Duke and Shelby: Great Dane Painting 1 of 2


A new painting! My reference photo was pretty tiny but I made it work!!

Hi everyone! I have a new painting to show you. I was commissioned to paint two Great Danes, Duke and Shelby. Sadly one of them passed away, and my client thought these paintings would be a wonderful gift to the owners to remember their wonderful Dane. So here is the progress on the first painting:

Now let it be known that this was my FIRST dog portrait, I’ve painted muskies and bass and even a pheasant, but I’ve never painted a dog! So overall, I think it went pretty well. Fur is very fun to paint and the eyes are so expressive on a dog. It gives it life and soul. Onto the NEXT!

The Great Dane!

The Great Dane!

And one more! Enjoy!

Duke turned out really good. I'm very happy with the loose brush style. Lots of grays and greens and browns in there making it so he's not just a black blob of fur.

Duke turned out really good. I’m very happy with the loose brush style. Lots of grays and greens and browns in there making it so he’s not just a black blob of fur.

Astronomical Clock Painting Update

Hello everyone! Hope everyone’s summer was spectacular! Now that school is back in session, I can get back to my blog and all the updates. First things first, some photos of the Prague painting. I’m ALMOST done! I have a few more details to flesh out but we are close. CLOSE! Enjoy.


SO CLOSE! Maybe a couple more days of work left.

Closeup of the details

Closeup of the details. I had to pre-sign it for copyright purposes. Apparently people like to steal on the internets.

So happy it's almost done! It's been 7 months of work!

So happy it’s almost done! It’s been 7 months of work!

Horizon Lines and Diptychs

Two paintings are better than one right? And three are better than two? Well no. But with the popularity of collages lately, I’m finding that I get more and more commission requests for two, three or more paintings in a series.


“Horizon” diptych

Art History

Now when it comes to art history, diptychs and triptychs are nothing new. It’s not some super popular fad from Pinterest or anything. In fact if you have ever taken an Art History class you will remember many famous painters of the 15th and 16th centuries like Rogier van der Weyden’s “Crucifixion” Triptych (video below) or Hans Memling’s “Last Judgement” as main examples on a final exam.

While they have heavy social context and religious iconography, today’s more common “home decor” diptychs and triptychs are simpler continuations of the painting on two or more canvases. (See Target, aisle 6B)

Some may have similar colors to tie the paintings together or some share horizon lines. I personally like the continuation of the strokes, so when I’m painting two paintings at once, I go ahead and attach them side by side on my easel. That way as I’m applying the color there is no disconnect, like you are looking out a window.

My natural diptych.

My natural diptych. Taken this morning. Isn’t it beautiful!?

Blue Mood

When I was still working in Sioux Falls many moons ago, I had a duh moment where I was so sick of looking at bare walls in my cubicle that I ran to the craft store, bought two canvases, three colors and one brush. Over a lunch hour of about 15 minutes I had my artwork up. It wasn’t anything special, abstract horizontal strokes with a 2 inch brush. Literally caking the paint on. At that point, I don’t think I had touched a brush in over four years and I just had to paint. SOMETHING. So it was kind of therapeutic and a little pathetic since it made me realize I hadn’t created any art for so long.

Blue Mood

“Blue Mood” – 15 minutes of frustration on a lunch hour

Well after we moved, those two blue paintings moved from my cubicle in Sioux Falls to my mud room in the new house.  At some point I was going to add to them, they aren’t “complete” other than they are dry but time makes fools of us all and there they sat.


I had all but forgot about them, when a client had saw them and loved them.  So much so that he wanted to surprise his wife with a commissioned abstract diptych of her own. And it made me recall why I made them in the first place. They weren’t remarkable by any means, just moments of frustration captured in paint. But, he liked the style, so how could I say no. Using gray, blues and greens I created the painting that I’m calling “Horizon”. They took about a month to paint, mostly because you slowly build up layers and layers of color and paint. It was both 2 inch brush, a 1/2 round and palette knife. I used some linseed oil for thinning agent for the lighter white areas but mostly is was full application of raw oil.


“Horizon” Oil on Canvas. Commission SOLD


Now it looks really simple, but it really wasn’t. Certain colors blend really well to find that balance of warm and cool. Mixing weird hues together can get really muddy really fast. Plus I wanted to have a slight impressionism quality so that you can imagine it as waves or fields or clouds without hitting you over the head with it. The only real thought I had in this is the feeling of looking beyond.

I actually did some testing on two smaller canvases just to get the colors and movement right:

Untitled testing.

Untitled. Testing colors. Oil on Canvas.

I really like the light and dark contrasts with the green and grays. It feels like you are floating and has a slight horizontal movement to it that is really appealing to me.

I had also played with some colors earlier on another double canvas painting titled “Lilypads”. I blend two ways, one, I completely mix my colors with a palette knife on board or two, I mix directly on the canvas. Below, I’m mixing directly on canvas, above I’m premixing on board. Huge differences in application makes huge differences in style.

"Lilypads" Oil on canvas.

“Lilypads” Oil on canvas.

While these paintings are not my true impressionistic style, I always think it’s a good idea to try new things and release a little creativity in new ways. It would be a very boring world, if you did the same thing day in and day out. So do something new today! Go forth and be creative!

