December 29, 2010

"Palm Presence" 30" x 30" oil/canvas $2200
My Choice: Painting of the Year 2010

Happy Old Year! Yes, that's what I'm proclaiming this last week of 2010. Sure, there have been challenges: Big ones! Lousy ones! Expensive ones! Still, in the realm of What Really Matters, this has been a year of great success. Will you join me for a moment in celebrating a few accomplishments you helped make possible?

1. Giving. When the earthquake in Haiti occurred I didn't have much cash to send to help with relief efforts. Then the idea came to hold a benefit Open Studio. Generous patrons of my work on Vieques helped me raise $1000 for Partners in Health. The Vieques Humane Society also auctioned one of my paintings and so did the Navy League. Very cool! It's a good feeling to put my gifts in a position to gift others.

2. Galleries. Thanks to shows given by Terri Haugen, at her Les Sirenes Galerie D'Art in Frankfort, MI and Craig Bell, at the WARD Gallery in Petoskey, MI, my work has received wide exposure in Northern Michigan, my new home.

3. Teaching. I loved all the teaching opportunities I was offered in 2010. Private and small group lessons for eager students in Vieques gave me the opportunity to develop a sure-fire way to show beginning plein air oil painters how to get going. Then, the Crystal Lake Art Center in Frankfort, brought me another group of wonderful students. I gave one workshop and taught a 4-week plein air oil painting class. We traveled to nearby beaches and farmsteads to paint the Michigan landscape. Heaven!

4. Painting, painting and more painting. 2010 was a tremendous year for quality time behind the easel. 4 months in Vieques, followed by a long outdoor painting season in Michigan that lasted well into October. I painted in my new (as yet unfinished) studio as well -- larger, semi-abstract work -- that gave me the chance to really push design and colors. Lots of paintings -- see them now in the various galleries above and on my website.

5. Recognition! “The island works of talented landscape painter Ellie Harold … are some of the most evocative of their kind on Vieques.” John Marino, Frommer’s: Puerto Rico (2010). This mini-review was fun to find whilst Googling along one day. Also appreciated was the honor of curating and judging the 6-County Juried Show of the Crystal Lake Art Center.

6. Sales! Last and certainly not least, in 2010 I've sold upwards of 40 paintings in 2010! And this in an environment about which many people say, "No one is buying." Well, someone did -- you did -- and this is terrific! Success isn't always about making a sale; it means lot more to an artist than income when a painting sells. There's tremendous satisfaction in having work appeal to a viewer so much that they want to own it. I work hard to put my work in front of people who I believe will appreciate and buy it, as sales allow me to continue to develop myself as an artist and realize further the gifts I have yet to
give. I've posted "Palm Presence" as my choice of Painting of the Year -- it could be yours! Send me an email ( and let me know your choice.

I'm looking forward to 2011 and will keep you posted about my artistic goals for the New Year. For now, however, I want to know I am deeply grateful for your interest, support and patronage in 2010. I love that you take the time to read these newsletters and give me your feedback. It helps me feel connected to you and gives me hope for what we each create day by day.

With great appreciation for you and all the gifts I've been given,

Ellie Harold Fine Art | P.O. Box 1087 | Frankfort, MI 49635 | USA

December 22, 2010

"Winter Scene"
20" x 20" oil/canvas

I've neglected to post to this blog for many months. My e-newsletter is easier to use so I do. Still, for those who want to check in with my work this way, here's my latest painting. This scene is in the alley in back of the apartment where we're living while our house (across the street) is being renovated.

It started snowing here in Frankfort on December 2. What a difference to the landscape the fluffy white stuff makes. I love it! I've not yet made it our for a plein air session -- too cold! -- so I've used photo references and the view out of my tiny studio window.

This winter wonderland makes the Solstice and Christmas seem all the more seasonal here. It's a dream come true for this Elfie-one. I hope you and yours are snug and warm, enjoying making meaning of this time of year for yourself.


PS I have a few 2011 calendars left: "Up North" and "Vieques." Go to to order using PayPal or other means.

August 2, 2010

"Michigan Morning"
20" x 20" oil on canvas
What Really Matters in Creating Art

A quick note to check in after my wonderful show at Les Sirenes in Frankfort: I received some great publicity in the local newspaper and enjoyed a very good turnout for the opening. So much goes on during the two-month summer season here, it means a lot when people choose to attend your event! I was very pleased to see a red dot on a painting when I walked through the gallery door. A pre-show sale is always welcome! Several other sales, including one of the large show piece, "Summer's Day," just before I returned from a trip to Atlanta, qualified the show for me as a successful effort.

