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Inside the Music

October 22nd, 2019

Inside the Music

Music has always been an important part of my life. I have played in weekend bands, have sung for countless weddings, funerals and community theater productions, and am a soprano in the Bismarck-Mandan Civic Chorus and our church choir. It was only natural that my art would reflect my love of music. I am currently working on a series of paintings called "Inside the Music," which will be shown at The Capital Gallery in Bismarck this Fall.


My intention is to illustrate the performing arts from the musician's perspective. Most art depicts musical performances from the audience perspective, which is to be expected, as the artist generally is coming from that point of view. I hope "Inside the Music" will capture the intensity, the teamwork, the expertise and the passion that musicians put into their performances as they work with their directors and each other to deliver the best possible musical experience -- for the audience and for themselves.

The centerpiece of this collection is a large (36"x 48") painting of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Beverly Everett, the musical director of BMSO, was excited when I approached her with the idea, and she graciously facilitated my attendance at one of the orchestra's rehearsals so I could observe and take photos. As I started painting, I decided that the piece needed to be more than a literal interpretation of the orchestra playing in the Belle Mehus auditorium, it needed to capture the feelings of the director, the musicians and the audience, as well as the spirit of what they were playing.


While sketching it out, I decided to use the Maestro as the focal point, from the angle of a musician sitting in a chair on stage and looking up at her for direction. However, from that angle, the ceiling of the Belle took up a full third of the painting. I then had the idea that I wanted to show the heavens opening to hear the beautiful music. As I worked with my palette knife forming sky and clouds, it came to me that the composers of these classical pieces must certainly be smiling down as their music lives on through the generations. So in went the faces of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Hayden.

Rather than painting the musicians in their actual seats, I decided to have them surround the conductor and the audience, demonstrating how they work together to deliver a performance from deep within, hoping to touch the hearts of all while paying homage to the composers listening from above. And as I believe most artists are when they perform, not grounded or anchored by earthly limitations, they are instead absorbed in expressing the soul of the piece.

The beautiful architecture of the historic Belle Mehus auditorium, with its wonderfully restored plaster and gold leaf accents, was a treat to add to the painting -- in my style and using a palette knife with thick layers of paint, giving the piece extra dimension.

And finally, for a little bit of fun, I added suggestions of some of the BMSO board members' faces in among the audience. One of the hardest things was coming up with a name for the painting, and I had many great suggestions from social media friends, but in the end I decided that "The Heart's Passion Awakens the Soul" captured what the piece is all about.

Portrait painting brings challenges, rewards

August 21st, 2018

Portrait painting brings challenges, rewards

It's hard to paint with sweaty palms. But that's how I would describe portrait painting. When you paint a landscape, you can take some liberties with the foliage, with the lay of the land, even with the light and shadows. Not so much when you are trying to capture the likeness of someone -- especially someone close to you. If you don't get everything right, the portrait won't look like them. Every line, shadow and highlight is important to an end result that matches the subject's image.

Despite the challenge of it, I decided I wanted to paint a portrait of my grandniece for her first birthday. I saw a cute photo of her that her mom had posted on Facebook. She was decked out in a darling patriotic outfit and crawling across the floor. It got my wheels spinning, especially since her dad is currently serving in the military. It seemed fitting to expand on the theme, capturing this family's moment in time, as well as the image of their darling daughter.

I worked on this portrait for about a week, giving it one last look the morning of her birthday party and putting on the finishing touches. Cheers for fast-drying acrylic paint! I got my reward for the week of toil and sweaty palms when I saw my niece's face as she opened the present containing the portrait. Her smile said it all.

Love for hometown inspired series

June 19th, 2018

Love for hometown inspired series

After completing the Missouri River Crossing at Bismarck painting, I was looking for ideas for my next painting. I paged through a family history book and came across a beautiful photo of Lake Hiawatha in my hometown of Sykeston, ND.

I decided to try to paint that scene in my style -- impressionistic using a palette knife. I worked on it for a couple days -- a few hours each day. I had some challenges with the bridge and the water tower, where I needed to get a ruler and a brush out, but otherwise, it came together nicely using mostly palette knife. I have a special round knife that I use on clouds. Love that thing!

When I was fairly satisfied with the painting, I posted it to Facebook. My hands trembled a little as I did so, as I knew I had painted a scene near and dear to many friends and family. However, I needn't have worried, the comments were overwhelmingly positive. I also discovered that the photo in the history book was not an old one, which I had assumed when I saw it, but a fairly recent photo. It was taken by Christine Tremoulet, daughter of a former schoolmate. I happily give Christine credit for the photo that inspired my painting.

With my hometown's 135th anniversary and all-school reunion coming up, I decided to paint a few more scenes of Sykeston. It's been a great deal of fun and also very gratifying as classmates share the memories that the paintings bring back.

My former babysitter told me that looking at this painting made her "heart happy." My dad passed away around the time I was working on this scene. I think seeing it would make his heart happy too.

Stay tuned for more stories about the Sykeston series.

Painting the Mighty Missouri brought several firsts

June 7th, 2018

Painting the Mighty Missouri brought several firsts

I've always painted in oils, but there are disadvantages, especially the drying time. It can take months for an oil painting to dry. As I got back into painting, I decided to give acrylic paints a try. I doubt that I'll go back to oils. My first experiment with acrylics was a big one. I decided to paint an iconic scene familiar to those who live in the Bismarck-Mandan, ND area -- looking down the Missouri to the south, featuring the three bridges that connect the sister cities. This particular location is not far from where we live.

My rendition of the scene is impressionistic and rich with texture. Most of this was done with palette knife, except for the steel beams and arches of the railroad bridge. When I posted the finished painting on Facebook, a former Bismarck resident commented that he instantly got "the feels" for his hometown when he saw this painting.

I entered the painting in the Bismarck Arts and Galleries Association's Fall Art Show, the first time I've done that. I was pleased by the judge's positive comments and that my painting was chosen as a gallery selection for the Clairmont Gallery at the University of Mary in Bismarck. It certainly encouraged me to keep painting!

The adventure begins

June 3rd, 2018

The adventure begins

Welcome to my art blog! I'm excited to be starting the next chapter of my life -- as an artist! I've been wanting to say those words for a long time. Now I finally have the time and opportunity to follow the calling that has been pulling me in that direction my whole life. I've always been an artist, but made my living focusing on my talents as a writer in the PR world, while using my artistic eye as an editor of communications vehicles of all shapes and sizes. In my scarce spare time, between raising a family of five and my career pursuits, I would dig my paints out and work on a painting. But it was hit or miss -- months, sometimes years, between paintings.

Then I had foot surgery, and I had a few weeks at home to recuperate. I decided to get my paints out and started painting with a vengeance. It all came back -- and then some! The artistic flame was rekindled, and I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.

So here I am today, launching a new professional website, taking the big step to offer my paintings and prints for sale. I hope you like them. There are many more in my head, waiting to get out onto the canvas!