WOW. Simply WOW.

Gwen presenting my First Place Prize for painting!

What a GREAT weekend.

At the Spring Green Art and Crafts Fair I took FIRST place in the Painting Category. The prize included a Blue Ribbon (…and good prize money)! That makes two prize ribbons in 5 shows!

I sold my favorite original signature painting to private collectors. My painting is hanging 50 feet from an ORIGINAL Renoir and dozens of other beautiful works.

The kids were delivered to a new home on Monday. Thank you B & C for the love and support.

…AND I sold two original paintings and two giclees to a corporate buyer and my art is hanging in their new 11,000 seat auditorium or one of their new farm scene themed corporate buildings. Hundreds of their 5,500 employees and thousands of their clients will see my work every year.

One of my paintings is going to be featured on the cover of an INTERNATIONALLY known literary magazine and there will be a two page spread about me inside (I can’t tell you the details yet – hush-hush).

I was contacted by a very nice gallery in Benton Harbor, MI that wants to carry my originals and prints.

St. Luke’s Cemetery in Plains, WI.

And I spent two days visiting cemeteries, churches and talking to people to do some genealogy research on my German Catholic roots.

WOW. Simply WOW.

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A diner in Wisconsin

The Regular Dinner

A diner in Wisconsin

Regular Dinner. Grandma Pritchard on break outside her diner in Eau Clair.

We don’t really know people.

Even those closest to us. We remember them or think of them but we don’t really know them. What we do know is what we remember – a smile, a glance, a hug, a scent, a story or a moment.

Which brings me to this week.

This week I remembered my Grandmother, Elizabeth Pritchard.  She would have celebrated her 103rd birthday on April 15th and is probably one of the best inspirations for me as an artist.  Truthfully, she made sure I always had the opportunity to paint.

I remember the trip to the local 5 and Dime with Grandma.

I remember the special something I was allowed to pick out and she would buy for me.

I remember always choosing the paint-by-numbers kit.

Most importantly, I remember the thrilled, happy glances I would catch as she watched me sitting on her back porch painting the whole day away. The hours slipping away before my eyes.

I remember strawberry waffles, Christmas cookies and Denver sandwiches. I remember her chasing our family car down the street as we left her house with her heartfelt pretend crying. I remember riding bikes with us when she was 60. I remember the smell of the local bakery as she bought us “Doughnut Holes.” My sister, Georgine, remembers the smell of eggs and bacon.

Today when I make my kids strawberry waffles or ride bikes with my kids through town I think of her. I remember her.

The gift of remembering is we all remember different things. Her grandchildren are little memory machines and at family gatherings someone will mention something about Grandma and we all share what we remember and what is special for each individual is unique and special.

My cousin Kathi Cashin remembers Grandma holding us close when we were sad and telling us everything would be okay. She remembers, Grandma’s hospitality and good food for anybody – family or stranger – when they stepped into her house. She remembers that Grandma saw the good in everybody and was a person of few words. Most importantly Kathi remembers Grandma’s lessons “about life and loving.”

After Elizabeth passed my Aunt Joanne donated an image to me of Grandma posed in front of a diner located on Water Street in Eau Claire, WI. It was one of those places where a hard-working farmer or factory worker would have found a good “Regular Dinner.” It would have come in a compartmentalization tray and you would have something like roast beef, mashed potatoes, jello, a vegetable and maybe a desert.

The picture was taken in 1932. We are fairly certain the diner was the “The Red Rooster.”

Sometimes we only know what we are told about the people we love. Recently, my Aunt shared a beautiful story of my grandmother from her waitressing days.

She told the story as she remembers.

One day a gentlemen came in and ordered a meal.

Elizabeth waited on him and served his meal.  After he was finished eating he came to the counter to pay and said that he had no money and was so hungry just didn’t know what to do.  Without wasting a moment she reached down into her pocket to grab the meager amount of change she had and kindly paid for his meal.

This is exactly how a remember her – a very kind and generous spirit. And really, at the end of the day what matters is not how well I knew her but how well I remember her in the moments.

A painting is my way to remember the moment.

I miss you Grandma.

My Vision speaks and I listen

Most artists are born with what they desire to paint, draw or create hidden within. Some artists spend their life trying to clearly hear their Vision speak.

Regular Dinner 30" x 36" Oil and Canvas or 15" x 18" or 18" x 24" numbered gicle'es stretched canvas prints.

For me, my Vision started talking to me when I was little so it never really gave me a chance to be anything other than a painter. At times, much to the frustration of my family I think.

As such, I have been drawing and painting people and their lives for as long as I can remember. I just happen to love people and portraiture. I’m grateful for the gift. My friends and family haven’t always understood.

Why would they? After all, it was my Vision!

The Vision came into focus in 1990. While visiting a friend in Chicago, I made a trip to the The Art Institute of Chicago. As I strolled into a little side room, I was drawn to a painting. The painting, entitled “The Trap Sprung,” mesmerized me. I was drawn to it from across the room. As I walked up to the painting my Voice constantly whispered to me to get closer. I was drawn to it because of the subject matter and beauty of it.

My Voice pushed me. It tugged me. It pulled me.

While admiring the painting I became intrigued by the artist – William Sidney Mount.

Mount is my maiden name – an uncommon name. And in Minnesota, Mount is an extremely uncommon name. Could this artist possibly be a relative of mine?

This opened the door and I stumbled down a genealogical rabbit hole.

I gathered all the info I could from immediate family.  My dad sent me to a cousin that had some more information she found accidentally. They knew of our family line and had records going back even farther. I learned the Mount family line arrived to the U.S. in 1660 from England and settled in Long Island. As such, they were some of the first settlers in the colonies making it simpler to follow my family line. George Mount of Monmouth England was the first to arrive.

Two generations later came William Sidney Mount’s family line.

Mount was an important artist in the Hudson River School movement. He started out being a sign painter, painted  historical portraits and life and scenery of Long Island. He was one of the first artists to paint positive images of African-Americans at work and play.

Pride of 1926 10" x 12.5" or 16" x 20" Numbered gicle'es stretched canvas prints

He would have been a cousin to my family line. He never married nor had any children of his own.

Artists! We are our own band!

Looking at his work and comparing it to my interests and work and I understood then what I should paint. That is when I understood what my Vision was preparing me for my whole life. My Vision knew me better than I knew myself. After all, if William Sidney Mount was any indication, my Vision had been speaking to members of my family since at least the early 19th century. I am very grateful for my Vision patiently waiting for me to listen and preparing me for my life.

Since then I have been working with vintage photography capturing typical scenes and daily life along the upper Mississippi River and across the Midwest.

Cowboys, Cars and Heaters 16" x 20" Oil and canvas. Sold.

Most of the images I use come from known sources, meaning I know the stories and history of each picture. Some come from my own family but many others have been donated to me by people with the same passion for history and vintage photography I have.

I am grateful for people’s willingness to share their collection, family history and stories. Often they will come to my art fair booth and linger for a bit sharing a laugh, a story and sometimes a cry over one of my paintings.

That is the gift of fine art. It reminds. It touches. It moves.

This is the gift of my Vision too. It reminds me. It touches me. It moves me. All I had to do was listen.