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Mary Jane Volkmann painting at Epcot

If you are looking for something interesting to do the weekend of April 5 – 7, 2013, consider a visit to Epcot, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  The International Flower and Garden Festival is in full force and this particular weekend is the annual “Art in the Gardens” event.  Sixteen invited artists from the southeast will be painting in the gardens of four pavilions: Italy, Canada, England and France, demonstrating “plein air painting”, talking with families, encouraging children, answering questions about painting and trying to capture on canvas the explosion of beautiful color so lovingly and artistically planted everywhere in the park.  This will be the tenth year I will be taking part in the Festival.

New to the International Flower and Garden Festival this year are the inclusion of specialty food kiosks around the park.  There is always a great selection of musical presentations at different times of the day as well.  The plantings are always spectacular and the marvelously created topiaries are guaranteed to bring bright smiles!

If you get to Epcot and would like to say hello, look for me painting in the gardens of the Canada pavilion from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (with the exception of lunch, of course) Friday through Sunday.  Have an enjoyable weekend!

~Mary Jane Volkmann


Picking up where I left off….

painting by Mary Jane Volkmann

“Waiting for a Word”

A year and a half ago I went out to Fair Oaks and started this painting.  Fair Oaks is a gorgeous estate in north central Florida, renowned for its diverse beauty and the welcome extended to artists to visit and paint.  On that particular day and for some unknown reason I had endless trouble with my paints and canvas and I returned home extremely frustrated.  My normal routine in such a situation would be to paint over the canvas and use it for something else.  This time, however, a little voice in the back of my head said “DON’T!” and I actually listened.  I kept the painting on my studio floor facing the wall and from time to time I would turn it around and study it, trying to figure out what I was going to do with it.  On each subsequent trip to Fair Oaks I would stop at this spot, take a long look and sigh.

One day Linda Blondheim and I decided to head over to Fair Oaks and study the changing seasons.  Linda brought her dog and as we got in the golf cart and started out we heard the pounding of feet on leaves and suddenly one of the resident dogs was on my lap!  This happens every time one or both of us heads out in the golf cart, but that day I heard the answer to the question about my unfinished painting!

Mary Jane Volkmann and Linda Blondheim, artists

I realized that I had subconsciously been studying the personality and expressions of this beautiful dog who would explore the estate with us and when bored, run like the wind, then return seemingly to ask, “Are you coming?”.  I snapped as many photos as I could and later when I returned to my studio I started sketching. The painting is now finished.  This is the first time I’ve painted a dog and I’m hooked.  I’m now hounding myself with ideas for two new paintings of dogs in different settings on the estate…

~ Mary Jane Volkmann




Barrier Islands: Creations of Tide and Time

painting of Sapelo Island by Mary Jane Volkmann

Peace at Sunrise, a painting of Sapelo Island by Mary Jane Volkmann

Late in October I flew back to the States with a full agenda: being with my mother, our sons and family, visiting friends, sorting out a house packed full of a lifetime of accumulation, delivering paintings and being present for the opening of our three person show at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta, Georgia.  Our show is titled Barrier Islands: Creation of Tide and Time.  It consists of a body of paintings created by Brenda Hofreiter, Nancy Moskovitz and me.  This is a follow-up show to the one we had at the Florida Museum of Natural History and new paintings have been added.  The three of us were the Florida artists selected in past years as Artist in Residence on Sapelo Island.  We felt that a subject matter of such importance might be of interest and thus the project grew.  On Thursday Brenda and I loaded over 30 paintings (some of Brenda’s are BIG) into the Sprinter loaned to us by Micro Aerial Projects (thank you!!) and off we went!  Nancy had already delivered her gorgeous paintings, and it looks like it will be a great show.  Two fellow artists from Florida, Leslie Peebles and Jeffrey Smart Baisden will be exhibiting their beautiful work in the other rooms at the Center.

delivering paintings

Mary Jane Volkmann and Brenda Hofreiter delivering paintings to the Turner Center

If you have time or are passing through on I-75, do stop in to see the show.  It will be up until January 9. The opening will be on Monday.  Here is the invitation card:


exhibit card, Turner Center for the Arts

When Walter drove Oliver and me to Frankfurt to catch our flight to the States, we were greeted with the remains of contrails in the sky which seemed to spell out the word “HI”!  I send that same greeting now to my new friends in Europe and to all my friends here and around the world!    ~ Mary Jane Volkmann

greeting in sky



Back online!

