Wednesday, August 27, 2014

tinyExpanse North Idaho 
A blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

Reeder Bay - 5am-11am
It's documenting day - enjoyable in that I get to review everything I've created in the past week, and in that I get to have paint-free hands all day!

As I worked with the images from 40 paintings completed this week, I began to think about the purpose and meaning that images have. As a landscape painter, sometimes I feel that I am simply trying to recreate what is in front of me in a mediocre representation of the real thing. But thinking further, there is more to it than that. A Plein Air landscape painting is an accumulation of perception that includes all senses, not just visual. The temperature of the day, the elements of the place, the changing of the light throughout the painting session, and of course my own mood and thoughts, swirl around together in a big cauldron and assimilate themselves into the resulting image.

That being said, I still think the experience of the real thing is best. I hope that my images spark curiosity for places not yet seen, and love and dedication for places already experienced. In a world with many different perspectives, perhaps the one thing we can all agree on is the beauty of nature. An image might be superficial, but if it can spark something universal that inspires each of us to preserve this beauty, then I'm satisfied with my work.

A gallery from my week in North Idaho follows…starting with the tinyExpanse collage which is by the way available on Etsy, along with small prints of the Priest Lake painting.(

For information on the purchase of originals, please contact me at

25% of proceeds for both prints and originals go to Idaho Conservation League.

tinyExpanse poster available on Etsy (shop name tinyExpanse)

Priest Lake Morning 30"x48" oil and wax on panel

Bottle Bay and Beyond from Schweitzer 18"x24" oil and wax on panel

Selkirk Crest from the top of Chair Six 18"x24" oil and wax on panel

August 22nd Sunrise/Sunset 12"x12" oil and wax on panel
(sunrise from the long bridge, sunset from Reeder Bay)

August 23rd Sunrise/Sunset 12"x12" oil and wax on panel
(sunrise from the Reeder Bay, sunset from Bottle Bay Road)

August 24th Sunrise/Sunset 12"x12" oil and wax on panel
(sunrise from Sweeney Drive, sunset from Lincoln Avenue)

August 25th Sunrise/Sunset 12"x12" oil and wax on panel
(sunrise from City Beach, sunset from Lake Street ballfield)

August 26th Sunrise/Sunset 12"x12" oil and wax on panel
(sunrise from City Beach, sunset from Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

tinyExpanse North Idaho 

A blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

Sunrise at City Beach, Sandpoint

I began the day again at City Beach, a place that is now firmly on my "happy place" list. Sandpoint has so many great public spaces that are clean and well cared for, and well used. The Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail is another of these - a stretch of natural walking trail along the water, preserved by the efforts of Idaho Conservation League and the Friends of the Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail. These islands of sanity in urban areas often are my favorite places - from my childhood stomping grounds near Bandelier National Monument, to the stunning Redwood Grove of Old Mill Park in Mill Valley, California, to the foothill trails in Hull's Gulch in Boise, many of my most peaceful memories of the places I've lived are set in these refuges. 

Later this afternoon I returned to City Beach and took a swim. I love experiencing a public place early in the morning before it is occupied by other people, and then witnessing the transformation later in the day. The rhythmic oscillation between of tranquil rest and joyful activity always makes me feel strangely content - perhaps in the knowledge that these places have a life of their own outside regular human business hours. 

After my swim I drove 30 miles north to Bonner's Ferry to paint at the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. This is the site of some of my most lasting impressions from my first visit to North Idaho with my dad almost five years ago.  The Wildlife Refuge is an exquisitely, almost painfully beautiful place. A wide glacially carved valley is filled with the sounds of birds and meandering water reflecting the ever-changing colors of the sky above. After painting the sunset I slowly drove the tour road around the refuge, enjoying the color of the sky and water constantly changing into different hues of what I like to call magic pink and magic blue (the colors of sunsets), the grasses in the marshes fading from Prussian green to a gentle chromium oxide green as the deer emerged for evening feeding. 

Solitude in natural places is a very different kind of aloneness than that which I experience inside in my studio. The solitude that nature provides is more of a feeling of "becoming one" than of "being alone." It is a great service that organizations such as Idaho Conservation League are providing by preserving these sanctuaries. Here's to 50 years of the Wilderness Act!

This was my last day to paint for the exhibition on Friday - tomorrow I will be painting edges, adding hanging wires, printing labels, photographing - all the numerous tasks that are part of preparing an art show. Thursday is installation day, Friday the opening (after a jaunt up Scotchman's Peak). Wish me (and ICL) luck! And if you are in Sandpoint, come on by! 5:30-8:00 at the Panhandle State Bank.

The Kootenai River

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Monday, August 25, 2014

tinyExpanse North Idaho 

A blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

Today began with a glorious sunrise painted from City Beach, shortly followed by a tub of pigment-laden turpenoid spilled all over my lap. Ah, the ups and downs of the Plein Air painter. 

