Art Adventures

Posts from the ‘Journaling’ category

I’m flying out to Italy today at 3pm to teach a painting workshop in Tuscany! I can’t wait! I have a couple of layovers, and will end up in Florence tomorrow at 5pm. So excited. Can’t wait to experience the beautiful light and sights of amazing Tuscany. LOVE Italy.

Italian Farmhouse we will call home for 6 days!


View from one of the beautiful little towns in Tuscany last year


Roman spa from 2016 tour


Montepulciano window box. Gorgeous.

I have uploaded Google Drive to my devices, so that I can send my phone photos to my tablet and post a blog update every day. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it works. In any case, I’ll be posting on Facebook and Instagram. Watch were we go, what we see, what we paint, and (probably) what we eat!! Oh, and the wine, of course!

Follow this blog, my FB page and Instagram to share the adventure with us!



What does the word game Bananagrams share with an artistic journey? Bananagrams can be like art (or life?) in that sometimes you have to re-scramble what you have and create something new. The goal in the word game is to use every letter tile in your possession and assemble them into interconnecting words. At times, in order to use every last tile, you need to take apart the words you’ve connected and assemble them differently. Other times, you may need to discard a tile back into the drawing pile in the hopes of drawing a better letter. I’ve played plenty of Bananagrams lately, both with my boys over the holiday season, and with art.

How do you play Bananagrams with art, you ask? Experimenting, then selectively choosing what works and what doesn’t. Discarding techniques that don’t feel right, and re-evaluating/re-assembling those that do. Let’s say you’ve been painting in a realistic style for a while, when it becomes apparent you need to change things up. Realistic styles may be better suited to some artists, but maybe you are needing a different message. Impressionistic work, with vibrant colors might fit. So you try it out and experience an exhilarating “aha!” moment. This, THIS is what you’ve been waiting for!

My artwork has gone through major changes. For many years, my transparent watercolor paintings were traditional, realistic portraits on 140# cold-pressed paper. Every eyelash, hair, wrinkle, and detail was depicted on a muted, deeply washed background.

Why would I change the above style? It works, doesn’t it? It did, but as time and circumstances change, so does a person’s art, or reason for creating art.

Creating art is a continuing journey, and artists find themselves through experimentation of styles, media, themes, and technique, ideally narrowing these down to a bounty of work that speaks the artist’s message clearly and cohesively. It is a natural, tried and true method of becoming a successful artist.

In 2013, because of changing circumstances in my life, I no longer chose to paint in a realistic manner. Although I still painted with watercolors, I changed my surface on which I painted, along with my style, my theme, and my palette. An abrupt change like this is not for the faint-hearted. Sure, it’s invigorating and challenging, but can be frustrating, scary, and takes time.

During the resulting three-year experimentation, I tried several styles.

Wishes, 20x16, $750

Impressionistic style with vibrant hues

I enjoyed painting almost all of them, and liked them initially, but eventually noticed they didn’t fit what I was trying to say. The painting above, for instance, is bright and impressionistic, but felt jarring and didn’t convey the serene beauty of the connection between the girls. I knew I needed to try something different. After many months and many more paintings, I stumbled upon semi-abstract landscapes. I taught myself the technique.

Soon after, I realized my recent paintings had been about inner strength and power. True grit, introspection, steeling yourself for battle, having tenacity, and calming the soul with those inner powers. These themes reoccur frequently in my life and I feel they resonate with many people. I decided to focus on that idea as a central theme in my new work.

In 2017, I’m challenging myself to build a solid, cohesive body of work, necessary to becoming a successful artist. In that vein, I’m working hard to develop artwork that collectors can easily identify, central around the theme of inner strength. To do so, I’m focusing on the following 6 criteria, on the advice of renowned gallery owner and writer, Jason Horejs:

  1. Subject Matter: Landscapes
  2. Style: Semi-Abstract
  3. Theme: Strength, Serenity, and Inner Power
  4. Palette: Neutrals with areas of saturated hue
  5. Medium: Watercolor and Gouache on Plexiglas
  6. Presentation: Float frames, wax coating

Since September, 2016, you have seen the new direction in my work. The choice I’ve made to paint landscapes in a semi-abstract manner feeds a theme of inner strength and calm more appropriately than does a literal, realistic painting. Strangely enough, it’s much more difficult for me to paint in a semi-abstract manner than it is to paint realistically. There are so many decisions to make on how to fill the space. The process is challenging, intuitive, and engaging.

Here is an example of my new direction, and, coincidentally, my first painting of 2017:

The Source, 16x32, watercolor and mixed media on Plexiglas

The Source, 16×32, original watercolor and mixed media on Plexiglas

What is SO COOL about this painting is that the mountains are created around a long strand of netting, which flows down into the foreground, creating a gully or river. There is a feeling of power, strength, and fortitude through use of color and composition. “The Source” implies both the source of water, and an inner source of strength.

