The slideshow at top features Don's most recent and favorite pportraits. Click on images to enlarge them. Further below you'll find a more comprehensive selection of subjects with a little information about each.
Sophia 16 X 20 inches Alkyd on canvas Private collection
Sophia arrived in our home within an email from one of Karen's cousin's sons. The image, one of of several family photos, depicted Sophia relaxing on her bed. However, the color pink dominates her bedroom in Switzerland, and as much as pink speaks to Sophia's femininity, I wanted less of it in my painting. So I moved Sophia into an approximation of Karen's cousin's bedroom complete with blue sheets. A challenge, besides Sophia's dress, was figuring out what the view out the bedroom window might look like covered in snow when all I had were photos when the ground was bare. Now that the painting has been delivered, guess I need to send off some blue sheets to accompany it.
Steven's Family 18 X 24 inches Alkyd on canvas Private commission
This spring I saved our neighbor's chicken coop from a couple of mountain ash trees in our yard whose careers seemed destined to intersect with it. For some reason I invited Don, the local pro for precision tree felling, who I hired to do the delicate job into my art studio. One look around and Don commissioned me to paint his beautiful family from his wife's favorite photo of them. One challenge -- Millie, the second girl from the left, obviously had a bad cold when the photo was taken. Thus, I had to "cure" the nasty virus as I painted her. Now I'm looking forward to watching this family grow up.
Recollections 12 X 16 inches Alkyd on Canvas $500
Amanda seemed to be remembering her youth at the Groth family cabin in northern Wisconsin when Karen or I snapped the photo of her on which this painting is based. Then again, maybe she was squinting into the sun. Either way, I needed a title so, Recollections it is.
Jay 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on canvas Private collection
One of my heroes died on Christmas eve, 2015. Thus, I felt honored when his wife approached me about painting a portrait of Jay. Karen and I love wilderness and have even made a few treks of our own, but Jay and Carolyn set the gold standard.
Every summer, after an entire winter of preparation, the two would fly to Yellowknife, NWT from which they flew into remote lakes -- maybe 1000 miles from the nearest human. From there they would chase retreating ice as they paddled up the headwaters of an unexplored drainage making repeated portages as they worked their way up and over the continental divide, then down to the Arctic Ocean where they rendezvoused with their pick-up plane. With virtually no room for error,
canoeing up and down uncharted waters, they had little hope for rescue should they have an accident, I still marvel at their amazing treks. "Jay" is based on two photos Carolyn provided, the first, Jay taking a break on a remote shoreline, the second, the view overlooking Bathhurst Inlet (yes, it's part of the arctic Ocean) from atop a cliff he and Carolyn scaled to celebrate Jay's 80th birthday.
Ava 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on canvas
I painted Ava upon request. I had previously painted her sister, Olivia (depicted a number of paintings below), and Ava's grandparents wanted to complete the duo. After sorting through a number of photos of Ava, I honed in on her grandma's favorite. Neither one of us could resist her wind-blown hair. Launching into the project I lamented that Ava wasn't wearing a plain colored shirt or blouse, but then, in the end,I'm pleased I found a way to convey the impression of a plaid shirt.
Amanda Chic 12 X 16 Alkyd on Canvas $500 unframed
During a visit to Amanda's Seattle home Karen took our daughter out to dinner. The setting -- a booth in a restaurant -- the back wall a deep red velvet-like surface -- something you might see in a cheap painting on, well, velvet. That attracted me about as much as a fly on my bowl of tomato soup. However, in contrast, the images of Amanda that Karen captured begged to be captured on canvas. The problem -- which one? Finally, decision made, I set out to paint Amanda Chic to take a break in some commissions -- no promises, no one is expecting it -- if things go south, it was just for practice.
Cold 12 X 16 inches Alkyd on Canvas NFS
I based “Cold” on a “selfie” photo Karen took during a chilly walk — as wet snow was turning to rain. Her photo left no doubt that she was far from being warm and dry. In completing the painting I changed the background to a forest veiled by mist and added the snow-filled atmosphere around her. Dulling some of her face, that I had previously labored so hard over, to create the impression of her condensed breath, and adding a few snowflakes to boot probably whitened my dwindling number of gray hairs.
The Cheat 18 X 24 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
The image for "The Cheat" came with a request. "Would you be willing?" It was a obviously a set up, but then again, aren't most studio portraits and still lifes? Besides the lovely family, one thing that appealed to me with this image was the setting -- a warm, late fall day in Michigan and, of course, the golden retriever in full shed mode. I took the liberty of sticking a card in the retriever's collar and shifted it's gaze a bit to Leah's hand. That cemented the title.
