Thursday, December 29, 2011

Orange Ya Glad, Oil on Linen, 12x16
This time of year I should be painting snow scenes, but alas we have very little of that. There is another painting underneath this one of the exact same subject but mostly in beige and grey. It was painted in the late afternoon just as the clouds rolled in and grayed out any lighting effect worth painting.  As we were cleaning up, the setting sun popped out again giving everything a warm glow. I put a couple of color notes on the painting  and packed it away. The next day, I looked at the painting and the only thing I liked were the color notes, so I redid the painting on top of the grey and beige one incorporating the sunset colors throughout. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Left Behind, Oil on Linen, 11x14
After a Spring and Summer of incredible floods, we just experienced the driest Fall on record. One of the results is that there is more exposed drift wood in the Mississippi River than I ever remember seeing. This time of year should be all about snow paintings. Last year at this time we had about 30 inches on the ground, which, by the way, also was a record. The little snow we've received so far has melted except on icy patches of rivers and lakes. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fog Lifting, 18x24, Oil on Linen
Details shot by Tom Shearer, Duluth, MN

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pepin Heights, Oil on Canvas, 11x14
(revised 12/27/11. 12-29-11
This canvas was started on location a few years ago. I don't remember why I never finished it. Not one to waste canvases on unfinished work, I got it out the other day to see what I could come up with working from memory and imagination. This is what I remember. I might have a bluff or two in the wrong place. So be it. This place probably does not exist in its natural state anymore. As I recall, it was all being parceled out for development.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breeze in the Meadow, Oil on Linen, 16x12
Painted earlier this Fall, I finally got around to fixing a few minor details today. 

Sky paintings are a challenge because the subject is constantly moving and changing. I worked on the bottom of the painting until the clouds and light seemed to be about as interesting as they were going to get and then I attacked the sky with vigor. Afterwords, as I was cleaning up, the setting sun and sky put on another fantastic display but that will have to be painted from memory.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Textures of Autumn, Oil on Linen, 18x24
(revised 12-5, 12-14, 12-29-11, 1-3-12)
(FINAL repairs 2-23-12)
As you can see, I have returned to this painting quite a few times. It's kind of a testing ground for some new methods I am trying out. As I learn more, I add to the painting. At some point one needs to say it's done. It's Done. There, I said it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Warm in November, Oil on Linen, 12x16
(reworked December 2. More sunshine added December 14.)
Anticipation was the name of the game here. There were just enough clouds in the sky that I suspected that the the golden hour was going be fantastic. So I set up in a location where I figured I would have a good composition and color without being blinded by the setting sun. Then it was a matter of planning the painting so I would be able to capture the illusive colors as quickly as possible when they appeared. I was constantly asking myself questions like, "where will that shadow be in an hour? What color will the grass be when the sky turns yellow. When you look at a plein air painting, you should be able to tell what time of day it is. Forget the fact that it took the artist 3 or 4 hours to complete the painting, during which time the lighting was constantly changing. 

There is a great video you may have seen on public TV this week. It was made during the Grand Marais Paintout this summer. I competed in that paint out but not the "quick paint" portion which the video focuses on. I think the producers did a great job of capturing what a plein air painter is up against. Click here to watch the video. You'll see some friends of mine in action.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lion's Park, 12x9, Oil on Linen
There's an Outdoor Painters of Minnesota show that will be opening soon at the The Frameworks here in Saint Paul this weekend. The reception is Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7pm, The FrameWorks, 2022 Ford Parkway. I am going to enter several paintings including this one, so you might see it there. If not, it will still be a good show to see. We have some extraordinarily talented members.
The River, Oil on Linen, 12x16
The last couple of paintings were painted incredibly fast as the light conditions had changed before I even had a chance to set up. I had to mix up piles of color and just put color notes around the canvases. What happens is that you will second guess yourself once the light has changed. When the clouds move in, you see tons of detail in the shadows you never saw when the scene was brightly lit and you can hardly believe that the brilliant colors you have on your palette were actually there a few minutes ago. When this happens it's time to trust your instincts more than your eyes.
From the Fort, Oil on Linen, 12x9
Painted in August, I realized that I had not shot it yet. I have now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cherokee Bluff, oil on canvas, 12x16
I'm grateful for each additional day that there are Fall colors remaining. I painted this yesterday. Last night was clear and cold.This morning as the sun came up the brilliant yellow maple leaves fell en masse. The world is suddenly without yellow. Tomorrow, strong winds are predicted. Oh well, snow is another favorite subject. It shouldn't be too long now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Valley Below, 12x16, Oil on Linen (SOLD)
After a summer of battling with those tricky greens that abound here in southern Minnesota, it feels good to dip into the cadmiums of autumn. I was struck by the contrast between the cool minty green and the warm yellows and oranges of this location.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October, Oil on Linen, 12x16
Another beautiful day to paint; 65º and calm and a wedding going on behind me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mid-morning Moonset (SOLD)
On the way to the Parley Lake Winery paint out we were stopped dead in our tracks by this scene.
Bringing in the Crop
Painted this weekend at the Parley Lake Winery, I was setting up my easel as these guys were picking the last grapes for the season. I was there as part of the Outdoor Painters of Minnesota paint out. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Loring Alleyway, Oil on Linen, 16x12
By Tom McGregor

