So what exactly is Plein Air Painting?

I joined a group of Plein Air painters last spring. I am pretty happy with my latest attempt.

Plein Air painting apple tree and fields

What exactly is Plein Air?

Well according to Wikipedia: En plein air is a French expression which means “in the open air” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif (“painting of the object(s) or what the eye actually sees”) in French.

To me that definition is correct but a bit bland. My definition from my experience would also have to include this list: Camaraderie with friends, challenging your mosquito or gnat threshold, battling mother nature, sun, rain, wind, too hot, too cold, constant changing of light and shadows, having aha moments, juggling all your gear, and the pure joy of painting in nature.

This year I am making some progress. I am getting a little faster. I am understanding the medium of working with oils a little more. I was more familiar with Acrylics, and oils had a learning curve for sure. I find it interesting how you can have a plan of how to paint a scene, but once you get started sometimes it turns out totally different. Sometimes a happy accident and it works. Sometimes – not so much.

Every painting is a chance to learn something new and to build on your skills. There are Plein Air groups all over the country. Grab your paints and tag along – you will be hooked before you know it.

Would love to hear your comments …

Acrylic Painting … or Illustration

I take a lot of reference photos and once in awhile I will get a shot that just needs to be put on canvas. The Barn was a photo I snapped a couple summers ago.

Acrylic Painting The Barn

When painting my whimsical characters like silly birds I tend to be methodical, finishing one area before going on to the next.  When painting landscapes I am trying to get an overall feel for the color and then come back in with detail.

I am also trying to loosen up my painting style and be a little more “painterly” as opposed to illustrating with paint.  I envy artists that have a loose style and can paint quickly with lots of expressive strokes.  So far I have been able to speed up the amount of time it takes to finish a painting.

The Barn painting step 1

The Barn painting step 2

The Barn painting step 3

I am happy with the way this painting turned out but it definitely has an illustrative style and not the painterly style I had first envisioned. More practice – more experimenting – more painting fun.

This design is available on Cards, Prints, and Canvas.

Something New – Coffee Series …

This little series of 4 Coffee paintings was just for fun and to play with different colors.  Sometimes you just have to play with paint and see where it goes.  I usually plan out my paintings in detail but for these I just started putting down color and winged it.  I did enjoy going with the flow and plan to do some more just for fun series pieces.

Maybe something for the wine lovers next time …

So – here they are in the order they were created.

Coffee Break Blog post

Who isn’t in need of this on a regular basis!

Java Cards Blog post

Something a little more festive … visual caffeine!

CupOJoe Blog Post

This felt like a Cup o’ Joe at the local diner.

Morning Mud Blog Post

Morning Mud is for those who make that first cup of coffee so strong that their spoon stands up.

These would look great in your kitchen or breakfast nook! I will be at the Spread Eagle Art show on Sunday July 20 … down behind the Chuck Wagon 9am – 3pm. Stop by and see me!

Field trip to the Alpaca Farm – book illustration

girl knitting with alpaca

I have been working on some color studies for my next book – Field trip to the Alpaca Farm. The story is written down and the text has been mapped out. I have about half of it sketched in chicken scratch. I am just starting to do the real drawing and color mapping. This illustration isn’t a finished product – but you can see where it’s going.

I still haven’t decided how I am going to do this … Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter 5, or Old School with pen and ink, acrylic wash, and colored pencil. They would all work – but they would all come out looking so different. I may just play with this illustration in all 4 styles and see which one I like best.

Luckily, I don’t have to decide today. I would love to hear your comments …

Playing in Photoshop



This is my latest doodle in Photoshop. It is a fun program – I’m hoping to get into it a little more this winter since there are a lot of features that I haven’t used yet. This picture popped into my mind a few months back and I finally had a chance to draw it.

Playing in Photoshop with some quick drawings is a nice way to warm up for a book project that I will be starting later in December. Before I start that project I need to find out what colors reproduce in print and which ones fall flat. I will be getting my first test print back in a day or so. It would be much easier if what you saw on the screen was what gets printed – but unfortunately that is not the case. Always something new to learn …

I would love to hear your comments about this picture … So – Sign this puppy

Updating WordPress

updating WordPress with a wooden mallet
My computer is taunting me with the following – WordPress 3.1.3 is available! Please update now.

I have been putting off updating to the new version of WordPress. Updates scare me – they can be painless or they can smash your smooth running system to smithereens. I recently did a Windows update that totally crashed my computer. Couldn’t get it to boot up no matter what I tried. When I went to the forums I found there were many others who had installed that update and were in the same boat … thank you Bill Gates. I do nightly backups so I didn’t actually lose any files. However, it was a very time consuming process to get things as they were. Reinstalling everything, updating, and especially deleting and rearranging files since my auto restore put things back into every place they had ever been. Can you say duplication hell?

WordPress has been good to me – or at least the version I am running. My real dilemma is trying to figure out how to do a WordPress backup just in case this update goes horribly wrong. Even if I were to just keep the version I have, I really should have everything backed up so I can salvage links and comments in case WordPress experiences a hiccup. Yesterday I spent at least 6 hours trying out different backup Plugins. I’ve read WordPress tips and instructions and have also been to the forums. It is unfortunate that they are all speaking “Greek”. Having a task in limbo like this is very aggravating to me, but I may just have to let this one sit on the back burner for a bit longer …

The Hospital Handbook

Hospital Handbook

I had a chance to work as an illustrator with author Mary Soper for her newly published book “The Hospital Handbook / Strategies for Surviving Your Hospital Stay”. Using storytelling and coaching techniques, this book empowers its audience to be effective by giving 29 tips and tactics for maneuvering within the hospital culture.

A valuable read, it is a book you should ask for in your local bookstore. Or it can be purchased directly from Mary’s website at www.hospitalhandbook.org. (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to make it an active link)

About The Author

Mary Soper is a trained social worker who spent most of her career working with various aspects of public policy and marketing, economic and community development, travel and tourism, as well as being involved with human rights issues. As a student of process and macro thinking, Mary developed the lessons in this book over time as opportunities for learning were presented. Now retired, Soper is the oldest of nine siblings who are now in their fifties and sixties.

Widowed at age twenty-four, she has two adult children and three grandchildren. She has been through a variety of hospital experiences with family members and friends as well as her own hospitalizations for lower back injuries and heart by-pass surgery. From each of Mary’s hospital encounters, various lessons have emerged regarding how to do it better. “My children, sisters, and I have had many conversations and informally pooled our experiences into a ‘way’ we do hospital care.

The lessons learned during these traumatic times have been compiled and are shared in this book. Among those lessons are how to advocate for the patient, understanding which doctor is in charge, and learning about additional hospital resources. Each chapter gives true, personal vignettes, as examples of why having survival tactics is important. Reading the text of this self-help book is like reading a short-story collection as various personalities emerge illustrating lessons learned. The reader becomes more empowered to be an active advocate for the patient.

Soper’s goal for The Hospital Handbook is to share these lessons with others in order to make a difference in their hospital and patient experiences.