Joy 18 X 24 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
Through a somewhat convoluted trail this image of our retiring Pastor Mike's wife, Ying, and their daughters, Olivia and Joy taken during a vacation in China ended up as their farewell gift. As is often the case I had to manipulate the image on Photoshop -- this time to get a feeling for Ying's dark hair. I also used the background from a different photo they had taken on their vacation. Karen came up with the title for this piece. The first letter of the girl's names, J and O spell the title when followed by the first letter of their mom's. How appropriate since Pastor Mike so exudes the infectious Joy of Christ everywhere he goes.
Parker's Hat 12 X 16 inches Alkyd on canvas Private Collection
Parker presented a challenge. In fact I first rejected his image of her as a subject, even if it was her grandma's favorite photo of her. She likes the hat. However, in the photo Parker's face had a washed out yellow cast. I need to see the color of my subjects. However one day, feeling uninspired, I started playing with Parker's hat -- just to see if I could paint it. Next thing you know I was committed. Surely I could compensate for the original colors of her obviously tanned face. I didn't get it the first try.
McKenzie 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
McKenzie arrived in my life as an emailed photograph apparently taken with a flash. Her sister had her arm around McKenzie's shoulder in a gesture of sisterly love as the girls sat on what appeared to be a bench, perhaps in a restaurant. She came with a caveat and another photo. Switch her clothes. So into the dressing room she went. I also figured I should remove her sister's arm (sorry Parker) and change the background. First I tried the lake where her grandma has a place. No -- I decided a neutral background would work better and viola, this image emerged.
Katie 12 x 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas
Katie arrived on my computer screen as a dark image of a beautiful girl smiling from a deck backed by a wooden railing. Would I be willing to paint her portrait? Actually, the request was to paint her entire family, but I said, "how about just Katie?" Playing with Photoshop I discerned more of her features. For the background, I began with a gradated color approximating the color of her facial shadows. "NO" responded my chief critics -- John McCabe and Karen. In a phone call, Katie's grandma suggested Hawaii. After all, that's where the photo was taken. I figured a generic beach scene would suffice. Much better.
Anna's Gift 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
After painting "Anna in the Garden," I began putting away the photos Anna's grandparents had given me. Oh no!. As much as I liked the first image, I liked the second (previously rejected) one better. What to do? Obviously -- paint the one I liked best. Besides, her grandparents have residences in two different states. Now they have a painting of Anna in each one.
Delight 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
Brooke's mother is one of my favorite photographers, continually tempting me with potential painting subjects. I've tried to resist, tackling other subjects, but finally broke down. It's fun painting Brooke, too, because when I get into the paintings I see images of her great grandmother reflected in her face. Her mom reports she took the reference photo for this painting as the first snowflakes of the season fell the day after Thanksgiving that year.
Jilly 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
I spotted Jilly on her grandmother's Facebook page and couldn't resist the look photographer Grace Wolf had captured. Grace gave me the go ahead to use it as a reference and off I went. I cropped the photo to a square format but bogged down with the background. What to do with it? So I photographed the painting, printed it off as a picture package with four images per page and hand colored different background concepts. After the painting languished untouched in my studio for months, I finally took a deep breath and gave it a shot. No! I wiped it off, Again I waited several more weeks. Then, again, I took another deep breath and...here is the result. Either way, Jilly is still Jilly.
Girl Power -- Sophia and Matvei
12 X12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
I received a photo of Sophia and Matvei a few years back -- an email from Karen's cousin sharing the joys of her grandchildren. It was obviously a studio image with a white background. That's how I painted my first draft. No! The background needed to depict the energy of Sophia as she hefted her brother off the ground. So, I turned to a more recent image of Sophia to get a feeling for her home in Switzerland. Soon my palette knife energized the neighborhood, although not necessarily a replica of the reference photo.
Budding Scientist 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
I spotted Sarah on her grandfather's Facebook page. Brian's a wildlife photographer, but every now and then, with urging from his wife, he relents and photographs his grandchildren -- not too often, but occasionally. Obviously Marjorie needs to be more insistent. I was drawn to this photo of Sarah inspecting a rock sole she had caught -- her inquisitiveness and strong but gentle hands. Capitalizing on an artists pererogative, I didn't include the top of another head that appears in the photo nor the brand name that appears on her life jacket. So much for photo-realism in art.
