Radio Station Mural

Debbie and I were asked to do a children's mural for a wall in the General Manager's office (Al Knickrehm) of WIXN of Dixon, Illinois.

General Manager, Capt. Al.

Our student artists: Joel, Abby, Molly

Debbie showed pictures of old-time radios to her classes of 5th and 6th graders. They then drew them out and painted them as imaginatively and colorfully as they wished.

Debbie and I then sorted through them to find the most appropriate for the office wall. We then sketched their drawings in pencil on the wall, composing them into a flowing and interesting mural.

On Friday, at noon, after filling up on Al's pizza, Debbie, me, and 3 great kids (Joel, Molly, and Abby), took to the wall and painted each radio. Once we all got accustomed to what we were doing, it went along like a dream.

After the kids' parents picked them up at 3 p.m., Debbie and I continued on outlining and highlighting the radios.

This makes 8 ... count'em 8 ... murals we've done around the city of Dixon.

Below are the pictures of the day. Click on any image to enlarge.

Debbie and Joel getting started.

Debbie & Abby trying to stay out of each other's way.

Completed mural view 1.

Completed mural view 2.

Sorry...Overwhelmed is the least of it

This is the initial watercolor sketch by Debbie Thompson for the background of "The Mural Project 2"

I've been going in three different directions these last few weeks and haven't had time to blog. I know...sounds ridiculous, but what can I say?

My job with Affinity AV (now a division of TDG Communications in Deadwood S.D) has been giving me lots more hours and taking up my only studio time. As an artist, it sucks, as a person with bills and a daughter in her senior year of college, it's a Godsend.

The inn, my other business, is picking up because of tourist season, wedding season, etc. So on my days off from AAV, I work there and do their website stuff. Don't know why I say "their stuff." It's my other business! Tells you how I feel about it anymore. The thrill is gone. You know, it's the job where you stomach hurts more the closer get to it. But, once I'm there and working with my clientele, I actually enjoy it. It's just putting on the cute clothes, heels, makeup, and smile that take the toll.

Debbie, Arin, and I started the 2nd Lee County Juvenile Probation Mural a couple of weeks ago. We're on our last week now. It's been a real task, but very rewarding. Most of the kids seem to enjoy it .... others, not so much. Oh well, different strokes for different folks. It beats picking up trash on the highway in 90 degree heat. I've started a mural2 blog to show our project.

Go to:

After the mural painting tomorrow, I have been asked to show my work at a Sauk Valley Bank's newest facility in Dixon for the upcoming month. So I have to go hang a show! I'm pulling out as many paintings as I can find since I haven't been producing much in the last month. There are a lot sketched out, but that's about it.


The freakin' weather. The midwest has been deluged with rain, bad thunderstorms, tornadoes, and now flooding. We've lost six, count 'em, 6 trees and have had downed live wires twice.


Although we haven't had to water. And my tomatoes are going nuclear!

Magical Trees and Gardening

A couple of the finished "magical trees."

I misnamed the tree mural we were working on last Friday. They are called "Magical Trees," not "Happy Trees."

So anyway...last Friday afternoon, around 10 talented young ladies helped Debbie, Arin, and I paint the tree drawings done by Debbie's students. Debbie and I sketched them out the day before.

Once we got the tarps down, paints doled out, and instructions given, the kids went straight to work. Most of them were a riot. Girls are talky, talky creatures and boy, when they start raising their voices in a cement stairwell, it causes ringing in the ears!

We always keep the color black out of any kids' hands. Children seem to love to overdo black or mix it in every color, thus making a muddy mess. This little rule does have an advantage also. "Well, how do I make this purple darker, etc.," kind of questions give us the chance to teach them how to mix complimentary colors and such to get a much more desirable dark of any hue they are working with.

More trees.

They tend to remember this too. Don't know why...but they do.

We finished up around 4:00. That's when their rides came to pick them up at the hospital.

After the kids left, Debbie, Arin, and I did some highlighting and outlining of each of the trees...a final polishing touch. Then we were off to Debbie's veranda for a couple of cold ones and some Thai and sushi.

Sunday, after the last of our inn guests checked out, Jeff and I headed outside to start (finally) on some of our flower beds. The weather and timing have been working against us this year. So, on this day, it was sunny and just the right temperature for busting our butts weeding, splitting over grown perennials, and composting. I think it got to around 70 degrees. After around 7 hours of that nonsense, Jeff got to burn stuff (his favorite thing) and I made a big old fat pizza.

So, we finished 3 long flowerbeds by the restaurant. We have another 12 or 13 to go. Groannnn.

Today, we worked on the 2 big beds in front of the inn. That wild ginger is a curse. It can't be pulled out, but has to be dug up and they are all intertwined with some of the perennials. Curses. Only lasted a few hours today.

