As new housing goes up, old barns come down. Are the old structures a cliché subject for painters or can askilled artist can find something fresh to say?

My friend and artist extraordinaire, Marianne Miller, is a country girl at heart who loves old barns and farm houses.  She’s a dedicated scout who travels the county roads looking for great scenery and structures, calculating where we could park, and deciding on the best lighting.  We have had some interesting experiences this summer on the backroads of Knox, Fairfield and Licking Counties.

I have learned a lot from painting with Marianne, (after I got over being awestruck by her talent).  She doesn’t look so much at a particular subject, but the angles, shapes, sunlight and shadows.  It works because she comes up with outstanding paintings time after time. She’s focused and she’s fast. I haven’t included any of her paintings here, but you can see her award winning painting at the American Impressionist Society.

Here are some of the scenes I’ve painted on our outings – a bit more limited in nuance than hers, but a whole lot of fun.  There’s no place I’d rather be than the middle of a field!


We tried to ask permission to paint on the property above but no one answered the door. So we ended up painting from the edge of the road.  As you can see, this barn got a make-over back at home.  I exaggerated its flaws/charms.

I painted this sycamore tree at Rustling Brook Farm and then painted it again weeks later.  It’s good practice to redo a scene.  I went with a horizontal format and decided the tree should be the star of the show instead of the house.


Here’s the brook at Rustling Brook. I will paint the barns there eventually.  The owner is almost 90 and he is so gracious when we come there to paint.  He’s also an expert on the local history.

I did the two paintings below from photos I took on our trip to Branstool’s Orchard with a stop at the Old Mill in Utica for ice cream ( justifiable ice cream because we ate some healthy apples first). These were both painted in a workshop with Sean Wang, another artist I really respect.


One last barnstorming painting which was painted earlier in the summer with a larger group of barnstormers including, Sean, Rich Clem and Diana Andrews.

The weather is getting cooler but the barnstorming will continue!

Spiraling Out of Control

I grabbed a book at the library called Paint Lab: 52 Exercises inspired by Artists, Materials, Time, Place, and Method by Deborah Forman:.  One of the exercises showed how to draw the nautilus shape based on the golden ratio The page also included a design that intrigued me.  It was a cross between a mandala and a spiral made of dots.   There were no instructions on how to create it.

My curiosity led me to our modern font of knowledge, You Tube.  I searched on the word “mandala”  and quickly got sucked into the vortex of Dearing Draws and My New Compass just to name a few.

I was fascinated so I started playing with the ideas in a sketchbook and then moved onto greeting cards.

I tried various media including pencils, Sharpies and pens.  The card stock I was using wouldn’t handle much liquid so watercolors are out.

I liked them even more after jazzing them up with Krylon glitter spray.  Since I need to fidget when I watch tv, I’ve been playing with these in the evenings while I waste an hour or so on Net Flix.

I even learned a little bit about how to use a French curve in the process.  I never did figure out the design I saw in the book, but I’m sure it’s based on the same principles.

It just goes to show that when you’re curious you become creative!

Linwood 2017 in the Rearview

I have been neglecting this blog lately and I tell myself it’s because I’m painting so much. Good excuse, right?

The highlight of my painting year is our annual Central Ohio Plein Air retreat at Linwood Park, organized by the super-organized painter, Nancy Vance.  We all look forward to it, but at the same time we know it’s signaling the end of summer. So it’s a happy time but, for me, a little melancholy.

It’s also a good benchmark to measure your progress as a painter from year to year. The 2015 version of the bridge was painted in the morning light and I remember struggling for quite a long time with it. In 2017 I was there in the afternoon and able to choose the view pretty quickly. I blocked it in and caught some highlights and reflections in the water that made it a much better painting.


Vermillion River Bridge 2017 in pastel

Vermillion River Bridge 2015 – oil













Although the residents of Linwood Park are happy to have us come, most aren’t interested in buying paintings.  The lady who lives across from the lodge expressed an interest in this little 8×10.  If I were a skilled sales person I would closed the sale and pocketed a check.  Instead I told her about the sale scheduled for Saturday (where she bought a painting from one of the other painters).  The upside is that I got to keep the painting!



As the sale was going on I painted one of the nearby cottages.  My idea of a cottage is a lot smaller than this, but I guess they’ve added on over the years.  I really wanted to catch the shadows on the sunlit side.  Although it was much admired by browsers coming to the sale, there were no offers so it’ll grace my wet paint shelf for a while. I took it down a few days ago, ran it through my self critique process and touched it up a bit.

Now it’s time to soak up those last few days of good painting weather and look forward to next year’s retreat. Thanks, Nancy, for making this wonderful experience possible.