Let Your Light Shine

Category: retreats

Art Colony Pilgrimage

I knew nothing about Brown County, Indiana, when Michael Chesley Johnson mentioned last spring that he and Indiana artist, Doug Runyon, were planning a retreat there for May 2018.  My thoughts:  a painting trip with my buddies, a car packed with art supplies and spring weather!  Where do I sign up?

The retreat grouped gathered at the Hill Top cabins north or Nashville, IN.  Our Ohio crew needed more beds and baths so we rented the cabin above on Grandma Barnes Road.  Grandma Barnes was a character reminiscent of Granny Clampett and a popular subject of the artists in the local colony.

On Sunday Doug gave us a schedule that was a great mix of art, Brown County history and opportunities to paint at sites we’d have never found on our own.

The making of a Gustave Baumman print

On Monday we visited the Brown County Museum where Lyn Letsinger Miller showed us some of the amazing paintings in their permanent collection.  It’s hard to imagine coming to the hilly, undeveloped county in the early 1900’s without running water, good transportation or electricity to make art, but T.C Steele led the way and so many others who were well trained artists from major cities followed him.  http://www.browncountyartgallery.org/

Since Michael has written two blog posts about our trip that focus more on the artists and our activities you might want to read his blog 

On the first day we painted at the Brown County State Park.

While most of the crew painted at the lookout tower, Marty Husted and I went on a quest that ended up at a very pretty creek and indoor restrooms (always a plein air plus).  When we saw people in hazmat suits we were a little alarmed.  They were researchers from Purdue out collecting ticks in the woods. Beware!







Each morning we held a critique of the previous day’s paintings.

The next day we painted at the Flower and Herb Barn.  There were so many detailed structures, planters and garden  ornaments that I decided to keep it simple and just capture a backlit scene with early spring greens.  While we were having a fabulously fresh lunch at the Farmhouse Café, the wind blew over my easel, but the painting survived.

Cabin at Camp Palawopec

Wednesday was my favorite day.  We painted at a summer camp with some very cool structures and interesting landscape.  I could have spent the whole week there.  At our critique the next morning one of our fellow painters asked if I’d sell my painting.  I wanted it as a souvenir but decided to part with it. That evening we were hosted for dinner by Leo and Lyn Miller and their friends.

On Thursday it rained quite a bit so we visited  the TC Steele State Historic Site.  This was my favorite of his paintings.  His son’s expression – “I’m trying not to cry, but I really can’t sit here much longer in my Sunday clothes.”

We didn’t paint as a group, but I went downtown to sketch a lovely little church and painted dogwood flowers in the evening until dark.  My friends laugh at my obsession with painting on these trips.  While some are content to do a painting or two and just relax, I’m driven to wear out my brushes. (With that said, I’m the queen of accomplishing little to nothing at home.)




On the last day we visited a private residence where artist Adolf Shulz lived.  Then we went to a private home/antique shop to paint.  I liked the potting shed, playing around with lots of paint and a knife. 

After a delicious lunch it was time to pack up.  I’m hoping our group’s aspiration to visit some of the other artist colonies around the country provides as wonderful an opportunity as this one did.

About Scotland: Part I – Painting and Remembering


Painting in Scotland

Almost two years ago my plein air buddy, Nancy Vance, sent an email to see if anyone was interested in a painting retreat in Scotland for 2016 organized by artist, Michael Chesley Johnson.   Nancy had enjoyed painting with Michael in the western US, so she found five willing participants.  Three of us decided to not only do the retreat in Scotland, but a workshop with Michael in Canada and Maine in 2015. 


Taking a break from painting in Lubec, Maine.


Sunset on the lighthouse during our last evening in Maine

For years I’ve wanted to paint on vacations. I’d throw some sketching supplies in my suitcase but they rarely came out on the trip. There was usually a busy schedule that didn’t include time to paint and no one to paint with. Painting trips take a bit more preparation and packing but they are definitely work it. 

For the workshop in Maine, we rented a house and a car.  Then we met Michael at painting sites  that he knew well near his studio in Campobello.   Michael’s instruction was top-notch and his critiques were very helpful. That workshop hooked me on painting trips.  You really absorb more of the experience when you try to capture a view on canvas.  I came away with a deeper sense of place than I’d had in most of my travels.


Paintings from the Maine/Campobello workshop

There were challenging elements – fog that came and went, tides, and changing light.  A photography class with unwieldy gear passed by on a narrow pathway where we were painting and the easels almost went flying over the rocks!

The pieces I painted were learning experiences – not as refined as studio art, but implanted with memories. 

In June 2016 we were off to Scotland.  Five of us traveled from Ohio along with artists from Massachusetts and Tennessee.  Malcolm Evans, who runs painting tours all over Europe with his wife, Scottish pastelist, Margaret Evans, was the driver of our mini-bus.


Nancy claiming luggage in Glascow

We stayed in time-shares in the countryside near the sheep and ducks and doves and pheasants se we did some painting around that location.


5×7 pastel of the dove cote at Duchally Estate


In Maine I painted with oil and travelled with all that gear.  Last winter, Nancy convinced me to give pastels a try.  Now I’m hooked, so the pastels went with me to Scotland – a little less hassle than tubes and brushes but, unfortunately not water repellant.


A quick sketch at Stirling Castle sitting under a roof in the rain

I also packed a set of water soluble graphite pencils with a little pad of watercolor paper and a water brush. It all fit in my purse and was handy in spots where I wanted to capture something I saw but couldn’t bring all of my gear.


Some of our group stopping for lunch at the Old Bank – Wendy, Liz, Mason, Nancy, Jim, Marty and Michael


Wellies outside the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel near Loch Earn

The group traveled well together. The weather was lovely the week before we came, but we had mostly cloudy/rainy days. Still we kept our sense of humor. Ten artists plus a few spouses on a mini-bus also made it necessary to tighten up on the gear.  In most cases there was enough time at a site to get a solid start, but some folks didn’t get to finish painting.  

When it was too wet to paint we sketched or worked in the studio.  One day it rained so hard that all we could do was take photos (and shop).   Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to eat three-course gourmet meals every night and still be able to fit in the airplane seats for the return trip!


Paragliders in the sky

Just to insure that we’d be tempted to come back to Scotland, the last day was glorious.  We went to Glencoe and painted at two sites where people from all over Europe were hiking and bagging Munros (I picked up  a little local lingo, but you can Google it.)  As we painted landscapes, younger, braver folks were jumping off the cliffs above and gliding around with their para sails.  That’s an image that will make me smile every time it drifts into my mind, even if the painting wasn’t one of my best.

Our paintings are filled with lochs and mountains, cottages, bridges, and sheep. Now Scotland is in the rear-view mirror and it’s time to anticipate the Central Ohio Plein Air retreat to Lake Erie in September.  Whether it’s an Ohio trip or an international jaunt, if you’re planning a painting trip, my art supplies will be packed and ready to roll!


The people in Scotland were so friendly. Even the sheep would pose for a quick photo.