2015 in Pictures

One of my favorite ways of taking stock of a year is to dig though all the photos I took and be reminded of all the beautiful things I saw. It’s my job to get outside and find pretty places, so getting out there is something I take pretty seriously. I rode my bike a couple thousand miles this year on beautiful trails, and spent countless hours hiking, snowshoeing, and driving to find the right scenes to paint.

Here are a few of my favorite places from 2015. Maybe not the most beautiful photos I took (and every single one is a low quality cell phone snap), but these are the ones I look at that remind me of moments and places that captured my heart.


Jan (2)

I took this photo while I was out painting with some friends in January. It was unseasonably warm, but we headed up Bear Creek Canyon out of Evergreen, found ourselves some snow and good light, and set to work. I love days like this – hanging out with other painters, throwing around ideas about art, getting some work done, and breathing in fresh air in the middle of winter. I love my job.



This shot is from the top of Evergreen Mountain, my favorite local spot. I climb this trail on my bike a couple times a week when the weather is good, and this was the first year I realized I could pedal up there in the snow too. Heaven!



This was outside of Moab, Utah as we road-tripped home from our annual spring break trip to Arizona. We hit Moab at dinnertime, and I could tell the light would be good, so I convinced my family to eat in the car and keep driving so I could snap some photos of the Colorado at sunset. It’s a good thing they put up with me.



Front range at sunset. Need I say more? I live in the mountains, but this view will always say home to me.



It was a wet spring. Like, REALLY wet. We all got a little bit stir-crazy as the rain came down and the trails all turned to mud, but the moisture turned the park in my backyard into a cool place full of lush green grass and hidden waterfalls. This is a mile from my house – that stream is normally just a trickle.



Sunset from the trail on Green Mountain. Being outside at sunset in the summer is probably one of my favorite things in the world. I love to paint that last light. I love being out there on my bike with a group of friends, racing the sunset to the car. I love the way the last light of the day transforms a sort of mundane scene into something perfect.



I think July was the busiest month of the year, and looking back, I hardly took any photos! Lots of adventures, little time to stop and smell the roses, I guess? This is Cedar Lake, Indiana – my husband spent his summers here growing up, and we took our kids back for a week in early July. It’s one of those places where you can still let your kids roam the neighborhood on bikes.



Sunset from the top of Rollins Pass, Winter Park, CO. I had an art show in Winter Park in August, and we had some friends visiting from Michigan, so we all headed up to Grand County for the weekend and got our high altitude fix. The last night up there, we all hiked around above treeline while the sun went down. Standing on top of the world.



Trail 401 – Crested Butte. Yellow aspens for miles, my favorite trail, and an awesome new bike. Need I say more?



I took a solo trip to Glacier National Park for a couple of days at the start of October, so I could gather some reference material for a show. It was great – I think I was there during peak color, and the park was practically empty. I spent a couple of days sketching and taking photos to my heart’s content. I think I have enough material now to do a few years worth of paintings.



We had some heavy snow and a cold snap in November, and it was like a winter wonderland for about a week. I love having a fatbike for riding in the snow – it gets me outside when I otherwise would be happy to hide away inside by the fire, so I don’t miss out on scenes like this one.



Another month where we did so much, I hardly stopped to take a picture. This is the view from Flying J park in Conifer at sundown on a perfect day.

Overall, 2015 was a rollercoaster of a year. Lots of rough times mixed in with some truly amazing moments. These are some of the ones that will stay with me. Here’s to many more beautiful moments in 2016!!


FAQs – Where do I start?

“Colorado Winter”
Oil on Panel

I get a lot of emails from artists who want to pick my brain on how to make it as a painter. I love helping people out, and manage the occasional coffee date to answer questions for someone who seems motivated and excited to learn, but for the most part, I can’t keep up with the requests. I’ve noticed a trend though – my students and the folks who email me are all asking the same questions. I thought I’d do a blog series answering a few of those FAQ’s. That way, when I don’t have time to get to all the emails, the info is here for you!

The first question I get from people wanting to make it in the art world boils down to: How do I start?

