‘Sky Fire’ – Konza sunset

There are those moments we all have that forever remain in the deepest valleys of our hearts and minds. One of these moments I share with one of my closest friends, Miss Rachel Lehr. Our shared love for hiking the surrounding prairie landscape of the Kansas Flint Hills led us to an evening of laughter and a breath-taking sunset.

Truly amazing sunsets have the ability to stop you in your tracks, to make you run for your camera, to find everyone you can to share it with. But, like many of the best things in life, sunsets are extremely fragile – changing in an instant – reminding us to stop running and just let the experience flow over us. At one point I remember Rachel whispering “Its on fire!” Within twenty minutes the sun sank lower and the clouds changed from dusky french blue to light pink, hot pink, then orange, crimson, and finally dark violet and navy.

I had ventured before to take an image (one of probably 100) captured in the moment and paint it in watercolor. It is just so difficult to capture a moment of the sky’s passion in a soft and soothing media that I decided to try in out in acrylic impasto, a media full of passion and vibrancy. Again the adventure was more than I had planned, becoming stressful, confusing, and downright ugly at times. I’d probably never try this image again at this grand of scale, but I’m glad I pushed myself. So much so, I’m proud to share that I have entered this piece ‘Sky Fire’ in the 2011 Kansas State Fair – Fine Arts – Professional Division, September 9-18 in Hutchinson, Kansas. I will also be participating in the ‘Plein Aire’ Contest, in which I will be painting on the fairgrounds during the mornings on Sept 9-10. It made me kind of nervous, so I decided it was something I should do. Naturally.

‘Sky Fire’ painting process images_blank 30″x40″ canvas, inspiration photograph

a rough start blocking out zones with a brush, thinking “this is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen”

adding impasto tree/forest massing, still pretty darn ugly

the part I liked, the upper sunset into clouds

the blending and texture in wet paint, my favorite part of the process, somewhat like watercolor, but paints never fully blend like in watercolor

adding in highlights in the grass sections of the landscape and more shadow at edge of tree lines

beginning of the more difficult part, the slight gradations of sunset, especially tough with a sky nearly 4ft wide.

nearly completed within the studio, only grass blades and signature left to add

up close with the waving grasses, from afar the many hues blend to form one, up close you can see the hot greens, deep violets, blues and warm greys.


The vibrance and warmth of a Kansas prairie sunset – an evening sky on fire.

Interested in having this painting in your abode?


‘Aqua Bay’ -first impasto

learning something new can be terrifying. since I rarely do anything too extreme, (aka. jumping from planes, swimming with sharks) my thrills come from challenges I set before myself, not knowing if the outcome will be wonderful or go horribly wrong. Sometimes the thrill comes from deciding to learn to make cheesecake, or to learning a new skill, like knitting- by starting with socks.

Acrylics were a new challenge. A totally different way of thinking from watercolor. Dry Gold was my first success, so it was time to bump up the risk. Paint with knives! Not quite as intense as throwing knives in the circus, but quite different. This was my first trial at impasto style painting.

the “borrowed Italian word impasto most commonly refers to a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface (or the entire canvas) very thickly, usually thickly enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas. When dry, impasto provides texture, the paint appears to be coming out of the canvas.”

Follow my adventure with impasto with this painting of the Italian Riviera coastline in the Cinque Terre (five lands/cities), nearest to Riomaggiore. 

paints and knives

12″x12″x3/4″profile canvas

brush use for background

adding in land massing

adding depth to rocky areas

water details added

nearly completed

interesting texture shown when light from studio window passes over surface

signed and dated.

8×8 prints of Aqua Bay available in my Etsy shop_

‘Dry Gold’ – autumn on the prairie edge

This was the start of a wonderful (scary) adventure. Acrylics are opposite of watercolors, not quite as opposite as nasty smelling oil paint would be, but close.

In the watercolor world- white is given, easily lost, and never regained. Paper gives the white and with a wash gone wrong it will be lost. The less pigment used on a watercolor the more magic it has -as the light passes through transparent hues and bounces off the paper and back to your eye. In my mind, adding an opaque white is cheating a bit- but I’ve definitely done it since I don’t (yet) use masking fluid.

The acrylic world can be very large, or very small. Think your living room walls or that hand painted key chain from who-knows-where. Acrylic is riding close to oils without the smells and messy cleanup. Acrylic also allows light (colors, feelings, reflections) to be added after darks as highlight. So when given the charge to try out a large painting for my brother (and soon to be sister-in-law)’s home, I jumped at the chance to try my hand at acrylic. As most things. I learned along the way with tides of success and failure.

The general subject of my painting is the following photograph, from an adventure in October 2009 to the Konza Prairie Preserve, just outside of Manhattan, Kansas. Progress pictures follow as the painting unfolds on a 36″x48″ canvas.

studio setup

blocking in the sky

color blocking in ground tones

shadowy potential

adding in the ‘swarm’

branching out

addition of foreground detail

creating depth through the trees

adding foreground detail

painting finished in ‘studio’ space

check out the available 8×10 archival print on Etsy in my shop – http://www.etsy.com/listing/79250553/dry-gold-8×10-acrylic-painting-print

quadruple chocolate tiramisu

Tasty! I loooove a great summer dessert that takes absolutely no heat to make. It is way too hot with this 25+ days of over 100 degrees to turn on the oven. Sure to thrill any coffee/chocolate lover.

For some reason my grocery store doesn’t always carry ladyfingers or mascarpone cheese, but my subsitutes of sponge cake slices and Neufchatel cheese (a low-fat and softer version of cream cheese) have worked extremely well. I’ve made this recipe three times now- once with ladyfingers, once with chocolate angel food cake (below pictures), and now once with store bought vanilla angel-food cake.

The recipe is called ‘Triple Chocolate Tiramisu’ but I think it has four:

  1. white chocolate
  2. bittersweet chocolate
  3. chocolate liqueur
  4. cocoa powder

Quadruple Chocolate Tiramisu

Recipe version from Liz Devlin’s Better Homes & Gardens – Pink Plaid Cookbook

Prep: 30 min, chill: 6 hrs (longer is better, but at least 3 needed), makes: 1 8x8x2 inch dish

  • 2- 3oz packages ladyfingers, split  (or a store-bought angel-food cake, these pics show chocolate flavor cake)
  • 1/4 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee (for reals, this makes it amazing)
  • 1- 8oz carton mascarpone cheese (can use low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (could change it up with almond/hazelnut extract)
  • 1/3 chocolate liqueur (i used Creme de Cacao)
  • 1oz white baking chocolate squares, grated (from freezer) or finely chopped (i used a small food processor)
  • 1oz bittersweet chocolate, grated (from freezer) or finely chopped
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for top dusting
  1. Line bottom of  8x8x2 inch dish with enough ladyfingers to cover. Cut to fit. Drizzle half of the espresso over ladyfingers.
  2. In medium mixing bowl beat mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with electric mixer just until stiff peaks form, standing straight up when lifting beaters from mixture), scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in chocolate liqueur until combined.
  3. Evenly spread half of the mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers layer. Sprinkle with mixed white and bittersweet chocolate crumbs.
  4. Add another layer of ladyfingers and drizzle remaining espresso. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture and top with more crumble chocolate and dust with cocoa powder.
  5. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours. Flavors will meld through cake and cream filling with time.