From the BlogSubscribe Now

Fine Art River Painting – Contemporary Tonalism

Inspiration abounds in the tall green trees of this fine art river painting!  From the thick foliage of the understory up through the canopy, I look for a variety of greens and yellows in nature.  These colors help to convey a calming mood in this painting. The trees are why I live and paint in the Pacific Northwest!

My greatest influences are the artists of the American Tonalist movement. Their goal was to capture the moods and allure of the landscape.  My work is similar, in that I respond to nature on an emotional level, striving to find the spiritual qualities, or poetry, in the land.

Being outside in nature is an awe inspiring experience.  How does one respond to the beauty of the universe?  Experiencing each moment builds up a series of impressions.  Many impressions create an experience as a whole.  After visiting a scene, I  recall upon the memory of a place.  The memory filters out the most poignant elements and leaves the rest behind.   Designing a good composition for a painting is the key to success.  What I leave out is just as important as what remains. It’s an abstract step in the process, to design a painting, and I may not do an exact rendering of a scene.  As a result, my paintings become more about a feeling, and a sense of place.  How do you feel when you view this painting?

Read more about Tonalism:

If you’re interested in learning more about the American Tonalism Movement please visit:…/dp/0988902222 

The size of River Song is: 45″ x30″.  This contemporary composition is a “stand out” oil painting for any room of your home or office!

If interested in purchasing this fine art river painting please email me at the following email address:

Email :


Fine art river landscape, fine art river painting, evergreen trees near a river, moody river landscape, river reflections, river song

River Song, 40 x 25


Story of making the painting, “Valley Light”

Oil paining, mountain, tonalist painting, tonalism, representational art, mountains, trees, panoramic view, valley, shadow line, clouds, realism, classical painting, rosemary brushes, contemporary realism, contemporary art

Presence, 24 x 38

Late one fall afternoon I was working in my studio – and I felt a hunch that I ought to go to my special view spot in the mountains.  It was faster to ride my bike than walk, as it was nearing the end of the day- so I grabbed a backpack and threw in my sketchbook and a packet of charcoal. The weather had been variable all day with patchy clouds and sun breaks.  As I headed up the trail I could see faint light glimmering through the trees.  Higher and higher I rode, as fast as my lungs would allow.  Once I reached the clearing, the sight before me stopped me in my tracks. Reflecting off the cliffs of Mt. Si was this orange-gold light – a spectacular vision that I had never seen before; orange light with a dark shadow line rising up the flanks of the entire mountain range.  The image of this beautiful valley light burned instantly into my mind’s eye.  I knew I had to create this scene into a painting.  But wouldn’t the time please stop and let me soak in the experience a little longer?  I knew it wouldn’t – moments don’t stand still do they?  They just keep unfolding, one after another.  I felt myself accepting the orange light as it sank into my bones and I stood there, silently observing.   No drawing needed.   Luckily I had been there before to draw, so, I had, at least, a record of the important elements.  If you have ever looked at a painting for a long time maybe you’ve experienced a moment through an artist’s rendering.  Back in the studio I had the opportunity to re-experience that moment many times over – from memory.   That’s why I called this painting, Valley Light.  It’s about the Here and Now.  I like Being. Here. Now.

Drawings! Drawings! Drawings!

One of my favorite things to do is draw from nature. Whether it’s a human figure, a still life set up or a scene outside, I love to push and pull my pencil (or charcoal stick) across the page.  At Gage Academy of Art and Georgetown Atelier I spent countless hours on a single drawing.  The charcoal drawing of this bust took months to complete.  It’s a zen experience to sit down for a three hour stretch to work; looking, seeing, understanding, and meditating.

charcoal and white chalk on toned paper, cast study, graisille, female profile with arms crossed, head and torso

La Madre, 24 x 18, vine charcoal and white chalk on paper

I set up this still life in my old treehouse studio.  Got a bunch of white plastic flowers and found some interesting dark colored objects lying around the house. I love how dark the darks are against the white flowers.

Charcoal on paper, still life, white flowers, Mexican horse, silver cream pitcher, shell, black rock

East Meets West, 24 x 18, charcoal and white chalk on paper

The bark of this tree was just outside the treehouse studio window (trunk coming up through the deck).  It was early spring and too cold to draw outdoors, so I found a place to work where it was cozy and warm inside.

graphite on paper, tree drawing, landscape, tonal study

Western Red Cedar Bark, 6 x 8, graphite on paper

My landscape drawings are always a little less finished looking and that is because the light changes so quickly.  I worked on this field study for only about 2 hours max before the sun moved across the sky.

charcoal drawing of mt rainier, cloudy day with pond reflections

Mt. Rainier from Cayuse Pass, 10 x 10.5, charcoal on paper

You could think about it like a poem vs. a novel.  The landscape drawings are about the feeling and the impression of the moment.  As I work in the field, drawing the landscape, I try to make marks that help me capture and imprint in my memory the entire experience; the sounds, the weather; the temperature of “that” day.   Interestingly, I can recall much of it when I revisit the drawing back in the studio.