Purple Bells, Bee Balm and Daisies, Oil on Linen 16x12
By Jerri Jo Brandt

Saint Paul Art Crawl this Weekend, October 7-9
Fri. 6-10pm, Sat. 12-8pm, Sun. 12-5pm
See Jerri Jo and me at our studio in the Northwestern Building.
275 East 4th Street, Suite 705, Saint Paul

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rieck’s Lake, Oil on Linen, 9x12 (SOLD)
Once, Rieck’s Lake was an open body of water. Settlers cleared the trees and plowed the land. Without the protective cover, soil from the Buffalo River watershed filled Riecks Lake. In 1935 Lock and Dam 4 was built. The Mississippi River submerged Rieck’s Lake with eight feet of water. In the years since, erosion is again filling Rieck’s Lake. In 2003 landowners, with a DNR grant, installed 42 erosion control dams and 24 acres of grassed waterways to slow the erosion.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Raising of the Flag, Oil on Linen, 12x16
The vast majority of my plein air paintings are done in the late afternoon and early evening. If you are going to paint in the morning and capture the good colors, you have to get up pretty early. This is one I did last Friday morning at the Fort Snelling Historic Site. I was pretty much done with the painting by the time they shot off the cannon and raised the flag. I liked the way the light only shone through the very bottom of the flag leaving the rest sort of muted and understated. I didn't want to do another flag waving proudly in the wind painting. That wasn't the day. It was quiet and serene with practically no wind.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dodge in Gold, Oil on Linen, 12x16
There is starting to be a backlog of paintings in my studio that were painted on location and need a little studio touch-up and photo documentation. It's always hard for me to paint indoors when the weather is nice, but I have to. The Saint Paul Art Crawl is Oct 7-9 and I want to have a lot of new art for it. 

You have one more week to see the PAN show at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI, and the same for the show at the Johnson Heritage Post Gallery in  Grand Marais MN.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The Backwater, Oil on Linen, 24x36
updated 1/8/13
Yesterday my wife reminded me that I haven't posted anything in quite awhile. It's not that I haven't been painting; I have. I just haven't finished one in a while. This painting is a perfect example. It still needs something, but today I was pleased enough with the progress so far that I decided to share it with you in it's incomplete state.

This 24x36 painting is from a 12x16 I did last year. On that painting, I painted the egret while she fished. That's easy to do; they hold perfectly still while they stalk their prey. But while I was painting, a second egret flew into the scene. At the time I thought it would make a nice painting. This is what I remember seeing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pigeon River, Oil on Linen, 9x12

Lake Kimball, Oil on Linen, 9x12 (SOLD)
Devil's Track River, Oil on Linen, 12x9

Above is a small sampling of the paintings from the Grand Marais  paintout. I apologize for the quality of the photos. I was shooting them at our camp site as I framed them.

 If you are up in Grand Marais between now and September 26, be sure to take in the show at the Johnson Heritage Post Gallery. Somebody can correct my numbers but I'm guessing there are about 200 paintings by about 30 to 40 artists that all took part in the event.

If you're in Hudson, WI, before September 25, be sure to take in the Project Art for Nature show at the Phipps Center for the Arts.

And of course, there is always the St. Paul Art Crawl October 7-9. Jerri Jo and I will be in my studio at 275 E 4th street in lovely downtown Saint Paul.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Parley Lake Winery, Oil on Linen, 12x16
Thank you Parley Lake Winery and Deardorff Vinyards for hosting the August Outdoor Painters of Minnesota Paintout. We had a great time.
Weathered Survivors, Oil on Linen, 12x16
Revised 9/23/11
The second barn painting in the same number of days. What can I say? I love shapes and barns have great shapes. This one's beauty is in its weathered sagging lines and patina of hard times. I'm also a big fan of wind mills and always on the look out for one that is still working. This one ,as is usually the case was missing several blades and had a definite list to the West which I've tried to faithfully render.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Disney's Lift Bridge, Oil on Linen, 9x12 (SOLD)
There's tons of detail here that I could have gotten bogged down with. Instead, I decided to paint fast, thick and loose and not worry about the anatomy of all those boats. From a distance, I see boats but up close it's totally chaotic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Across the Wide Expanse, Oil on Linen, 12x16
Here is another view of Lake Pepin. I never tire of this lake. We saw a large flock of pelicans circling over us, more eagles than we could count, and dozens of song birds serenaded us while we painted. The deer got pretty close before they noticed us. I like that about plein air painting. You stand in one place long enough, animals will come right up close, either out of curiosity or because you are so quiet and immersed in your painting that they don't see you as a threat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Smooth Sailing, Oil on Linen, 12x16

