Remembering Mrs. Underbakke

Back in October a dear family friend passed away at the age of 91. She was like a grandmother to me long after both my grandmothers were gone. She was an educator, an English teacher, and she spoke with impeccable English even in casual situations, but it wasn’t at all pretentious. Nothing about her was. She was a gracious, godly woman of sincere faith. She was the kind of person who would cook up her last batch of oatmeal and brew her last pot of coffee for you if you visited and be glad to do it. She was a true joy, had a contagious laugh, and saw the good in people.

When she passed, I remembered a photo I took of her in her Iowa-farmhouse kitchen years ago. She was busy preparing breakfast for us her guests. The morning light caught my eye and I secretly snapped the picture. I found that photo these years later and fashioned a painting from it.

This is how I remember Mrs Underbakke, modestly serving, giving what she had. She was quite an example of a lady.


hunting dog portrait

Back in the late ’90s I had the chance to go duck hunting for the first time in the prairie pothole region of central North Dakota. One of the strongest memories from those few days is the wonder of watching a good bird dog work for the first time. I remember being surprised how loud Roxy breathed through her nose as she held a bird in her mouth and strove for the shore. I remember the eagerness and the focus of these dogs as they fulfilled what they were born, bred, and loved to do.

On that trip the birds were fun, the company with the boys was great, but man those dogs were fun to watch! All these years later I still am amazed at the abilities of these magnificent beasts.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a hunting dog portrait of a beautiful labrador retriever, and it has brought back some of those memories of mornings on the marsh. The stench of the muck, the cold, wet October wind on my face, and the sound of wings.


The client chose to have the piece done on a slab of 3/4″ maple.  Its been a little different surface to paint on – smoother than I’m used to, but not bad. She wanted the rough painterly edges inset from the border. I have to say it’s not a bad look!


Haven’t blogged in a while. Haven’t painted in a while. At least not of subjects of my choosing.


I was over at a friends farm last week and purposely brought the camera and committed myself to taking shots of whatever I saw, and then committed myself to doing a painting of something from those shots. The light was nice. Didn’t get anything that thrilled my soul to its depths, but it was more about making something work.  I needed to paint something.  And I wanted it to be something from my world right now, not from the photo archives.

I got a nice series of some cows in the pasture. The light was streaking across and I became interested in capturing that effect.

So the end result is nothing earth-shattering, just an effective little piece that for me is the equivalent of soul food. Not fancy or highbrow, probably won’t win any awards, just simple, flavorful, and satisfying.





I’ve finally gotten some free time to finish up this farm landscape. It’s the fruit of a drive down in my favorite part of WI about a month ago. The hills and valleys in this area are quintessential painting material for me. Large hills that recede in the atmospheric distance frame fertile valleys that support some of the most successful farming in the county. I enjoy the houses. Even tho the glory days of the family farm are behind us, some of the huge classic farm houses are evidence that at one time this was more than subsistence living. I like the thought of that. Farming on a small scale being a profitable thing. Anyway, I had a great time driving around trying to capture that classic farm scene.

This painting is of one of the more subdued homesteads. But I like the yellow house against the cool distant hills as well as the way the buildings flowed in the composition. The large white pines on the right provide a large dark region of interest to balance the buildings, and I like the bottom half of the canvas being basically empty.

This is Wisconsin to me. Quit, cold, subdued, unadorned, beautiful.

I had a great time pushing color on this one. I went in with a “Russian” frame of mind and am happy with the technique although it still seems more polished than it could be.


I like these winter scenes, the stark snow, the grays and browns. It’s comfortable to paint in this palette somehow. We’re heading into Spring now, and it might be a while before I swing back to tackle on of these Winter jewels, but, than again, maybe Spring can wait a little bit.



This past summer I visited the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary up in northern MN near the town of Orr. (Thanks to the recommendation of a fellow artist Jeff Hoff) It’s a unique place where wild bears can be viewed from an elevated deck as they come in and are fed below. I was up there for just a few hours that evening as kind of as a scouting trip to see if there would be serious photography opportunities there in the future. I took a few hundred photos and was pleasantly surprised and the number of bears that came in that night. At any given time there were probably a dozen or so will black bears below in a 2-3 acre area. Anyway, so I finally got around to trying a little bear painting. I’ll probably touch this one a few more times, but I think it’s mostly there.