I promised a final reckoning of my two-month residency in Basin Montana.

Here are a few stats: Jer and I were in Basin, population 255, from December 1 through January 28. I stopped painting January 22, having produced 70 paintings (not counting the ones I threw away). I painted 10 –14 hours a day, having little access to computers, no need to cook or clean, and the whole of Basin from which to work. The lowest temperature was 30 degrees below zero; the highest was 30 degrees above zero. I did one plein air watercolor.

Brad’s Place


Mariah and Eli’s House

Observation #1: I got better at painting.


Teresa’s House


The Wrecking Yard Truck

Observation #2: For my work, fixing light and shadow in a painting can often fix the painting.


The Refuge in Reverse with Dog


The Leaning Tower of Pizza with Truck and Trailer.

Observation #3: Just because you can paint mountains and pine trees doesn’t mean you can paint dogs and wheeled vehicles. “We must labor to be beautiful” (and also to paint as we want to, not as we can).


Portal: Mask


Portal: Barrier


Portal: Silent Song


Portal: Frost


Portal: Going Home


Portal: Travel

Observation #4: If I closely observe and paint the real, I can make leaps into the intuitive,the internal, the abstract.

The final exhibit showed many of the 70 paintings, hung in the Artists Refuge’s Hewitt Downstairs Studio. Out of those 70, I think the most important was “Refuge,” a 6 foot by 10 foot (approximately) set composed of 10 panels. It was on the back wall of the studio; the wall as well as the exhibit was titled “Basin in Winter: A Celebration of Place.”

In a couple of weeks, I’ll post on that specific set of paintings, trying to sort out how it both encapsulates what I was visualizing and also the meanings of what I painted. Stay tuned.