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My First Fifteen Years, Featuring the Art of Margaret Young


I wasn’t always painting or taking nature photographs.  I enjoyed a long & successful career as an architect in Chicago and there was no time for hobbies.  

My first 20 years I worked for a small Chicago firm, creating high-rise residential buildings, the tallest in the city at that time, the biggest sports center east of the Mississippi & maybe in the entire country, and a little hospital work.  Then I chose to join a worldwide corporation and manage their construction projects. Now I was this company’s architect, advising & assisting our worldwide offices in hiring their architects, contractors & various other consultants.  

These last 16 years of my working career were the most satisfying, but also the most stressful. Freedom from this very intense & hectic life was finally realized with retirement to Washington Island in 2002.  Jim & I had found W.I. in 1966, purchased property 3-4 months later from Tessa Rainsford, the W.I. post mistress and immediately made long lasting friends here, including Lorna Cornell.  

“My new career” started with a postcard that Lorna mailed me in the Spring of 2005.  It announced & gave the details of her next NWTC painting class, an 8-week session with a fee of $4 for seniors and she added a handwritten note saying……” I signed you up. I have all the supplies you need.”  

From then on it was learning to purchase appropriate and reasonably priced supplies and to learn to paint in acrylic and then watercolor (8 months later).  The group of 6-8 people met at the Rec Center one morning each week, and we painted, absorbed new skills and laughed a lot.  Lorna had a steady supply of video’s, art books, colorful cloths and fake vegetables and flowers for still life settings.  And when the weather allowed, we painted the flowers outdoors or far away fields with hay bales.  One day Lorna brought along branches from which we fashioned a 2-foot extension to our paint brush. It was meant to loosen up our grip and our paintings. 

Lorna often gave us homework and encouraged us to paint at home. Also, to join workshops with other professional artists.  So eventually there were classes with Win Jones (2006) and Ed Fenendael (2008 & 2009), both exceptional watercolor artists.  

I soon learned that size makes a difference in the cost of mating and framing materials.  The more standard the size of a painting, the least costly and more available they were.

I liked to paint with heavily applied watercolor in an opaque manner, and tried to paint on canvases that were especially made for watercolor application, a relatively new product.  I also started to experiment with different framing methods and in lieu of framing, just continuing the painting around and on the edges of the canvas. Later, very simple varnished or color painted wood lattice seemed to make sense and I could make those any size I wanted. I definitely began to like using stretched canvases. 

Eventually I got restless and wanted to move on and also try painting in oils.  So, it seemed only natural that I sign up in a Rodger Bechtold plein air workshop (2006).  Well, it was a somewhat difficult and disastrous experience, because it was not a “how to paint in oil” class and I was totally out of my element.  My watercolor box and brushes came back out, but I prevailed and continued to read every painting magazine at the library, numerous art books and info on the Internet.  Voila, 15 years later I still love to challenge myself with painting and do currently continue and prefer to do so in oil.  And as you may already know, I paint mostly Island subjects & scenes and occasionally birds.  

Eric Brodersen has been another great source of information & encouragement to me for many years. Our joint plein air painting times have been hugely successful and memorable learning experiences.  And no, I have not had any formal training in painting, other than some pencil & charcoal sketching during my college studies. 

I am a realist and seldom have strayed far away from reality in my paintings except in color. From day one I started & still continue to typically paint in bright happy colors, an influence perhaps by Nicola Simbari who painted somewhat abstractly and in brilliant colors when I discover his art in the late 1960s.  I also often choose simple subjects/ visual experiences.  For some time already, people tell me that I do have a particular recognizable palette & style of painting. 

Years ago, I started with only small paintings and they have grown in size through the years.  Right now I am working on a 36’ x 36” canvas.  Some years back I was intrigued by miniature paintings and I started to do only 6”x6” little canvases.  So for many years I have been painting my little tile for the large mosaic the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim sponsors as a fundraiser for children’s art classes.

I am not in the art business and don’t paint to sell.  I paint because I enjoy doing it and I enjoy challenging myself to take it to the next level.  And yes, my art sells.  My paintings are as far away as Germany, California, Virginia, Florida, the Carolinas, Minnesota, Illinois and of course Wisconsin. Many are in Washington Island homes and businesses; at least 2 are on loan currently, a handful were gifted and a few are hanging in our own home.

I will never forget the very first painting that I sold in Dec. 2005 and the joy I had with the entire experience.  It was a small acrylic painting (7 1/2” x 13 3/4” nframed) and I had named it “East Side Dune”.  After a VERY short painting career of only 6 months, I was one of 37 lucky artists whose work was accepted & hung that year in the 30th Juried Annual Competitive Exhibition of the Miller Gallery in Sturgeon Bay.  A total of 86 artists had submitted 160 works.

Lorna had been the catalyst, encouraging her class to go through the experience of submitting 1 or 2 of what we thought were our best recent paintings along with a $15 entry fee.  Back then, the submission process of photographing & getting slides made, along with paperwork and then requiring hand delivery was rather difficult and inconvenient for someone living up here.  I was the only one in the group to give it a try.  I picked one of my paintings and asked Jim to pick the 2nd one.  Jim’s selection turned out to be the winner.  What a gratifying experience and such an eye opener to the world of art competitions.  I was of course really upset when years later I found the courage to once again submit a “really great” painting and it was not accepted into that year’s show.  I still have that “should have won” painting and will never part with it.  

I definitely strive for my art to be bold and powerful, in color and in image, and especially at 20, 30 or more feet away.  I don’t want my art to be a quiet, timid piece.  Sometimes that can be difficult.  I also continue to strive to make my art even more simple and with little or no detail and wishing all to be more abstract.

While I was finishing this draft, this business about trying to paint more simply and abstractly, reminded me of something and I searched for my very first oil painting experiences with Rodger Bechtold.  And then I found proof that perhaps, maybe….. I could be more abstract and quietly calming (aka Milton Avery 1885-1965, a pretty well-known abstractionist painter).  

So why do I keep on painting and striving for new ways to do it?  I enjoy it and it makes me feel good to know I can still learn to do new things. I can still contribute and make people smile, laugh & appreciate what I create. The experience of painting allows me to discover talents and more, which I didn’t know about myself.  And the people I meet in the process and the friendships I make along the way are all plenty of reasons to continue.  

Taking a Break

Taking a Break

Hip Great Blue

Hip Great Blue

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Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms

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