Category Archives: Landscape

Belated Family Holidays and Island Dreams!

Island Dreams - Acrylic 2014

Island Dreams – Acrylic 2014

Hope everyone has recovered from the festive season! For me its been a busy month or so. I have been working a lot in the central states – which is good for future travel plans later in the year – but sadly I am missing some great family moments back home, like the Palecek Family After Holiday Holiday Party.  This year, because my family is large and growing, we decided to do a secret santa. I loved it! The holidays are expensive, I hate giving bad gifts and having to thoughtfully think about what to get twenty plus people will no doubt result in a bad gift.  This way I can focus my energy on the one person and make something wonderful for them.

ISland Dreams - detail - 2014

ISland Dreams – detail – 2014

I pulled my cousin Traci’s name from the drawing and my mind went completely blank, at first. What the heck am I gonna get for her?!? I love love love my cousin, but we have completely different taste on almost everything and she has all sorts of allergies and sensitivities to variety of materials that most people would not think about. Finally I decided that I would paint something for her. She bought her first house last year and the walls are still barren. I know she loves Hawaii, she visited years ago and dreams of returning someday soon. I didn’t paint her an actual landscape that could be found in Hawaii, but I created a simple island composition inspired by the millions of hawaiian beach landscapes photos I found on the internet.

ISland Dreams - detail - 2014

ISland Dreams – detail – 2014

I finished the painting in about 10 days. I would have liked to have spent more time working on the details but I needed to get the painting completed in time to ship back to New Jersey for the family party today!  Work has been busy and thus making it difficult to paint as much as I would like to, I was actually one of the few people thankful for the arctic freeze this week because it allowed me the time off from work to sit in my hotel room and paint.

Painting process

Painting process

Shipping the piece was an even bigger adventure! First I tried the post office, but the canvas was an odd oversize item that would not fit any of the packages they had available. I thought I would be allowed to create a box from materials, but learned that everything that I would need to do to ship this painting was considered a felony by the USPS. I couldn’t even use liquor boxes to make a box!! Next was Fed Ex in the local office max. They too did not have the box size I needed, but they at least had materials for me to create a very ugly burrito style box loaded with packing tape on either end. People shopping for office supplies would walk by and LAUGH at me. To be honest  I was laughing with them too! It was a pathetic looking box. I am sure I would have done better if I was allowed to use box cutters, but that was against store rules. I left actually worried that the package would not pass some kind of shipping code and get lost in the labyrinth of fed ex shipping trails.

Ugly box!

Ugly box!

Traci got the painting today – Thank you Fed Ex for not being suspicious of the ugly box and delivering it – and she loved it! Relief! But lets be honest, is anyone really ever going to tell their cousin that a painting they worked on just for them and their personal taste  that the painting sucks? 🙂


If you like what you see please visit my Etsy Shop PaleChick Studios!

Painting Process

Painting Process

Painting Process

Painting Process

Initial sketch

Initial sketch



Alaska – Meeting our Deck-mates!

May 18th – Day 2 of our adventure!

BC coastline

BC coastline

Robert and I have become comfortably settled on our lounge chairs under the warm solarium heaters and taking in the peaceful and stunning views of the British Columbian coastline. This is the ultimate way to travel to Alaska. Great views, good company and large picnic basket of treats!

AM 18 ferry 10

British Coastline

Last night we began meeting our deck neighbors. They were a unique group of people. We had elderly couples moving to Alaska for retirement, a family of 12 musically talented kids on tour, students, more musicians, adventurous types from New Zealand to France and so forth. Everyone had a story.


Under the solarium

Under the solarium

First there was a man named Greg. He set up camp next to us on the first night and immediately began talking about his life, his past adventures and the new adventure he was about to start.  He became a big part of our ferry passage experience. Greg is a great and affable guy. I would love to tell you more about him, but I am saving the next post just for him.



In the café I met our deck mate Bob, a traveling ER Nurse and HAMM radio caller who was one his way to Homer, AK for a three month job assignment. Bob loves his job and is constantly moving about from one city to another working here and there as an ER nurse. He had even spent a year or so living and working in Hawaii while his daughter went to college. I instantly liked Bob. He was a very nice guy and we had many wonderful conversations over the next couple of days on a wide range of topics from travel to social issues. He was helpful enough to tell me all about some RV resources that I might find useful for future road trips and taught me the difference between Star side and Port Side! Which is very handy to know when the captain tells you that there is something of interest on port side to know what the heck port side is!