Sunday Morning Lesson
12 X16 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
I owe this one to Karen for taking photos of the children's sermon at Petersburg Lutheran Church some year's ago. The photo included Pastor Al and a number of children, but I was most taken by the Al's relationship with Sawyer in the photo -- the triangle between his gaze towards Sawyer and the boy's gaze at Al's hand. Missing from the original photo is the image of a girl behind Sawyer who's mind is obviously not on Al's message. The contrast, while quite amusing, would have detracted from the painting.
Anna in the Garden 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
I never expected this painting to happen. I first spotted Anna during a visit to her grandparents home. With little time, we were racing through a number of photo albums -- so fast that I let the moment escape. However, the image stuck with me so, upon returning home, I made my request, "would it be possible...?" By then no one knew what photo it was or even in what album to search. Months went by with no response. Finally (could it have been as long as a year?) later several images of Anna arrived in an email. Hooray! I modified the garden and wall and straightened the tilted image but I feel the essence of what first attracted me to Anna still shines through.
Anna Page 12 X12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
When Anna Page's grandmother asked me to paint her granddaughter, she presented me with several digital images to see it they were OK. When I saw this one, the hook was set. However, there was just one problem. The image was about the size of a mini-stamp, and when enlarged on Photoshop, I could tell that she had eyes and a nose, but not much more. A resend, was little better -- until I opened my email one day last winter to find a copy of the original. With a sigh of relief I was off and running -- with one requested modification. Add a snow storm, or at least flurry, to the piece.
Amanda Home for the Holidays
18 X 24 inches Alkyd on Canvas NFS
I started painting Amanda Home for the Holidays about a year before I finished it. My plan -- an educational endeavor -- paint two portraits side by side, one mixing the colors directly on my palette, the second (this painting) mixing colors in thin layers on the canvas in a process called glazing. It didn't take me long to get Amanda's face too dark. Thin glazes of white failed to save the day. Thus our daughter's portrait languished in various locations around my studio until just before Christmas, 2014. Clausen Museum (Petersburg's only museum) was having an art show with a Christmas theme. Paralysis broke and back I went, mixing thin layers of facial hues, to finish Amanda's face. Karen thought it needed snow flakes. Gulp. OK, I could always rub them off before they dried. I even put some in front of her face. As you can see, the later flakes "melted," but with approval of Karen and friends, the others stayed.
Tesla 12 X 12 inches
Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
Searching for a photo of one of friends, Dave and Sally Riemer's grandchildren to paint, I spotted Tesla. In the photo -- on her uncle's (Paul Newman) Facebook page -- Tesla appears dressed for Church on Easter Sunday. Paul consistently inspires me with his photography and one of Tesla captured a special enigmatic look. In contrast, in Paul's photo her posture is stiff, like she'd rather be some place else besides posing for a photo. Thus, I zoomed in for a closer composition. Tesla's mouth proved to be a particular challenge -- the subtlest dab of paint seeming to change it entirely -- until I realized her expression seemed to change depending on the angle from which you were viewing the painting. It was time to stop.
Nora "Berry" 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
A Facebook friend frequently uploads photos of her children -- two (and now three) little ones who obviously have vast amounts of personality. I had to paint this family. I began with "borrowing" a Facebook photo of the two oldest siblings together. However, the pose of Nora's older brother just didn't work with his sister. OK, it was time to use my artists license and "set Gus a little further "off to the side." Read that off the canvas -- at least for this first effort to "dip my brushes" into one of my favorite Facebook friends family photos.
Miss Brooke 12 X 12 inches
Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
One of our Facebook friends frequently posts images of her family, especially her children. She has the eye for capturing that extra something in her photos -- images that I"ve yearned to paint for quite awhile. I finally succumbed this summer. Thus, without permission no less, I downloaded a couple of photos of Brooke, hoping to surprise her grandfather with a gift. It was more of a challenge than I bargained for, however, since I opted to change Brooke's dress to one she wore in another photo.
Olivia 12 X 12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
When our former pastor's wife, Mary Ann Solmonson, sent us photos of her family including grandchildren, she had no idea that one of the images would speak so "loudly" to me. One look at Olivia, however, and I knew Mary Ann had captured a special moment, a young girl's gaze that I couldn't resist painting.