Sunrise from City Beach

After City Beach, I spent some time at the ICL office painting edges of works from previous days, and then drove 20 minutes to the bottom of Schweitzer Mountain Resort. My plan was to take the lift to the top for a day of bird's eye view painting of the lake and the Scotchman Peaks. The lift runs from 10-5 every day of the week. Gearing up in the parking lot, I nervously decided to take a larger panel to the top with me - an 18x24. It's always tricky to transport wet oil paintings, especially the large ones, and especially down a ski lift! I bought my lift ticket and headed up.

Schweitzer is beautiful. At the base of the hill there is a little village with shops and apartments, but it's not super fancy and exclusive feeling like other ski resorts. From the top, one has a wonderful view of Pend Orielle and the surrounding mountains, and for the first time I was able to fully orient myself in my surroundings. This desert girl is just not used to so many trees and meandering bodies of water! My hunt for views of the sunrise and sunset have been laughable, repeating "never eat shredded wheat" to myself and trying to figure out over which hill the sun would come up. This is why I am not a sculptor - I work better in two dimensions. 

The day yielded five tinyExpanses and a larger painting of Pend Orielle with the slopes of Schweitzer draping the foreground. I found a baseball field to hunker down in for the sunset back in Sandpoint and am now decidedly down for the count. Tomorrow - the glacial valley wetlands of Bonner's Ferry.

I have some musings on the perils of being alone with one's thoughts a little too long (perhaps the hardest part of being an artist), but that's for tomorrow.  

Scotchman Peaks
Pend Oreille
Southeast from Schweitzer
Pend Oreille from Schweitzer
An odd chairlift passenger

Sunday, August 24, 2014

tinyExpanse North Idaho 

A blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

A day on the town…

Marina from City Beach
Historic Sandpoint

I suppose before this week I've held a not-too-uncommon impression of Sandpoint. Rainy. Drizzly. Grey. But today was beautiful and it was a pity that I had to spend even a part of it inside.

After painting the sunrise from Sweeney Drive in Sagle, I headed across the long bridge into town and to City Beach. Amazingly quiet for a beautiful Sunday morning, I had the beach nearly to myself for quite some time. I found one sweet spot and painted five tinyExpanses from there.

Four days spend mostly sitting caught up with me. I found a juice bar and a yoga studio and came back out into the sunshine a new person.

Time to get organized. At the Idaho Conservation League office I spread out my bounty for the week - the six-painting Reeder Bay series, three days of sunsets and sunrises, and twenty three tinyExpanses. I spent the rest of the day working on a large painting of Priest Lake, the largest piece for the show, sneaking out briefly to do tonight's sunset painting. Nothing like a deadline.

I have to admit, I'm getting a little tired.

(By the way the entire ICL office now smells like oil paint - I can only hope the staff love it as much as I do.)

Today's painting adventures within city limits increased my appreciation of this beautiful little town very much. I love how on-site painting leads me to places I would never discover otherwise. Often these places are very mundane but I never look upon them again without remembering the beauty they held upon a closer look. Last night, I got stuck waiting for a train to pass on Bottle Bay Road. The sun was heading down, so I pulled around the traffic and headed up the hill to find a spot to paint the sunset. I ended up painting parked next to some utility boxes above the railroad tracks. Tonight I ended up in another very random place - the parking lot between a bowling alley and a retirement home. Each place I paint becomes a special place to me, ridiculous as that sometimes may be. I hope that this little painting project makes these places a little more special and noticed for others as well!

Sailboats from City Beach
Pend Oreille Bay Trail

As for Priest Lake, pointing out its grandeur through a painting is perhaps redundant, but it sure was a pleasure.

Priest Lake Morning 30"x48" 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

tinyExpanse North Idaho 

A blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

5am-11am  (A morning at Reeder Bay)

My alarm goes off at 4:45am. Like many early morning endeavors, I promptly hit snooze and decided that my project planned for the morning is completely ridiculous and go back to sleep. 9 minutes later my alarm went goes off again and I drag myself out of my sleeping bag. 

By 5am I am at the beach with my headlamp dimly lighting my palette and painting panel. Last night I prepared six of such panels, drawing the outline of the scene to be painted today on each one using carbon paper. The line drawing makes painting faster and the finished works more consistent. I will paint one of these panels each hour (think Monet’s haystack paintings) to document the changing light on the water and the Selkirk mountains beyond. 

I have done several of these projects now, and always the 5am one is the hardest. Well, getting up is the hardest. But the glorious experience of having the sun rise and warm my cold, paint covered hands by about the third painting makes it worth it every time. 


This morning I have the beach to myself for several hours. The water transforms from silver slivers on on indigo plane to gentle king’s blue and olive green stripes. 

Beach goers begin to trickle by, most not really noticing the unusual project going on at the beachside picnic table, some giving words of encouragement, others suspicious looks. At moments like these I thoroughly enjoy the abnormality of my profession - I am completely content in my disheveled appearance and bizarre activity. 



Time for a swim, lunch, and a nap. If you haven’t had the chance to visit Priest Lake, put it on your list. It’s a little piece of paradise. 

