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Charlie and Picolo Pay Close Attention!

Two very different creatures pay close attention to very different things

I loved an orange cat for many years and am currently smitten by a very fine and loyal dog. Each earned a place in the family heart while displaying typical breed character. My family saw them as two very nice animals—but they didn’t like each other! The cat was feisty and the dog (just a big puppy) was too rough. That two so different animals might form a fast friendship seemed unlikely . . . or so it appeared to me until this newest commission showed otherwise.

With different outlooks on what’s important

Charlie likes to chase squirrels! But here he represents the very best in dogdom for his utter attention to people as he looks out from the canvas. Picolo on the other hand is attentive to the bird. One thing to value in cats is their independence–they find their own pleasure in their own way.

The joke is almost always on the cat

Canine and feline each have their wonderful qualities but they are very different creatures. Here’s a reminder of how big those differences are in these humorous takes on the subject. Trust and loyalty . . .   Is it for suckers? Dogs and cats in the same situation will react so differently you’d think they were from different universes! Cats are independent creatures who don’t require you to love and appreciate them. Dogs are social and friendly, expressively happy and eager to earn your love.

Do you prefer one or the other?

In seeking the story before I began to plan and paint, the client sent a video; I watched as Charlie and Picolo teased and tumbled, nipped and rolled, cuffed and cuddled, then settled side by side to rest for their next bout. Some people are completely biased toward one or the other, viewing dogs as too submissive, fawning, needy and even a little stupid, or observing that cats are arrogant, wily, aloof, and a bit mean. But that’s unfair to both of these fine animals.

The big lesson is to get along!

Charlie and Picolo have found common ground to delight in their differences and still be friends. That is the story (and a lesson) told in this painting. Can’t we all just get along even if we don’t agree?

Composite painting

The Super Blood Moon photo over LA posted in February was less for the landscape than as a resource for one of my composite paintings. Here it makes an appearance in an imaginary summer sky. An airplane needs someplace to be heading and the left wingtip needs a design anchor. This type of work is the larger part of my business creating custom portraits and paintings. The airplane was actually sitting on the ramp outside the hangar and it seems to me that airplanes belong in the sky.

How it’s done

Just the moon and the airplane began as photographs, I first paint the background from my imagination then add sketches initially made from those photos as layers, before painting them with custom Photoshop brushes, digital ones that is. Brush-stroke by brush-stroke there’s no photo left. Neither pilot nor passenger were present in the cockpit, no headsets either, nor was the prop turning. It’s all created from imagination in digital paint then printed on heavy archival canvas with pigmented color.

clouds and moon

Shadows and perspective, flaps and ailerons

Over the past ten years I’ve done many airplanes in various imagined scenes. Looking real in this case requires knowledge of flaps and ailerons, and what kind of summer sky is beautiful, yet reasonably safe to transit. I know this isn’t the usual thing photographers do but it’s my special craft (literally and figuratively).

So what’s with the title?

In 1967 Jimmy Webb wrote a song that was released by the Fifth Dimension. It quickly became an iconic pop hit. Anyone of a certain age can hum the melody and most know the words at least to the refrain, “Up, Up and Away in my beautiful balloon!”

Romantic flight

Though it’s about a “beautiful balloon” rather than an airplane, Up Up and Away conveys the romance of flight that I attempt to show in this painting. Flying seems like magic, seeming to defy gravity though it’s just physics. Pilots learn rules and procedures and are at their best when they are so in sync with the airplane that it seems like ballet. That’s romance!


Do you see the “beard” at the base of the hive?

Here’s a tender scene, grandson learning bee culture from his grandfather who is a beekeeper. This new painting is companion to last year’s On the Road that featured the boy’s sister walking a country lane beside a loyal and loved black dog named Shadow.

Details of Time and Place

For this new painting both mother and grandmother shared ideas so The Beekeepers could convey uniquely personal details of time and place. The boy has his toy tractor in hand. Water drains from the sump into a bowl, then overflows into a rivulet. Grandfather places his hand on the boy’s back directing him toward the bees, and the boy mirrors that sweet acknowledgement laying his hand upon his grandfather’s neck. Rafts of forget-me-nots peek through the grass.