Painting Progress for Astronomical Clock

More progress on Barb’s Prague painting of the Astronomical Clock! With the snow storm hitting us this morning, it put me in the mood to turn on my tunes and paint away. Unfortunately I won’t be able to hit my date for Easter, but I’ll get pretty close. The clock uses ALOT of different colors and with all the detail it’s been slow going and there have been a few requests for prints (including myself) which makes me all the more attentive to all the little things. But I’m really happy with the contrasts. Should be awesome when it’s done.

I’ve been working on two of the 8 figures on the clock, in the bottom left hand corner is the “Chronicler” and the “Angel”. These figures don’t move when the clock strikes the hour, but the Chronicler is a favorite since it reminds me of one of my very favorite books “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fears” by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s a fantastic epic. Maybe someday I’ll paint Kvothe and the Chronicler sitting at the bar. That would be something I’d love to hang in my studio.


Full Size

Full Size

Detail of the Angel

Detail of the Chronicler and the Angel

Detail of the sill

Detail of the sill

Those little cut out hearts are from my daughter.

Those little cut out hearts are from my daughter.

New Painting: The Astronomical Clock in Prague

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my painting progress which is VERY LAZY OF ME. My current painting is the Astronomical Clock in Prague. It’s 36″x24″ oil on canvas. I had the opportunity to go to Prague last year and take hundreds of wonderful photos of the architecture. And of COURSE I’m going to paint it too! Here is a sneak peek at the progress!

Astronomical Clock

Astronomical Clock

LEGO Movie : Princess Unikitty Cake

For those of you that took  your kids (or yourself) to the LEGO Movie, BEHOLD, the “Everything is Awesome” Princess Unikitty Birthday cake.

Unikitty Cake


So here’s the story, my girls have played with LEGOs on and off over the years, but once the “LEGO Movie” came out, it has ramped our LEGO-shipping up a notch. Especially for my youngest daughter who will NOT STOP talking about Unikitty and Cloud Cuckoo Land. That part of the movie really stuck with her as well as the “Everything is Awesome” song… Well it stuck with me too.

So over the course of the last month or so, I’ve been adding to our collection of LEGO merchandise. We have the playsets, we have the video game, we have the pajamas, we’ve seen the movie, 3 times, and now (…because of the constant begging and since I love a challenge) we now have a Unikitty Birthday cake.

(Haven’t seen the LEGO Movie yet? It’s fantastic. Stop reading this and watch the trailer!)

Let it be known, I’m NOT a professional cake decorator. I actually don’t remember the last cake I tried to decorate. In fact, I’m not even a huge fan of cake. BUT I AM a champion Playdoh sculptor, so if I just tell my brain that fondant is Playdoh, it all works out.

Clara with her Unikitty Cake. Happy Birthday my sweet little girl!

Clara with her Unikitty Cake. Happy 4th Birthday my sweet little girl!

I did alot of searching online for Unikitty cakes to get some ideas and was highly disappointed. There really isn’t very many out there, maybe Unikitty isn’t as popular as Emmet or Wildstyle, but WE think so. Do not fear Unikitty worshipers, I have posted the “progress shots” to my blog so you can see me struggle, rejoice and beat my head trying to figure out how to make this thing.  Enjoy!


Yes, she is AWESOME!

First things first, I've never made fondant, so I found a recipe online and got to work.

First things first, I’ve never made fondant, so I found a recipe online and got to work. I used a dough hook and my Kitchenaid Mixer. I LOVE MY KITCHENAID MIXER.


Then I scaled up a photo of Unikitty and did a quick outline of how much cake I would need and what I would cut apart. We went to the store… uh two times since estimating isn’t my forte.


We used the Funfetti cake, BECAUSE IT’S A BIRTHDAY DUH. I started with the legs and tail. At this point I’m already getting a little nervous.


Here I am struggling with the fondant. It’s breaking, it’s pinching, it’s not even whatsoever. And look in the back how much cake I’m wasting! Honestly at this point I wasn’t sure if it was going to turn out.


BUT I WILL NOT GIVE UP! Now I’m using food coloring and dying the fondant the different colors to get the LEGO legs, neck and outline of the tail. Yes, I’m messy, I’m just a mom. THERE ARE NO INSTRUCTIONS FOR THIS! THIS IS WHAT YOU DO FOR YOUR FOUR YEAR OLD!


Now I had to bake two more cakes to start the head. I’m all about proportion. I’ve seen enough cake shows that it’s much easier to cut if the cake is cold/frozen. Worked out perfect.


Covered the head in fondant, now I know I have seams everywhere, but honestly, nobody really cares!  Unless of course you are a professional cake decorator.


Now onto the details, some ears and face. At this point I’m actually having fun, it’s more like molding and rolling and using cookie cutters to get shapes.


More fondant fun, I have permanently dyed my hands black by using black food coloring on the eyes. Made the horn and some stars to cover up flaws.


Then I piped white icing around some of the seams just to smooth everything out and cover up the major flaws.  All in all I’m super happy with it. And my daughter thinks I’m “Totally Awesome.” Can’t get much better than that! We love you Clara! Happy Birthday!

The only downside to this is that my OTHER daughter wants a WildStyle cake for her birthday. I have until July to try to figure that one out!

Thanks for reading! ~April