Tahneta Lake Tundra Collage


Tahneta Lake Tundra 49"h x 26"w

Most of the leaves have fallen to the ground where I live, yet the Alaskan tundra remains a blanket of colorful texture. Tomorrow it could all be under snow for the winter.

Usually I paint in watercolor, but this image just begged for the vocabulary of textured paper. I use regular white tissue paper, lovely Japanese papers, and an assortment of other papers to get a variety of texture. I lay them on plastic, then splatter them with fluid acrylic paint. Can you imagine how much fun that is? If I splatter with bluegrass music playing, it can get pretty wild. My rug in the studio will never be the same. It’s too late for a drop cloth. After the splattered paper dries, I tear it into pieces and glue them to a canvas.

When I paint with other mediums I like my studio orderly, but when I’m creating a collage my studio looks like a tornado blew through. Today, pieces of paper escaped into the living room and out onto the deck.

I took the photo of this collage outside in the sunshine so you could see the texture. A black fly stopped by and landed on the mountain and I just couldn’t deny him a moment of fame.

Here is a closeup showing the different papers.

Painting Plein Air, or…Is That a Bear?

"Eureka Pullout" or ?... (8 x 10 palette knife oil painting)

Plein air painting (painting outside, instead of in the studio) is something I’ve been trying to tackle lately. “Tackle” might be a strong word, but consider what takes place. First, I must prepare supplies and not forget ANYTHING. I’ve remembered paper, paint and palette, then forgot brushes, not intending to finger paint. I’ve remembered a water bottle only to forget a container to hold the water, an important element in watercolor. If I remember everything (and never do), the next hurdle is to find a place where the wind will not blow over the easel, the sun isn’t glaring into my eyes, and bugs will not carry me away. A nice view is a plus, but that brings up the third hurdle of what to paint, or maybe what not to paint? I gather the equipment I’ve remembered and look around. From one side of my peripheral vision to the other and as far as my head will turn each way, I have to focus on one small piece of what is around me. All of it won’t make it into the 8 x 10. Then there are the distracting sounds of birds, wind, traffic and possibly the footfall of a moose…or was that a bear?

I wonder if painting might be the easy part of plein air, but my efforts don’t indicate this. Focus is obviously key and a major hurdle. I’ve decided that for me, painting on site is sketching and gathering information. At this point, I don’t think I’ll attempt to complete a sale-able piece.

One day, at the end of my school bus route that meanders through two mountain ranges (which shall be explained in another blog), I pulled my yellow chariot into a pullout near Eureka Lodge on the Glenn Highway. The colors were stunning with purple mountains, red hills, green trees and golden grass. I pulled out my bag of supplies, this time using oils. I sat in the pullout on a little piece of foam and played with the palette knife and colors. It was so much fun and I didn’t even mind when some Japanese tourists looked over my shoulder. The photo above is my first plein air seen by the public. I’m happy that it says “mountains, trees, grass” and reminds me of the fall air around me as I sat in the gravel, looking out at the mountains and glaciers with the clouds drifting by.

Normally, I don’t have a problem coming up with a title, but “Eureka Pullout” just doesn’t speak to me. Do you have any suggestions?

On another note, I’m trying to get this blog as user-friendly as I can and hopefully I’ve set it so you may leave a comment without leaving your email address. If it doesn’t work, here is my email: suziepaints@yahoo.com. If you want to subscribe, however, you must leave your email address and every post will go to your inbox. How often do you think a blogger should post? Please let me know your thoughts and any suggestions you have. I’d love to hear from you.

A Necklace of Gold Around the Mountains

A Golden Necklace

Winter isn’t just around the corner at our house. It’s just above the house. Trees are already bare at higher elevations with “Termination Dust” higher still. Ptarmigan and rabbits are exchanging their colored clothing for winter white. This week the sun shone and the trees glowed with unsurpassed brilliance. I wish you could have been with me when I took this photo so you could hear the wind in the leaves and smell fall in the air.

Every September I treasure each day the sun shines on the leaves. If I could tape them back on the trees to make it last, I think I would. Next week, they will all be gone, but in some way that seems to make these days more special.

One afternoon several years ago, I heard geese flying overhead and actually shed a tear. That summer we had a frost in July, a snow storm the middle of August and two days above seventy for the whole season. Summer just didn’t find its way to Alaska that year and I wanted to go south too.

Summer came to Alaska this year. It wasn’t hot and sunny, but we had several warm days and we didn’t have summer frost or a snow storm. However, that won’t keep me from looking for airplane tickets heading south…

Pickled Nasturtium Buds (or You’ve Got to be Kidding)


One day, at the end of summer, I happened upon a recipe for Pickled Nasturtium Buds. I must have been desperate to pour vinegar over something and call it a pickle. Either that or I had too much time on my hands. When I enthusiastically stated what I was going to do, my then teenage sons gave me a look that said, “She has really lost it this time.”

On Thanksgiving, I ceremoniously opened a jar and poured them in a dish. I must admit they looked a little odd, but everyone tasted them and we all decided that this recipe was a keeper. They taste somewhat like a tiny pickle with a little heat and look like an enormous caper.  If you happen to find yourself with oodles of nasturtium seed pods and a bottle of vinegar, give them a try.

From Stocking Up.

Nasturtium buds (the green seed pods, they are too old if they are yellow)

Cover the pods with a 10% brine-1/2 cup salt to 1 quart water. You might have to weigh them down with a plate. Allow them to set for 24 hours.

Remove from brine and soak in cold water for an hour. Drain. Bring vinegar to a boil in a non-aluminum pot (I use cider vinegar, but you could use white). Pack buds into hot, sterilized pint jars and  (At this stage, I also nestle some dill and garlic cloves in among the pods if I have them on hand). Cover with boiling vinegar, leaving one inch head space. Seal with lids that have been in hot water for five minutes. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath. It is best to let your capers stand for 6 weeks before use as they will be more flavorful.

Goodbye Summer

Last night we had our first frost. It wasn’t early and it wasn’t a killing frost, but it was a signal that summer is over. Heavy coats with a possible flurry of gloves and mittens are in the forecast. Soon the first V of geese will fly over and snowflakes will fall softly on our deck. Can you hear me sigh? I enjoy the geese and I love winter, but I resist saying goodbye to my deck full of flowers and herbs and I will miss meals with good friends in those chairs.

This morning I stepped outside and took a photo so you could see our deck too. The vibrant colors and the fragrance of flowers and herbs simultaneously soothe and stimulate my soul. The only improvement I can imagine would be to have you in one of those chairs, sharing a cup of tea with me.

What soothes your soul today?