The Most Magical Place on Earth

This past week Bryan and I took a van crammed full of teenagers on a Bible retreat to the Olympic National Park in Washington. We had visited before during a cross country trip across the US about three years ago, so we were eager to share this magical place with our youth group hoping their young innocence would draw out all of the unicorns hiding in the misty rainforest skirting the Pacific.

I love traveling. There’s the thrill of anticipation on a long road trip that pushes you to keep driving. This trip was especially memorable. Nine teenage girls belted out the soundtrack to Pitch Perfect for almost the entirety of I-84.

There were a lot of “firsts” too. Many of the teens had never traveled beyond Utah or Idaho while others had never even seen the ocean. Someone saw their first shooting star. For another, their first starfish. We saw seals and otters playing in the undulating grey water.

The landscape is surreal. Seastacks, obscured by a cold white fog, rise out of the ocean like shadowy giants. Pockmarked tide pools, berated by the wind and frozen surf are teeming with bright star fish and underwater flora and fauna.

I brought my pochade box along for the 15 hour journey hoping to do a little plein air painting.

Here’s my setup with the initial underpainting. My palette included (from left to right) Gamblin’s Radiant White, Ivory Black, Raw Umber, Asphaltum, Transparent Oxide Red, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, and Viridian. I tried to bury the legs of the tripod deep in the sand, but the wind still blew my setup over multiple times. It’s not visible in the photograph, but I have a hook on the bottom of my tripod to weigh it down for such blustery occasions. I hooked my backpack onto it and tossed the camera in the bag and that helped weigh it down.

Here’s the finished painting. I would have liked to have spent another hour or so finessing, but the tide was changing and it was very, very cold.

It was a stunningly beautiful and uplifting week and I am sad that it’s over. Especially since I did not get to see a unicorn.

Springville Salon

The 90th Annual Art Salon hosted by the Springville Museum of Art is the premier exhibit for contemporary artists residing in the state of Utah.

This year out of over 800 entries only 214 were chosen for the show, and I am honored to have had one of my pieces chosen. Here’s me with the lovely little lady who got in (shout out to my beautiful model, Whitney!).

Bryan and I went to see the exhibit for the first time this evening and the caliber of work is truly admirable and very humbling. I’ll be honest when I say it feels strange to be exhibiting alongside so many incredible artists that I have long admired.

This painting is by my good friend Leslie Duke, an incredible artist who uses pure color and robust strokes to create rich and vibrant sculptural still life paintings.

Here is Bill’s entry. It’s a portrait of his beautiful wife, Sandra. He took this rather candid photo of her during the time I was studying under him in Bruge, Belgium, in the summer of 2012. Last year Sandra fell incredibly ill and was in the hospital for months. We had no idea if she would recover and I know Bill was in more distress than he let on. Any time he was able to come into the studio from the hospital, this is the painting he worked on. When I look at this piece, I see a lot of the pain he went through, as well as his love and adoration with every painstakingly exquisite stroke.

One of my favorite pieces was by artist Mary Sauer, a prior student of Bill’s. Reading about her process, Mary says she tries to complete the painting in one pass. Her method gives her work an incredible luminosity. I especially liked where you could still see the underpainting in the shadows on the figure.

An artist I have greatly admired for a while now is Ryan S. Brown. The painting below is part of a series called the Bre Project. Bre, a beautiful muse at only thirteen, discovered she had cancer. Ryan started the Bre Project to help the family cover the cost of the medical bills. You can read more about her journey and the project here. The painting below is truly remarkable.

This little gem by artist Heidi Daynes Darley really spoke to Bryan and me. I felt very inspired tonight to paint bigger, but this piece reminded me of why I love painting small. There’s an intimacy in tiny paintings. You have to stick your nose in it to see and treasure each stroke, obstructing everyone else’s view. Suddenly, it’s just you and the painting. In that moment of awe and appreciation, it belongs only to you.

You Painted These All By Yourself?

“My friend’s granddaughter paints pictures on the shoes…Oh, what do you call them? Anyhow, she paints pictures of little animals and whatnot. And I believe the other children pay her for it. ‘Sneakers.’ Isn’t that what they call them? Anyhow, that’s something I thought you could do.”

-Art School Confidential

People mean well. I know they do. But when someone asks what I do for a living, if you really think about it, there are some things that just shouldn’t be said. It would be insulting to any other profession, but for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to say certain things to artists. Here is a compilation of statements that I have heard:


  • “Did you make all these?”
  • “How long did that take you?”
  • “It costs $#@%*!!!! for that?”
  • “You should charge more for your paintings.”
  • “I can’t draw a stick figure.”
  • “You’re an artist? Oh, how fun.”
  • “So, do you have a real job?”
  • “I could do that.”
  • “You’ll paint that for free, right?”

  • “Wow, you’re really good at painting portraits. Can you paint my dog?”
  • “Have you ever considered painting Abstract? I know someone who wants Abstract work and they are willing to pay a lot. It would be like having a real job!”
  • “I would love to sit around and make art all day, but I have to work.”
  • “Since you’re not doing anything…could you do this for me?”

If you have ever said these things to an artist, please don’t take offense. I mean to bring attention to these comments in a lighthearted way. I’ve decided most people don’t know what to say in response to my profession and one of the above comments usually seems satisfactory.

The truth is, art is freaking hard. The hours are long with little pay. I study the figure’s minute details and nuances with either a three inch long razor sharp graphite point, filling in every pore of the paper’s surface, or a three haired paint brush until my eyeballs bleed and I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

I apply to galleries, shows, and competitions and 99% of the time I’m rejected (notice I didn’t say my ‘work’ is rejected. It’s difficult not to take rejection personally).

Bill said he once had two doctors take one of his workshops. They were two of the most committed and hardworking students he has ever had. Why? Because they understood the definition of freaking hard work.

I love what I do. Or at least the thrill of the initial draft with the potential of greatness. Or the accomplishment of the end result. The in-between, day to day stuff is gristly and painful. Most days I feel like the depressed cliche who throws her painting in the trash bin with a lit match and runs for the nearest cliff edge. But I grit my teeth and soldier on.

So now I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well, what the heck should I say?” Artists are tender creatures. Compliments are always nice. If you honestly think the work is horrid, say something vague like, “It has a dreamy quality,” or, “I like the colors you used.” Ask questions about the artist’s education, influences, or process, questions that could be applied to any other profession.

And if you happen to forget What Not to Say to An Artist and excitedly tell me about your friend’s granddaughter’s wildly successful artistic venture painting shoes and recommend I do that as well…well. That’s okay too.