Forget not

In this and the earlier painting both children are barefoot on a hot summer day. Each is engaged in a joyful moment that becomes a favorite memory. Companion paintings of brother and sister now hang side by side, gifts to celebrate fleeting days of childhood. Tiny blue forget-me-not flowers remind them and all of us to remember and treasure the happy times.

Bearding the Hive

Look toward the lower hive. See the bees and notice how they’re amassed on the outside. In apiary (bee) science this phenomenon is known as bearding the hive. In very warm or humid weather clusters of thousands of bees fan their wings to create a flow of air through the hive thus ventilating and cooling it. The bees threaten no one; their behavior is entirely normal, a sign of good health in the hive.

Letting bees collect on your face!

What a surprise to learn that ages ago bee bearding was a common practice among beekeepers—to attract bees to their own bodies rather than the bees’ own instinct to gather on the hive. This practice demonstrated rapport between beekeepers and their insects. It still occurs in some places when a caged queen is tucked under the chin to attract bees to form a bee beard for ritualistic or other reasons. Massed on the face in weighty thousands they look for all the world like a real beard.

The phenomenon was even featured on the The Simpsons. In New Kid on the Block Grandpa Simpson wears a fifteen pound bee beard, “ . . . for that woman, but it just wasn’t enough.” And in Burns and the Bees a queen bee stings Lisa releasing pheromones that attract thousands of bees to her face. Check it out!

Best friends

Best Friends

Best friends, a bond of affection

Horses make good friends! They’re social animals and sociable once a pecking order is established to make them feel secure in their equine neighborhood. Studies show that leadership and dominance do play a role in horse interactions but they’re less important once order and safety are established between them and their familiar and best friends; then they’re more likely to rub and scratch each other’s backs, to parade the paddock together, and to watch out for one another. Those behaviors reveal a horse level of understanding and trust.

Sensory creatures

Like people, horses communicate with facial expressions using eyes, ears, and noses. It’s been said that the eyes are the windows of the soul and horses have the largest eyes among all the land mammals. Placed at the sides of their head, they can see more than 270° around without turning the head. Each ear has sixteen articulating muscles that rotate the ear through 180° and they typically point the ear toward whatever the eye on that side is seeing. So yes, the horse can see two different things at the very same time! They can twitch and move their skin separately from the muscles beneath. Horses also vocalize what they want to communicate with whinnies, neighs, roars and snorts, the meaning of which other horses know and that we too can learn. They are unique and interesting animals.

Do horses really befriend humans?

If you’ve cared for a horse, enjoyed each other’s company, built a history together, learned the nuances of emotion, you know that the horse is your friend just as you are his. Each of you is free to express your feelings honestly, to exchange trust, sympathy and love. It’s not that a horse cannot compare or judge you but that he’s found you worthy. Because a horse does judge and remembers, earning his affection is a personal honor and true compliment. In your shared friendship each of you can be happier. A horse may live many decades returning value for value with a fortunate human friend. They see us; we see them.

From the artist’s point of view:

This is Ed, a Morgan horse who was cherished by his human for more than thirty years. The commission came last winter—to paint a remembrance in honor of a wonderful horse and as a surprise for his owner and best friend to replace her grief with glad memory. The exact time and place is imagined but summarizes familiar woods and trees, a corral and the cattail marsh of home. To set the scene required four major paint sketches. From the beginning both husband and daughter contributed ideas in the framework of a good day between best friends landscaped against a summer sky with puffy clouds. It was a challenge gladly accepted and their help throughout was irreplaceable.

Challenges in painting Best Friends

Painting Ed was complicated by their wish to show his muscular, younger self in the prime of life, in the days when carrying his friend across the countryside was a mutual joy–in the absence of a photo that showed him that way. Painting her was challenging in a different way; we humans recognize everything about ourselves! The slightest nuance of glance or smile or posture had to be accurate or she wouldn’t recognize or accept it as herself. Several months into the process I even considered anonymously observing her, perhaps in her place of work—until that just seemed too entirely weird.

So I put her riding helmet on her head and even turned her sideways into the scene. The helmet covered her lovely hair which I’d decided long before to showcase with sunshine highlights. Turning her head toward Ed made painting a reasonable likeness more reliable (as we don’t commonly see ourselves from the side). But that dodged the point of the painting. So I persisted without helmet, face forward until she looked like the woman in two dozen family photos, until husband and daughter confirmed that indeed it did capture the woman they knew.

