Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Painting

"Dog and Cat Island"
oil painting on linen, 8 x 10 inch
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

Painting outdoors is a challenge at times, but there is something about being able to see and interpret what one sees without painting from a photograph. A person's eyes are actually capable of seeing more colors than a typical camera. (There is a digital camera that is available and it is compared to the full spectrum of colors that the eye sees. It is made by a Japanese company, PaPaLaB Co. Ltd., and for a mere $140,000, one can own a YC-3000.) This artist will continue to rely on what she sees in the field and being at the mercy of the elements of nature. However, I do take reference photos and along with small painted studies for later use in the studio.

Last year a group of artists met for the first time at a campsite on the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota. The place we stayed for our week long excursion is the YMCA Menogyn Camp located on the West Bearskin. There is no direct road access to the camp. We walked across the frozen lake to the camp buildings - summertime, one canoes - along with our bedding, art paints and canvases, and other necessities. There we had the joy of painting in -20F degree weather outdoors. Chilly weather is expected during winter, especially in Northern Minnesota along the boundary waters. Clear skies made for excellent outdoor painting, even if the chill of winter added to the challenge.

Along with being able to paint in this beautiful area, we had heated cabins and bunk-style arrangements along with three hot meals a day. This year we plan on meeting again for this outdoor, painting adventure. The event is sponsored by the Grand Marais Art Colony. I plan on being one of those crazy artists enjoying the outdoors and painting the beautiful winter landscape. I also will bring along my snowshoes and cross-country skis just in case I get bored.

There is nothing more beautiful than the Boundary Waters Wilderness area in winter especially to enjoy and paint it as an artist.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


original oil painting, 8x10 inches
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

This is what I painted yesterday while a major blizzard brought snow and wind outside. It definitely seemed to be a studio painting day with a nice cozy fire burning in the wood stove and a pot of soup cooking on the stove. It looks like the cold of January is here in December. Do I dare think about Spring yet???  Hmm, better yet maybe a trip South is in my future.

poinsettia art

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Spirit of the Rum II

"The Spirit of the Rum II"
pastel on Wallis, 12 x 16 inch
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

This is another pastel of the river that runs along my backyard. This beautiful river, the Rum River, is designated as a Wild and Scenic River. What this means is that the integrity of the river is preserved and protected. It is meant to prevent damage from uncontrolled development and preserve the beautiful scenery surrounding it as well as the wildlife seen along the river. Turtles, birds, eagles, hawks, deer and more. The river is 148 miles long and it begins in Lake Mille Lacs and finally ends by flowing into the Mississippi River.

The name of the river has history as well. The Sioux called Lake Mille Lacs the Spirit Lake. Apparently, the Europeans mistranslated "Spirit" to "Rum".

The waters of Minneosta are precious and they should be preserved and cared for so that the generations to come are able to enjoy their beauty and recreation.

A print of this pastel is available here at Fine Art America..

peaceful water art, nature paintings, landscape paintings

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Spirit of the Rum

The Spirit of the Rum
12 x 16 inches
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

A pastel painting done of the river along my back yard. It is a slow moving river and is typical of most rivers in Minnesota. The name of this river is knows also as the Spirit River by Native Americans.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Mystery of Maritta Leach

 The Mystery of Maritta Leach
oil on linen, 8 x 10 inch
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

This past week a friend and I did some exploring for possible painting sites to do on location. We met near Duluth in Carlton, MN and headed to Jay Cooke State Park. Our first stop, an old pioneer cemetery, located about a mile from the park visitor's center. A short hike up a few wooden stairs and we found ourselves in an open meadow surrounded by old maples, oak and poplar trees. Greeting us at the top of the stairs stood and old headstone with a small American flag placed beside it. Looking out into the clearing, one could see a few, still-standing, old and tilted headstones along with several sunken areas of unmarked grave sites.

The grave sites, many well over or near 150 years old, had been left to the elements of time, sinking unnoticed into the ground. One of the few still identifiable is that of Maritta Leach. The story of her ending engraved on her tilting stone. She died almost 150 years ago on July 3, 1862 at the age of seventy. Questions begin to percolate within me. Who is this Maritta? It said on the headstone that she is the wife of W.C. Leach. Did she have children? Where did she live? What did she do? She had to be tough to live to the age of seventy during the mid-1800s.

One area of the cemetery seemed to contain an entire family with several children living only a month or two. The Ottos. Looking at the dates and the inscriptions, a father died and a couple of months later his 38 year old son passed, too. So many questions without answers arise. One can only speculate what happened. Sickness. Consumption. Or some other unknown.

The cemetery is a peaceful place and has a nice energy flowing around it. The sun hit the grave sites casting mysterious shadows - a perfect place to spend the afternoon painting.