Oliver and Bob

Oliver and Bob

I also met Oliver, a traveling Frenchman and musician from the Paris area. He took to the family of touring musicians on the deck.  I watched him play his guitar with them a few times. The little boy from the family really liked him and would keep running up to him to show off what he was learning on his instrument. Oliver was really good with him! He also hung out with the girls from New Zealand – I didn’t speak with them much but not from not wanting too. With so many people I just didn’t get to make my way to them. Always missing one another.

Deck tents

Deck tents

We met an older couple who was drunk most of the trip. I don’t remember their names but the older man was a riot! He had a Mohawk with rattail and would repeat every question he asked several times. He talked a lot about his ex wife while his current and younger wife just sat and looked on like she wasn’t hearing anything. Several times he would offer his “Smooth” Brazilian rum. It was as smooth as a cactus plant! The couple was moving to Alaska because it was the man’s goal to return before he was 60 and he was achieving that goal with one day to spare! A few times I told him it was my birthday the day before. Each time he would ask “How old are you”. “34” I would reply and he would always respond “ I have kids older than you”. HAHA He thought Robert and I were a couple, though he would always make it known that it was not any business of his no matter how many times we told him we were only friends. He would ask questions I think just to ask and then forgot he asked them half way through our replies so the cycle would keep going. Must have been that “smooth” rum!  My favorite moment with the old man was when he asked if I met the pastor and I thought he was asking if I had met the bastard! What an awkward moment that was!




Finally there was a young Tlingit youth on hi way home from the lower 48. He was training as a mechanic near Portland, OR. Nice kid. We talked about the totem poles and he answered many questions that I had about how they were created. Impressive stuff, but more on that in a later post!

British Columbia Coastline

British Columbia Coastline

The passage today was good. We did have an hour or two in open water – thank goodness I wasn’t hung over. I don’t know how the Mr Mohawk with the “smooth” Brazilian rum fared in this portion of the trip. I was sober and not enjoying the rocking of the ship. I had to stay in the center of the ship and focus my mind on something other than the rocky movements to keep myself from getting seasick.  It was a short span and then the ship was back in the calmer more narrow channels of water.


Later in the day I actually saw whales off in the distance. I tried to tell people but everyone on the deck just looked at me and smiled like I was crazy or speaking in tongues. I don’t know, perhaps I was… There were whales in the distance, Killer whales in fact, but then the young boy from the musical family came over to correct me, actually he schooled me, about the whales not being whales. He said they were actually dolphins. I laughed and knowing not to argue with a 10 year old since they are usually smarter than the rest of us, I said “oh well, I am not from a sea area”. His responded “ well, I am from Minnesota”.  HA! Okay kid, point taken!

A few days later I learned from Bob that Killer Whales are not whales and they are actually a type of dolphin. Perhaps its time to change their names?



AM 18 ferry 4

Rocky Spruce Islands



AM 18 ferry 6


Am 18 ship 6

View of Solarium


Painting an Alaskan Postcard

I am still not prepared to post about my magnificent trip to Alaska this past Spring. There are so many notes to look through and photos that still to be work on, but I did come across one of the postcards I painted while aboard the Columbia on the Alaskan Marine Highway that I wanted to share.

Alaska by the Ferry

I painted a few postcards while on the ship, but, before I was smart enough to photograph any of them, fellow passengers took a genuine liking to my work and asked if they could buy them. Feeling a bit generous I opt to give them away for free. Originally I had planned to paint my own postcards throughout the trip and mail them home to friends and family, but there was so much going on that I never actually found the time to stop, sit and paint as I had fantasized. It was a lot of work to keep up with my travel journal on a daily basis, let alone paint the landscape. When my fellow passengers sincerely wanted to mail my Alaskan landscape watercolor sketches to their family I was more than happy to just give them the postcard. I did, however, get some good conversation in exchange and a reason beyond my personal enjoyment to paint some more.