Got another special bonus from upper-butt area got good and sunburned. The only place I didn't put sunblock. You know the area, between the bottom of your shirt and the top of your pants.

After that, I thought a visit to my studio and doing some varnishing of some of the finished paintings lying around was in order.

Tomorrow is the Spring Luncheon for the Phidian Art Club. It also is the awards ceremony for the Literary Competition that takes place each year. I am the chair of this year's competition and will have to speak at this thingy. I'd rather get teeth pulled than speaking in public. But, the women on this committee with me are the best and we have a great time together. So, we're all taking turns doing some of the speaking and presenting.

Another good thing....I get to wear one of my new spring dresses. It's so girly and cute.

Until later.


It's going to be a "Happy Tree" kind of day!

Debbie in deep concentration on the "burning bush."

Yesterday afternoon, Debbie and I went to KSB Hospital and started sketching out some of her students "happy trees" that will be painted today by the kids and artists, side by side.

We just used black marker to draw the images. Any goof-ups will be covered by paint. Gotta love opaque paint.

A couple more trees.

We left the kids' paintings taped to the wall for the evening. Figured not too many people would actually be mean enough to steal these. The people of KSB are some of the nicest I've ever met. This is the 4th mural we've done with the kids at the request of the hospital.

More trees...

I forgot how many kids were helping today. Sometimes when there a few too many, it gets a little bit hairy, with paint going everywhere, noise level rising (especially in a cement block stairwell), and general goofiness will ensue. But, of course, that's half the fun.

Stay tuned to see the finished work!


Grist Mill illustration

Franklin Grove Grist Mill: illustration for Lee County Courthouse

I meant to post the illustration above earlier, but my meeting last evening ran long. Actually, it probably ran the right length of time, but when one of our committee members mentioned she wanted to be home in time for "Boston Legal," there was a general concurrence among all of us that this is one great show.

So, we happened to have a bottle of cabernet available and our lovely hostess made some popcorn. All in all...a lovely impromptu evening. Boston Legal was great too.

The Lee County Courthouse mural is in the final stages of organizing and getting grants and such. So, before we get our hands dirty with that one, Debbie, Arin, and I are undertaking a volunteer project with some of her middle school students.

A few of the students "happy trees" paintings spread over my office floor.

KSB Hospital has asked us and the students again (for the 4th time!) to continue a new set of paintings in one of their stairwells. We already have done two sets in this particular stairwell. The intention is to provide incentive for their employees to take the stairs instead of the elevators.

This year's murals will be inspired by the kids' paintings of fanciful "happy" trees. Debbie came by my office late morning today to help her pick out the most expressive trees. This afternoon, I'll be joining her in the hospital's stairwell to draw them on the walls.

Tomorrow, Debbie's daughter Arin, will join us along with several students to get these puppies painted! We'll get this done in a day...a long day, but still just a day.

Until later...


Another mural illustration

Illustration #3 for Lee County Mural: the Dixon arch

This one didn't take as much time as the other two (see previous post), obviously, but the hand sketching took some time because folks, arches are HARD. And trying to make it a bit funky and cartoony is even harder.

Have to go into Dixon to work today...have my graphic design hat on today. When I get home, I hope to start on the Franklin Creek grist mill. Here is the photo of it below.

Stay tuned....


In Illustration mode...

Sketch of Nachusa House in Dixon.

Debbie, Arin, and I are getting ready for our 2nd commissioned mural to do for Lee County Juvenile Probation department. This one will be quite a bit larger.

We also will be working with several young juvenile offenders hand-picked by the probation department to assist in creating this piece of art.

The last time we did this, we totally depended on the actual kids' work (which we enlarged on the wall). This time, the work will be more of the three artists' work. The mural, which is quite long, will depict an aerial view of Lee County's countryside, with the Rock River flowing through it. Along the way there will be buildings/landmarks of several towns in the county.

Sketch of Amboy Depot in Amboy, IL.

Yesterday afternoon I started on the buildings. I wanted them to be more quirky/funky, but still look recognizable. The Nachusa House in Dixon was my first attempt and the Amboy Depot was my second.

I found pictures of the buildings and hand sketched with pencil my vision of each building. Then I put the sketch into Photoshop and using a Wacom tablet, sketched and "painted" them.

I still have several more to go. These will then be enlarged on top of the aerial landscape and painted by all of us.

This is kind of a nice break from painting. It sure is a heck of a lot easier to clean up. Just sitting at my kitchen table and smelling the aroma of a slow cooking pot roast, has made this a very good day indeed.