The journey of an artist, especially those of us who enjoy painting on location, is finding those areas that have more questions than answers. They give inspiration. The head stone of Maritta is a glimpse of that delightful day of my explorations as an artist on location.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Dancing with the Old Birch Trees

 Dancing with the Old Birch Trees
pastel on paper, 12 x 16 inches
copyright MaryAnn Cleary

This pastel painting in my latest attempt at this media. With each one, I do learn something new. This pastel is a studio piece done from a reference field oil painting, two black and white studies and a reference photo that I took. The color notes from the reference oil painting study proved invaluable. Photos do not capture what my eye sees in the field at all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


oil on canvas
size: 9x12 inch

This week I finally tried a different technique in oil using just two colors of paint. The light areas are actually the white of  the canvas and the colors used are permanent rose and yellow orchre with a touch of blue as accents. There may be some more small adjustments needed as I see a couple of things that I want to work on. For now though, I just will let it sit for a couple of days so that I can come back and look at the painting with fresh eyes.

cat paintingsanimals art

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Morning Light

The Morning Light
pastel on paper/board
size: 8 x 10 inches

After buying pastels, looking at pastel paintings, and marveling at the beauty of how they look and the beautiful colors, I finally found the courage to give them a try. I reached my "tipping point". After working through my first attempt, I must say that I am hooked on pastels. How did this come about? After taking an oil painting workshop with Marc Hanson, he gave us some tips on using pastels and also a demonstration. What finally hooked me is how he now frames his pastels. No mats.

There is now on the market a thing called EconoSpace (I found the best deal through It is a peel-and-stick spacer that comes in clear or black that adheres to the glass. The glass is then placed against the pastel that has been mounted on a board. It is then sealed around the edges and placed in a normal frame that would be similar to those used with an oil painting. Wow. I had not idea that there was such a thing. I love pastel pieces, but I have always felt that there is a prejudice against works that are matted and framed by collectors for whatever reason. Galleries tend to shun them and just want oils. Collectors may feel that matted works are similar to prints. Who knows. By mounting pastel works on a board, using spacers and then framing them under a museum glass, they look and have the feel of an oil painting.

I am hooked. There is something about being able to put pure pigment on paper and have a finished piece. No drying time. Pure pigments. Beautiful hues. Vibrant. The list goes on and on. I am hooked and I am here to educate the collector on the long-lasting beauty of pastels.

Please feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nocturne Painting

 Romayne's Bling
nocturne oil painting
size: 10 x 8 inches
The last couple of weeks were a bit intense with surviving two weeks of plein air painting workshops along with a week of hot, humid and intense Minnesota summer weather. One evening in Taylors Falls, MN, as part of our workshop, we all met to attempt doing a nocturne painting. If you have not tried this type of painting and are a painter, painting in the dark can be quite a challenge - especially without the help of a full moon. Even though we use small lamps that clamp onto the easel to enable one to see the canvas and the paints, it is always a surprise to see them in actual daylight after the painting is completed. One never really knows if the colors work or not. I love painting at night. I love the challenge. I am always surprised by the wonderful colors seen at night from the reflective lights and how little black there is.

"Romayne's Bling" is a painting done while standing on the main street in Taylors Falls, MN. One of the buildings at Romaynes Sports Bar and Grill has a small out building decorated with Christmas tree lights. Hanging in front of this building is a large basket of flowers. What made this painting for me was the "bling" on the building, the wonderful colors of the Xmas lights. Light reflected onto the window of the building and cast eerie shadows from the street lights and lights across the street. I love the bling of the dangling X-mas favorite part and to me what makes the painting.

Coming up next....studies in black and white.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


size: 12x16 inch, oil on linen canvas
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

It has been a long time since adding a painting. This is my latest work of lilacs picked from my yard. My favorite flower. It took some time to get this painting finished as other things seemed to interrupt me with the process. Today - no interruptions - so I blazed ahead with the vase of wilted flowers sitting in my studio.....

With this painting, I have added a couple of new colors to my palette - phthalo blue and red rose deep. I really did not think that phthalo blue would be a color that I liked since it is very overpowering and a little bit of it goes a long, long ways. However, to my surprise, it makes wonderful greens and beautiful toned grays. What a surprise. Permanent rose is a perfect addition for those beautiful pink colors that just can't be mixed otherwise.

This week I hope to get outside to do some serious painting.....beautiful weather.

Monday, March 29, 2010

North Shore of MN

Two Island River
8x10 inch, oil on linen board
copyright MaryAnn Cleary

Temperance Valley
12x16 inches, oil on linen
copyright MaryAnn Cleary

What fun! Last week, after meeting up with a friend, we spent the day painting along the North Shore. The first painting is of Two Island River and the railroad crossing over the river. During the rest of the year, I am sure that the water does not gush and bubble like it did that day. The day started out cloudy...and then ended up sunny. Initially, I really wanted to concentrate on warm and cool subtleties of a cloudy day, but Mr. Sun thought a bit of light on the subject matter would be a challenge. It was.

