Saturday, April 13, 2013


Today I share with you a three-minute trailer for a very touching film titled Midway. 

Please watch >>

~ Mikaela

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another Show

I've opened a new show in Tucson, and in case you missed my show last month this is a great opportunity for you to view some of my pastel animal portraits and wildlife paintings.

Hope you can join me and the other artists represented in this show for an Artist's Reception and Salon (with light refreshments) this week on Thursday, April 11th from 5 to 7:30 p.m.  It would be great to chat with you and answer questions about my art, or working with pastels, or just art in general.  If you live in the area, try to attend!

This show – and the Artist's Salon and Reception – is at the CRIZMAC Art and Cultural Marketplace, 1642 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson, Arizona.  Their regular hours are Monday through Friday, 10-5, and on Saturday, 10-4.  If you're interested in purchasing any of my original pastel pieces in this show, contact Stevie Mack at CRIZMAC by phone (520) 323-8555, by email, or visit their website at

"The Journey Continues" is an exhibit of pastel paintings by three artists showing our progression from other careers to artistic mastery.  I'm a former journalist and newspaper publisher, Roberta Miller is a former nutritionist now painting gorgeous landscapes of the Grand Canyon and other places she loves to hike and river-raft, and Pat Frederick is a former veterinarian who now creates fabulous metal sculptures and paints colorful and outstanding pastels of horses and African wildlife.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Touchdown Dance at Willcox Playa

Touchdown Dance at Willcox Playa (Pastel by Mikaela Quinn)
In my current exhibit at The Drawing Studio Gallery, one of my pieces is a pastel of a sandhill crane landing in the Whitewater Draw at Willcox Playa in southern Arizona. – less than a 2-hour drive from where I live in Tucson. 

Sandhill cranes spend their summers in northern Siberia and Alaska, down to the edge of the Arctic Sea.  Then in the fall, they migrate southward into America – to the lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin and down the Hudson Bay to Florida and Georgia.  Some head west and winter in Texas, California, Mexico, New Mexico – and in southeast Arizona at the edge of the Willcox Playa.  This is an ancient lake that’s dry most of the year, and surrounded by stacked layers of apricot sandstone cliffs as old as the crane’s lineage.

The eminent ornithologist Paul Johnsgard once said: “Cranes are among the oldest of living bird groups, and the sandhill crane in particular is the oldest currently existing bird species.”  Indeed.  Let’s respect our elders!

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Fossil remains of sandhill cranes have been found that date back nine million years. Granted, that’s some 55 million years after the last pterodactyls disappeared, but, as Johnsgard notes, the earliest ancestors of humankind were but small creatures resembling shrews when sandhill cranes were first winging their way across the sky, a fact of longevity that merits respect of itself.”

When they arrive over the Willcox Playa, the sandhill cranes make a raucous sound as hundreds of them swoop down from the sky and land all over the designated wildlife area. It’s an awesome experience to watch.

Some of them look like they’re performing a dance when they land and fold in their 7-foot wingspan, as I’ve portrayed in my painting.  Hence the painting’s title: Touchdown Dance at Willcox Playa.  They also do a beautiful ritual dance when they mate – and these tall, graceful birds mate for life.

In my painting, there are some “art things” going on as well as connecting with respect and age.

I intentionally used a rectangular tetrad color scheme of two pairs of complementary tertiary colors from the color wheel: Red-Orange and Blue-Green, and Yellow-Orange and Blue-Violet.  The only colors used in this painting are those four hues, and the tones, tints and shades of those hues.  I didn’t use white (except for a final soft touch on his cheek) or black – the very pale color throughout is predominately a Sennelier soft pastel in a tint of Blue-Green or pale Yellow-Orange.  The “grey” was achieved by using a very pale tint of Blue-Violet or a combination of pale Blue-Green and Red-Orange to create the darker grays.

