The rediscovery of my love for Plein Air Painting is now complete. I spent 2 weeks driving around Coeur d’Alene ID and painting outside. The beauty of where we live has brought my artist’s soul back to life. The art expedition involved multiple trips, cruising around, and sightseeing till I noticed a great view. Then, stopping to hop out, set up the easel, and paint my heart out.

Barn Elkhorn Flats H0523
10″w x 8″h watercolor on 140lb wc paper/board cradle. Old barn in the prairie where Elkhorn Flats Wildlife Mitigation Unit is in Idaho.

3 Paintings

This was the first plein air I did during the art expedition. An old barn stopped me on the road and I had to back up to go see it. The old barn won an honorable mention ribbon and was the first painting sold in our booth.

Roadside Centurian Stump
11″h x 14″ w oil on stretched canvas. Stump on slow vehicle turnout from Hwy 97 E side of Lake Coeur d’Alene ID 23.2 miles from I-90

I pulled into a slow vehicle turn out to let traffic go by, and this guy greeted me right up front and center. What a personality this tree stump has. He didn’t win a ribbon but there was one young man who fell in love with it. He went off and brought back his whole family to vote for it as the people’s choice.

Blooming Wet H0723
11″w x 14″h x .75″d watercolor, acrylic & ink on 140lb wc paper/boar cradle. A wetland about 25 miles south on Hwy 97, full of blooming lilly ponds, grasses and wildlife named Thompson Refuge in Idaho.

This painting won the “People’s Choice” award for the plein air booth. Bloomin Wet is a close-up view from the bank of the water full of blooming lily pods, grasses, reeds, and lots of mosquitos.

1 Demo Painting

sunflower As described in a previous post, I did a demo of plein air painting from some fresh sunflowers in the booth during the Art on the Green show.

Single Sunflower
4″ x 4″ wc on 140 lb paper from a plein air demo at the Art on the Green booth.

This small 4″ x 4″ demo sold. There is another partially done one that I intend to finish in the studio. I’ll share about that when it is done.

Surprise Treasure

Kylie's Bluebird DayWe received a surprise treasure in the mail today. It is a perfect rendering of a magnificent ‘BLUEBIRD DAY OF SKIING” at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort in Chewelah last year. Kylie, you are an amazing artist, thank you! I look forward to more art by you, especially in this subject.

Pete and I had the privilege of teaching our granddaughters to ski years ago on this same hill. Many years have passed and both of these great girls have families of their own now. They are some of the dearest individuals in our lives.

Last year, we had the triple privilege of helping to teach Nick, Jace, and Kylie skiing fundamentals. Can you believe it, grandson, and great-grandkids? We were able to ski with all four of them while we enjoyed some of the most beautiful days up on that hill last year. It ain’t easy to learn how to ski but it is truly worth the effort. It is unexpressible to try and describe the happiness that they all had. Pete and I always have loved to ski.

“Ski Bums” and proud of it. We are addicts, that is all there is to it.  Any day of skiing beats almost anything else out in winter. We are aging and sometimes the aches and pains get our attention in the evenings, but that does not take the joy away that skiing down pristine winter landscapes gives us. The views, endless gorgeous skyline, crisp wind in the face, and the butterflies fluttering in your belly as you challenge yourself coming down the slope. The absolute best fun you can have without having to worry about having bail money handy.

Sarah, you still ski like a dream. Thank you for including us in your family outings, we love sharing this fun with you.

Huckleberry Moose

Huckleberry Moose H3906Huckleberry Moose H3906 is painted on a 5-foot diameter wooden electrical spool using acrylic house paints. At the Stanek’s Nursery “Fall Living” art event in 2006, I was one of the invited artists. The whole idea was to allow artists creating “garden art” to visit with the shoppers at the nursery during the show.

After getting over being nervous about painting in front of people, I found that it is a lot of fun to talk with customers as I paint. This moose walking through the huckleberry bushes was a fun image to create.


Many people pick huckleberries here in the inland northwest. It is amazing how many great stories the berry pickers among us have to share about the wildlife that they encounter as we walk the mountaintops. Moose are not quiet as they crash through the bush looking for berries. I am definitely not alone in this yearly journey up into the hills.

Many fond memories are created at any art show where I am able to set up and paint during the day. It helps me to deal with having to talk to so many strangers.

These kinds of shows allow me to actually do what I most enjoy. Create Art.

This wooden spool art was given to a friend of mine, Margaret, who absolutely loved the “moose”. She was a moose gal. Over the years, I got her many moose-themed cards, gave her a pencil rendering of a mural idea that had moose, a moose coffee cup, moose-dropping candy bought in Glacier Lake Montana. They even had a moose lamp in her living room. Anyhow, I remember how her face lit up when we put this in her garden. She has since passed and I miss her terribly. But, I cherish her memory whenever I see this painting.


