It’s the first few weeks of the first month of a new year… what to paint next.

Starting a new painting is always an uncertain time for me. I have so many images in my mind’s eye that I want to paint. There are exhibition deadlines on the not-so-distant horizon, but there is still enough time to flounder around for a bit. I am finding myself especially at odds as I try decide upon what to paint next.

I spent the better part of 2021 and 2022 creating the paintings for Morning Leaves: Reflections on Loss, Grief, and Connection by Laing F. Rikkers. By the fall of 2022 I was almost finished but vacations, three weeks of traveling and then the Waterfowl Festival took up pretty much the rest of the year.

sketches and studies for Morning Leaves

Old images I’ve wanted to paint are now swirling around with new images I’ve gathered since I started compiling the old ones. That is a lot of visual matter competing for attention in my brain! 

What to do, what to DO?

I’ve been trying to DO things that would cause the ‘right’ images to float past the ‘put-on-the back-burner-again’ images like flour through a sifter. 

Making Lists

One of my year-end projects was a total re-design of my website. Something that I had ignored for over two years so it was well over-due. And I wanted it to be fresh for when the book comes out in May 2023. I am anticipating  many new eyes seeing my work!

To have a look around my updated website, visit my home page.

But the list soon looked like a more organized picture of the chaos in my brain. Instead of editing possibilities off of it, I just kept adding more!

Organizing thousands of  photos

Another long-neglected project is the monumental task of organizing my thousands and thousands of photos. I am slowly moving photos from all my old external hard drives that are threatening to kick the bucket. Especially the one that whirs and whines like a soon-to-be-dead car starter.

In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to begin sifting through thousands of old images.  Instead of settling on what to paint next, I found ones I had forgotten about and of course, they got added to the ‘List’.

Pulling out those old unfinished works-in-progress

There is something very satisfying about finishing works-in-progress that have languished in my flat files. Somewhere along the way those images filtered out of the image vegetable soup in my mind to become started paintings or drawings. Most of the time, they are worth completing, but there are always some that should remain in the lost and found file. Honestly, some of the lost and found works-in-progress should be torn up and tossed in the trash so that they will stop taking up brain space.

I finished several pieces last October for the Waterfowl Festival but there are still a few worthy contenders. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on this beautiful green heron (watercolor on vellum) in fits and starts. For some reason, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on. I still really love the image so why am I not working on it happily and for long hours? Why indeed…


My answer came when I finally heard them, the images that were pushing and shoving and shouting to be heard above the din. When I focused on those voices – the ones that were the clearest and most insistent – I found my shortened list. The images that my mind is currently obsessing over. The paintngs that I need to start NOW!

The next challenge? Can I recreate in a painting the one I see in my mind’s eye? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I have a green heron to finish.