The creative spirit is inspired by that which surrounds it. As a plein air painter, that is most especially true for me and northwest Montana. I love this landscape—the rugged mountains, the pristine lakes, and the lush farmlands. I feel connected to it on a deep, spiritual level. I come from a lineage of mountain people, both my parents immigrated from Switzerland. You could say mountains are in my blood.

With that deep connection to the land, I’m endlessly inspired to discover and become familiar with the variations and nuances of this landscape. Pastels are my chosen medium. They allow me the ability to use bold flourishing strokes as well as subtle blending to convey mood and motion in the composition. Pastels encourage my exploration of vibrant and colorful expression.

Plein air painting informs my work with an accurate view of the natural world, much more so than painting from photographs. That’s why I put up with the weather, the bugs, the wind, and the inconvenience while painting on location. The sense of bliss I feel in viewing a scene bathed in light and shadow is what I hope to convey to the viewer. If a work of art can foster connectivity with the viewer, it becomes more than art, it becomes an asset to their quality of life.

My background includes over 30 years as a graphic designer running an intimate design studio, Abacus Graphics, LLC, with my husband and partner, John R. Webster. We are located in Bigfork on the stunning shoreline of Flathead Lake.

Francesca’s Instagram Feed

It’s been years since we’ve seen these two lovely ladies! John’s sister is here with her daughter visiting for the week. We are showing them the beauty of Montana! ...

Pastel, 9” x 12”
Yesterday’s early morning plein air on the new Somers beach. The mosquitoes are abundant this year and my mosquito net headgear worked like a charm. I’m going to be keeping that as part of my plein air kit from now on.

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“12” x 24”, pastel
Another Flathead Lake sunset to delight and inspire the creative spirit.

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“Tangerine Sky”, 12” x 9”, pastel
Another Flathead Lake sunset to delight and inspire the creative spirit. This time over Woods Bay.

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“Flathead Lake Sunset Story”, 12” x 9”, pastel
I never tire of painting the endless casts of sunsets performing over Flathead Lake.

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I painted this a couple of years ago. I’ve taken it out of the frame and I’m reworking the foreground.

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“Evening’s Tune”, 12” x 9”, pastel
This one went home with a collector recently. I love painting the skies over Flathead Lake. There is an endless variety in nature’s theater of sky productions featuring interesting cloud patterns and spectacular color palettes. I’m gearing up to do more of these little gems. Stay tuned!

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Ukraine is the largest producer of sunflower seeds in the world. The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower. Artists are displaying their sunflower art to show support for the people of Ukraine. Here’s mine. Sending thoughts of peace and comfort to the country.
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“Sedona Poetry”, 18” x 24”, pastel
Another painting in my Southwest series. I originally painted this on site a few years ago. At the time, I was lucky enough to meet up with some of my plein air painting buddies in Sedona and was introduced to this lovely and unique landscape. I completed this painting in the studio using my study as a reference. Available at FoR Fine Art gallery in Tucson.

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“Desert Blue”, 16”x20”
has made its way to the new FoR Fine Art gallery in Tucson. Inspired by the spring run off in Sabino Canyon when the desert is at its greenest. Stop in and visit if you’re in the area.

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Rembrandt’s work has always inspired me with his deep shadows and glinting gold highlights. My latest pastel, “Pear Party“ is representative of his style. The “models” were wonderful, very fragrant and they kindly sat for long hours without complaint.

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What a beautiful moonscape over Flathead Lake last night. Rarely can I capture this scene with the iPhone camera so this was a nice surprise.

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“Flathead Lake Summer”, 12“ x 9”, pastel
Remembering a warm summer day on Flathead Lake with this painting. A real contrast to today’s 24° and snowy weather.

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My husband suggested that I add a deer or two to a painting that feels like it needs something more. Not a bad idea except I’ve never painted one. I thought I would sketch some to get familiar with their body shape and proportions. Next I’ll try painting some in pastel.

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“Pomegranates”, 12” x 16”, pastel
Wishing you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday! I’m grateful for the wonderfully full life I’m so fortunate to enjoy…for the passion to create art and the supplies to do so…for those people who find joy and fulfillment in viewing art…for all those people out there, behind the scenes, who make this a better world. Thanks to you all and may you receive an abundance of blessings!

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“Pear Panoply”, 12” x 24”, pastel
I’ve been working this past week on this lineup of these beautiful Red Crimson and Bosc pears. If you‘ve never had a Red Crimson, give it a try—very sweet! Cultivated during the 1950-1960s from a spontaneous mutation, it’s becoming more widely available. I was delighted to find them in our local organic grocery store. I could have done 5 Red Crimsons but throwing in that 1 Bosc made it much more interesting—do you agree?

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Aspen Weave, 8” x 10”, pastel
This is a departure from my more typical landscapes and I found it a challenging one. I was intrigued with the dark counter shapes made by the branches weaving among the leaves. It almost has an abstract quality and I couldn’t resist tackling it. By pulling the twigs and leaves forward with sharper edges while pushing the trunks back with soft edges, an atmospheric quality is achieved.

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This is a continuation of a painting in progress.
Step 8: at this point, I start working over the entire painting with refinements. I had pushed the mountains back by scumbling a hard gray blue pastel over all of them. This session, I brought back some subtle detail and highlights. I work the foreground with more definition and plants. I adjusted how the shadows fell, creating a slope in the front. Also, I refined the saguaros, putting more detail in the foreground one, and less on the others.
Now I’ll let this sit for a few days and look at it with a fresh eye to see if anything pops out that needs improvement.
Thanks for following along and for all your interest and comments.

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