Dinosaur 02

Dinosaur 02

Stegosaurus T-Rex 08There is a clear definition of who is who in the two characters in the dinosaur fight at this point. So, my focus moves to the use of my watercolor pencils to render foliage, grasses, and outlines along the darkest edges of the animals. When you look at the lines created with the pencils here they seem very dull but wait till you see how a little spray of water brings the color vibrancy right up.Stegosaurus T-Rex 14 After a simple spray from my water mister, the colors start to show so very bright. I am able to blend and move the color any way I’d like with my watercolor brushes from here. Stegosaurus T-Rex 12The next step for me is to put a pallet of acrylic paints to make final details with. The brightest highlights are first. Then careful rounding of the teeth surfaces, dotting of the skin scales and delicate whites of their eyes. It is amazing to watch how careful changes in water content change the opacity of the acrylic paint. I can have a fully opaque or transparent application with just a minor change in water content.Stegosaurus T-Rex 11 The last two images show how the foreground can be loosely finished using a combination of watercolor pencil strokes and paint strokes to help fill it all in. Stegosaurus T-Rex 10I ended up giving this dinosaur painting to a grand-nephew visiting us named Jonah. The finished painting can be seen anytime at the artist’s website gallery.

Dinosaur 01

Dinosaur 01

Stegosaurus T-Rex 02Welcome to Dinosaur 01 tutorial. Dinosaurs are a subject that I have illustrated previously.  Here is the initial sketch of a dinosaur layout.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 03You can see the horizon line skyline wash and the neutral ground surface watercolor wash outlining where they are standing. I thought a Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex facing off would be interesting subjects to paint. I imagine an armored vegetarian with a spiked tail facing off with a ferocious meat-eater that has tiny little front arms.

This fight could never have taken place.

Remember that the T-Rex didn’t show up till millions of years after the Stegosaurus had already gone extinct. Neither of these characters was alive at the same time period.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 04Even though the basic reptile skin will be in greens I use a red or brown base to lay in where the darker shadows will be on their body forms first.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 05Beginning with T-Rex’s body surfaces it immediately becomes apparent that the tail of Mr. Stegosaurus could easily get real lost in all the T-Rex surfaces in the immediate vicinity. So, I find myself being really careful about how I keep the two separated.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 07I use different colors to separate their surfaces. A sepia brown-based green on T-Rex makes a noticeable difference between his tail behind. The horned tail of the Stegosaurus is darkened with magenta around his armor plates.


Scarecrow Cutout

Painting a Scarecrow Cutout for Halloween at our church “Trunk or Treat”. If I only had a brain… 6’x3′ acrylic on cardboard with cutouts for faces. Scarecrow, black cat, and pumpkin.

scarecrow 004
If I only had a brain… 6’x3′ acrylic on cardboard with cutouts for faces. Scarecrow, black cat, and pumpkin.

Painting a Scarecrow Cutout for Halloween at our church “Trunk or Treat”. If I only had a brain… 6’x3′ acrylic on cardboard with cutouts for faces. Scarecrow, black cat, and pumpkin.

scarecrow 001I used a piece of cardboard saved from an appliance box that I cut into flat sheets to paint a Halloween scene. First, laying out a scarecrow sitting on a fence rail with his feet on a large pumpkin and of course a black cat right next to him.

scarecrow 002Using pencil and then charcoal my layout lines are drawn well enough to serve as guides for painting to proceed. Painting with acrylics the background area is filled in showing better outlines of the other characters.

scarecrow 003Then it is simply a process of finishing all the other items from top to bottom.

Once the paints have dried, I am then able to go ahead and cut out the face of the scarecrow and the mouth opening of the pumpkin to allow people to pose for pictures behind the cutouts.

Different Approaches to White Heron

Great White Heron photograph
Great White Heron photograph by
Elise Beattie.


Finding different approaches to painting this beautiful Great White Heron is what our Fearless Painting class guru, Elise Beattie, has challenged us over the weekend. This is some beautiful photography Elise Beattie!

If we choose to accept this assignment…. this challenge will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Great White Heron Pen & Ink
Great White Heron Pen & Ink

Initially, I do a quick black and white study in my sketchbook with a gel pen (nothing special).

sketch Great White Heron
sketch of Great White Heron for a watercolor

I scrounge around in the studio to find a leftover piece of watercolor paper from a project to work on. This simply means there is a surprise ink drawing on the back of the sheet for anyone purchasing the image. Kind of a two-for-one prize for the art collector, you know. I decided on a much closer view for this Heron rendering in watercolor. The dimensions are taken off of my B&W sketch.

Proportional Divider
Drafting Proportional Divider

When I want accuracy, I have to grease those crazy artist mind gears. I break out a tool from the old drafting days that will ensure correct results twice as big on the watercolor paper. The tool I use is called a “Precision Deluxe Proportional Divider”  (made in Germany).

Would you like a tutorial about how to use this tool in another post on this blog? Leave me a comment if you do. It is unlikely that anyone is dying to learn how to do this though.

Proportional Divider in German
Prop Divider instructions in German

On the instruction sheet, there are some really useful instructions in German on the flip side, just in case you were wondering. How is your German? Mine is terrible.

I do anticipate making a third layout today using a different approach with acrylics on a canvas board, but I haven’t gotten there yet. First, I need to finish my piano practice.