studio in Kassel, Germany

Life certainly presents interesting opportunities and challenges!  I traveled with Walter to Europe in July as he pursued some fascinating developments in his career.  We started in Ferrara, Italy, where he worked with colleagues and a professor and his team using a small unmanned aerial vehicle, (not a spy ship) to photograph the destruction and damage caused by recent earthquakes in the area.  The places we filmed (I got to be the photographer on the ground :>) were too unsafe to send in human beings.  (To see some of the footage, go to From there we spent time with his aunt and cousins in the Italian Alps before traveling to Kassel, Germany, where Walter is consulting.  We lived in hotels and out of suitcases until we could move into an apartment right in town. Around the corner is a bus stop and a bit further along is the tram station.  Everything we need is within walking distance and with high speed internet now in place we are back online!

view from my Kassel, Germany, studioOn the other side of the building is a lovely garden with trees, flowers and birds.  At night I can lie in bed and look out the big windows at the stars and as the windows are south facing, we get the warmth of the sun in the cold weather and can watch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets from our windows and balconies.

Kassel is an interesting place.  80% of the city was destroyed during the war.  There is a mix of old European architecture and solid but plain buildings built to accommodate a population left homeless.  The town itself lies among rolling hills.  The colors are gorgeous and I delight in exploring and walking.

Kassel, Germany, one viewA view of Kassel, Germany, from Hercules









Kassel has a fabulous park system linking every corner of the city.  I can step out my door, walk around the corner and be connected to natural pathways that I can take to be in nature in every direction.  The pathways cross fields, traverse forests and hills, and benches have been thoughtfully placed throughout the natural areas.  I have taken up my camera and pen and have started photographing and writing a few tentative lines of poetry quite regularly, something I used to enjoy so much and had forgotten.

Driving out from the city one is immediately in the countryside of rolling hills, forests and fields.  The word that keeps coming to me is “romantic”.  I can so easily imagine the fairy tales read to me in my childhood. There is no urban sprawl here like I am used to in Florida.  Towns are neatly tucked into the landscape in a central place surrounded by the countryside.  Many are full of traditional timber frame houses and flowers adorn windowsills, street corners and gardens!

a view of the countryside near Kassel, Germanytraditional German housesI have met some lovely people in the area! Most go out of their way to help me, especially when they see I am trying to speak German!  The Baha’i community is delightful and I have met a charming artist who also teaches and enjoys plein air painting, so we will be getting out there with our easels!  I brought my trusty Soltek with me and can fold it up, put it in a big wheeled rolling cart which people use here for shopping and off I go! I’ve met some other women who like to hike and meet for coffee, so between setting up an apartment from scratch with all the basics, visiting, and exploring the countryside with Walter during off hours, I’m as busy as ever.  I’ve started a few paintings and will be updating my website as I have time.  In two weeks I’ll be back in Gainesville for awhile. It will be an interesting process having studios on both sides of the “pond”, painting different worlds and exploring and expressing what I see, learn, experience and contemplate…

Walter and Mary Jane Volkmann



That’s it for today!

Tschüs and Vielen Grusse from Kassel, Germany!

Mary Jane Volkmann


Photo taken with Walter, October 2012




The John C. Campbell Experience

John C. Campbell painting studioEach spring and fall for the past several years I have had the privilege of co-teaching a plein air painting class with Kathleen Wobie at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N. Carolina.  We originally taught classes by ourselves, assisting each other when we had full classes.  We realized how much we enjoyed teaching together and how our completely different styles of painting seemed to liberate our students into exploring their own natural painting styles, so we decided to team up and co-teach.  It has been working well and has been fun for all of us!

The school itself, based on the Danish concept of “folks sharing with folks,” is a relaxed and happy place to holiday for a week in a rustic and beautiful rural mountain setting while learning or developing everything from painting to metalwork, woodwork, fiber arts and glass (have a look at the link to see the wide variety of offerings).  We leave our cars behind and walk across pathways in the forest or in the fields, sharing meals together in the community dining hall, and enjoying a host of activities open to all in the mornings and evenings if we wish. What I personally love is the chance to open the windows at night for the fresh breeze, the sounds of the many birds and critters, watching the fireflies in the fields and ducking out every time I wake up at night to see a sky full of stars.  We always return with new friends and all kinds of memories!  Aside from teaching, I found a new hobby for myself ~ making kaleidoscopes!

This past class was particularly interesting.  We had five professional artists/teachers and an intrepid retiree who had made the most interesting outdoor easel and transport carrier and who has jumped headlong into painting.  It was a great opportunity to talk about our “comfort zones” and how we all long to push our boundaries to discover new things in the way we see the world, think about it and express it in paint.  We learn so much ourselves in the process of sharing with each other.