While sales are one measure of success, they certainly aren't the only one. The first and, perhaps, most important one is my own satisfaction with the work. Given my (self-admitted) history as a co-dependent personality, that's saying a lot! But, seriously, I paint to receive the gift the painting comes to bring, much as I enjoy speaking to hear what comes out of my mouth.

Lest you imagine me a total narcissist (instead of a partial one), this is how I experience Something More -- God, the higher self -- or whatever you choose to call a power greater than the everyday, ordinary self. Some people pray and meditate, I paint and speak. When I "get" the sweet delight of what's been given through the artwork, I'm nourished from the inside out. Then, when someone else appreciates what I do, it's simply delicious icing on the cake. (And, when they make a purchase or otherwise claim the value in what I do, that's good too.)

There's no resting on laurels for me, however; it seems I'm always getting to make fresh starts. Just back from a two-week ordeal of moving house in the incredible heat of a Georgia summer, I was eager to see what I'd paint after "Fresh Light." Well -- surprise -- it turned out to be more fresh light! One of the attractions of where I now live is the Lake Michigan shore that's four blocks away. There's a spot where I can stand in the shade and see dunes and deciduous trees and water, three favorite landscape elements. People walk by and add their two cents. I love it!

Last Friday's result was "Michigan Morning." It has an almost photographic quality even though it's painted loosely and without much detail. I was pleased with it, and I hope through it you'll enjoy a bit of Michigan summer too. Let me know what you think!

June 12, 2010

Getting Clear
20" x 20" oil/canvas


This week I facilitated my first painting workshop at the Crystal Lake Art Center (CLAC). Offered to beginning plein air painters, we discussed the challenges of painting outdoors, the need for reliable and streamlined equipment and how to begin a painting that you know you’ll only have 2-3 hours to complete.

I prepped for the workshop by taking spending a session on the beach here in Frankfort, MI the morning before. The last of a heavy fog was drifting out over the lake; the morning light kissed the trees and small dunes. Shown above, this painting conveys a sense of the soft light and serenity of this spot and so many like it along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Live demonstrations form an important part of a painting workshop. It’s not always what you can say about the painting process so much as what you can show your students that helps them learn. It’s a great opportunity for me, an easy talker, to doing some “walking” with my brush in hand. For this workshop, I made a painting based on the piece above. Then the students made their own demos based on this or another of my plein air paintings I had on display.

I love teaching the eager students you often find in painting circles. Like sponges soaking up information, they’re grateful for and appreciative of clues I can offer that help them express their artistic desires. (They did some really nice work too.) I come away from such workshops feeling valued for what I am able to share of my experience and gifts. What a win-win!

With warmest regards,


PS I’ll be opening a show of my recent work at Les Sirenes Galerie D’Art at 338 Main Street in Frankfort on July 8. I met the owner, Terri Haugen, last summer as I was embarking on my Artist In Residence adventure at Sleeping Bear Dunes. (Her nationally acclaimed batik work is really amazing.) The reception is from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The exhibit will continue through July 21. I hope to see you there and, please, bring a friend.

May 4, 2010

Welcome Spring
12" x 12" oil on canvas

Michigan -- A New Home

I arrived in Frankfort about a week and a half ago. I'd flown from Vieques to Atlanta, then Roo flew down and we drove back here together. We're living in an apartment on Main Street, across the street from the house we're renovating. It's great to be here. For one thing, it's cool; for another, there are no mosquitoes or roosters. Plenty of friendly folks, however, and miles of beautiful landscape

Where to paint first? Always a tough decision for me. But first I had to dig out of storage my equipment from last October when we left for the winter. Whew! I found a blue, a red and a yellow and a small tube of white. Enough to get started. Off to Treat Farm at Sleeping Bear Dunes. I'd heard the woods were full of trillium, I had to see them. Sure enough, the white flowers on either side of the trail from Tweddle Farm blanketed the wooded dunes. I headed on to the meadow beyond, though. I wanted to paint the farmhouse.