Passing the test! 20160918_133514

But the truest test came when the husband brought his wife to our home. On a Sunday drive through the country, he’d told her moments before that he wanted her to meet some people who lived down a long country lane in coulee country. We greeted him, “It’s good to see you again,” while she looked slightly bewildered; imagine her thinking, “Odd that he knows these strangers whom I don’t.” We all acknowledged the peculiarity of the moment and assured her that soon all would be explained.

I’d hung her portrait in our library and beyond were lemonade and cookies on the summer porch. Leading the way I turned toward her at the instant she saw herself and Ed. It was a life event for them and for us too, a never to be forgotten moment. We four spent time getting to know one another, answering questions, explaining how it all came to be. They are a remarkable couple in the ways they communicate, in his kindness and perceptions of what might please her, in her appreciation of him and thankfulness for the gift.

And she looks exactly like the beautiful woman in the painting!

Acquiring a personal painting is a milestone event, a rare one in today’s Instagram world. A painted portrait is both more time consuming to accomplish and more expensive to acquire but in addition to being far more permanent, it has the ability to capture so much more than a momentary look. It can bring personality to life along with important details that are unique to one person at a specific place and time.

Capture the essence

The essence here is a passion for music and books, comfortable and contented throughout

Capturing the Essence

During winter into spring, I’ve been working with two young people. Here is one of them just beyond childhood having emerged as a young woman. Her portrait began in casual conversation as we eased into the idea for a very special gift; this is always the most interesting part of my painting process. At these early stages it’s hard to know whether it will ever come together, whether my skills are sufficient to capture not just what a person looks like but to capture their essence.  A camera can do that much faster and cheaper but I’m a painter first and foremost. There was no scene exactly as you see it here but it captures a deeper truth.

As weeks became months I studied dozens of photos along with handwritten notes of our conversations recalling how she described herself and what details were important. When the client is communicative my work is always easier! She was direct and had opinions about what she liked as well as freely sharing what she didn’t like. I learned a lot–about her passion for music and books, and that at her core she is comfortable and contented through and through. She revealed herself indirectly as thoughtful and intelligent, introspective, determined, and hardworking. There’s no doubt she has special things ahead in life, a jewel of a person who made a good process great.

I’ve since learned that she had a big smile when she opened the package. Her mother says it captures her personality and her passions. My hope is that it may become a focal point for memory, especially for how much she is loved and admired and that she’ll treasure that feeling always.

In the next two weeks I hope to show you something different—photographic and personal—of a young man graduating high school and moving into his own version of the future.

Sam needs his Forever Home; donation portrait to the Dog Art for Old Friends benefit to be held October 16, 2015. at the Omni Nashville

Sam needs his Forever Home; donation portrait to the Dog Art for Old Friends benefit to be held October 16, 2015. at the Omni Nashville

Senior dog needs forever home

The shepherd painted here is Sam, worn out from life on the farm and enjoying a satisfying midday rest among the cornstalks. But he’ll rise to greet anyone who comes along with an enthusiastically wagging tail. Sam understands the value of the trade—he’ll give love and loyalty for a good retirement home and someone who appreciates him.

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary is a Forever Foster home-based Sanctuary in beautiful Mount Juliet, Tennessee. An important part of their mission is to raise awareness of the joys and challenges of living with older dogs. Senior dogs, especially those with medical problems or disabilities, face a much greater chance of euthanasia at shelters than younger dogs because it’s difficult to find adopters for them due to their shorter additional life expectancy and unknown veterinary costs. Most of these wonderful senior dogs will be able to live happily with a good quality of life if given a chance. They make wonderful companions because they are mature, calm and loving.  

It can be more difficult for them to settle in, and once they do, it is difficult for them to move again. For this reason they strive to find them forever foster or adoptive homes where they can live out their retirement years as a loved family member. Currently OFSDS provides lifetime retirement homes for 47 senior dogs at the Sanctuary and many more in temporary and Forever Foster Homes. They are an all volunteer 501(c)(3), non-profit.  They say, “We do not concern ourselves with the quantity of time that they have left, rather the quality of the life that we can provide them for that time.” Learn more about their mission at the OFSDS home page and blog and then LIKE them at Facebook!