David 12 X12 inches Alkyd on Canvas Not for sale
My son, David, was all boy during his youth, providing many opportunities to capture those treasured years on film. I think I have a "gold mine" from those years on 35 mm film in a back closet, but then I keep getting distracted by more recent digital photos that are easier to deal with. But every now and then I rummage through a few in search of painting subjects. Thus, I resurrected this one of young David reveling in kicking up dust on an Alaska Matanuska Valley back road. A similar image even won a prize in a Kodak snapshot contest, but it disappeared in Kodak's archives. Fortunately I still had this one for back up.
"And the Bride Said..." 18 X 24 inches
Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
Yes, Karen captured the moment of moments during our daughter's wedding. You can almost read Tamia's lips in this painting based on Karen's talents with her camera. I have long yearned to paint someones's face on a life-size scale and upon seeing this photo I knew that I had my subject.
Mothers in the Making 8 X 24 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
Tamia's wedding ended in an outdoor reception near Wasilla, Alaska. Besides the beautiful bride, activities of three attendees, in particular, caught Karen's attention -- Tamia's flower girl and two other girls upon whom Karen often focused her camera. "Mothers in the Making," based on several of her photos spoke to me of the ability of young girls to relate to young children -- a gift that I certainly lack.
The Tease 12 X 12 inches
Alkyd on canvas Private Collection
There's something about adolescent boys and the opportunity to create mischief. Karen captured such a moment several years ago when our grandson, Devon, found the opportunity to climb into a willow thicket adjacent to a gravel bar on Alaska's Matanuska River flood plain. Draped among the branches with stick in hand he tempted our dog, Niko, with a stick -- an object Niko yearned to turn into pulp. Eventually Niko won, but not before Karen documented the event which I've now turned into this painting.
Maternal Instinct 18 X 24 inches
Alkyd on Canvas Not for Sale
Karen and I spent about a week on Augustine Island in Alaska's Cook Inlet during the summer of 1979. There we explored an island which had been "washed" by a volcanic eruption just a handful of years earlier. One discovery during our wanderings -- a sparrow chick only recently fledged from it's nest. Of course I had to photograph Karen's response to her maternal instincts.
Courting Days 18 X 24 inches Alkyd on Canvas Not for Sale
I painted Courting Days from a photo I took of Karen back when we were newly discovering one another -- on a hike above McHugh Creek near Anchorage. Thirty three years later I still cherish memories of that hike. As I painted this piece I supposed Karen was sketching the local flora. Karen wonders if she was working on lesson plans for the 3rd-grade class she taught.
Getting to Know You 12 X 12 inches
Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
When asked to paint Haleigh and Rosalie I tried to use a Facebook photograph of the girls. I figured I had the skills to deal with a few parts of the image I wasn't sure of. It would be a good challenge. I emerged a humbled artist. Finally Karen came to my rescue and took another photo of the girls. As I painted I wished Julie (Rosalie's mom) would have changed her dress to something with a simpler design. But now that it's done, I'm glad she didn't.
Come On, Dad 18 X 24 inches Alkyd on Canvas Private Collection
My daughter, Tamia had to put up with a lot with her dad. With me heavily into photography back in the late, 1970s, and with her one of my favorite subjects, any hike tested her patience. From her expression, it obviously was time to get a move on.
Losing Battle 18 X 24 inches Alkyd on canvas
Collection of Clausen Museum, Petersburg, Alaska
"Losing Battle" appeared at the first National Weather Center Biennale in Norman Oklahoma. You can see more of the exhibit on their Facebook page.
Our daughter, Amanda, likes to come home in winter. Living in Seattle she misses the snow. In contrast to Seattle, in Petersburg sometimes it seems like it will never stop. We've missed multiple days on winter vacations because flights were canceled due to the snow. I based this painting on a photo of Amanda on one of those snowy days when clearing our driveway was simply a "Losing Battle."
Hi Gramma 12 X 16 inches Alkyd Private Collection
I commented to Allison's parents one day about how much I'd enjoy painting their daughter. The next week they handed me a CD filled with images of her. Bonanza!!! Her mom and dad have done a spectacular job of capturing Allison's personality. The problem -- which one to select. In the end I narrowed it down to a portion of a larger photograph of Allison greeting her grandma at the Petersburg airport.
