An Artist Retreat

Discussing our plans for the day.

I guess you could say that serendipity and synchronicity played a big part in what my daughter and I now affectionately call our “Artist Retreats.” It all started in March when the electrical power went out at my daughter and son-in-law’s house during an early spring storm. They live in a town close to ours, and although the power outage was widespread, miraculously our home was spared. My son-in-law was at work at the time and as the hours ticked away, it became increasingly obvious to Tracy that the lights and heat wouldn’t be back any time soon. As evening approached, she phoned me and said she was in the process of packing for an overnight stay at our house, and that her husband would be staying with his mom because she lives close to where he works. What we all thought was going to be a one night event turned into a grand three day art adventure for Tracy and me!

My daughter Tracy is also an artist and she was working on a painting when the power went out. Almost as an afterthought, she decided to grab some art supplies and a few paintings to bring with her to our house. After having dinner here that evening, we gravitated towards my studio, each with a glass of wine in hand. We started talking about our current work and the challenges each of us were dealing with. The hours flew by, and we ended the night at 1 am with a plan to paint together the next day and to experiment with some new ideas that excited us both.

We painted the entire next day, and the entire day after that. We also painted in the evenings after dinner and then spent hours talking about our work and art in general. The second night of our retreat we were up until 3 am talking! We’d get on a roll and feel totally inspired. It was such a gift to be so completely removed from worldly and life concerns and have lots of time to focus on our paintings and each other. And the sleepover aspect added a “girl’s night out” vibe to it all.

Last week we had our third Artist Retreat. We have a ritual of sorts now where we begin with a late afternoon “welcome get together” (complete with gift bags!) in the studio. Then we have dinner (we do invite her dad to join us for lunches and dinners), and after dinner Tracy and I have wine in the studio and stay up late talking (we’ve been known to stay up as late as 3am!) and spontaneously come up with a plan for what we’ll focus on the following day. Over coffee the next morning there’s more art talk and bouncing ideas back and forth. We paint all day and stop only for meals and an occasional break to put our up paintings and talk about the progress – or lack of progress – that we made. Sometimes there’s a lot of talking going on while we’re painting, and at other times it’s so quiet in the studio you could hear a pin drop!

Tracy and her wall of paintings.

Our retreats have been such wonderfully nurturing experiences for both of us that we now feel it’s important that we schedule them regularly. It is amazing how energizing it is to be away from the distractions and interruptions of everyday life and experience what can happen when there’s nothing else to focus on except painting and each other. And being able to follow long thoughts and threads of ideas during our long and deep conversations is also a rare luxury these days. Because of the intense focus on our work, along with being able to talk with another artist in depth about current painting challenges, I have found that our retreats often allow ideas that are still not fully formulated yet to bubble up to the surface. And discussing those ideas with another artist who happens to be your daughter……… doesn’t get any better that that!

Trying to decide if I should crop my composition.

In last week’s retreat, we experimented with stamps, stencils, and personal mark making – something I have been wanting to play with forever but never seemed to find the time for – how fun to finally have that time!

This is the painting I started in last week’s Artist Retreat and finished a few days after it ended.

I have also been experimenting lately with planning Artist Retreats of my own. If there happens to be a string of days in a row where nothing is scheduled in my planner, I free up those days and try to do nothing else but paint. I schedule those days in my planner and plan easy meals in advance or enlist Mr. Z to cook for a night. I don’t have the same kind of energy to stay up late at night painting or thinking about painting that I have when Tracy’s here, but it does feel like I’m on a mental holiday from life’s distractions and disruptions. And that’s the whole point of being on a retreat, isn’t it?

I hope you’ve been inspired to begin planning an Artist Retreat of your own.

Bye for now…..Donna

Current News

I want to share some happy news with you! I have been invited to join the C2C Gallery, a beautiful gallery featuring unique handmade art including ceramics, handblown glass, jewelry, painting, photography, sculpture, and textiles.


Cyndi Casemier, C2C Gallery

Inspired by her love of art and motivated by her desire to encourage others to make art a part of their everyday life, Cyndi Casemier opened the warm, welcoming gallery in downtown Grand Haven, Michigan in 2011. If you’re in the area, this gallery is definitely a must see! You can view my paintings currently at the C2C Gallery here:

Bye for now……….Donna

The Color Project Paintings


“Color should be a sensuous experience.” Charles Sovek

Color is an element that speaks directly to our emotions. We can feel the warmth of sunny yellows and oranges, the cool breeziness of blues and violets, the excitement generated by bright colors, the peacefulness of soft, muted, analogous harmonies, and the moodiness of darks and neutralized greys.

However, my interest in color is purely visual! I love seeing what happens when colors are placed next to each other in a painting. The results, while not always predictable, are very often magical.

With the goal of developing a deeper sensitivity to color and fresh new color ideas for my paintings, I have begun an intensive investigation into color and color theory that I affectionately call my “color project.”

In the six paintings featured in today’s post, I chose one subject and explored six different color schemes derived from the three color wheel primaries and the three color wheel secondaries. On the top shelf and moving from left to right, each painting exhibits a dominance of one of the primaries –  red, yellow, and blue. On the second shelf, again moving from left to right, each painting has a dominance of one of the secondaries – orange, green, and violet. In all six paintings, I began with the umbrella, painting it a pre-chosen primary or secondary to establish each painting’s color dominance.

Two major things I’ve learned from my color project explorations are that I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface in terms of all there is to learn about color and various color theories, and that there will be no endpoint in uncovering the secrets of good color. I love that!

All six of these paintings can be seen at the C2C Gallery:

Bye for now……….Donna


Brian Rutenberg’s Clear Seeing Place


After seeing an exhibition by Henri Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn wrote that he began to internalize new ways of looking, seeing, and translating the experience of the physical world onto canvas, a process that eventually became the centering point to his art practice for the rest of his life. As I have mentioned before, Diebenkorn is one of my art heroes and mentors.

For many years I have also been captivated by Brian Rutenberg’s paintings and his YouTube Studio Visits. He is also one of my art heroes and mentors. He is the perfect role model for artists because not only is he a Rock Star in the art world and widely considered to be one of our finest contemporary painters, he generously shares his aesthetic concepts and process with us in a way that makes us feel that we know him and that he knows us because he talks about things that are matters of concern to all artists. As it is with Diebenkorn, Brian’s words and paintings have encouraged me to “internalize new ways of looking, seeing, and translating the experience of the physical world onto canvas.”

I was delighted last fall when I discovered that Brian had a new book coming out, Clear Seeing Place. And I was over the moon when I found out that he would be having an exhibition and presenting a talk on Clear Seeing Place at the Saginaw Art Museum last weekend! The book explores the concept of artistic authenticity and delves into how his own clear seeing place was shaped by his love for his childhood locale, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – a passion that is communicated to the viewers of his paintings through abstraction, personal mark making, and deliciously glorious color. This book is chock full of inspiration, observations, and advice. It is a delightful read that will inspire anyone and everyone who practices art to embark on their own personal journey to discover and express their own clear seeing place.  

Brian Rutenberg’s powerful and gorgeous paintings will be on exhibit at the Saginaw Art Museum until June, 2017.

Here is a link to the Saginaw Art Museum:

Here is a link to Brian Rutenberg’s website:

Brian’s book, Clear Seeing Place can be purchased at here:

Happy Painting!


Workshop News

Spaces are still available in my one and only workshop in 2017. It will be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 27-29. We will spend three exciting days looking at new and creative ways of seeing and translating subject matter into paintings that express your true artistic center. Please join us! Here is the link and more info on the workshop:


Happy Painting!