Dog Art for Old Friends Benefit auction

The Nashville community of arts and artists including many names you would recognize has become a key supporter of the Senior Dogs Sanctuary. This year Light Pixie Studio is pleased to contribute to such a worthy cause. The second annual Dog Art for Old Friends benefit auction will be held at the Omni Nashville on October 16th with 100% of proceeds to help Old Friends. Tickets are available online for the live event and silent auction previews and bidding underway from May 1 to October 16, 2015.

An artist wants to hear that a client’s story is thought to be well told and that the work is appreciated for the art of it. The client must be satisfied and comfortable with the integration of the work in their home, that it looks well and visually fits the space. When I spend weeks or even months creating for someone, it’s important to me that their idea has been fulfilled. That’s why no one pays anything in advance so that the creative process remains pure and there’s no advance pressure to perform but only to create.

Painting with Pixels – the Whole Story

The client is a part of my artistic process, not only to tell the story as only they know it, but all the way through to the end in choosing a title. This is Thoughtful Explorer about a child playing charades while connecting dots, exploring, emerging, evolving, and revealing both his inner dialogue as well as the public revelation of it. This was my last winter’s work to imagine, as the grandmother did, a marvelous memory of an evening at the Capital (bat) Bridge in Austin, Texas, and the emergence of a complex, multi-dimensional boy into full participation and conversation with his family. There’s more of the story to tell but it is the child’s intimate story and the grandmother’s–not to be shared or told here. She tells me, “Your painting has climbed into my heart and captured it!”


Painting with Pixels is the same as traditional painting and at the same time quite different too

Over the years only a very few clients have asked how this work of painting with pixels is done; I think that’s because the finished product looks like traditional processes should look. And for those who haven’t seen it done or don’t know the technical/digital potential, it’s inconceivable that one can create as I do even though it is being done widely all over the world and is the future for many artists. This grandmother did ask and I answered her by building a wristwatch as they say. Here are several photos of what I had to begin, reference material for the boy, my initial sketch, where I paint, and the workshop where I stretch and frame to help you visualize too how the work is produced. Below that are the grandmother’s questions about the digital process along with my answers.

Desktop environmentOverview of my desk

Physical and material

Typically the background light is subdued so all my attention, what I’m thinking and seeing, is concentrated on the monitor. I do use a focused light to  illuminate just the desktop with tablet, brushes and other tools. The light is brighter here than usual for this photograph. I sit in a Henry Miller Aeron chair so tiredness is a result of an overactive mind rather than an aching back. Below the left corner of the monitor are two book-sized boxes that contain 3 terabytes of backup data. In addition l have about the same amount of duplicate data in the cloud and on a second internal hard-drive. I cannot afford to lose data that is ephemeral but able to produce tangible things, especially my paintings. Some of the smaller objects in the room are mementos of a good life, many of them are real treasures with significant stories, and they inspire and make me smile for the memories.

The interim “canvas”

The flat black rectangle angled to the screen is the Wacom tablet on which I work. I keep a jeweler’s loop  and my brushes along the edges. Look in the upper left corner of the screen to see a semi-transparent grey square overlapping one wing of the bat; now look on the surface of the tablet where I laid one of the brushes. Notice that the brush is oriented the same as the shape on the screen. I programmed that particular brush to have long flexible fibers with a flat, angled tip so that’s what shows in the grey square, plus the brush on screen moves in the same 3-dimensional plane as the one laying on the tablet’s surface. All of my digital brushes are fully articulated in space, in other words they orient in my hand just as I would turn and direct a sable brush and they likewise direct the way the paint is put down–how thick or thin the line, how translucent or opaque the color, etc. That grey square is a visual reference useful to double check my programming of the brush. Once I see how it works, I turn the visual reference off so it’s not distracting.


Of the three brushes that are standing upright in their holders, the one at far right is an airbrush and you can see how different it looks from the others. The shape is designed to fit the hand in the same way a traditional airbrush does; it helps those of us who learned to use an airbrush before the digital/wireless age. It would feel odd to hold an airbrush any other way although this one is very lightweight and doesn’t have the air and paint line hanging heavily off the back end. All of the brushes and the tablet are wireless which makes them easier to manipulate. One of the strangest things I had to get used to was the very light weight of all of these brushes but especially the airbrush. Now after so many years, it would be just as strange to work the way I used to do it.