Oh yeah...I'm making winter comfort food because the weather turned to crap again. We actually had snow/slush falling at different points during the day. That is so wrong on so many levels.

Until later.


A weekend of art obligations

"Auction Apples," 24"x36"? (a guess), acrylic on canvas

Step One....

Step Two...

This past Saturday, Debbie Thompson, Todd Lorenc, and I participated in a charity benefit for Alzheimers in Rockford, Illinois. Fifty artists painted on site from start to finish. The paintings were then auctioned off. It's a long day of standing on cement and trying to pull off a completed painting in such a short time. But, it's also a fun day of networking with lots of artists of all different styles. Doesn't hurt when the wine starts flowing when the public arrives. Oh...there was a chocolate vendor that made the sore legs all worth it!

My finished (?) piece is the top picture. Really could have used a bit longer, but that's the way it goes. I've also included the beginning/middle stages of the apples.

There's Todd just above working on his funky guy. It was fun watching him bring this piece to life.

Debbie did an impressionistic fall landscape. Thought we were going to lose her to panic for awhile. Todd and I had to talk her down. The piece came out we knew it would.

We left around 10 p.m. to drive back to Dixon. Got home around 11 and visited with Debbie's houseguest, Katie (in from Florida). Katie was in town and she helped out at The Next Picture Show by announcing the winners for the "Sculpture, Clay, and Fiber" show opening.

So, we sat and talked (they drank more wine...I was a good monkey) until almost 2 a.m. Crap. I was pooped. But a good pooped, so to speak.

I was going to work in my studio today. Even went out and picked some daffodils to set up a still life. But, I have 3 pm meeting at the courthouse today. Debbie, Arin, and I are doing another mural with some of the juvenile offenders again. This mural will be larger and more complex. It's our first meeting with the kids, their parents, and the probation department.

I'll report more on that in the near future.

Plein Air in the snow

Just saw this video from artist, Michael Chesley Johnson, doing a winter scene en plein air, outside....brrrr. The video is very nice compared to some artist videos. Found it on Artist's Magazine's blog.

Well...time to get off this laptop and on to the real world. Jeff just handed me a grocery shopping list for the restaurant and instructions to pick up his sous chef on the way back (that's what happens when you get too many dui's...bosses have to pick you up for work----ahhhh, the restaurant business...).

This afternoon, I have a meeting at the Lee County Courthouse (with Debbie and Arin) to find out about a new mural project! Post later on that job.

Starting on Her Majesty

Step cad underpainting with quick sketch painted in.

Next step and end of day 2...blocking in colors. Where there is red showing is where I need to paint.

Started a 24" x 24" oil on board with red cad underpainting. This farm house is somewhere out in the country around here. Debbie and I took a drive in the early spring during the evening looking for interesting barns/buildings/landscapes. My memory doesn't allow me to remember where exactly this was. The painting right now is about half done. The windows are all cock-eyed and stuff, but accuracy wasn't my main goal today. That will come later.

I only got in a couple of hours of work today. This past August Debbie, her daughter, Arin, and I participated in "The Mural Project" with 4 kids in the juvenile probation system. They were looking for new ways for juvenile offenders to work off their community service in more productive ways. We all created a 10' x 20' long mural of "magical trees."

Today we were invited to a reception honoring all of us and the kids. It was very nice. Rumor has it that there are more murals in our future. Cool.

Then Debbie and I and our husbands went to Kelly's in Sterling for some tasty food and a couple of beers. Hit the spot.

Draggin' my Ass like an Aligator.....

The finished mural.

Boy am I pooped. What a week!

We finished the mural with the kids from the probation office. What a great way to work off your community service, right?

Yesterday we painted with the kids and today (a.m.) Debbie, Arin and I went in and did the final touches like outlining, adding flourishes, and playing with the copper and gold metallic paints. People have been spreading the word and our url link to this project and we have received very positive comments.

About 1 p.m. we finished today and then I went to work with Jack at AAV (web design) until around 5 p.m. I went home and created the 'Now Showing" slide show on the gallery I volunteer with (and show with), The Next Picture Show. A new show opened TONIGHT called "She." An all women's show. Fatigue had set in, but I knew I should show up since I had two pieces juried into the show. I got there just as the last 3 crackers on the tray were ready to be snatched up and of course, a fine plastic cup of "Winking Owl" Chardonnay was waiting for me!

At that very moment, they were announcing Best of Show. Guess who won that puppy? yep. me. Who woulda thunk it? It's the pear picture in this post. I accepted the check, another cup of fine wine, called home to order a pasta special (at our restaurant) and drove my tired butt home.

Tomorrow starts off early. We have b&b guests tonight. Take care.

We just had a cool front come in. It's going down to 50 F tonight. Yeah baby.