Wednesday, March 29, 2023



Standing By
10" x 14" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Had to paint this from an old photo I'd taken of the bougainvillea in bloom next to the cute little coffee shop around the corner. 

Because the bougainvillea isn't standing by anymore. I noticed recently it had been chopped down to about four feet, apparently because last week's storm brought it down.  

What a lovely show it had given, two or three times a year. I miss it already.  

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Washington Park


Washington Park
8" x 10" watercolor 
on Arches 100% cotton cold press

This painting took me four or five hours over two days to finish. Once again, right now I like better the value/color study for this painting (see below) a couple of days ago in about 20 minutes. What the heck? 

I'll try it again in a few months when theoretically I've learned how to loosen up and not over-paint. Or maybe with time I'll learn to like it better. That does happen sometimes.

The live oaks were so beautiful the day I took the photo last week. Rains had streaked them almost black. That's what made me snap the photo, though I always love the way the oaks frame this little building in Washington Park. 

Catch It

Eyeful of Color
8' x 8" watercolor
in Hand.Book Journal
Watercolor Square series, 8.25" x 8.25"

Sometimes you just have to catch it. Before they grow all the way up. You know? 

Sunday, March 19, 2023


Favorite Tree
9" x 9" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton hot press

With this painting I didn't come at all close to my intention to portray this tree more loosely than the last version. However, once I cropped this painting (see the full painting below), the gold warmth of the left horizon line did speak to me. The foreground lavender shadow did something for me, as well, after the crop.

Finding these little places here and there to appreciate--it gives me hope and keeps me hooked. 

Favorite Tree, Uncropped
9" x 12" watercolor
Arches 100% Hot Press

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Reflecting on Realism


Reflective Tree
10" x 14" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

This tree by the bay--just about a block from where we live--lifts my heart. But the painting doesn't--not like the study did in my sketchbook did (see below). 

What gives? 

Here's my diagnosis: As I've written in other posts, I prefer paintings that are looser, more abstract, though still somewhat representational. Yet the paradox is that I've been stuck for a while in realistic mode. A part of me thinks that learning how to portray realistically is the way through to a looser style. But what if it's just the way through to being stuck? 

I'm going to try this tree again in a much looser style and on hot press paper, which allows the paint to puddle and do interesting things all on its own. Wish me luck.

Reflective Tree Study
in Hand.Book Journal
Watercolor Square series, 8.25" x 8.25" 

Monday, March 13, 2023



Ice Plant
8" x 8" watercolor 
Arches 100% cotton watercolor paper

So I’m coining a new word for my post-retirement/emergence as a person trying to make a faster climb on two learning curves: art and writing.

Frustifying: elements of frustration combined with elements of deep satisfaction.

I am experiencing both today. Bigtime. With both art and writing.

Some of us wait our entire working lives for the day when we can quit our day jobs and just do our creative work. Little do we know how difficult that new chapter is going to be. I mean, excellent or even good or even just kind of good art/writing doesn’t just happen. You know?

As a freelance writer for the past 25 years, I knew that already about writing. But I sorta didn’t know it about art.

Well, honey, I’m finding it out now: how very frustifying it can be to finally be able to devote more time to art and writing and to want to see improvement with all my heart, preferably on a daily basis, but to often be disappointed and only sometimes elated.

Today, for example: I’ve worked on this painting on and off all day, trying to make a “real” painting, as opposed to the quick sketch I dashed off yesterday in a few minutes. Guess which one I think is more appealing?

Yep: the quick one.

While waiting for paint to dry, I also worked on a very long, 33-page essay today whose working title is “Altered: How Iowans Lost Their Grasslands and Why It Matters.” It combines a narrative about land in north central Iowa that my husband and I and his ancestors have lived on and tended, combined with multiple expository sections that go into the natural history of the tallgrass prairie, the sod-busting years, the growth of the ethanol industry, and the current controversy gripping the state about pipeline projects that would capture Co2 from ethanol smokestacks and transport it to other states to be sequestered underground.

I worked on this essay for two hours, trying to strengthen the narrative sections and distill the expository sections. I need to cut the essay in half. How many pages did I cut today? Two. What did I add? A half page.


But here’s the cool part: I get to do this again tomorrow. And the next and the next.  As long as I can manage the frustifying see-saw.    

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Ice Plant Season


Ice Plant Color Study
5" x 5" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton w/c paper

It's an invasive plant with shallow roots that can cause erosion along the coast. But it's ice plant season, and I so love the hot pink flowers against the bright green succulent fingers. 

And--can I brag? I think this is a much better rendition than the one I posted two years ago. Maybe I am making progress, after all. It doesn't always feel like it, but once in a while you do notice that you might be heading upward on that learning curve.

This one is a study for a larger painting. Wish me luck. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Crown Memorial State Beach

Sunset at Crown Beach
5" x 7" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

I can't really begin to portray the gorgeous early evening sky last Saturday at Crown Memorial State Beach. An unusual (for this area) formation of clouds in the eastern sky turned all shades of pink as the sun was setting in the west. 

Entirely magical.  



Leaning Cypress near Crown Memorial State Beach 
Ink and Watercolor 
in 8" x 8" Stillman & Birn Zeta Series softcover sketchbook

Yesterday the world felt new because of sunshine after so many cloudy, rainy, chilly days (most of February). As I came upon this scene, I had a little moment of lovely transcendence because of the contrast of the dark, leaning cypress against the sliver of silver in the water and the white clouds just above the horizon. I mean, I was arrested, people!

That's what nature's beauty does to me. Others have many skills and powers that I do not, but I know not everyone has this special super-power of enjoying nature so deeply. I feel so lucky. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Falling in Love with Everything

8" x 10" watercolor
on Arches 100% cold press paper

Here's what I fell in love with while I painted this entrance to the home of some family members: the rosemary bush in full bloom, the contrast in texture of the cactus behind it, the reflection of the sky in the door, and the shadows under the roof tiles. Oh yes, the red steps. And the filigree on the door and the street number.

Because I love the people who live inside this home, it makes sense that I loved painting their entrance.

But I also like the way painting keeps me in love with...well, pretty much everything.


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