Sheltering in the shade of a small pine tree, I set up my easel and squeezed out my paint. Except the cap on the tube of yellow I'd brought along wouldn't budge. And it was very chilly. As my winter duds had been stolen in the burglary back in Georgia, I'd layered up as best I could, but it wasn't enough to protect me from a stiff breeze off Lake Michigan. Undaunted, I scraped as much yellow as I could from under a dried pile from last year. Tough going painting that brilliant sunlit forsythia in front of the house. Like many first drafts, this plein sketch was sent to the bottom of the pile.

On the way back to my car, I spied the friendly pair in the painting above. Next time I was free to paint, I made sure all the caps would unscrew. The yellow leapt from my brush onto that bush. "Welcome Spring" -- I'll count this as my first keeper of the season, the painting that welcomes me back to Michigan to my new home.

March 17, 2010

Media Luna Rocks
8" x 10" oil/canvas

Vieques Wall
12" x 12" oil/gessoed paper

The Paradise Trap

It's been a difficult winter here on the island of Vieques, my home away from home. Sure, I know better than to try to garner sympathy from anyone who hasn't had their shot at the tropics this season. But, still, life in Paradise has its ups and downs:

1. Ripoffs. This year has seen the island community rocked by the news that a well-loved member had embezzled half a million dollars from a local charity and "borrowed" a similar amount from friends. In other news ... Local break-ins upset the mango cart over at my siblings house around the corner. Also, the battery was taken from my car ten feet was where I was eating dinner. One friend has had the gas siphoned from her car repeatedly. Major robbery in my house in Atlanta, described in a previous post, has contributed to my personal weird winter.

2. Weather. The usual reason for being here, the weather this winter has been terrible. First, a lot more rain than usual. (We woke up Christmas morning to an inch of water in my studio -- Santa's meager offerings all swamped.) Now it's about 10 degrees hotter than normal and very humid. The typically everpresent Tradewinds seem to be holding their breath. Great weather if you're a mosquito! (P.S. There's no A/C.)

3. Grumpiness. Everyone is struggling with negativity. Perhaps due to #s 1 and 2, and also helped along by a potent bug (not a mosquito) that's laid up in bed a good percentage of us, it's hard to be positive when you're snorting and snuffling and really hot, due to fever and weather.

I've been here for months now. I could definitely go on. And on.

Job's tribulations come to mind. "Why me, Lord?" My friend Eileen and I both found ourselves comparing this place to a concentration camp, calling upon the spirit of Viktor Frankl to help make sense of it all. Really -- the winter's felt that weird!

Of course, the island's hardships seem more unfair because they're set in the context of the vacationers' expectation that "Life's a beach." If you're here for more than a couple of weeks, or own property here, you're more likely to be grumbling that "Life's a ----- (the other "b" word)," regardless of how much you loved the place when you first set foot upon it.

In reality, Vieques is just a place on earth. A place to live. A place to be. A place to paint. Is it perfect? No! Is it Paradise? Definitely not! Should it be? Only in a world of wishful thinking or gringo romance fiction. To believe otherwise is to struggle in a trap of disappointment and discouragement.

But wait, there's more:

As I write this, it's about to rain again. In tune with the way of things this winter, I just washed my sheets and hung them out to dry. Nevertheless, I've posted a few images of paintings done in the midst of the weirdness. Painting gets me out of small whiny self; it's one way to spring the Paradise Trap and find true freedom.

March 3, 2010

"The Long View"
12" x 16"
oil/linen panel

The Long View

The house we're leaving in the Atlanta area was robbed in a major way this weekend. A car, lawn tractor, our computers, papers, a cherished heirloom cuckoo clock, even the realtor's lock box -- all gone. There's a sense of violation, for sure; no one wants other people to take their stuff without permission. Yet, I have a strong sense that what's no longer in our possession is just that -- stuff. What matters most to me -- my loved ones and my artwork -- were essentially untouched.

When the reports of what was stolen started heading my way, I was most relieved to hear that the thieves were not art appreciators. For once I'm happy my paintings didn't fly off the walls. But, you know, even if they had, I would still retain the benefit of having painted them. Art is not stuff, it's a process and a way of life. There's always more art to be created, a new way to see familiar things.

This winter I've loved painting at Red Beach out on the old Navy base here in Vieques. They closed the road there in the middle of January, much to my dismay. I so wanted to bring my new painting students to this lovely and comfortable spot. Last week the paving project was completed and the road reopened; I was there in a flash, painting "The Long View." Elsewhere, professionals were plotting their plunder of our home. But while they might have gotten some good loot, I've no doubt the payoff for my work is a great deal more satisfying.