The weather this time fluctuated wildly between rain and overcast skies to hot and sunny days, giving us perfect opportunities to study light in the landscape.  The school has acquired a new property, so we found a new place to be sheltered outdoors when it rained.

Painting at John C. Campbell Folk School

painting from the porch




I’m looking forward to taking another class at the school as well as to teaching our next class in September…

~Mary Jane Volkmann


Winter Park Paint Out

I’ve just returned from quite a week at the Winter Park Paint Out!  The organizers pulled out all the stops to make it a fabulous week.  It always takes me a couple of days to reorient myself after these intense weeks of non-stop painting, functions and visiting with my fellow artists.  A concurrent poetry competition about our paintings was running during the week.  Here are a couple of the paintings I did with a little anecdote about them and a sampling of the poems written about them.  I’ve included a link to each author’s page on the web.

ala prima painting by Mary Jane Volkmann

Friendly Faces

When you see the flowers that she paints,
They all just start to bloom.
And the light she squeezes from the tube,
Could brighten any room.

She tells a story with her brushes,
Of love and fragile beauty.
The colors tend to fold and blend,
As though it were their duty.

Her paintings seem to bring to life,
The earth and trees and skies.
Our world would be a better place,
If seen through Mary’s eyes.


The first day we started painting it was chilly and the wind was howling with gusts up to 35 mph!  I parked my easel in a corner of the garden and painted these flowers, watching as they began to wither in the wind. I worked  quickly to keep them alive on my canvas!  


ala prima paintingReady and Waiting

Nature’s gentle palette brushes softly ’round me
touching my skin and hair and moving heart and soul
The artist mirrors Nature’s magic perfectly
Inviting me to come in from the bitter cold

Wrap Nature’s warm and loving blanket around me
The Peace She offers in Her many shades of green
The artist shares Nature’s deepest serenity
So sensitive to light and dark and mood and scene

What a joy and precious gift our wond’rous world is
What vision, love and talent move Miss Mary Jane
With what skill she softens the wooden bench she sees
Inviting us with her heart, soul, skilled hands and brain

To sit still and calm with Nature all around us
to enjoy Her beauty and welcome Her caress.

~ Maxine Smithers

It usually takes me a day or two to visually find my way around new places where I am invited to paint. One of the things I noticed about Winter Park was how many places have benches on which to sit and relax.  I found this one in a neighborhood where I spent several days painting.


garden painting by Mary Jane VolkmannWhisper

What secrets are being murmured around
in such hush-hush tones under the trees?
Like a spoil-sport sneaks in a playful breeze!
In its ceaseless chanting all sound is drowned.
With vibrant flowers, the hedges are crowned.
An assortment of scents bedazzles the bees.
They flutter, and then settle down with ease
on the gourmet buffet spread on the ground.

Even a comely scene casts such a spell!
Such enduring charm does Nature possess!
Its sights and sounds, its captivating smell
relax the soul, alleviate the stress.
In this sylvan splendour, let my heart dwell
gathering calmness from Nature’s caress.

~ Krishnaa

This painting is on my home page and in my last post.  It was my feature painting this year at the Winter Park Paint Out.  I was particularly touched by the responses it evoked in the people who looked at it and talked with me about it.  Krishnaa caught so clearly the thoughts and inspirations within me as I painted it.


painting done ala prima by Mary Jane Volkmann



A bench
by a river
under moss lined trees.
Through an open arch
a doorway
of opportunity.



As I drove along a little street I happened to notice a vacant lot with a “for sale” sign.  It had a huge oak tree which could provide great shade in which to paint, so I looked to see whether there was anything of interest.  My eye caught the wooden walk way at the bottom of the lot, and through the vegetation I noticed this bench at the water’s edge.  As I was painting it, the rising sun suddenly exposed the pink oleanders which had been hidden in the shadows! 

Beyond the fund raising for museums, organizations, events and naturally for the artists, paint outs are great ways to connect with old and new friends, to grow as artists and to interact with the community.  I had such delightful experiences with children in the neighborhood in which I painted in Winter Park.  Several came running over after they got home from school and sat next to me while I painted, asking questions and talking about their own creative experiences.  When they returned from after school activities they would run across again to see what progress I had made and to ask about other things they had wondered about after our previous conversations.  One of the mothers walked over one morning to say how much they appreciated this interaction.  All of us hope that we can pass along the joy of painting to the younger generation.  Painting outdoors is such a wonderful way to connect our inner and outer worlds as we sit, observe, listen to the birds and simply find peace.  Whether the painting is going well or not, there is always something joyful in the process!  I’ve also found that once people watch what they do, they are so eager to show us special spots they have discovered and to offer us opportunities to paint in places we could never have imagined.  I’ve made some new friends and thank each one of you!

