Catoctin Mountain National Park, Artist in Residence, May 2016

During May of this year, I was selected to be an Artist in Residence at Catoctin Mountain National Park.  Many of our National Parks have their own AIR programs- each is a little different, as they are all administrated separately by the parks or by associated organizations.  The Catoctin residency is managed by the Catoctin Forest Alliance.  I was given lodging for two weeks in a cabin at the historic Misty Mount camp ground, and given free reign to make work based on my experience at the park.  In exchange, I donated one piece from the residency to the park.

It has taken me a bit of time to get the work from the residency scanned and organized to post online, but it seems fitting that I finally get it all up the day after the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.  This Saturday, August 27th, there will be a 100th anniversary celebration at Catoctin, and I will be attending to drop off my donation painting, and to talk a little about the AIR experience.

I’ve tried applying for several AIR programs over the past two years, and this was my first time being selected as a resident artist.  I was glad that Catoctin is fairly convenient drive from home- it seemed like a good introduction to the residency experience.  I wasn’t sure what it would be like being mostly alone in the woods for two weeks.  I was able to visit home twice during the residency.  I spent a lot of time alone, but also met many wonderful rangers as well as the volunteers who serve as hosts for Misty Mount.  During my normal life as a freelancer, I spend a lot of time to myself, and enjoy my solitude, but going days on end without much personal interaction is certainly a different experience.  I did have internet access on my smart phone, and cell phone service, which provided a bit of company- it is difficult to imagine a more remote AIR experience where even these things are not available, although I hope to do one some day.  I had a lot of time to work, to think about my work, to think about life, to read, and to experience nature.

It also rained almost constantly for the duration of the two weeks, which made working as a plein air watercolorist very challenging.  I took advantage of any break in the rain I could.  Sometimes, I painted while sitting inside the hatchback of my vehicle, or under overhangs at various park buildings.  Even with an overhang, the humidity makes watercolor difficult.  Using the heat in the car to help dry out paintings helped a little.  So this element was frustrating, because I constantly felt like I could be getting a lot more work done, and working a lot better, without the additional challenge from the weather.  I felt a bit beaten down at times.  A couple of times, I retreated inside the visitor center, and painted the taxidermy owls on display.

However, despite the weather, I learned a lot.  In most of my previous plein air work, I tend to focus on man made structures, or the contrast between these structured elements and the natural world.  I’ve found completely organic scenes very challenging to paint.  It’s easy for the forest to dissolve into an overall texture.  One must make very conscious decisions about creating a focal point through intentionally controlled contrast and selective detail- just mindlessly painting what’s there quickly leads to total chaos.  By the end of the residency, I felt like I’d learned to handle this type of subject matter more successfully.

In total, I painted around 30 pieces, but they weren’t all successful as finished pieces.  Here is a selection of the best work.




“Naiad,” 22″ x 30″ watercolor on 300lb cold press Arches paper.  I’ve done a few pieces at this full sheet scale recently, and I’m enjoying the exploration of the larger format.  I recently applied for a grant to offset some of the cost of framing large pieces like this, so that I can possibly do an exhibition of large scale portrait work during 2017.

In September, I’ll be participating in the unjuried Chincoteague Plein Air event.  The one day display and sale of work created for the event will be on Saturday, September 10, from 6-9pm at the United Methodist Church Social Hall in Chincoteague Island, VA.

I was pleased to be selected as a juried artist for the second annual Harford Plein Air Festival in my home county. The work created during the week well be on display at the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air, MD.  The ticketed Collector’s Preview Party is Friday, October 14 at 7pm and the Public Gallery Sale is Saturday, October 15, 2-5pm.

I was also excited to receive my contributor’s copy of Splash 17: Inspiring Subjects, The Best of Watercolor from North Light Books recently!

Technical difficulties

For a brief interval today (6/30/16) e-mails sent to were bouncing back.  The problem has been resolved.  If anyone tried to reach me during that interval regarding an urgent illustration or painting matter, please know that I am alive and well and freelancing and able to be reached ASAP!  Please e-mail me again, or feel free to call me at 410-428-3432.  Sorry for any inconvenience.

Here’s a new painting for your trouble!  A portrait of my greyhound, Zephyr, 22″ x 30″ watercolor on 300 lb cold press Arches paper.