The composition also expresses a sense of movement and tension, which helps to illustrate the crane’s expressive dancing in the very moment he lands on the water.  The tension and movement in the 2-D painting comes to life because the diagonal lines along his wings intersect and clash with each other – creating tension and movement within the composition.

If you want to know more about sandhill cranes, ChristyYuncker has a great photojournalism site on cranes in Alaska - - along with lectures on how birds think and why they dance.  Fascinating stuff!

The Wild Bird Store in Tucson had an interesting article in one of their newsletters by Jon Friedman, titled: “Wintering Sandhill Cranes in Southern Arizona.”

And, if you want to see these birds in action for yourself, check out Wings Over Willcox - the next migration landing Anniversary Festival is planned for January 15-16, 2014.  It’s quite an event!


Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Show Opening

My new show opened today -- a huge crowd attended the Opening Reception tonight.  It was wonderful!  It's really inspiring when people love your art!

The Journey Continues” is a different kind of art exhibit. It has been a year in the making from the original concept until the show opening tonight.  Pat Dolan, a very talented artist in Tucson and an instructor at The Drawing Studio, coerced three local artists (Pat Frederick, Roberta Miller and me) to do the Exhibit.  After she twisted our arms to shreds, we agreed to reveal the secrets of how successful paintings are composed with line, balance and color to become beautiful, interesting or dynamic -- and also to share how we three artists have transitioned from other careers into art. 
Our group show runs from March 2 through March 30 at The Drawing Studio, 33 S. 6th Ave. in downtown Tucson. See the TDS website for directions and hours -

Our “Journey” is a story about how we used to have vocations in very different fields, but now enjoy the challenge of learning and practicing artistic skills.  Pat Frederick was a veterinarian and now has an art studio in Tucson where she creates metal sculptures and pastel paintings. Roberta Miller worked as a nutritionist and healthcare food service director and now paints Southwest landscapes in pastels for the pure enjoyment of art studio practice.  And I was a newspaper publisher, journalist and editor who now paints wildlife and animal portraits in pastels and am focusing on a career transition into art. Our recent learning journey has included the study of drawing, composition and color fundamentals at The Drawing Studio.

The March exhibit of paintings in pastel pigments has a focus on the use of drawing practice, color and composition skills that have been the signposts on their Journey.  Diagrams in the form of thumbnail sketches accompany many of the works to illustrate some of the visual thinking processes and compositional attributes of our paintings. 

I must say, now that all the paintings are hung, our different styles compliment one another.  Pat's large and colorful paintings of horses and African elephants juxtaposed with Roberta's serene canyons and reflecting water, interspersed with my wildlife portraits all seem to weave a harmonious tapestry of colors and compositions. It's a harmonious display.

If you're in town, try to catch the show before it ends on March 30th.  There are 54 awesome pastel paintings in the exhibit!  Gallery hours at The Drawing Studio are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 pm. The gallery also will be open March 9, 6-8 pm, for Second Saturday Downtown -- and all three of us artists will be there that night, if you want to stop by and chat.

Founded in 1992, The Drawing Studio is a nonprofit visual arts center in Tucson using studio art practice as a way to foster satisfying and creative lives. The organization is dedicated to providing affordable art education to all ages, and received the 2010 Governor’s Art Award for outstanding contributions to the community.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Bobcat

This wonderful creature is alive and well, and is one of two bobcats living in Cat Canyon at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson.  An artist friend and I spent a day wandering out there a few months ago, sketching and taking photos for finishing up our work back in our studios.

Bobcat. Copyright 2012: M.E. Quinn
I've entered him in the Tucson Pastel Society's winter show at Murphey Gallery in St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave. in Tucson.  The Society is also exhibiting member's works in a concurrent Holiday Charity Show in the same gallery, to benefit the Ronald McDonald House.  All art in both shows was submitted by members of the Tucson Pastel Society, and I got a sneak peek of a lot of the work when I dropped off mine -- and let me tell you, there is some mighty fine work on display and for sale in both shows.