The next painting is of the valley where the Temperance River runs. What a view! Even though it is spring and the trees are not green yet, the contrast of the birch against the evergreens and the red branches of the bushes in the foreground made for a dancing pattern of color. The wind also wanted to help with the painting. There were times where I literally thought that me, the canvas and my umbrella would take off over the valley....thus a fast and furious painting :). The canvas had a transparent red undertone painted on it. This is my first try using something so bright and colorful for a base. Usually, my undertoned canvas is a gray. This seemed to work with a bit of red popping out here and there. This may be the start of something and I would like to try it again when I am not battling with the wind.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise

Mouse Island
size: 8x10 inch, unframed, $150

What a pleasant surprise I received last week. A while back I had put together paperwork for an individual artist's grant through the East Central Arts Council in Mora, MN. Each year they receive funding through the McKnight Foundation for a variety of grants. This year I opted to apply for a grant so that I could further my artistic skills with a workshop given by Marc Hanson in Taylors Falls, MN. Last Wednesday, I went to Mora to give a ten minute presentation about my work and my plans for the grant if I received it. Ten minutes is not very long and the time used to support my artwork and project just seemed to zoom by quickly. There are 20 or so folks present for the presentation and most are difficult to read - surely done so that there seems to be a presence of unbiased opinions.

I am so pleased to announce that after contacting the ECAC staff person, I found out that my project plan had been selected and I had been awarded a grant!!!

A big "Thank You" goes to the East Central Arts Council!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010


Moon at Menogyn
linen canvas panel, size: 10x8 inch, unframed, $150
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

This is one of my paintngs from the winter trip to northern Minnesota last month. We endured extreme temperatures (-22F), but the days were filled with the warming sunshine. On Saturday, of our few day stay, the moon reached its full status and to top it off, the temperatures that evening were pleasantly warm. I painted this painting right behind our cabin. The moon hit this one huge tree and there was an erieness to the night.

During my painting experience this week, I scraped most of the unused paint off into a corner of my palette. What a treasure it became for painting that erie glow of the bright and full moon. The mixture actually was perfect for that greenish, yellowish glow.

This is actually my second nocturne, but after this experience, I am so hooked. Painting landscapes for me, is sometimes so overwhelming due to "all the stuff" that I see. I am finding at night, there is so much less stuff and one can concentrated on the mood and feeling. After painting all week, this is one of my favorites....along with two others that are just simple ones of the three islands on a lake we walked across.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Red Shoe

"The Red Shoe"
original oil paintng on linen, 16x12 inches
copyright 2010

This looks like it will be my valentine painting with all the red. What a fun piece to paint! I knew that I wanted to paint something with some red and white in it. The search began. First, I found some beautiful roses for a bargain price at the local grocery store. Really! A dozen red roses for ten dollars. Next, I headed to the local thrift store. One of my favorite places to find fun objects to put into my still life paintings. I also check out the children's section for any bargains for the grandkids. Wow! What a find! A sweet pair of red shoes that would serve well in a still life and also be a cute find for my youngest granddaughter, Annabelle.

The painting is finished and drying - that red is going to take forever! Now to send the red shoes to the wee one. Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pickled Pepper

"Pickled Peppers & Salsa"
original oil painting, 9x12 inch, unframed
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

This my my first finished painting of the year. Since the weather is bitter cold outside, I am working in the studio from a still life setup. It includes a few of my favorite things - some Red Wing pottery. A small orange custard cup from the Gypsy Trail dinnerware of the 1930s and a dark brown glazed stoneware mixing bowl. The quart jar of salsa and the smaller jars of pickled peppers are all fruits of a summer harvest. It seems living in Minnesota one just gets back into doing canning of fruits and veggies. They are mighty tasty during this cold and frigid winters.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Two Best Friends

"Two Best Friends"
conte/charcoal drawing on paper, 12x28 inch, commission piece
copyright 2010 MaryAnn Cleary

This drawing is a commission piece that I finished up last month. I loved applying the technique of charcoal and conte to the dog portrait. It seemed to fit. The commission in itself was a challenge due to one of the dogs passing away and the lack of photos. There were few photos of the pet and the ones available were a challenge to use, but in the end it seemed to workout nicely.

For pet portrait commissions, one of the things that I like to do is to find out as much as possible about the animal. The personality. The quirks. The disposition. As it turns out with these two wonderful dogs, the German Shepherd was the alpha of the two - the instigator who shared his mischief with his buddy, the Rottweiler. The still life between them is a reminder of some of those mischievous times.

If you would like to have a pet portrait or other portrait commission, please feel free to contact me for more information.