Future Plein-Air Painting Subjects

Sauna by lake

My Cousin’s Kalamokki

I’ve been out of town weekend after weekend lately and only painting on Monday nights, so since Cookie I haven’t any finished paintings to post.  However, in accordance with my plan to learn the art of landscape paintings, I have been out looking for subjects.  I’ve wanted to paint saunas for some time and remembered that my cousin has a “kalamokki” in Minnesota.  I was up there this past weekend and photographed it.  (For those of you who can read Finnish — incidentally, that o is supposed to have an umlaut above it — there’s a joke in it.)

Bath House

Bath House by Alexei Trachev

Here is an example of a sauna painting by Russian impressionist painter, Alexei Trachev.  He and his brother, Sergei, gained the opportunity to become artists under the Soviet system of collective farms and factories and schools, an opportunity they would unlikely have had under the Czarist system.  The Soviet philosophy was a double-edged sword though.  On the one hand, they were able to educate themselves as artists; on the other hand, Russian artists were discouraged from painting in the (Western European) Impressionist style, considered decadent.  Subject wise, they were expected to laud the Revolution by depicting triumphant industrialization and the equality of the people.

I’ve seen quite a few of these Soviet era paintings, and I can’t say I’m entirely repelled by their propaganidistic intent.  Some of them seem plastic and uninteresting, but in many, the personalities of the artists and the subjects still come through. They are portraits of a people living through an era of enormous transformation, learning new skills, but retaining their character, family ties and regional flavor.

The Trachev brothers painted all the time.  They painted their own families, their village life and traditions.  These Russian impressionists and many others painted for themselves, for the love of it.  They weren’t pursuing commerce; they were expressing themselves.  I must write more about them in another blog entry.

Anyway, back to sauna paintings.  Here is one by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.  When a Finn paints a sauna, he’s painting the most conspicuous Finnish institution there is.

Sauna Painting

In the Sauna by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

So, anyway, you get the idea.  Gallen-Kallela’s isn’t a landscape painting, of course.  Saunas are a great subject!

I was also recently lead to a stone bridge I’ve been looking for for several years.  I saw it first when I was delivering my late-husband to a boat-landing where he was going to go ice-fishing.  There was this gorgeous stone bridge, laden with fresh snow, with the mist from a dark stream rising below it.  I immediately wanted to paint it.  I hadn’t brought any painting equipment up to Eagle River though, just my skis, so it had to wait for a different time.  After he died, I couldn’t find it.  I’d gone out looking on my own a couple of times and always got lost — not an uncommon occurrence for me — until I began to think Kentuck Lake Road represented my personal Bermuda Triangle.  A year later, I got serious and started a systematic search of the roads I thought it lay on, bringing friends, Josephine, Neal and Andrea,  along for “safety” and the shared experience.  On the first foray, my truck stopped working while we picknicked on the side of a forest road.  We would have been stranded and camping for the night, as there wasn’t any cell service, except that Josephine flagged down the single passing vehicle we saw for hours, a forest ranger, and he used his walkie talkie to radio his office and give our location to the owner of a tow truck!  Our second foray also produced no results.  We’d exhausted all our hunches.  I was beginning to think the bridge only reappeared once every hundred years, as Brigadoon did in the musical.  Finally, Neal got a hot tip from an antiques dealer on Butternut Lake, and we were directed right to it.  Sigh….It really does exist!  Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near where I thought it was, but I’ve grown used to being invariably wrong when a sense of direction is wanted.

stone bridge

The Brigadoon Bridge

Last, I photographed the cabin my cousin Cheri’ husband, Jere, grew up in.  I’ve painted it before during my first Plein Air Workshop in 2006, but hope to do a more inspiring job on my second attempt.


Log Cabin

Jere’s Log Cabin

So there is plenty to work on!