I've composed many of this winter's Red Beach to show the strip of the land on the western side of the crescent that forms the beach. It's a fair distance from the shore; you could swim to it but then you'd be too close to appreciate it properly. In my opinion, it's a vista best viewed from a distance. Kind of like life. Close up there are many snags and crags; in the long view, however, you see that there's much light in unexpected places.

February 2, 2010

5" x 7"
oil on canvas
$500 (Until Feb. 14, 2010, $250 to Partners In Health for Haiti Relief)

How I Make My Living

This week I received a letter from President Obama congratulating me for having been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Included with the letter were two certificates – one for the Award and the other an acknowledgement from the National Park Service for 200 volunteer hours.

All of this came as a surprise to me. Who knew being given the opportunity to live in a picturesque, historic farmhouse in the middle of Sleeping Bear Dunes would result in such accolades? Having been chosen among many national applicants was honor enough for me. Plus, I had the time of my life painting in this gorgeous landscape. I worked hard. I aimed to give as good as I got and had a number of satisfactory paintings to show for it.

The President’s letter came after a busy week in which I held an Open Studio in my Vieques, PR location. I displayed my new work with recession pricing and a promise to donate 50% of proceeds to Partners In Heath for Haiti disaster medical relief. Lots of folks came and I’ve written a check for $1000 for the cause.

In addition to my portion of the sales, I not only had the satisfaction of showing my paintings to an admiring audience but also picked up some new art students. In fact, I’m starting to teach a lot!

It’s a good thing too. I learn a lot by articulating what I’ve learned from 7 years of painting hundreds of canvases. And my students have the opportunity to understand the work of art. After her lesson yesterday, one of them exclaimed -– as the realization was striking her for the first time – “You do this for your living, don’t you?!”

Most artists will tell you that they must make art. It’s not an option; it’s an obligation, albeit a sweet one. We paint because it’s our job, our employment in a universal sense of the word. We work to give our perception of beauty to the world.

But it’s work, not simply “fun”, to make art. Granted, it’s enjoyable work. But it is work nonetheless. At the end of the day, I am tired just like anyone else who puts in a day’s labor.

Work begs some form of compensation. For artists, this often comes in the form of the appreciative “ooohs and aaahs.” For some there are certificates of merit. And, yes -- the form of compensation that tends to be of greatest use - necessary funds. Artists first do what they must but working artists definitely aspire to be paid for at least some of what they accomplish.

Once I was asked how long it took me to complete a particular piece that was priced at $1000. As I seem to be incapable of deception (and have a certain pride in my ability to paint quickly), I told him about 4 hours. He walked off in a huff, after letting me know I was "lucky" to charge $250/hour for having fun using my God-given talent. Of course, he had no idea of the amount of time that went into preparing to make that painting. Or of the number of perfectly wonderful paintings I’d make (including that one) that would take several years to sell. It’s tough to get folks to understand that artists want to eat too.

(I made a lot more money as a minister depending on the donations of my congregants! People would pay $125/hour for my mentoring services! Some were mad at me when I stopped speaking publicly – it was my choice to stop earning money in that way.)

I’m sensing that more reliable income may be generated by teaching than selling, at least at this stage in my art career. Art is still considered a luxury for many people and in a tight economy, many will forgo the pleasure of a painting. However, I still eat food that costs money.

No matter. On behalf of my paintings, I try not to take it personally that all of my beauties don’t sell immediately, that people find it easier to pay me for my words than these images. I’m willing to start afresh -- I love teaching art almost as much as painting. Both are how I live now and how I make my living. And, regardless of the rewards, it turns out the real living is in the giving. That thousand bucks is going to buy a lot of medicine in Haiti.

January 19, 2010

Sun Bay Fireworks
8" x 8" oil on paper
$275 (was $425)
$ 137.50 goes to Partners in Health
Raising Relief $ by Lowering Painting Prices

My announcement that I am devoting 50% of my painting sales did not result in a flurry of phone calls from interested parties. I understand. These are tough economic times and a painting is often considered a luxury item. Better, perhaps, send whatever money you have to directly benefit Haitian relief groups. Still, wouldn’t it be great to support both the relief work and the Arts? Both are long term efforts.