The still life drawings also capture the overall feeling, or mood, but it is captured over a much longer period of time.  It is clear in the finished piece that I have revisited the scene over and over and over again and developed the nuances that couldn’t be possible in a short drawing session.  I like both methods, the sketch, or poem, if you will, as well as the longer, full length studio drawing or painting.  It’s becoming apparent to me that I need both types of work to keep me balanced in what I do.

I enjoyed sharing some of my thoughts on drawing with you!  If you have any comments or questions please feel free to email me at

Spring National Oil & Acrylic Society International On-Line Exhibition

I am honored to learn that my painting, A Bay View, was accepted in the National Oil & Acrylic Society’s Spring International On-Line Exhibition!

The idea for A Bay View came about one morning at Bay View State Park, part of Washington state’s Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.  I was on a multi-day drawing and painting trip, observing and appreciating the coastlines, the waves and the trees at different times of day.  On the last morning I returned to the beach and sat on a log, watching as the pale Northwest sky slowly filled with pinks and roses of early dawn. I knew that an idea was born.

Thanks for reading!

A Bay View, 20 x 30

A Bay View, 20 x 30

Clymer Museum & Gallery Solo Exhibition – March 4, 2016

I feel so honored for the opportunity to exhibit at the Clymer Museum & Gallery next month! The title for the show is “From the Headwaters to the Sea.”   The public reception is scheduled for Friday, March 4, 2016, from 5pm-7pm, and  the works will hang for two months, from March 4, 2016 – April 30, 2016.

Clymer Museum & Gallery, 416 North Pearl Street, Ellensburg, WA



Headwaters, 48 x 36

Headwaters, 48 x 36

It’s been a busy last couple of weeks getting the works photographed and framed.  Some people have been asking if the works are for sale – and the answer is yes, all works are for sale, with the exception of two paintings that were borrowed from private collections because they fit the theme of the show.

There are over 30 works in the collection, varying in size from large to small.  I included three field drawings, because, as many of you know, I like to share the process of how I create the final paintings.

painting of krummholz tree by the ocean, beach, sunset, fence, rocks in foreground

Illume, 40 x 30

An excerpt from the Artist Statement for the show –

“…Water represents birth and life, and a river is water’s journey through time. These paintings represent the passage that I took from the headwaters, a place where small streams join and a river is born, to the sea. I visited many mountains and many rivers to capture the essence of the forms that water takes as it flows, pulled by gravity from above. I have roots on both sides of the Cascades, on the dry side and the wet, as the rivers flow westward to the mighty Pacific Ocean…”

Hope to see you there!




Animal Planet Blog: Behind the Scenes Treehouse Rehab

I hope you got a chance to see my treehouse on the Treehouse Masters TV show this month.  Pete Nelson, the Treehouse Master, did an excellent job giving my old painting studio a new look.   If you’re like me, you want to know all the details about how a project comes together.  The Animal Planet blogger and designer extraordinaire, Tory Jones, has provided all the info on how she updated our treehouse in the link below.  She included information on the lighting, blinds, paint, bedding and much more.  I enjoyed working with Tory because she’s amazingly talented and creative. She specializes in designing spaces, sourcing materials and installation  – all in a very limited amount of time!  Go Tory!

This is one of the paintings that was featured on the show.  My good friend, Sherry, sat for this portrait.  She’s from Texas.

portrait of woman in pink shawl with blue sky and desert background

Reverie, 20 x 16


Drawings – Field Drawings v. Studio Drawings

graphite drawing, desert plants, sage

Sage Garden, 7 x 10, SOLD

Snoqualmie Falls Drawing, 17 x 13

Snoqualmie Falls Drawing, 17 x 13

Many of you know that I create my paintings from studies – drawings done on location AND in the studio.  It’s funny why artists use the term “study,” but it really makes sense.  While we are working on a drawing we ARE actually studying the subject, whether it’s a figure, still life, or landscape – observing as much as possible in a limited amount of time in order to understand how everything holds together.

