Exploring “Up North”, Plein Air Practice

At the end of June we took a trip “Up North” as they say here in Minnesota, to Duluth, a historic port town on the southern rim of Lake Superior (https://www.visitduluth.com/). The trip was to mark our 31st wedding anniversary, and my 60th birthday which had been earlier in the month. Also, as new “Minnesotans” we wanted to see more of this beautiful state while the weather was still great.

I brought along my plein air porchade box and a few canvases, intending to get in a little painting during the trip. One morning we traveled over to Wisconsin, to the Superior Municipal Forest in Superior, Wisconsin (http://www.ci.superior.wi.us/224/Superior-Municipal-Forest), and I did a quick study. It was hot, and too windy to use my solar shade umbrella, so it wasn’t my best effort, but always good to get in some practice. The area we found was via a back road, and allowed us to park close to my painting spot. Bugs were minimal, and it was a beautiful area.


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We also drove up along Lake Superior (photo above), scouting out other spots I might like to stop and paint. What a beautiful, vast body of water!

Another plein air session in June/July was at a spot I found last winter — the Old Mill in downtown Dundas which is perched on the Canon River. It’s a beautiful spot, the photos below show the difference between summer and winter views. I need to get back there as fall colors hit, and the trees start to lose their leaves.

In August I spent some time painting near the Canon River in downtown Northfield. Here’s the painting I started outside, and then worked on more in studio:

Cannon River Northfield

Not quite sure I’m done with it, but it’s been sitting awhile, so maybe I am.

Happy painting and exploring!



Change, Delete or Procrastinate?

I’ve been wondering for a while if I should just delete this blog, and now the name doesn’t quite fit since I turned 60 this month. I considered changing the name, but really, who cares? It’s just a spot in cyberspace where I can hawk my wares (my art), tell my story, and hopefully connect with a few other folks along the way.

One of my most meaningful and emotional posts was about almost losing my husband to sepsis in 2016 (Delicate Creatures). I was reminded of this today as I read about a woman who saw the signs of this on her son’s arm after a fall at the zoo. Life is so delicate, fragile and precious. If you take the time to read that post, the last line reads “Just a few weeks before we had danced and laughed at a nephews’ wedding. More of that please…”

Well we did just have “more of that”, we danced at the wedding of another nephew who was married here in Minnesota last weekend. It was wonderful to be able to drive from our house to the wedding, instead of having to fly from California. And always fun to see more of the family — a beautiful day and evening with lots of laughter.

So here’s to “more of this, please”, I’m enjoying what we have, where we are, and what is to come — at “Sixty-something”, under the guise of “Fifty-something”.

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Wherever You Go, There You Are…

…was the title of a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a book I probably need to pull out again and review. The book was a gift to me by my mother many years ago. I have two copies now, hers which I found tucked in her nightstand when we cleared out her home after her death in 2010, and my original copy. Maybe I’m waiting to give a copy to the right person. It’s about mindfulness in everyday life.

Spring is starting to assert itself here in southeastern Minnesota. Trees are budding out with new leaves, grasses becoming lush, warm weekends bring out the gardeners eager to connect with the earth.

In my new downstairs studio space I’ve been busy getting things arranged, trying to paint more often. The other day I set up a still life of a bowl of pears, working on a looser more interpretive style. I actually painted the set up several times, but wiped them down and started over, pushing myself to create something more.

In the end, I was satisfied with this one (see photos below), for in the moment it started to capture just a little of the quality I was striving for. All painting is practice, like yoga. Each day you get to the easel, you bring with you where you are in that moment.

Winter Rose Dreams

In the spirit of keeping occupied during our first full winter living in Minnesota, I’m trying to paint more often. Although I like to paint from life, sometimes that’s not possible, so I do work from photos. Taking my own, or using royalty free stock photos, and then cropping or altering the composition is fun and satisfying to me.

Here’s my latest “Winter Rose Dreams”:


Prints are available here: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/winter-rose-dreams-barbara-oertli.html

Also, I’m happy to report that the original of the landscape painting I featured in my last blog has sold! There are still prints available through this link: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/winter-landscape-out-back-barbara-oertli.html

We’re still in the fullness of winter here, probably another month or two of snow blowing and shoveling. Next on the agenda, a riding lawn mower!

Keep Painting!

We survived the big Polar Vortex freeze of last week here in our new home in Dundas, MN. Thankfully we don’t have regular outside jobs to commute too, so it was relatively easy. Our house is newer, and very snug, so aside from a power failure or being deliberately stupid outside, we were bound to be safe. I did experience a larger dose of cabin fever than usual. As a native Californian, my need for sun is strong — the cold doesn’t phase me as much as a long stretch of overcast days can.  I try to get outside for a walk any time the weather is calm and close to 30 degrees or above.

I have started up with my oil painting again, it was hard after the move — my forward momentum with art had come to a standstill. To get going again I started sketching on a small sketchpad as often as I could. Trying to maintain a daily art practice, while still adjusting to a new home is difficult — many distractions! Finally I set up my studio easel and pulled out my oils — I started with a small floral of a pot of Paper Whites. It was a good exercise, but nothing worth showing. Then I focused on the landscape I’d been photographing on my walks or just in our big backyard.

Driving around this new landscape I’m always looking at the colors reflected in the snow, always changing and catching new color. Here’s a peek at the first of what I hope will become a series below:

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“Out Back, Winter Landscape”, 1/2019  12 x 9″ oil on canvas board