Working details

I zoom into the image to work more closely on small areas like the eyes or the bat and then move out again to see the effect overall. Again, that’s not very different than any painter works except that I don’t have to walk across the room to zoom in and out. Notice how I’ve kept the school photo of the boy in front of me as I work. It’s not only an easy cross reference but a way for me to connect my work with a very real, little boy. That one photo was the only reference material I had for the boy but, combined with the grandmother’s description of the event and on-line photos of the bridge in downtown Austin, it was possible to recreate her memory one step at a time. Below is the preliminary sketch I prepared as the work began to evolve and to flesh out the concept for the client. Notice that I changed many things, from the stripes on his shirt to the basic orientation of the bridge while working from the sketch to the final painting.

Layout Sketch


Production workshop

Next below is the top of my carpenter’s bench. The tool in front of the portrait is a BeA air-driven stapler that helps me attach the canvas properly to the stretcher bars. It’s made in Germany and is one of my favorite tools. It just feels good in the hand. The ka-chunk of the trigger is precise and dependable.

Stretching canvas

Next shows the back of Thoughtful Explorer; the canvas is already stretched and stapled into place. I’ve just finishing installing corner keys which allow subtle adjustment of tension. Depending on temperature and humidity some environments allow a canvas to loosen a bit in time. That’s normal, but having an easy means to adjust for it is a good idea, so I always install what are called Best Keys. In this picture they are the diagonal silver brackets across each of the four corners. Without them it’s hard to keep the canvas taught over the years but with them a small open end wrench does the job in seconds. It matters to me that the back of the painting is neat ‘though it won’t be seen once hung on the wall. I sign all work with its title and my personal cypher/signature with date–canvases on the back and fine art papers on the front.

Back of canvas

How Painting with Pixels actually happens – questions asked and answered

1)  What do you have in your hand(s) as you create?

I hold an art pen that can be programmed for all the same things I used to “buy” in my brushes. One pen can be reprogrammed on the fly, but I’ve found that owning four of them lets me set up each one for various tasks I do over and over in a project. Three of the pens look pretty much alike—it’s on the software side that I tell the pen how to lay down their strokes. Even then I change opacity and size of the brush itself including the shape of the brush, as I work. To keep these three straight, I apply a temporary sticky label. The fourth brush is an airbrush, also programmable within the nature of what an airbrush does in laying down a spray of color, and it looks as different from the other three brushes as a real airbrush does from a regular paintbrush. These pens have changeable nibs that emulate the feel of the real thing. So by changing the nib I get the drag of watercolor on cotton rag or the smooth flow of light oil paint on tightly woven canvas, etc. These pens are designed by Wacom and purchased separately from the tablet on which I make my strokes. So one of my painting implements is in my right hand and I hold it just like I always held a conventional brush. For me that means four fingers on the top of brush, thumb underneath just above the painting surface and with my ring-finger applying variable pressure. Oh and the pens recognize the pressure gradient I’ve programmed to determine how thick or thin, how opaque or transparent the paint is applied.

2)  On what does your image appear as you are working?

First, I paint on the tablet and nothing appears there at all as the surface is a special space age material that permits the pens to emulate the feel of any real media I’ve chosen to use. The surface is a plain but silky black and it can be turned in any direction so the programmed buttons work for either the left or right hand. So in my case my left hand rests on or over the buttons as I work. The tablets come in a variety of sizes. As I always previously worked on large but not monstrous canvas, muscle coordination for me is more natural on a large tablet but not the extra-large version. Mine measures about 13” x 20” with a slightly smaller painting surface. In order to see what I’m doing, I do not look at the tablet at all but at a very large monitor designed for graphic designers. Surprising to me, it only took a few hours to get the eye hand coordination that would otherwise be used on a regular canvas surface. A monitor has one drawback in that my work appears more luminous than it will on paper or canvas because it’s lighted from within, if you will, unlike the reflected light off the surface of any paper or fabric media. I’ve been doing this for a long time and learned to compensate to get exactly what I want in the finished painting.

3)  What is the color substance on the canvas and how does it get there?

The color is pigment made from the same mineral or botanical substances that any quality watercolor or oil or other paint is made. When the image is a watercolor, the pigment is conveyed through the nozzles of a highly specialized art printer. When the painting requires a heavier color application like oil or oil pastels, another kind of art printer for giclée must be used. All of these printers and the individual pigmented colors they use are expensive to own and maintain, not to mention the learning curve to use them properly. After printing I apply a UV-light protective coating. All of my work is guaranteed for an heirloom quality lifetime.