Online Fearless Painting Class

Monochromatic Assignments
Monochromatic Assignments


I have not been known to be very fearful as far as my art is concerned, but I recently signed up for a class called Fearless Painting. What are my worst fears? Being an artist is what I am and always will be, but…

How do I sell the art that I am always creating?

After facing some “real” health issues, a lot of activities have had to be re-learned. It was noticeable that my creativity felt stymied. I really needed a little boost. This &#(@^$% quarantine is still in effect, so getting a weekly in-person class becomes impossible. I noticed that a friend of mine named Elise Beattie, from Spokane Watercolor Society was offering a two-hour online class on Tuesday nights through the Spokane Community College which I signed up for.

Fearless Painting with Elise Beattie

I am not quite finished with the acrylic “abstract” & a landscape of a “mountain view” that were started in last Tuesday night’s online Fearless Painting Class. We are using a primary color pallet allowing tinted MONOCHROMATIC values. Fun, fun, fun!  I love value studies.

Slavin Conservation Area

Slavin Conservation Area SouthWe went to the James T. Slavin Conservation Area just, off of highway 195 yesterday. I was able to go and paint Plein air with some friends from our Spokane Watercolor Club.  It was really chilly 24º F, but did warm up to 40º around noon. It was surprising how close to Spokane this park is. The conservation area covers a lot of ground (600+ acres) with a lot of different natural wonders to see. I was able to paint two sketch images while I stood on a little knoll directly in front of the parking lot.

Slavin Conserv 01First a Watercolor Sketch

I painted while looking south standing upon the first knoll near the parking lot for the first plein air image. It had meadow grasses with scattered burgundy bunches of bush, then going off into into where the forest pine and birch tree line appears. I made a rudimentary watercolor sketch of this scene, but stopped there, as my watercolors and  water were freezing. But, when the other artist’s arrived, I learned about a trick that stops that from happening. I love painting with other artists, because, you always learn something helpful from each other. If you want to know the secret, you’ll have to come paint with us to learn. 🙂

Slavin Conservation Area West
Slavin Conservation Area West
Slavin Conserv 02
Slavin Conservation Area 02

Second is an Acrylic Sketch

The second image is painted using acrylic paint on a canvas board. Standing at the same location but turned to face west where a pair of pines flanked the left side, with grasslands reaching off into a distant treeline and hill silhouette behind. These colors are a little tricky to get right, but are quite beautiful when it comes out right. Neither of these plein air sketches are any way near finished, but the scenes are embedded in my mind and I am sure I’ll be able to finish them in my studio.

I am not up to strenuous hiking, but thankfully this area is easily accessible with parking close by so it was a totally rejuvenating day. Being able to paint with other painters has revitalized the artist in me. It was surprising how many people walk their dogs there. There is also evidence of a lot of horse hoof prints on the trails. In about a month, that whole field is going to be covered with wildflowers, one of the local ladies told me .


Next month sounds like a great time to schedule another plein air painting trip there. Yep, I’m looking forward to it.


Orange Rufous Hummingbird

Painting an orange Rufous Hummingbird hovering over a honeysuckle vine. I thought I’d get out the acrylics for a few “favorite things” paintings. Consequently, the subject manner falls back to one of my all-time favorites. Hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Orange Rufous 4
14″w x 11″h acrylic on stretched canvas. Acrylic rendering of an orange Rufous Hummingbird hovering over an orange honeysuckle vine.

Vine Background

We feed these hummers all summer long and enjoy sitting on the deck admiring them. Above, is the finished painting. Following, are the progress shots of the acrylic painting process for me.

Hummingbird Orange Rufous B0520
14″w x 11″h acrylic on stretched canvas.

Beginning with background darks using mixtures of hookers green, phalo green, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, and alizarin crimson in a haphazard cross stroke pattern. Carefully blocking out the location of my “flying hummer star” on the lower third right corner.

Adding Depth

Hummingbird Orange Rufous 2
14″w x 11″h acrylic on stretched canvas. Acrylic rendering of an orange Rufous Hummingbird hovering over an orange honeysuckle vine.

Next, I experiment with leaf shapes and brighter values for the surfaces closest to the main attraction. Similarly, I proceed to brighten specific leaves that serve as a background for the flashy orange honeysuckle blossom being positioned next. I want to see the depth to the vine behind.

Hummingbird & Blossom

Hummingbird Orange Rufous 3
14″w x 11″h acrylic on stretched canvas. Acrylic rendering of an orange Rufous Hummingbird hovering over an orange honeysuckle vine.

Now, is when I select where I want to place the up close blossom along with some scattered hints of more in the background. Also, the hummingbird shapes and values are defined. The layout works for my eyes, so I proceed.


Hummingbird Orange Rufous 4
14″w x 11″h acrylic on stretched canvas. Acrylic rendering of an orange Rufous Hummingbird hovering over an orange honeysuckle vine.

What follows is numerous lighting tweaks, along with the details on my winged magician, “Mr. Orange Rufous Hummingbirds“. This bright orange guy is now hovering on the canvas. The finished shot of this acrylic painting is the first one in the post. If you are interested in learning more about hummingbirds, check out the Audubon page here.