When I am in the field I will begin with a few quick thumbnail sketches before I launch into a drawing.  Then I will jot down a few notes that help me remember important pieces of information for later on.  I always include the date, the time of day, weather conditions, lightest light and darkest dark, color harmonies, and, most important, the reason for doing the drawing in the first place.  Why is it an attractive scene?  Why does it compel me?  What am I feeling at the time?  Landscapes are mirrors of our souls and I always try to figure out what it is that compels me to this location.  The top drawing, Sage Garden, was done outside on a very hot day in eastern Oregon.  I love the desert and the great variety of  plants that grow there!

The bottom drawing of Snoqualmie Falls was done in the studio.  I came back from the field with a 9 x 12 plein air painting of Snoqualmie Falls and worked from that to create this larger study.  I knew that I wanted to make a larger painting so it made sense to go into more detail in the drawing stage before I launched into the painting.  It’s amazing what we can remember from being in the field.  I work on my memory through drawing exercises and it has helped immensely.

I am trying to photograph more of my drawings (there are TONS) and I will post them in the drawing section of my website periodically.  If you ever want more information please let me know.    Thanks for visiting!

Clymer Museum Juried Show!

winter field, gray sky, creek, distant fir trees, purple mountains

Patterson Creek, 8 x 12

I am pleased to announce that my painting, Patterson Creek, has been accepted into the 2015 West of the Mississippi Juried Show at the Clymer Museum and Gallery in Ellensburg, WA.  I look forward to the opening on Friday, March 6th, to see all of the wonderful landscape paintings on view.  Please join me if you can, it promises to be a wonderful show!

This painting was created from a series of sketches and drawings done on site.   Later, back in the studio, I reference the drawings and my memory to create a series of thumbnail sketches to work out the final composition.   How I remember what I saw has more to do with what I felt when I saw the scene rather than the specific details.  I remember this day last February, and how this particular field had a soul searching quality to it.  I was inspired by the yellow grasses that stretched outward (or inward?) for a long distance, to the place where the land meets the sky.

Telluride Morning

I jumped on the chance to visit Telluride, CO, last summer for a landscape workshop with Deborah Paris.  We drew every day, all day, from sunrise to sunset, breathing in the trees, mountains and very thin air.  One morning I met up with a couple of art buddies to draw the sunrise in the Telluride Valley.  It was interesting to observe how the sage brush and desert loving plants grow just above and right down to the edge of the fertile, green ponds and streams in the valley floor.  This painting, Telluride Morning, is about that edge where the dry meets the wet.

Telluride Valley, charcoal drawing, sage brush, valley floor

Telluride Valley Field Drawing, 8 x 10

Telluride, Valley, sage brush, pond, aspen trees, reflection

Telluride Morning Drawing, 8 x 10

Telluride, CO, valley floor, sage brush, aspen trees, reflection, pond

Telluride Morning, 16 x 23

Deschutes River work

Thanks to everyone who visited my Open Studio during the Snoqualmie River Arts Tour!  We had lots of people here visiting the gallery inside the house and checking out the work going on inside the Treehouse studio.  Many of you were interested in learning more about my process and we discussed how I go about making paintings.  Drawing is a huge part of what I do and I wanted to share some of the work I’m doing down in Eastern Oregon on the Deschutes River.  These are some studies that I’m working on for potential studio paintings.  It can be hot down there with temperatures reaching into the 90’s easily by early afternoon.  I like to get out early, if possible, or later in the evening to stay comfortable while I work.

The first two images are of a downed log from a fire last season.  This is sagebrush country with white oak and juniper trees – high desert it’s called.  First I did a detailed drawing of the log and the next day I came at the same time and did an underpainting. The drawings give me lots of details to help me remember and the underpaintings give me an overall sense of the tonal relationships.  I also take notes in my notebook on color, temperature, weather, time of day and anything else I am experiencing out there, such as wildlife, sounds, etc.  When I revisit the notes back in the studio I am instantly transported back to the place and time – all of which helps evoke the memories that I will draw upon to paint.

Deschutes Log, 8 x 10

Deschutes Log, 8 x 10

Deschutes Log, underpainting, Eagle Creek, rolling hills

Deschutes Log Underpainting, 8 x 10


RainbowBend, Deschutes, underpainting, telephone pole

Rainbow Bend, 8 x 10

RiverTree, drawing, charcoal on toned pape, Deschutes, water

River Tree, 9 x 12,

RiverTree Underpainting, Deschutes, oil on panel, Deschutes

River Tree Underpainting, 8 x 10