One of my recipients was a young girl about the age of 13. She came from a large family of twleve kids and they would travel the country singing bluegrassy hymns at various fairs across the states. Her birthday was our final day on the ferry so I gave her not only a postcard I painted but a book of blank postcards for her to paint as well.

Another recipient was a woman from a group of people who came up to enjoy our 8th deck scenery. She was a bit intoxicated but affable. She and I had a enjoyable conversation about Alaska’s scenery and what we will miss most about the great state. She had forgotten to buy postcards for her family and wanted to mail mine if I would sell it to her. The idea of my artwork traveling through the mail was good enough for me!

The final recipient was a guy that I had a bit of a crush on through out the ferry passage. It took me several days to finally muster up the courage to speak with him and I had the brilliant idea of giving him my favorite postcard with my contact info on it.. too forward?? lol I hope not. no word from him yet, but who knows.

I don’t remember where the ship exactly was when I sketched this scene. I am suspecting, judging by the bright yellowing sunset, that we were between Juneau and Ketchikan when the days were still incredibly long. I sat on the 8th deck of the Columbia, admiring the passing mountains and islands covered with evergreens, felt inspired by the brilliant colors and jovial mood of the deck. It was a challenge to sit and paint with the wind whipping around. A few times I had to chase after my little paper cup of water before it blew into the water.

Part of my trip was to meet people and these little postcards did wonders in that category! Next time I make it to Alaska I will def make the time to stop, sit and paint. 🙂

Mt St Helens National Volcano Monument

Work has taken me out to the West coast. While I was visiting the West my sweet loving nieces, having learned that I was only a hop, skip and jump away from Mt St Helen’s National Volcano Monument, requested that I go and take some photos for them. This was the first time either of my nieces have made a specific travel related request – besides “can you wait for us before going to Australia?” –  and in the spirit of supporting their own desires to travel and see the world I made and kept my promise.

Silver lake

Silver lake

The day started out as foggy and grey as any late Autumn day in the Pacific Northwest. In the morning, when I peered out the hotel window, my heart dropped and hopes of fantastic views quickly diminish; but I am stubborn and was determined to go for the sake of keeping a special promise.

This was my second attempt, the first was unsuccessful due to foggy damp weather and my father not knowing where to go. For my more successful attempt I took the Northern route, Rt 504. I was still unsure about the quality of views, but I knew that my nieces were counting on me and I reminded myself several times that I had NOTHING else to do. Views or not, this was much better than spending another day in the hotel room with nowhere to walk.


Self portrait with Mt St Helen’s

In hindsight I should have just driven all the way to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but I couldn’t help myself and stopped several times at several visitor centers along the way. Most of the centers, including the Johnston Ridge Observatory, were closed this late in the season; but I still found the informative plaques to be engaging.

St Helens VIII

Ridge trail

With each mile the sky and views became clearer and more stunning. At one point the scenery was too amazing for me not to pull over into the viewpoint pullout to take some photographs. It was here I met a lovely couple, the Schindlers, who had forgotten their camera at home and none of us could figure out how to work his camera phone. They had decided to get out of the house and have a little adventure of their own. I didn’t want them to leave the national monument without any photos, especially since the grayness from earlier had passed and the view was spectacular. The Schindlers wrote an email address down for me and Mrs Schindler gave me a warm hug before we parted ways.


Prior to reaching the J.R Observatory I turned onto a road to view Coldwater lake – one of the lakes formed by the 1980 eruption. I quickly found the trail that eventually led to a boardwalk walkway over the lake. The view was of course gorgeous. The water was smooth and clear as ice. Fortunately for me there were plenty of benches to perch myself and take in the landscape. I met another individual who once worked for the National Forrest Service and lived nearby when the 1980 eruption occur. We talked briefly about the eruption and how the Coldwater lake was formed and took about six years to transform from a murky muddy mess into the clean and peaceful body of water before me.

coldwater lake

Coldwater Lake

Finally, I set out for the final Observatory. As I am pulling out of the parking lot I see the Schindlers flagging me down. They wanted to warn me about the snow on the road and to be careful. So sweet! The road was not that bad, not for my car with brand new tires and 4WD. I was surprise to see so many people at the observatory. There didn’t seem to be as many on the road today. The air was colder than it was just a few miles away at the lake. The landscape was incredible! I am not sure, but I think I was maybe 3.5 straight miles away from Mt. St. Helen’s.