Later in the same day we were on the Minnesota side of Lake Pepin when we came across this lovely view of the lake. it illustrates several of the themes I am concentrating on. This little native garden in the foreground with its long sponge-like roots absorbs pollutants before they reach the lake. The Kentucky blue grass with its short roots, does not. Pepin is a haven for sail boats, but trains regularily whiz along its shores and of course there are the barges (not shown) and pleasure craft of every description. Pepin, after all is just a widening of the mighty Mississippi, one of the busiest and most beautiful waterways of the world.

The Bottoms from Above, Oil on linen, 9x12 (SOLD)
We got to this location early Sunday morning. It had just poured buckets. While we were setting up, the fog rolled in and obliterated the view for quite a while, and then the no-see-ums started gnawing at us. Despite all that, this was a great place to hang out for a few hours. I'm having a great time getting ready for the Project Art for Nature (PAN) show at the Phipps Center for the Arts in September. My portion of the show will concentrate on the area around Lake Pepin, one of my favorite areas to paint.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Sheyenne Valley, Oil on Linen, 9x12
We just returned from a 7 day trip to North Dakota where we celebrated a milestone class reunion, visited with friends and relatives, rode ATVs, canoed, camped and still found time to get some serious painting in. I'll post some more once I've touched them up a bit, but for now, here's a sampling.

The grain elevator you see off in the distance is the only building in the hamlet of Catherine that is visible above the trees. It's a lovely little village in a beautiful river valley. The quiet was amazing! The only sounds were the breeze in the grasses and the chirping of birds. We saw a coyote, and several different hawks while scouting.

We came across the location for this painting the day before. At the time, the hills were dotted with cows. I love cow's structure and was really hoping they would make an appearance so I could paint them. It was beginning to look like they would not show, but just as we were about to lose our light, they came over the top of the hill and I got my chance. I actually like the painting better than if they had been more in the foreground thus becoming too much the focus of the painting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Bill's Roses, 16x12, Oil on Linen
You may recognize this house. It is my neighbor Bill's. This is the fourth time I've painted it. I love the way the late afternoon sun lights up the west wall and the roses leaving pretty much everything else in shadow. This is by far the simplest I've painted the subject. It has taken me a long time to learn what to leave out.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Late Afternoon Calm, Oil on Linen, 12x16
revised 7/19/11
My commitment to the Project Art for Nature (PAN) was to choose a location that I will return to once a month for the next year. For me the obvious choice of location was Lake Pepin, which is actually just a widening of the River south of the Mississippi and St. Croix River confluence. Despite the fact that this is a working river that sees huge barges on a daily basis, there is still a lot of natural beauty to capture. PAN has a show at the Phipps Center for the Arts in September. I'm hoping that by then I will have captured a bit of this beauty to pass on to others who come out to see the show.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Sunnies Are Just Fine, Oil on Linen, 18x24
revised 7/29/11, 9/23/11

Today is the first day of summer. Spring was noteworthy for flooding, snow, rain and a lot of grey days. The day I painted the 12x16 field painting this studio painting was based on was one of the few exceptions. The field painting was painted 2 weeks ago on the only day we went swimming so far this year. I guess this painting is my attempt to capture and hold a piece of summer we have seen far too little of this year. Rats, it just started raining again.

Monday, May 23, 2011



Spring Floral, Oil on Linen, 12x16 (SOLD)

Yesterday I posted this painting. Immediately I realized I was not happy with it. Still, I shared it with the world warts and all. This morning I reworked almost the entire painting. This is the result. If you saw it yesterday, I'm hoping you will agree that it is improved. Anyway, I'm much happier with it today than I was yesterday. To me a painting is done when I can sense the place and there is a strong memory of being there, of breathing the air, listening to the sounds, feeling the sun. This painting takes me back two weeks to when I stood in this place.

Thursday, March 31, 2011



Good Craftsmanship, Oil on Linen, 12x16

revised 4/2/11

My good buddy Mike, who passed away several years ago, was a print sales rep by day, but if you really wanted to see him light up, you would ask what he had going on in his shop. He absolutely loved making fine working toys and mechanical devices out of wood. This little dump truck is a great example. The wheels turn, the side walls of the box can be removed and the box pivots up. You cant see a joint anywhere. Every piece fits perfectly. He was also into marquetry and just about anything that took extreme craftsmanship. I learned a lot from Mike about pride in workmanship and dedication to something you love. I miss my old friend.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Hand Tools, Oil on Linen, 12x16 (SOLD)
I found some more old tools in my basement. I love the worn handles, the patina that comes from decades of hard work, the iron and wood and steel.

