance of plein air came to a screeching halt when, this past January, I took a trip to Ethiopia with three other artists. Plein air painting was the major focus, so I had to learn. No more excuses. So I contacted a plein air painter I knew and asked her to show me the ropes.

It is like learning to paint all over again. All my created comforts were gone. I normally use jars of Nova Color paint — many of the colors I mix myself — and my palette is a large piece of plastic on a table next to my painting surface. This can’t be done outside, as the wind blows my plastic over and sends paint flying everywhere … that is, if the sun hasn’t already dried my large dollops of color to a crisp.


I have to learn new ways and habits, and for this endeavor, I had to step out of my comfort zone. I learned that if I used a paper plate for a palette that I held in my left hand, the wind couldn’t blow it away. If I only squeeze out a small amount of paint, the sun won’t dry it before I could use it. Outside, I traded my big, cumbersome Nova Color jars for tubes of paint by Holbein, allowing me to dispense less paint at a time.

It was a challenge, and, I admit, there was some frustration. But I did it.

Successfully accomplishing this new-to-me process in Ethiopia became the impetus for a new project. Today, I started a new series called “Out and About Grand Rapids” — a series meant to force me to go be uncomfortable until it is natural for me — and the rewards have been big so far.


• I was outside today, after a very long, very cold winter. Today I spent the day outside along the river that is my backyard. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and I thought, “YES, this is good!”

• Any time you venture outside of your comfort zone, you expand yourself, and I know I will be a better painter for stumbling through this new practice until I find myself in a new place of really being comfortable painting outside. And that expands my options as a artist in a big way. As an avid traveler, this is a big deal.

• Speaking of travel, painting outside has taught me how painting a place lets you go deeper into that place. I see Ethiopia differently now that I have painted it on location. I have also painted on the Michigan wine trails on location, and the vineyards became even more endearing to me. I felt more connected to the land than I ever have before. And now, painting in my own backyard and around the city I live in — well, it’s priceless.


So whether you are a painter or not, whatever scares you, whatever you resist, I encourage you to move towards it and you will be rewarded!

I invite you to follow me this summer as I continue my journey from painting around my home town of Grand Rapids to stealing time away “Up North” on my beloved Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula, expanding my understanding and getting comfortable with being, at times, uncomfortable.

Cheers to learning, growing and being expanded!