One question the client didn’t ask

There’s a question that wasn’t asked but that may help bridge the gap to the fourth question. I had the artistic skills to do the artful work but adding the digital technical skills required many additional years of specialized training and practice. Even now after all these years not a week goes by that I don’t actively pursue some new learning. I’m very knowledgeable about what I do well beyond computer literacy but especially in how to make all the parts work together. That includes insuring that the monitor, the software, the printers and the various paper or canvas options all “see” the same thing I do and in the same color space. I can now make my tools create exactly what my mind imagines. The question that wasn’t asked is this:

What is the language you use to communicate throughout your workflow?

I use the language of Photoshop first and foremost. It does not and cannot tell me what to do or how to do it. It does not create anything; I do that one brush stroke at a time. But it is the computer language/program that “speaks” to all the pieces of technology as I work. So the first thing I do when beginning a painting is to create a .psd file which is the native Photoshop file protocol. I have to be able to access other file protocols too, like .tif for getting maximum information from a scan, .cr2 for communicating with Camera Raw, and for emailing to my clients I use .jpg because computers, iPads and cell phones can read that format where they typically cannot read the others. If we exchange image files the color spaces must be the same from one computer to the other or I must convert them so they both convey the same color information. It’s like hiring a translator. There will also be one or more .docx files for the research documents I build, as for instance when I began educating myself about the Capitol Bridge in Austin and the Mexican free-tailed bat. There are several other file extensions too but this is a good idea of the ones I use most.

Then I begin adding various files to a master folder that will hold videos, slide shows and other images sent by the client or scans of images emailed, and my various research documents. This painting has about 25 total files with 16 of them in the .psd Photoshop format. PSD doesn’t save files bigger than 2 GBs so in the beginning I broke the image into separate files of logical parts, like the background, the bat, and the child. The files get so big because I work at 300 ppi and keep all versions so there’s a retreat-back option.

For this painting there are files holding the boy’s hair as the color was changed to match what the client “knew” rather than what the photos showed, another file is for the raised eyebrow as I worked out his quizzical look, one for the change in his shirt, and another for the highlights and shadows created by the setting sun, etc. Eventually I discovered that Photoshop has another file format (.psb) that can handle much larger files, so I no longer have so many separate files and folders. Once the image is finished to my and my client’s satisfaction, I make a much smaller, flattened version from which to print. All of my work is done on a gamers’ computer and even then it sometimes gets bogged down a bit.

The client’s last question:

4)  Does your process have a name?

There are many artists who work similarly. In spite of the modern, technological nature of the process of painting with pixels, I don’t use the term “modern artist” because that evokes an aesthetic rather than a process. But like those who use traditional media, the image outcomes vary tremendously with style, artistic vision, color sense, client base, even work ethic and business model. The generic term for what we all do is “artist,” then more descriptively “digital artist.” I rarely use that second term because it misses the point that there is no program to imagine and create the work for me. And it confuses those who’ve never seen a painting evolve and could have no idea that it takes time and effort as it always did. The benefits are many, however. Our home with my studio doesn’t smell of solvents, expensive paints don’t dry out in the tube, I have unlimited color mixable at will, my fingers are clean, I don’t have to wait for the paint to dry to continue working or to change my mind, I can mix media on one project if a watercolor sky with an oil pastel subject better evokes the scene, a painting is replaceable if lost to fire or other damage or loss. I am essentially unlimited except by my imagination.

It was fun for me to think this through as one might try to convey an unknown and highly abstract concept to an intelligent inquiry. Here’s hoping it was interesting to you and succeeded in clarifying the process of digital art.

Email me through the website or at sharyn @ lightpixiestudio.com with comments or questions.


The Frog Whisperer



This little girl is eight years old, a math whiz, and full of imagination! She loves any play that involves swinging, soaring, jumping, pretend flying. Land, sea or air, she’s quite at home. This marvelous little person watches butterflies in her spare time and is a devoted follower of all small creatures. Her favorite colors are anything bright!