This afternoon - back to Sandpoint to photograph and paint the Scotchman Peaks from Mineral Point. 

Priest Lake at Reeder Bay - 5am-11am

tinyExpanse North Idaho 

A blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

I painted a lot today. Twelve tinyExpanses (my 3x3” paintings), a 12x12” painting of the sunrise, and a 12x12” painting of the sunset. I’m happy. And tired.

It’s like the tired that comes from digging in the dirt all day - a satisfied, somehow enlivened kind of tired. It’s the blissful hangover of what John O’Donohue would describe as a “quickening” experience, one that makes you feel alive. 

Sandpoint's grain elevator
My journey began this morning in Sandpoint, where I rose early to paint the first of my six sunrise paintings I will complete this week. I parked on the south side of the long bridge leading to Sandpoint, and found a spot to sit against the concrete that divides bike path from road. It was the kind of painting site where I expect to be confronted by a policeman following up on a report of a disheveled young woman shooting up (my little painting box, brushes, and an unkempt painting outfit have more than once confused a concerned citizen). 

It wasn’t ideal, but when painting in quickly changing light, there’s not much time to find the perfect place. Painting sunrises reinforces a lesson I’ve learned from Plein Air painting - one must learn to MAKE the real ideal. What is in front of you is full of potential to be experienced as perfect. It wasn’t the heavens-opening-up kind of sunrise; it was rather moody and windy and anticlimactic. It was real, and it was perfect. 

A quick coffee at the bank where my paintings will be exhibited next week with Nancy Dooley, ICL’s wonderful North Idaho Outreach Coordinator in Sandpoint. Nancy experienced a quintessential first impression of me - I realized afterward our meeting that I had paint on my nose the whole time, a relic of my prior painting session on the bridge. Nancy thought my nose was just peeling and sunburned. She’ll know better next time!

My next destination was Priest Lake, but before leaving Sandpoint I had to indulge an undeniable urge to paint the old grain elevator downtown. I do love landscapes most but once in a while I get a craving to paint something formed by humans and with straight lines. 

Priest Lake from Hanna Flat Road
Granite Creek (?) someone correct me if I'm wrong!
From Sandpoint I drove east on Highway 2 to Priest River and up 57 to Priest Lake. (A familiar rush of exhilaration upon breaking out of town.) A detailed email from a friend as familiar with Priest Lake as his own backyard (thank you Rob!), as well as a map from the Ranger Station, sent me merrily on my way. Climbing up Hanna Flats Road up to lookout over the lake, bumping along Tango Creek Road to paint cedar groves, streams, and a westward view, the day moved along painting by painting. 

Southeast from Reeder Bay

I had expected to find a primitive campsite or pull off on a quiet dirt road to sleep, but I ended up finding lucky #13 campsite at Reeder’s Bay welcoming me sans reservation card. To be honest I was craving the company of other humans more so than that of bears. 

I spent the evening painting on the beautiful Reeder beach amongst exhuberantly vacationing families, observing the light changing on the Selkirks on the other side of the lake. Wasn’t much of a stretch to make the real ideal here. A grandson swam with his grandmother, who moved about in the water like a teenager, shouting, “I love the water!”. I envied both the boy for his remarkable grandmother, and the grandmother for her joyful, fearless way with the water. I myself am afraid of boundless depths of water below. 

The painting session on the beach produced four of the twelve tinyExpanses I made today, and ended with the first of six 12”x12” sunset paintings to be completed this week along with the sunrises. 

And tomorrow? I’m a little too tired to transform anxiety into excitement for what I have planned...

I’ll leave you with a bit of suspense.

In Bob Ross's language, 12 happy little paintings in a happy little box. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

tinyExpanse North Idaho

a blogging, painting, exploring good time up north!

Goodbye Montana, hello Idaho! 
Adventure begins at the eastern border. 

This is the first of my week of posts sharing my travels in north Idaho. I am on a painting road trip for Idaho Conservation League (ICL), exploring the places this amazing organization is working to protect in Sandpoint and beyond! The body of work created on this tour will be exhibited at the end of the week on August 29th at Panhandle State Bank in Sandpoint. (I'm apparently a glutton for pressure!)

My original plan was to start in Boise and work my way up to Bonner's Ferry, but I soon realized that there was WAY too much to explore in a week on that route through this state. So I began instead farther north, in the forested hills of the Montana-Idaho border. I painted my way to Sandpoint today, and my next adventures include routes around Priest Lake, Hope, and Bonner's Ferry. I am excited.

Coeur d'Alene River
Painting to travel and traveling to paint has become my passion, and I am grateful to ICL for inspiring and assisting my explorations of the never-ending variety and beauty of Idaho's landscapes. I had a heck of a time in Iceland earlier this summer, and was wowed over and over again but its natural beauty, but I was thrilled to discover upon my return that Idaho measures up.

I'm just glad not EVERYONE knows that yet.

Back on the road!