To most aspiring painters, “How do I start?” very quickly snowballs into a thousand related questions: How do I get into galleries? Should I do shows? How do I price my work? Where do you get your frames? Are plein air shows good? Should I advertise? How do I get magazines to cover my work? Should I take more classes? And on and on and on….

Whew – let’s all take a deep breath!!

Most of the time, I encourage folks to stop right there, and go back to the beginning.

So – “How do I start?”

The answer to that is twofold.

First, you need to know where you want to go.

I know, this sounds really simplistic. Most people who paint want to win awards and get into galleries and make money selling art!! That’s what everyone else is doing! Right!? It’s easy to logon to Facebook and see everyone posting show acceptances and gallery announcements and sales and get caught up in thinking that that’s where you want to be as well.

I caution you to think hard about what you want. Everyone’s path is not, and should not, be the same.

Not all artists need to be professionals. Some do, some don’t, and that’s ok. You can still make art, regardless.

Making money as an artist is a lot of work. It requires a lot of perseverance, the ability to juggle a lot of different skillsets, and the fortitude to face a lot of rejection. It’s not for everyone. Even if you love painting more than anything in the world, making a living at painting is a whole different animal.

I have had students do the work to prepare for a solo show or big exhibition, only to find that it took away their excitement about painting. One of them said to me, “You know what? I think I realized that I don’t need to sell my art after all.” Perceptive, and self-aware.

So I encourage you, before you go any farther, to think about where you see your art in one year, five years, ten years… Do you just want to paint what you want and sell occasionally? Are you happy if you just do a couple of shows per year and maybe make a couple of sales or awards, or is it important that you be a professional? Is painting more of a social thing where you want to be involved in a group and do shows with your friends? Is this your true calling and you can’t see yourself doing anything else as a job? If you do want to make a living at it, how does that look? Do you see yourself selling your own work online or at shows? Do you see your work in museum shows and galleries? Do you need to support a family or is your goal just to cover the mortgage?

Before you go asking ANY other questions, take some quiet time and answer these questions for yourself. Be brutally honest. Don’t look at everyone else and let FOMO make your decisions for you. Think deeply about what makes you tick, and where you want to go.

If you don’t know where you want to go, you won’t get there (more on that in a previous blog post here).

Second, you need a body of work.

I know, again, this seems simplistic. But if you don’t have a good 20-30 pieces of work in your studio that show a cohesive style and consistent ability, you absolutely have to stop everything else and start there.

Style is important. It’s easy to put together a pile of paintings from different workshops or classes or mediums and say you have a body of work. But you need to make sure that you have spent enough time painting to develop your own voice. When I look at all those paintings is it immediately obvious that the same person painted them? If I’m a gallery, and I look at your body of work, do I know the general style of what you will produce next? This isn’t to say you can’t paint in different mediums or subject matter, but you need to have a voice that’s your own.

Consistency is also key. Everyone can knock one out of the park every once in a while. The first year I was painting, I got into the OPA national show with the best painting I did that year. The problem? It was a fluke – the rest of my work was not at the same level. I wasn’t ready to be in that show. If someone saw my painting at that show and visited my website, they were likely disappointed by the rest of my work. That’s not a good thing!

We’re not all going to paint a masterpiece every time we step up to the easel, but you should be able to produce work of a fairly consistent quality if you expect to become a professional. If your gallery needs six new pieces in eight weeks, can you produce work for them that is as good as your portfolio? I do a decent amount of scrapers, but I know when a painting is going downhill, and I can recover from that and produce. Can you produce consistent quality work? Can you do it under pressure?

I know it’s not as exciting as setting up your first website or entering a bunch of shows, but if you want a solid start, begin with a good sense of where you want to go, and a strong body of work. If you aren’t there yet, spend the time to get there.

Once you have a body of work that is of a consistent quality and style, and you know where you want to go, then you’re allowed to ask the rest of those questions. NOW you can start!!

Stay tuned, and I’ll tackle some of the smaller questions above in the next few weeks…