I wonder how many of the tools we buy today will still be around in 100 years. The toaster my mom bought in a second hand store in the 1940s works as well today as the day she bought it. On the other hand, we've been through about 8 coffee makers in the last 10 years. The longest one lasted was about 4 years. It's hard to find a spade with the heft of the old ones. The steel is thinner, and I think weaker. Everything is made out of plastic.

This painting pays homage to craftsmanship, pride in workmanship and building things right.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


End of Winter, Oil on Linen, 9x12
revised 4/3/11
Recently I was accepted into an organization called Project Art for Nature, a collaboration of artists in Wisconsin and Minnesota, working independently and collaboratively to create artwork which promotes stewardship of threatened natural areas in our region.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Poppies and Coffee, Oil on Linen, 16x12 (SOLD)
Up until now, I've never considered myself a still life painter. I'd rather be outside. But painting this one was a fun way to spend a cold, grey weekend. I can definitely see myself doing more of these in the future. It was a collaborative effort with my wife, Jerri Jo. She laid out the objects, making her what I guess you would call the "painting stylist". Originally there was an old TV tray with a rosemaling pattern on it but the colors didn't really do it for me so I switched that out with Jerri Jo's painting of the poppies. Yes, there's a painting in my painting. It was a real challenge to copy her style but I had fun trying. Below is a photo of her painting. Keep in mind that I photographed her painting in balanced light but I painted my painting of her painting in incandescent light, thus the color shift.

Poppies, Jerri Jo Brandt, Oil on Linen, 12x16 (SOLD)

Monday, March 7, 2011


Tracks, Oil 9x12

The tracks seemingly go out to the middle of this field and end. Actually, whoever made them thought he/she would head across country, changed their mind and came back roughly the same way they went. I can see why- the snow was about a foot deep where I was standing. It was another beautiful sunny day with temps hovering around 30º yesterday. The snow will soon be gone.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Winter Warmth, Oil on Linen, 12x16
revised 3/29/11
This was painted last Saturday in Lebanon Hills Regional Park during an Open Air Painters of Minnesota paint out. I was looking forward to the camaraderie of painting with a group of plein air painters and comparing notes afterword. That was not the case however. Our location was a bit isolated and by the time we finished, everyone had left. We never saw another painter all day, although hikers who stopped to chat reported sitings. You have 2 more days to see the OPM exhibit at AZ Gallery in Saint Paul.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Frozen Falls at the Old Mill, Oil on Linen, 16x12
Painting number 3 from this past weekend was done down in Hastings. It was in the mid 50s and the light was soft and diffused most of the afternoon. I thought I would get down to the ruins for a second painting but this one kept me busy until sunset.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Cups, Oil on Linen 9x12
I don't recall ever having done still lifes before. It's more of a challenge than I thought. The last couple that appeared on this blog were created in Richard Abraham's evening class. Stay tuned for more basement finds in the future.

I think these are family heirlooms too, although I must admit their significance is lost on me. Some have sibling's names and dates of birth; others don't have an inscription. I think they're akin to the bronzed booties people used to keep on their mantel.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Ice Break, Oil on linen, 12x16
It was up in the 40s this weekend and sunny making for a 3 painting weekend. Around three o'clock on Saturday the sun popped out so I finished up a studio "memory" painting I was working on and had Jerri Jo drop me off on the Robert Street Bridge just as the colors were beginning to peak. It felt good to work fast. I covered the canvas in a little over an hour. Sometimes it just feels right.

I can't tell you how many times I've commuted over the Robert Street Bridge and wanted to paint this painting. By shear luck the light was absolutely perfect when I finally did. I was more than willing to put up with some pretty inane questions by passersby.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Updated 2/2/11 (SOLD)
Working Late, Oil on Linen, 18x24
Oh the barges, the mighty barges. The season is short. The hours are long. It is a sight to behold these behemoths that navigate the mighty Mississippi. They slide through the arch of the Robert Street Bridge like thread through the eye of a needle.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The Guiding Light, Oil on Linen, 12x9
Scrounging around the basement this past Saturday, I came across this old kerosene railroad lantern. My dad retired from his job as a conductor on the old Northern Pacific Railroad back in the early 70s. I remember him bringing this home about that time. I found ones like it being offered for a couple hundred dollars on antique auction sites. They were all made around 1909. There was still soot inside. I wonder when was the last time it was lit. I think I'll have to pick up some kerosene and a wick somewhere and try it out.