Sunflowers for a Friend

Sunflower – Poolesville, MD

Creating different iterations of this image has become a thing for me. I have painted variations of this same image of a sunflower repeatedly for friends when a close family member dies, as the cover of a custom-made sympathy card that I create for them. This specific painting (above) I finished a couple of days ago, for a friend whose mother died last week. I’ve done this several times over the past few years now, and – sadly – I’m getting better at it.

Why a sunflower? I want something that’s bright and not down, something that can lift someone’s spirits and not be trite, something that won’t intrude, something that can be beautiful and hopefully impart a sense of peace.

Sunflower – Poolesville, MD

Painting info:
Sunflower
Poolesville, Maryland
March 2021
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell watercolors
Fluid 100 100% cotton 140 lb cold press paper
4”x6”

Painting info:
Sunflower
Poolesville, Maryland
May 2019
M. Graham Artists’ watercolors
Fluid 100 100% cotton 140 lb cold press paper
4”x6”

Cherry Blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial

Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial — Washington, DC

This is a plein air watercolor painting that I did back in 1988, a couple of months after I moved to Washington, DC, for a new job on K Street NW and a fresh start. As I recall, this was in the first week of April, on a blustery and stormy day with sporadic rain showers, and the morning hours were far colder than I expected them to be — with temperatures hovering close to 32°F (0°C).

Getting to the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms was a challenge for me back then, because I had totaled my car two weeks after arriving in DC. So I packed up my painting tripod, my pre-stretched watercolor paper and board, as well as all of my painting supplies, and stuffed them into a large backpack that I kept in my closet. Then — with all of that gear perched on my back — I bicycled from my apartment near the Adams Morgan neighborhood down to the Tidal Basin in the pre-dawn hours, so I could get a prime spot before other cherry blossom visitors began arriving after sunrise.

While I was painting, the temperature was so cold outside that the watercolors kept trying to freeze up on me, which I countered by adding overproof rum (125-to-160 proof) to the water — which worked great! However, it didn’t help keep my fingers and toes warm (I had no gloves and only thin socks on), and I slowly began to edge toward hypothermia. Eventually my hands were shaking so bad that I finally declared the painting to be finished, packed up everything, and pedaled back to my apartment to warm up.

As much as I love painting plein air, I’ve never painted in conditions that cold again.


Painting info:
Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial
The Tidal Basin on the National Mall
Washington, DC
April 1988
Winsor & Newton watercolors
Legion Lanaquarelle 100% cotton 140 lb cold press paper
22”x15”

The William’s Feed Building

William’s Feed — Dillon, Montana

We went on one of our trips to the American West back in October 2016, passing through sections of western and southwestern Montana that we hadn’t been through on prior trips to the region, before later joining my dad and sister for an extended tour through the arid desert region of southeastern California. While road tripping through Montana, we happened to stay overnight in Dillon — a charming small working town filled with some classic western architecture.

After getting situated at our motel, we had a delicious bite to eat at the nearby taco truck, then afterward went strolling through the surrounding neighborhood as the sun was beginning to settle toward the horizon. One of the buildings we passed by was the William’s Feed building, an old grain elevator and business.

William’s Feed — Dillon, Montana

I did the studio watercolor painting a few years later, as a greeting card for my wife, to remind her of wonderful memories from past trips.


Studio Painting info:
William’s Feed Building
Dillon, Montana
May 2019
Schmincke Horadam watercolor
Fluid 100 100% cotton 140 lb cold press paper
4”x6”

Photo info:
William’s Feed Building
Dillon, Montana
October 2016
Apple iPhone 6S