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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Apple Trees

Every year, I like to paint my apple trees.  Last year, they bloomed too early; this year, with the cool, wet spring, they are late.  But, then, I've also seen them bloom in mid-June, so maybe this year they are actually right on time!  At any rate, they have just started.  My project for the next several days is to paint several large canvases of them for a show I have in August.

Campobello Island once had many family farms, and apples were planted aplenty.  Our property was such a farm, and it still has perhaps a dozen different types of apples.  Some are good for eating right off the tree, some need to be cooked first, and a few, I'm told, need to sit in an apple cellar for a winter, and those will become the sweetest.  A couple trees in the dooryard must be a hundred years old.  All of the trees could use pruning; we don't do much more than cut down the raspberry canes around them once a year so we can at least get to a few apples each fall.

It has been a cool and foggy week.  When I first noticed the buds were beginning to swell, I waited one more day until they began to open a bit.  Then I set up and blocked in an 18x24 canvas, just to get the foundation of value and color laid in.  The second day, the trees had opened a bit more, so I set up again to refine the relationships of the big shapes.  (If you aren't sure what I'm talking about here, you might check out my mini-video on Adjusting Shape Relationships.  Now some of the trees have exploded into bloom - but not the trees I was painting!  However, the blooming ones were close enough that I was able to use them for a model.

Below is a sequence of photos, plus the finished 18x24.  I plan to do a few more large ones, and I'll have to work fast - the blooms won't last more than a week or so.



End of Day One

End of Day Two

Final:  "Apple Trees and Raspberry Canes" 18x24, oil

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Post-Postcard Poll - and Paintings Heading for Pennsylvania

I had good response yesterday to the poll regarding which postcard color scheme to use.  I always think doing graphic design by committee is a bad idea, but in this case, it was helpful.  A couple of you suggested I do a full bleed of the image, but the boat takes up such a large part of the real estate that a full bleed would crop it, and I did want the whole boat. Another suggested using black for the border, but I've found black to be too strong an element in these designs, having used it in the past.  Other colors could also be used - one reader suggested pulling a grey from the distant shore - and that looked nice, but I wanted a stronger color.  At any rate, the majority (over 60%) liked the sand-colored border, and that's what I'm going with.

On another matter, one reader e-mailed me to say she thought the boat looked somewhat squished.   "But that's the way it was," is something I always discourage my students from saying when trying to justify an odd-looking element in a painting.  Why?  Because that element will distract the viewer from the intent of the painting, which in my world is to please the viewer, not to puzzle him.  But that is the way it was.  The boat has a characteristically deep hold for scallops or herring, whichever it had been rigged for in its day.  It spent days at sea, filling its belly.

On another note, I wanted to show the paintings that I have shipped off to my new gallery, The Green Drake Gallery and Arts Center in Millheim, Pennsylvania.  By the way, I'll also be teaching a workshop there in October 2012.

Otter Cliffs Storm, 11x14, oil

Duck Pond Summer, 9x12, oil

Fox Farm Flowers, 9x12, oil

Moran Point Morning, 9x12, oil

Courthouse Butte, 9x12, oil

Monday, May 23, 2011

Publicity - Choosing a Postcard Design

This morning's effort is being spent on designing a new postcard for handing out to prospective patrons and students.  A lot of thought needs to go into creating this card.  For example, which image to use?  Trina and I argued over this for awhile, and we finally decided on a boat painting that hasn't yet been sold.  First, boats are popular - people love them almost as much as they do lighthouses.  Second, the painting is available for sale, and having it on the postcard will increase the chance of it selling.  (Sure, it might sell next week - but people like the idea of your being a successful artist.)

There is a reverse side to this card, of course, and it does have all the important information such as websites, phone number, e-mail address and so on.  We're pretty happy with that.  However, we have one last question about the front design - what color to use for the border?

Below are two versions.  To the right of this post you'll see a poll asking which one you prefer.  Let me know by taking the poll!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May Newsletter

"Path to the Sea" 9x12, oil - up for auction until May 31

May 2011
Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada

On our 3100-mile journey from Arizona, we rode a wave of springtime blooming.  When we left Arizona, the irises were finishing; by the time we got to our first workshop in Illinois, the daffodils had just popped up; at the next workshop in Indiana, the dogwoods bloomed on our second day; and by the time we got to the last workshop, in Ohio, the lilacs were full but ready to call it quits.  Campobello, still swathed in late spring fog and moisture, hasn't quite gotten there yet.  Our apple trees and lilacs hold countless tight little buds, but you can feel the tension.  One warm, sunny day, and the tsunami of spring will arrive here, too.

After three full workshops while on the road, Trina and I are glad to be home.  I have a little over a month before the next series of workshops begin.  During this respite, I'll be delivering paintings to my two new galleries:  Laughing Raven in Lubec, Maine, and Green Drake Gallery in Millheim, Pennsylvania.  (Green Drake's website is  I'll also be painting some large pieces for my show at Sunbury Shores in  St Andrews NB, which runs August 12-September 7.

In June, I'll be participating in the annual Plein Air Painters of the Bay of Fundy paintout and exhibition.  As you may know, we alternate between the US and Canada each year.  This year, the event will be in Eastport, Maine.  Dates for the paintout are June 25-26, with the exhibition running June 27-July 22.  The reception will be Friday, July 1, 4-6 pm Eastern Time.  All events will be at the Next Door Gallery at 8 Boynton Street in Eastport.  See for updates.