Shadow fun on the ridge trail

I was told by many that Mt St Helen’s was amazing, I expected it to be “pretty” and “cool”, but this was beyond my imagination. I saw a paved walkway that went up to a higher viewpoint. so up I went. From there I noticed the walkway continued and became a dirt path. I continued following. Eventually I left the Observatory behind with its crowd of visitors and was walking along the mountain ridge with Mt St Helen’s on my right. I couldn’t stop myself, not yet at least. I must have walked about three miles out before I had to force myself to turn around. The sun was 45 minutes from setting and I didn’t have a flashlight with me to help navigate the trail at night, though I don’t think it would have been difficult.

St Helens Night

When I made it back to the observatory I noticed my phone had bars and that I could call my sister and speak with my nieces. I spoke with them as the sun went down, telling them about my day and making more promises to take them on adventures when they are older. My one niece asked “when I am, like 22, maybe I can call you and we could go some place. Can I?” . I assured them that they can ALWAYS call me and that we will go many places in the future. Love those sweet girls.

Night View

Night view

St Helens IX

The Badlands, South Dakota

Last week while I was driving West from a wind farm near Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the Washington coast for our next job, I passed by the Badlands for the first time in years.

The Badlands, located in Western South Dakota along I-90, are one of the most colorful and beautiful natural spaces in the American States. It took me two attempts to see this wonderful place the last time and it was painful to not have the time to stop for another visit this time around. You can briefly glimpse some of the eroded buttes from the interstate, but will not see enough to satisfy a craving.

Feeling a bit nostalgic about my earlier trip to the Badlands, and suddenly realizing that many of my photos from that visit are probably gone thanks to a cruel hard drive failure over two years ago, I decided to go through every photo file I had backed up and eventually through my Google Picasa account. Thankfully Picasa had a copy of every photo that I had posted on a former  blog of mine. Though I didn’t post everything, but I did post a few images and looking through those precious few I could feel myself back in the national park. It was a bright sunny day, the park had plenty of visitors but not too many, and I was in awe of everything that I saw.

While taking in the view from above there was a golden eagle, my first, soaring above the landscape. There were these giant silvery poofs that looked like prehistoric dandelions  all over the park. And of course there was the magnificent display of color in the rock formations from the various type of rock material packed together in tight layers. Each layer representing a different time in the long geological history of the region.

If you should ever go to this wonderland then you must go when the weather is lovely and the sky is blue to really appreciate the color. This is not a visit for bleak grey days. Its also a perfect place to bring a portable watercolor set.


Idaho Sunrise

On my way West to Washington for work and we stopped in Montpelier, Idaho for the night and I had a wonderful house adventure for my Rural Decay blog. Early the next morning I took this photo from the parking lot of the truck stop. There is hardly ever a bad view in the open West and the sunrises are extra gorgeous!

Porter Sculpture Park

This month I am working in the Eastern Dakota region of the states and while taking a long winding detour from Sioux Falls to Fargo I discovered a fabulous little sculpture park off of I-90!

I was driving West toward Hwy 81 with the hopes of exploring some rural decay that I had made note of earlier in the week when out of the blue a ginormous, dare I say Sexy,  bull head broke appeared in the horizon. There was absolutely no doubt to argue with, I was gonna get off at the next exit and get up close and personal with this Bull head!   Seriously, what kind of art loving curious drifter would I be if I just passed by? Not a very adventurous one, for sure.

My heart dropped when I got off the exit and saw a sign that the park was closed for the season. I had to see it. So I continued on and thought that maybe there is a house or a contact number or something that I could contact and get in.. There was nothing! No signs, except CLOSED, and no information that I could find. But luck would have it the gate was not completely closed. I immediately parked Teddi, my car, and walked the  half mile dirt stoney road that lead to the park itself.

The day was gorgeous with its blue skies pressed against golden grasses, it was absolutely perfect for an outdoor sculpture adventure.

The park itself was small but loaded with a variety of sculptures. Many pieces, like the vulture with a mallet or Pandora’s jack-in-a-box, had a comical horror quality about them while others, like the goldfish and dancing muses, were more whimsical and surreal. It was obvious that the artist, and at this point I correctly assumed it was a single artist – Wayne Porter – that created this artistic prairie oasis, had a sense of humor and made pieces that reflected his own need for art and ideas of beauty.