Choices, detail

The Source, detail

Paper squares, string, and tissue are layered into the gesso base to give the painting an amazing texture. Plus, look at those COLORS! Yum. Neutral with a pop of saturated blues and oranges. This is what I love about my “new” style. It has more imagination, more power, freedom, and suggestion. I feel like I can sit and look at the work for days, seeing something new every time.

Playing Bananagrams with my artwork, i.e., completely changing my style in 2014, then tossing out what didn’t work, keeping what did, and embracing semi-abstract neutral landscapes, has proven to be a challenging, meaningful change. Follow me this year and see where I go!!

Enjoy the new work, and check it out at Tumalo Art Company, Hood Avenue Art, and other venues. The Source and other new work is currently installed at North Soles Footwear in downtown Bend, OR.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and events! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that we can meet at showings and to receive notifications about classes. I am planning an upcoming workshop on Textured Watercolors in February, 2017. Let me know if you would be interested in the 2-day class. Every one of my paintings is available as a print, and I sell signed greeting cards of all my images.



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During our Paint Tuscany trip this May, we toured the beautiful hill town of Montepulciano. It was just as I had imagined it to be, but even more spectacular. A quaint little town of stone atop small hill with incredible views of the Tuscan valley below, Montepulciano also had unique stores, tucked along its streets, begging to be explored.

It was in Montepulciano where I found a hand-made book store, Legatoria Koine. Oh my. Such beautiful books! Such reasonable prices! I had to buy two. One for me (of course), and one as a gift (you know who you are!). Its heavy, torn-edged paper looks like old-time textured watercolor paper!

Hand bound Italian book. Leather outer, watercolor paper inside

Hand bound Italian book. Leather outer, watercolor paper inside

I can’t wait to fill it with artwork! It smells like leather, has rough edges, and came with a little note tucked inside. The woman who waited on us was a beautiful late-20’s Italian girl, who bound all the books (and painted oils on the side!). So cute.

Anyway, as we wound our way up through the town to take a look at the view as well as a garden near the top, I passed by a gorgeous alley, flooded in yellow Tuscan light, with views to the valley below. Breathtaking.

This is one of three Tuscan paintings I worked on this weekend.

Here is my reference photo:


Montepulciano alley, showing views of the valley below

Can you see why I was so inspired??!!  And, weirdly enough, it wasn’t a terribly sunny day, but warm sunlight burst through the haze and flooded a golden glow to the wall.

I painted this scene for several reasons. First, of course, to capture the gorgeous Tuscan light. But I also love the archway and the dark foreground drawing us in to a misty Tuscan landscape. A couple pause to contemplate the valley view, which adds a human element to the scene. I am also drawn to the lamp on the wall to the right. I decided accentuate a triangular composition highlighting the window box, lamp, and people.

With the composition focused on the 1/3 RH side of the canvas, here is my thumbnail sketch. Doing a small value sketch always help me decide on placement of shadows and forms within the painting.

Sketching the basic outline, values, and layout of the alley

Sketching the basic outline, values, and layout of the alley.

I gesso-coated rectangular paper cut out and collaged it onto my Plexiglas surface, haphazardly placing tiles of paper to resemble old brickwork. Netting further provided a gridded surface, suggesting rough stonework in the walls. As I painted, I sprayed and splattered water and paint on the surface, giving it an overall aged feel.

A dark entry of warm stonework draws our eyes into the painting. We then dance along the shapes of window shutters, glance off a warm yellow wall, and find the couple enjoying the valley scene below. We then might find the lamp and pop back to the red flowers of the window box before contemplating deeper into the scene.

Hard to see in this photo of the painting, but I added a white skirt on the woman and placed red shoes on her feet. 🙂

Montepulciano lowres copyright

Montepulciano Alley, 20×16, original watercolor and collage on Plexiglas

The resulting painting takes me back to my Tuscan experience and reminds me of our warm May day in Italy. I feel pulled in to the painting. I remember the cobblestone walls, stucco surface, rich smells, intimate windows, flowers, culture, and wonderful people. Imagine and allow it to draw you in to a beautiful moment in Montepulciano.

Find my work at Tumalo Art Company. In July, I will have my Tuscan work hung on their walls!

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and deals! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that you see me at showings and receive notifications about SB Hansen Watercolor & Wine Painting Classes. Every one of my paintings is available as a print, and I sell signed greeting cards of all my images.


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Alpacas! Son3 and I decided to take a few hours this Saturday and stop by the Snow Diamond Alpacas farm just outside of Bend. Armed with our cameras, we took the scenic drive out to the open areas northwest of Tumalo. I was probably a little more excited than son3, having imagined alpaca paintings since I first saw their ad in the Bend Bulletin a few weeks ago. But my son got to drive the Jetta, so…And, since he has a photography class in high school, this provided an opportunity for him to increase his photography portfolio.

When we arrived at the ranch, there were a few small signs directing us back to a large barn on the property. The owner, Don, took us out into the field among the beautiful, fuzzy, puffy animals. I was surprised at how docile they were. Don knew each one, it seemed. He estimated about 180 alpacas lived on his farm!

I was not prepared for just how cute these guys and girls were! The color variety in their coats, their personalities, and their beautiful eyes captivated us.