In July, I'll also be part of another show, this time a pastel invitational in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.  The show will feature not just works by well-known painters such as Andrew McDermott and Diana Ponting but also historical works by A.Y. Jackson, Harley Brown and others.  The show runs July 18-August 14 at the Old School Gallery.  For details, visit

I'm proud to announce that I've been invited to another prestigious plein air event.  This one is "In the Footsteps of Thomas Moran," or the Zion National Park Invitational.  It runs October 31-November 4.  The schedule is still being finalized, but you can visit for updates, and I, of course, will keep you posted.  This makes my third invitational event for 2011, with the others being the Grand Canyon Celebration of Arts (September 10-17, ) and the Sedona Plein Air Festival (October 22-29,  It's going to be a very busy fall!

By the way, I still have room in my workshop at Acadia National Park.  This will be my 7th year teaching for the Acadia Workshop Center.  If you're interested in this, or in any of my Campobello Island workshops, please see the listings at  (Click here for the Acadia workshop.)  My Campobello workshops are filling fast, so don't hesitate!

I'm still taking names if you're interested in going with me to New Zealand in March 2013.  I've set up a site where I'll be posting details -  Also, my friend Adele Earnshaw, a native New Zealander who is coordinating the trip, has a blog where she is posting about places we'll be painting -

Finally, about the painting at the top of the newsletter.  It's available for auction on eBay and starting for a very reasonable reserve.  Click here for the auction.  I plan to offer for auction a painting with each newsletter I send out.

That's all for now.  Have a great spring!

Michael & Trina

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Gallery - Laughing Raven

I mentioned recently that I am now represented in Lubec, Maine, by Laughing Raven Gallery.  Trina and I are in the process of delivering upwards of twenty paintings to the gallery, all in anticipation of the Opening Reception next week.  Below is one of the paintings they'll have.

"Mr Roosevelt's House" 12x24, oil

If you're in the area, the reception is Wednesday, May 25, 4-6 pm Eastern Time, at Laughing Raven Gallery, 41 Water Street, Lubec, Maine.  This will be a non-sales event with wine and light refreshments.  (No sales until opening day on Friday, May 27.)

Gallery hours will be Monday-Saturday, 11-6.

I hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Home Again - Campobello Island

After 3100 miles (and more), we've finally arrived home to Campobello Island.  It's always good to get home, but especially good when key systems work again without trouble.  Water, heat - we've got it all.  We had only one surprise.  A heavy piece of moulding over the front entry dropped, most likely due to heavy snow.  Too bad, as I enjoyed painting views of the front, and it was a nice architectural element.  We may not put it back.

I have to share another photo with you.  This is of the Main Street bridge in Middlebury, Vermont.  Vermont has had record rain these past two months, and Otter Creek, which runs through the center of town, is hurtling over the dam like I've never seen it.  (I lived in Middlebury for a few years.)  I'll be teaching an oil-only workshop in Middlebury on October 1st, and I fully expect the water levels to have gone down by then.

Finally, here's a photo I took yesterday, and you can see that spring is progressing here on Campobello.  The forsythia is just beautiful, and so are the dandelions.  By the time my Campobello workshops begin (end of June), the sun will be out and everything will be even lovelier.  Just to prove it, here's a painting I did last year - just to whet your appetite.

Glare and High Tide, 9x12, oil - $575

Now that I'm home, I've got a lot of work to do.  Paintings to ship - I'm in two new galleries this year, Laughing Raven, over in Lubec, Maine, and Green Drake in Millheim, Pennsylvania - and paintings to paint for several shows.  Life is busy - already! - but good.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ohio Plein Air Painting Workshop

The great weather we enjoyed on our way east continued as we moved into Ohio for our final workshop on this trip.  Lima, Ohio, is a quiet little town with lots of scenic farms for painters, and it is also headquarters for the famous Kewpee Hamburger chain. Ruth Ann Sturgill, our host for the workshop, made sure that Kewpee's was one of our first stops upon our arrival.  Kewpee's would make a good subject for painting.

The weather was warm, which guaranteed a continuation of the beautiful spring we saw in Illinois and Indiana.   One of my demonstrations was of Ruth Ann's beautiful spirea, blooming in the shade.

Spirea in Spring, 9x12, oil (sold)

In our two days, we got a surprising amount of painting done.  Our second day ended with a storm, so I did a painting knife demonstration indoors.  The students followed by doing some knife painting of their own, using a still life composed of lilacs for a subject.

We enjoyed Lima so much that we're planning on another workshop there next year.   And since we also enjoyed our workshops in Illinois and Indiana, we're going to repeat the same route!

The rain we saw on our last afternoon was part of a bigger storm, which we are now chasing east.  Or, perhaps it is chasing us.  We drove 10 hours in heavy rain today, and it looks like we'll have more as we work our way toward Vermont.  Vermont's Champlain Valley is under a flood warning as Lake Champlain works its way up to record levels.  We've already learned of one major road being closed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Illinois Workshop at Water Street Studios

I just finished teaching a two-day plein air workshop in oil and pastel for Water Street Studios in Batavia, Illinois.  Although the spring weather was touch-and-go, we were able to spend both days outdoors.  Our first day was at the Fabyan Villa and Japanese Garden; the second, at the Batavia Riverwalk and Depot Museum.

If you've not been to Batavia, it's a surprisingly bucolic and quiet town no more than an hour from Chicago's busy downtown.  Batavia made its name in the heyday of windmills, having several factories that manufactured them.  Along the Riverwalk, you can see examples of most of the windmills made by the Challenge Company.  Today, Batavia is a wonderful place for an outdoor painting workshop because it sits on the Fox River and offers a number of enjoyable parks and forest preserves.

Water Street Studios ( was a perfect host for the workshop.  A relatively new endeavor, it is housed in an historic limestone building with 28 studios for resident artists, three classrooms and a large gallery.  It has a very active volunteer group behind it, and they did a great job with the workshop.

Below is one of my oil demonstrations, which I did along the Riverwalk near a gazebo.

Fox River Spring, 12x9, oil (sold)