I spent about an hour walking among the colorful pieces, photographing them against the almost barren landscape and partially wishing that I was home and creating work of my own. Some pieces I responded to more so than others and a few will become a source of inspiration for my own work later when I return to my studio space.  My favorite sculpture was of course the Bull head that I spotted from the interstate. The size, the detail, and quality of work was amazing. I’m a Taurus and can not deny that I have a bit of a fascination for Bull images in art and culture. They are bold figures that evoke strength, stubbornness and focus determination along with an indulgence for personal comforts.

Another favorite was the Golden woman – unsure what the actual title is – sweeping golden square pieces into a bucket. My take from the piece is about falling apart but having the endurance to still pick up the pieces. Lately this year I have felt somewhat lost and a bit despondent; and this piece reminded me of my own path towards regaining myself, picking up the pieces.

Anyway, the park is a quirky little artist space that is definitely worth the stop during the summer season, especially if you are on an epic American road trip and love to support local artists. The open landscape surrounding the park adds this otherworldliness to the experience, at least it did for this Jersey Girl.

When I made it back to Fargo I immediately looked the park up and found this website:  Porter Sculpture Park you can read about artist Wayne Porter. I highly suggest checking it out and making plans for next Summer!

Monument Rocks, Kansas

Monument Rocks (aka Chalk Pyramids) is a National Natural Landmark and is also listed as one of the 8 wonders of Kansas. The chalk formations are about  70 ft tall and estimated to be close to 80 million years old.

They are located along a dirt road that comes off of highway 83 about 25 miles south of Oakley, Kansas. Anyone interested in checking them out only has to look for a large visible sign pointing to the 6 mile dirt road that will lead them west to the landmark. The rock formations can be seen from the highway, so you will know that you are heading in the right direction should you venture down the narrow dirt road.  I strongly advise not going during or just after a rainstorm. The dirt road is not flat even drive, there are a few very deep dips that are prone to flooding. Also watch out for cattle.

The Monument Rocks are on private property and the land owners keep the landmark open to visitors with the expectation that visitors remain respectful and considerate during their visit. The surrounding land is used for cattle grazing, you will see evidence of their passing around the rocks.

The rocks were really very beautiful to explore! I was fortunate that I caught it at the time that I did with the stormy sky in the distance and few visitors to get in the way of a photograph. The whole region was once a apart of a prehistoric inland sea and these rocks are the most visible evidence of that sea, imagine what lays beneath the ground under layers and layers of soil!

Yellowstone National Park Day 4


Final full day of our Yellowstone Trip in May of 2011

This was an eventful day. We spent a large portion of it exploring the Lamar River Valley – an area of the park that is often overlooked by visiting tourists. I highly recommend taking the time to see this portion of the park. Great place to spot bears and several other wild animals. During one of out short hikes to see a preserved tree stump we cam into contact with a young moose. He started to walk along our trail about 5 feet  away.  It was amazing!

We also made stops at the Artist Paint Pots and then to see the Grand Prismatic Springs. Because of the early season, we were not able to hike the trail that would have given us a birds eye of the spring and all the marvelous colors. Still, we had a wonderful view.



The Sunflower

A dried sunflower in North Dakota.

Before this day, I had never before seen fields of drying sunflowers waiting for harvest. The sight of muted yellows was astounding and artistically inspiring. As soon as I was free from my work responsibilities to go about my business I returned to and ran through the field of dried stalks. The running wasn’t as graceful as I had imagined  or hoped it to be, I tripped a few times over collapsed sunflower stalks and was scratched by many of the standing flowers harden by the end of the season, but the experience was exhilarating. I am sure those who drove by thought I was crazy. I am 🙂

Growing up mostly in New Jersey it is not common to see an entire field of sunflowers. Sure we would plant a few in our own little home gardens, but our Jersey farmers tend to stick to planting large fields of soybeans and corn instead of the bright and majestic sunflower. This was a real treat and though it has been about four years, I can still recall the  pleasure of spending that hour in a dry sunflower field.

This is my favorite photo from that day.