Residency and Receptions

Catoctin Mountain National Park

I have been accepted to participate in the National Parks Artist-In-Residence program as a resident artist at Catoctin Mountain National Park near Thurmont, Maryland.  I only found out about two weeks ago, so it has been a bit of a whirlwind preparing!  I will be in residence creating a body of plein air (landscapes painted directly from life) watercolors from May 2-May 14.  I leave in less than a week!  I’ll be presenting a free public program at the Visitor Center on May 8, 1-2pm.  It will be a brief demo and discussion of my plein air painting process.

“What the #!@* is Plein Air Painting”
I am delighted to be one of the 35 artists included in the inaugural exhibit of plein air painting at the brand new Ken Karlic Artist Studio & Gallery on Main Street in Bel Air, MD.  The opening reception is May 6 from 5-8:30pm.  I’ll be making a special trip back from Catoctin to attend.  Stay tuned for more news about workshops, classes, shows, and other events hosted at Ken’s new gallery- I’m sure there are big things ahead, and I’m excited that he is bringing more art to Harford County.

Art, Wine, & Dine in Bedford Springs, PA
I’ll be one of twelve guest plein air painters invited to paint at the “Art, Wine & Dine” weekend on May 20-22 at the beautiful Omni Bedford Springs Resort in PA.  “Wine, fine food and art: the perfect trio for a fabulous time at Omni Bedford Springs Resort. This year, we debut our Art, Wine & Dine event which showcases local artisans, wine purveyors, Resort culinary offerings and even an art auction, all with the lush Allegheny Mountains as the canvas. You’ll leave feeling like an expert. With this package you’ll get the VIP treatment: VIP Reception Friday night, Wine and Food Pairing Class, Wine and Paint Class, and VIP Art Preview Reception.”

Baltimore Watercolor Society Mid-Atlantic Exhibition
My painting “Outer Space” (below) has been juried into the Baltimore Watercolor Society’s Mid-Atlantic Exhibition at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, MD.  The show will be on view from June 9-July 16, with a reception on June 26 from 2-4pm.

Personal reflections on teaching watercolor

Last month, I ended a several year long stint teaching watercolor through Carroll Community College to a wonderful group of seniors at the North Carroll Senior Center.  I’d grown quite fond of the group, but the commute from Harford County to Carroll County was wearing on me.  I’m at a crossroads now with my teaching where I’m in the process of working out new classes and workshops in watercolor that I hope to offer here in Harford County, starting in the Fall- either out of my home studio or somewhere else nearby.  I wrote this post on my personal Facebook page with some thoughts I had about my teaching experience so far, and I’ve decided I’d like to share it here so that I can archive it in a more accessible format:

As I teach my last few class meetings in Carroll County, I’ve been doing some philosophical reflection. I’ve found that the following is true of the students who progress the most. It does not necessarily matter how much experience or “talent” they start out with. I think these things are probably true of any skill, not just painting.

Students who progress the most…

-Paint a lot, in and out of class.

-Listen to criticism and process and implement that feedback, rather than arguing with it or making excuses.

-Are not afraid to take risks and “fail” in the short term, while trying out new skills and ways of thinking. They understand that a “failed” painting is experience brought to the next one, and is not a waste.

-Ask questions and have a curious outlook. Research and study from other sources besides me and then share their new discoveries and ask questions about what they’ve read or done elsewhere.

I’ve also learned a few things about teaching.

-My biggest job, aside from the fundamental concepts to be taught, is to help my students learn to be fearless. Some come to me fearless, but many need to learn to be. Fear of failure, ruining the painting, trying something difficult, trying something new and different when they’ve gotten used to doing things one way…fear is a major obstacle.

-I have to take control of the classroom and schedule. I can’t allow myself to feel “bullied” or rushed by students who don’t want to wait their turn, or who have their own ideas about the plan for the day.

-I have to accept that everyone has their own goals and not everyone actually WANTS to improve or be pushed out of their comfort zone. In a community mixed level class, like the one I’ve been teaching, there are some students who are there to get out of the house, be around people, and who don’t care about getting a lot of work done, or who are happy following the same methods they always have…they don’t have goals beyond that and it’s OKAY, as long as it’s not a distraction for other students. I try to leave the door open for them to try more, without making them feel unwelcome by pushing too hard. In some class environments, this might not be appropriate, I have to gauge based on the purpose of the class and the needs of the students.

-Some students need the same ideas repeated over and over again in the same or different ways to really get it.

-Students need help becoming their own best selves as artists- not in-training versions of me.

-I don’t have to pretend to know everything about everything. But if someone asks a question or needs help with something I can’t answer with confidence, we can discover the answer together. I should make sure they know that in many cases, there is not a single right way of doing something, and different artists might have vastly different, equally valid approaches.