The Opening Artists Reception is Sunday, Dec. 16th from 12:30 to 3 p.m. -- so stop by if you can and view the art and say "Hi!"  Both exhibits will run through January 10, 2013.

I think bobcats are intriguing, the way they can sit motionless for hours, watching something.  My dog, Jake, encountered a bobcat once -- we lived on 10 acres next to the  Tanque Verde wash and the land harbored an ancient path, a wild animal corridor.  We had everything that inhabits the Sonoran Desert strolling by our front door on any given day!  One morning, Jake spotted a bobcat in the tall grass about 30 feet from the house and he silently loped out to meet the cat.  The bobcat stopped in his tracks and turned his head to gaze over his shoulder at the big black Labrador.  Jake stopped about five feet from that cat and stood perfectly still, their eyes locked in some kind of silent understanding.  They must have stared at each other that way for a good two minutes -- while back at the house, all us humans were holding our collected breath!  Then the bobcat turned away, showing his short stubby tail to Jake's nose, and continued walking through the grass toward the dry wash.  Jake turned around and came back to the house, his tail wagging.  I don't know know what the bobcat told him, but it must have been important.

Poodle. Copyright 2012: M.E. Quinn
I also have a Sassy White Poodle portrait in the show, and a rendering of a Vermillion Flycatcher.  All three works were done in pastels, one of my favorite mediums.


Monday, October 22, 2012

First Solo Show

Jake - soft pastels
I opened my first first solo show last week, titled “Animal Instincts” – and it’s an awesome experience!  But I'm feeling kind of lonely 'cause all my critter paintings are not at home with me – they're down at the show!

If you’re in or near Tucson, AZ please drop in and take a look at my animal portraits in pastels – in the Community Room at the Wellness First Center, 3861 N. First Avenue from now through January 30, 2013.  The center is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One of the 18 paintings in the show is of my wonderful black lab, Jake – who is no longer with me in person, but his memory is still strong.  The painting I did of him is not for sale, but he’s there to open my exhibit as the official show greeter.  Jake was my true and loyal companion and protector for 14 years, and he went to the office with me every day from the time he was a wee pup until the day he had to leave.  He was simply an awesome dog, and we were very connected – and still are in my minds-eye and consciousness.  So it’s only natural that he be present at this show – which is a milestone symbolizing a change in my career from writer to artist.

Preparing for this show was a huge learning experience in matting and framing!  I had planned to just go out and buy ready-made frames for all the art.  But lo and behold, when that time came I was hard pressed and close to tears when I realized that I’d done my paintings in weird sizes – like 9-5/8” x 13-3/8” or 17-3/4” x 10-11/16” – and the frames you buy at places like Michael’s and Aaron Brothers come in standard sizes, like 16” x 20” and 11” x 14”.  To put those frames on my work would have meant all my mat borders would have been uneven sizes.  I had already bought a great mat cutter on an Ebay auction, and big sheets of mat board at Sarnoff Art & Writing. (A huge thanks to Henry Sarnoff for helping me choose the right color and weight – but all those guys at Sarnoff's are just wonderful and really knowledgeable!)

I couldn’t afford to have all my work custom framed, and I was facing the hanging deadline – so I visited every thrift store in town and bought dozens of old frames.  My wonderful hubby happens to have a miter box – and he volunteered to cut all the frames down to the sizes I needed, paint them all black, re-cut all the glass to fit, and help me cut all the mats.  It took 4 full days to do that!  I promised him a trip to San Francisco for all his devoted hard work in support of my dream.

But it makes sense to me for all my frames to be recycled and refurbished – since I'm an outspoken advocate for conservation, sustainability and green living.   I just might continue to do my frames this way.  But I may need to learn how to use the miter box myself!

If you happen to stop by and look at my "Animal Instincts" show, let me know what you think.  Feedback is always appreciated.
~ MQ