God's View, Sunday Morning, Second Pew from the Back of the Church
48 X 15 inches Alkyd on Canvas See at Petersburg Lutheran Church
In 2009 Karen and I were asked to take photos during Rally Day, the start of Sunday School at Petersburg Lutheran Church. As usual Karen honed in on the human-interest aspects of the occasion -- a pew filled with active young lasses, lost in their own worlds. With the aid of Photoshop I stitched several of Karen's photos together to create this painting. When completed I pushed the frontiers of my abilities to make a frame for it. Set in place we both agreed the top of the pews created their own frame, that the painting looks best unframed.
Eli 12 X 16 inches Alkyd on canvas $500
In 1971, I spent the month of April in Point Hope, an Alaskan village well north of the Arctic Circle. Every day, after school, young children would descend on the house (more of a shack) we lived in. Bang, bang on the door announced the end of the school day. “I could visit?,” came the query from the entryway. Soon our shack was filled with smiling faces and excited chatter. And they loved to pose for their picture. I painted this image of Eli Stone with a whalebone in the background from a photo I took as he tailed me on a walk around the village.
Jane's Last Hand Alkyd on Canvas 18 X 24 inches
Not for Sale
I based this painting on a photo I took of Karen's mom, Jane Groth, during our last visit with her before she died at age 94. She loved card games and our last game was Kings Corner played with very large cards. The image behind her is of a photo of her as a child. The bowl is a depiction of a bowl her husband, Edgar turned while the names of the books are of key elements of Jane's life.
Sarah 12 X 16 inches Alkyd on Canvas
I based this painting on a photo Karen took of Sarah Trask when the two shared a pot of tea on a rare sunny day in the fall of 2005. Taken by Sarah's beauty and inner strength, Karen couldn't resist taking a few photos of the scene with the sun reflecting off a wooden table onto Sarah. Unfortunately, Sarah's face is very dark in the photo, but I was able to lighten it enough in photoshop to use the image for this painting. However, it was not until February, 2009, that I finally completed this work.
Waiting 20 X 24 inches Oil on Canvas Private Collection
After the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan, I sought images of victims of the terrible events that have transpired in that country. On the internet I found photographs of Afghan refuges in Pakistan taken by Paul Jeffrey representing Action by Churches Together. This painting is based on a composite of photographs taken by Reverend Jeffrey and was painted with his permission. The young Afghan refugee represents all the women suppressed by the Taliban, waiting for release.
Ethiopian Madona 1 8 X 24 inches
Oil on Canvas Private Collection
This painting is based on a photograph by Paul Jeffrey representing Action by Churches Together and was painted with his permission. It depicts a young Ethiopian refugee comforting her hungry child.
Amanda in Winter 20 X 24 inches
Oil on Canvas Not For Sale
Peoples Choice Award 2006 Little Norway Art Show
I based this painting on a photograph of my daughter, Amanda, taken one cold day during her Christmas visit to Petersburg. I began the painting with an ultramarine blue underpainting, then added glazes (thin layers of transparent colors) to build up the subject. Unsure about what background color to use, I took a digital photograph of the painting, made 4 copies of it in Photoshop and then drew 4 different backgrounds on the digital images. I sent these to Amanda and she selected her favorite. The painting is her college graduation present.
Amanda in Autumn 24 X 30 inches
Oil on Canvas Not for Sale
My daughter, Amanda was very despondent when I visited her one autumn day in Seattle. She had broken up with her boyfriend and was having a hard time of it. During the visit we took a walk to watch the sunset at Discovery Park. Mandy did not feel like being photographed, but like the paparazzi, I persisted since I find her so photogenic -- even in despondency. This painting, based on one of those photos, strives to capture her inner strength despite the turmoil in her heart.
The Blessing 20 X 24 inches
Oil on Canvas Not for Sale
I painted my mother-in-law, Jane Groth, based on a photograph taken by my wife, Karen. Jane sat on the porch of the Groth-family cabin in northern Wisconsin, asking a blessing for the noon meal. Of course the double meaning in the title is the real blessing to all of us was Jane, herself.
Wake Up 12 X 16 inches Oil NFS
I based Wake Up on a photo of my daughter, Tamia, when she fell asleep after finishing a bottle of juice. Then I added more to the story. If Tamia doesn’t "rise up" she is going to lose her cookie to our more recent dog, Niko. No matter that the original photo of Tamia was taken in the mid 1970s and Niko was a much later dweller in our home.
Amanda 18 X 24 inches Oil on canvas NFS
I have always been fascinated by the human face and the bigger I could paint it, the better. What better subject than our daughter, Mandy, dressed in a snow suit on a cold winter’s day.