Next up: I’m attending a conference about art and spirit, then I’m off to the great John Campbell Folk School in North Carolina to take a class in metal working (a first for me).  Afterwards I’ll be co-teaching a painting class with my friend and fellow artist, Kathleen Wobie.  We do this twice a year.

Thanks for your visit!

~Mary Jane Volkmann




Off and Running!

After three glorious days painting in the magnificent flower gardens of the United Kingdom pavilion at Epcot, I’ve had great practice for the Winter Park Invitational Paint Out which begins this coming Sunday. Each year the team of volunteer gardeners at the Albin Polasek Museum, where the paint out is held, do everything they can to prepare visual delights for us to paint.  I’m normally one of the first painters to arrive at the crack of dawn because I so enjoy the early morning light.  My feature painting from last year is shown here on the top left with my feature painting for this year on the bottom right (you can see it enlarged on my current home page).

painting by Mary Jane Volkmann of the Polasek gardenspainting of flowers by Mary Jane Volkmann

The organizers of this Paint Out are incredibly thoughtful and considerate of the artists.  Ahead of the event, they send each of us a poster with our own painting as a feature.  We can post these online and send them to our patrons via email.  On our arrival they have a welcome kit which includes, among other things, maps of interesting places to paint and cards with one of our paintings featured on them.  We can give these to people who come by and are interested in our paintings.  The cards have a printed schedule of events and help people remember each of us. Each day the organizers prepare breakfast for us and put out snacks and cold water which are available throughout the long days of painting.  We are free to paint all around Winter Park, but I tend to spend quite a bit of time in the gardens themselves.  I am looking forward to seeing all my old friends and to making new ones!

On my return I will head to the John Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N. Carolina, where I will be co-teaching an acrylic plein air painting class with Kathie Wobie.  Spring is lovely up there and the air is so fresh in the mountains!  We enjoy working with fellow painters and learn so much ourselves in the process.  One of the perks of teaching at the school is being able to take one class for each class we teach, provided there is space, of course.  This time I’m going to take a metal working class.  The subject is flowers!  The school has a new forge which is state of the art.  Having never worked in metal, this should prove interesting… Wish me luck.

I had hoped to post more photos of my paintings before leaving, but my camera is rebelling.  It simply doesn’t want to cooperate!  When I have more time, I’ll try and figure that out…

Wishing you a happy spring!

Mary Jane Volkmann





Art in the Garden at Epcot, March 23 – 25, 2012

asking questions about painting

flowers at Epcot

asking questions about paintingFor the past nine years a group of 16 artists from the southeast has been invited to paint in the gardens of Epcot during the “Art in the Garden” weekend of the International Flower and Garden Festival.  I feel privileged to be part of this event and look forward to it each year.  As was so beautifully explained to us by the Vice President of Disney, Disney is founded on art.  It is about imagination.  Giving the public and especially children the opportunity to see paintings created first hand and to ask questions and be inspired is the purpose behind this particular weekend of the event.  I never cease to be amazed by the number of children who stop to watch us paint and ask questions.  I’ve been keeping a little record of the types of questions they ask.  Number one on my list has been “what do you do when you make a mistake?”.  I have found that when they ask this question, the parents lean in very closely to hear my answer.  I always tell the children that I don’t think there is a “mistake” in painting.  Each one of us has our own style, whether we paint realistically or in the abstract, but as artists we are always experimenting and trying new things.  If we don’t like something about what we are looking at to paint, or what we are painting, we change it, move it or remove it.  Sometimes I may tell them to watch as I change my decision.  I’ll take something I’ve painted on the canvas in front of me and pick up a brush and paint right over it, removing it from my painting.  It’s fun to see their jaws drop!  “You mean it’s ok to do that?” They seem to get so excited and I hope it gives them permission to enjoy the process of feeling free to create in whatever way their imagination talks to them!  I also note the relief and the happiness of the parents.  Many will come back later to ask us questions about encouraging their children.  Some families return each year when they know we are coming for the festival.  To accompany the event, Epcot has even set up a children’s area where they can try their hand at creating art!  Thank you, Disney and Epcot, for providing such a unique opportunity to keep alive and regenerate that creative spirit in the community.

flowers planted at EpcotSpeaking of inspiration, each year we go to the International Flower and Garden Festival to paint I am excited to see what the horticultural experts of Epcot have planted.  There is something new and different each year. The exquisite attention to detail is mind boggling.  We arrive in the early hours to get set up to paint and all day long one sees how any withered plant is quickly replaced so beauty is maintained at all times.  I also note how any scrap of rubbish is immediately picked up ~ by anyone on staff.  What an example!