This painting, The Frog Whisperer, shows what really happens in this child’s day-to-day world, not once, not twice, but over and over again. Yes, she is patient beyond anything you’ve ever seen. And she’s quietly purposeful enough to gentle a bullfrog into her hands.


It’s always a pleasure to enjoy her company with never a dull moment!

Here’s my newest commission and another Best of Breed animal. Meet Northwynd Everlasting “Sprite” who was born a tiny 4.6 ounces but grew into a star. Last year Sprite took the highest honor a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi can achieve in winning the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club National Speciality!  With a sparkling career of many awards she’s a credit to her pedigree and to her breed, the product of a noble line, sired by a champion and mother to a pup who is already winning highest honors.

This painting shows baby Sprite looking at her puppy self in life’s mirror. Looking back at her and at us is the adult Sprite with her National Speciality ribbon adorning the frame.

There are two recognized corgi breeds, the Pembrokes and the Cardigans. The royal Windsors prefer the Pembrokes and actively encourage the breed. To win the National Speciality is the ultimate Best of Breed recognition for the dog and moreover for the breeder, owner, and trainers. In this case one dedicated woman wears all these hats. When asked what best describes all the work and worry, the years of commitment leading to Sprite’s success, she answered with the words that now title this painting.

I’d never heard of the Rainbow Bridge until recently. In context of planning this painting it was abundantly clear what was meant. That a meadow full of beloved pets might exist where they wait patiently and playfully for their beloved owners is both comfort in grief and a wish for love and companionship. How touching to imagine it! The preciousness of life is what this touches so be sure to squeeze the good from today and everyday.

Keisha and Cubby: Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge

 Keisha at left was described to me as the couple’s favorite dog of all, a constant friend and companion, full of joy and eagerness, sweet of disposition, joining faithfully in morning walks and loyal always. At right is Cubby who, owned by a distracted neighbor, knew a very good thing in the happy company and care to be found next door. In their place now is Ruby, a solidly round little pup who fills today with her antics.

This painting was to be a surprise birthday gift for the man but his wife was too enthusiastic to wait a month to give it. That and a lucky circumstance allowed me to be present in the gallery to see his reaction for myself. That makes this painting especially meaningful to me as well. To translate someone’s loss into a special memory is my own little piece of paradise, a painted poem.

For anyone who has ever loved an animal friend, here then is the poetic prose entitled Rainbow Bridge written by an unknown author sometime in the last twenty to thirty years:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together

“Freckles is my good friend. When we ride it feels like flying on wind. I wonder if Freckles feels me like a pair of new sprouted wings?”

This painting was commissioned by the young woman’s other friend to recognize an important achievement and to acknowledge a special place in the heart.


The snowmobile part of the portrait–that is, a far more complex structure to paint than the young college student astride it.

I enjoyed the working session when we talked about his machine and reference photos were taken. It seemed to me that he did as well. In this case it was his smile that captured my attention–not too much, not too little, but just right. I referred to it as his generous smile which equally fit his personality. I like young people, especially the hopeful, ambitious, forward focus of youth engaged in building the future, a credit to their families and a joy to their friends.

In the several months of work on the portrait, I learned a lot more than expected about the physical structure of such a snow machine. No, I’ve never ridden one and it’s a far cry from the airplane I pilot. Great color and curvy lines to appreciate though! Snowmobiling has been a big part of the young man’s life and for him it’s the best thing about winter. In his own words,

“It’s freedom from everything, just being able to go out riding and not really knowing where you’re heading. Finding new places to go is the best part . . . pretty much, snowmobiling is my most favorite hobby.”

Since the machine and the freedom it represents is such a value to the young man I worked hard to get it right.


As for the young man I would call him brave to sit for his portrait with a stranger. Ander is of Scandinavian root and references bravery. His other name suggests fame so perhaps somebday he’ll make a name for himself as a brave man.

Ander’s Son

Late morning, we see a wolf at its kill. Golden eyes stare defiantly as if to say, “This is mine!” Facial posture including curled lips, bared teeth, intent stare, raised hackles signal a wolf ready to defend its turf. He may growl and he may snarl, but the stare tells all–this is a dominant animal on guard and ready. Such a direct stare is a blatant challenge, asserting rank and status, an important communication tool for this bold, strong-willed canine.

Wisconsin wildlife, Wildgame Innovations, 10 January 2012, 11:21:12 a.m. 50° F

The wolf at its kill