My history with Haitian people goes back a long way. When I lived in Nassau, Bahamas for two years in the mid-80s, I shared the finished portion of a cottage on a large estate with Marcel, the Haitian gardener. His part of the cottage had no indoor plumbing; he cooked on a small grill with charcoal he made from palm fronds. He sent most of his salary, $80/month, home to his family. Ever since, I’ve had a tender spot in my heart for the people of this beleaguered island.

More recently, standing in line to vote in the presidential election in 2008, I met Lounna, treasurer of Sonje Ayiti, an organization that builds schools and provides micro-loans for small businesses in Haiti. I showed her my website and we wondered then how my paintings of Vieques could help her Caribbean neighbor.

I received a note from Lounna today:

Good morning Ellie,

We all are mourning for our brothers and sisters. Our president was in Port-au--Prince but she made it safe. Now we can assist them..

For the hurricane relief effort, although we are not equiped with airplanes, jets to fly relief goods, but we can still provide immediate relief. We have 3 drivers who are committed to work to take us around and several items can be purchased in the Dominican Republic, packaged, and hand delivered to the people at different camps. we have a team of more than 30 volunteers awaited to be dispatched.

You can donate on our website

Let me know how you can assist.


I have decided I want to increase the cash I am able to generate for Haiti by making my work more affordable to more people. The pricing of art work is such a complicated issue I won’t go into it right now. Suffice to say, I do not lower my prices every day. But the recession has many people who could otherwise afford to pay a decent price for art balking at the notion. And I want to raise money for Haiti at the same time that I cover my expenses.

So I’ve lowered my prices significantly on my Caribbean paintings, by 30-50% for at least through February 14. (You can see the new price list at Half of all sale proceeds will go to Partners in Health for their medical relief effort in Haiti.

On other fronts, I just learned I will have a large show in 2011 at the Forte Conde de Mirasol in Isabel II, Vieques. I hope by then that Haiti is well on its way to recovery. But, then, like developing one’s art, one would be wise to stay focused on the longterm project.

January 15, 2010

"Vieques Hilltop"
9" x 12" oil on canvas
(If you buy this painting before February 14, 2010,
$312.50 will be donated to Partners in Health.)

Painting with Purpose – Haitian Relief

I’m sitting here in my minimal studio in Vieques, Puerto Rico. It's about 80 degrees. A gentle rain falls, tapping out a rhythm on the banana leaves. The damp weather typical of the June-November hurricane season seems to have extended for a couple of more months. The mosquitoes have been terrible. They are my biggest concern, if you don’t count which new restaurant to try later in the day and will it clear up sufficiently to paint outdoors.

The infrastructure where I live and paint 4 or 5 months of the year is fragile. A heavy rainstorm or an angry municipal worker has been known the disrupt the water supply for days or even weeks. Think flushing the toilet with bottled water from the colmada. At $5 per flush, everything (and everyone) gets pretty stinky in short order. When this happens we consider it a disaster.

A few hundred miles to the west, on another Caribbean island, I imagine the weather is not much different from here. Perhaps the roosters are crowing just as they are here. But the rest is so unimaginable, it seems too hard to even try. Living so close, however, it’s not quite so difficult. It could’ve been my beloved little island that cracked open. It could’ve been me or my family crushed beneath a concrete roof.

I get to do what I love most of the time. I’m grateful for that. I don’t get paid for much of what I do, however, so the cash flow is not always what I’d like it to be. Nonetheless I am committed to my employment as an artist for the Universe and keep on painting. I’ve been struggling with what I can do to help my neighbors in Haiti. I checked to see if I could offer services as a former nurse and discovered that without disaster experience I’d be more trouble than help. I’ve gathered up a few clothes and shoes to donate. I’m sending a check to match what I spent on dinner last evening. But what else?

It's occurred to me to put my paintings to work. I've decided I will donate 50% of all my painting sales (less framing, or shipping and handling charges) from now until Valentine’s Day. I’ve chosen Partners in Health, a medical aid organization that already has a structure in place in Haiti, as the destination for this gift. They have a good reputation for low administrative overhead, so the money goes to work with a high degree of effectiveness.

If you’d like to support the relief effort in this way, please visit my website and make your choice. I can accept most major credit cards. I will provide you with a copy of the check I send to Partners in Health with proceeds from your purchase.