I leave for Epcot tomorrow.  If you can make it for the festival, you will be delighted.  Bring the kids and prepare yourself to be inspired!

floral plantings at Epcot


The show is up!


some of the paintings on display

I am happy to report that the paintings from the Six Artists Six Prairies project are now hanging at Prairie Creek Lodge in Gainesville, Florida.  I had imagined such a nice day painting with the other artists and enjoying the show opening, but managed to catch a nasty bronchial virus with a long recovery process instead!  Imagine this: my paintings were scattered around the house, my frames were in different places in my closet, dining room and studio (I had not yet chosen which frame to go with which painting and two paintings needed final touches) and I was coughing my lungs out in a hospital bed! A dear friend and one of our sons came to my rescue.  They pulled out the frames and decided which ones they thought worked the best with the paintings then sent me photos with their cell phones.  I could then have a look and text them back with my response.  They then framed them all!  Another friend kindly arranged to send two other friends to the house to have the paintings picked up and delivered to the lodge.  I was still in bed (at home) during the opening but could look at the photographs of the event as visitors posted them on Facebook.  Ah, the joys of modern technology!  Big, big thanks to my family and friends.  I appreciate all of you so much!

Happily I am recovering and can work a little bit each day.  I have started roughing out an 18″ x 24″ painting of cypress trees in the water, a subject I enjoyed spending time painting another view of when I was in Winter Park at a previous paint out.  I intend this to be my starter painting for the Winter Park Invitational Paint Out at the Polasek Museum in April.  Once this is finished I will then return to a few paintings I have started to add to the collection of paintings for our big show about the Barrier Islands at the Turner Center in the fall.

I am hoping to find residencies on barrier islands or in other natural areas to spend time on location painting.  If you know of anyone who has a cottage or apartment sitting idle and who would like to host an artist or two, please let me know!

Meanwhile, enjoy more photos of the show at Prairie Creek Lodge.  I’ve included more of a description, a link to directions and a telephone number on the home page of my website.

Spring has arrived in Florida!  The azaleas are blooming, the buds are bursting and the birds are singing so sweetly!  Happy spring to all ~ whenever it arrives in your area!

Mary Jane Volkmann

Prairie Creek Lodge, photo by Jeff Kneethe show at prairie creek lodge, photo by sue sinclair







Prairie Creek Lodge, photo by Jeff Knee

Inside, photo by Sue Sinclair

viewing the paintings at prairie creek lodgesix aritsts six prairies painting display







Paintings are hanging on the walls and are on tables around the lodge. Both of these photos are courtesy of Linda Blondheim.



photo of Sandhill Cranes

When I’m outdoors painting I keep my binoculars and my iBird Explorer Pro handy!  I get such a thrill in watching and listening to the birds, especially the flocks of Sandhill Cranes in Florida at this time of year.  I am now busy putting the final touches on a number of paintings which will be hung at the Prairie Creek Lodge as part of the Six Artists Six Prairies Project.  Outdoor Painter online magazine did a nice feature about our project in a recent article.  You can read more on our blog, and especially about our upcoming big event in collaboration with the Alachua Conservation Trust. (If you are in the area, do try and come as it promises to be a great event!)  In one of my prairie paintings I have attempted to paint a couple of Sandhill Cranes.  Looking at them is one thing, but trying to paint them has required some serious study of their structure and dynamics of gesture!  Speaking of study, I have taken on an interesting new project with fellow artist Linda Blondheim.  It is called the Artists in Residence Project.  We are exploring diverse natural areas in depth so we can paint them with insight and understanding.  We just returned from the Merritt Island and Canaveral National Seashore area where we were astounded by the variety of habitats and ecology we found.  We returned loaded with ideas and images we are painting.  Gradually we will build up a collection of our paintings to show and sell at different venues.  If you know of anyone who would like to support this project through letting us use an unoccupied vacation home or apartment for a week, please let us know.  You can read more on our blog about our explorations and see our paintings as they evolve.  While visiting Merritt Island I met my first Florida Scrub Jays on a walk.  I also observed Roseate Spoonbills, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal and many other birds.  I have decided I want to paint more of them!

Roseate Spoonbills

photo of Florida Scrub Jay