A small family of alpacas

A small family of alpacas. Their collars defined family ties.

We got a bunch of close-ups.

White alpaca.

Ms. white puffy alpaca, surveying her surroundings.

Check out this baby! Isn’t she beautiful. I mean, look at those lashes! They must be 5 inches long!

Young alpaca.

Young alpaca. Was this Carmel? I cannot remember. Maybe Carmel’s child.

Apparently, some decided their best end was their back end, and presented such for the shot.

Behind the scenes

“If we ignore them, maybe they will go away.”

One posed handsomely.

Posing for the pic

“Ahem…The lighting is perfect for my coat…”

The obligatory selfie, just to show how cool we are. Was I standing in a hole? I must have been standing in a hole. Really.

My son and myself selfie

My son and myself selfie. How’s the hair? Just great, Mom.

The owner decided to go in for the kiss.

Hows about a kiss, sweetheart?

Hows about a kiss, sweetheart?

Son3 had a few fans.

Oh, hello. Do you want your pic taken?

Oh, hello. Do you want your pic taken?

And I’m sorry. Yep. I apologize for doing this to you all, but I must end this blog post on a cute factor of plus ten. If you look at the next pic, you will never be the same. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

OMG. Cute factor off the charts!!

OMG. Cute factor? Off the charts!!

Whhhaaattt? Can an animal really be that cute? A real, live animal? I think I’m in love.

Anyway, best day ever. Son3 and I had the best time taking photos. The owners were amazing; so kind and educational. They have a wonderful shop there, full of beautiful alpaca scarves, throws, hats, socks, etc. You must stop by and see them if you are going through the area. It’s not that far off Highway 20.

You can bet I will be painting these beautiful creatures in the future. I already have one in process. Stay tuned!

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and deals! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that you see me at showings and receive notifications about SB Hansen Watercolor & Wine Painting Classes.

Keep creating to Feed the Beast! Support each other, people!:)

All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen unless otherwise noted.




I prepared myself for a grizzly encounter. I planned. While hiking, I would make plenty of noise, clapping, talking, and having my pepper spray in-hand (though you have to be 16 feet from the bear to use the spray…uhmm…wow…really?…yikes). More importantly, I had griz-photos all pre-determined in my head, imagining paintings of huge Alaskan brown bears, swishing around in violent rivers, sleek salmon in their massive mouths.

Alaska. I’d never been before. Growing up in Colorado, I thought it would be same-same. Just bigger and colder. Not so.

We headed up at the end of August for a week-long family trip, which included more family than the usual crew of myself, my husband and our boys. We were a group of eleven; extended family members as well as friends. We happily co-habitated in a home on the Kenai River near the little town of Soldotna (we all had to train ourselves to pronunciate the Russian name, Sol-DOT-na). And little town it was, gearing down from a busy summer. Some of the shops and restaurants were shuttering for the year. Fred Meyer, our oft-visited grocery store, however, buzzed with business every day. Mostly ours.;)

Back view of the house we rented on the Kenai River.

Back view of the house we rented on the Kenai River.

Most of our crew of 11 people fished every day, sometimes all day long! They could fish directly on the Kenai, just a few yards down a path from the house.

We lined the river, fishing for Sockeye Salmon

Our crew lined the river, fishing for Sockeye Salmon

While my family and friends fished, I painted in my journal, enjoying sunny, warm weather.

Painting in my journal on the back deck

Painting in my journal on the back deck

On one particularly sunny day, a nuthatch flew into the house through the open door and ended up confused, flying into a window with a clonk. I threw a shirt over him and took him outdoors. He wobbled around a bit, sat on my thumb until he was mindful, and took off.

Poor little nuthatch on my thumb.

Poor little nuthatch on my thumb. Cute, isn’t he?

In spite of the amazing fishing and the nuthatch encounter, I had my mind focused on bears, scared though I was with the prospect of an actual teeth-slobbering, claws-slashing encounter. BUT! Never, ever let anything come between a woman and her vision of a great painting. Even big brown scary bears. Even that.

We planned a hike to Russian River Falls, which is known for bear activity. Specifically, bears fishing.

Lower Russian Falls sign

Lower Russian Falls

There were plenty, plenty of fish in the Russian River

There were plenty, plenty of fish in the Russian River

The hike was a 2.5 mile stroll along a wide, pedestrian-friendly path down to the famed river and falls. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who wished for an encounter with bears. The path was well-worn, but since we were there at the end of the season, we encountered only a few groups of people. When we arrived at the overlook to the falls, I was dissapointed to find NO BEARS. Not a single bear anywhere! We saw fresh bear scat, but no bears. There were, however, millions of fish packed in the river, trying to head up the falls, exhausted though they were, to spawn in their own special spawning spot. No other spot would do. They were driven to jump the falls to reproduce. Their jumps were amazing, seeming an impossible feat for a fish. Hello? Note to fish: You are supposed to swim, not fly…

We headed back after a lunch of sandwiches and tangerines by the falls. We all had plenty of chances to take photos of amazing Alaskan terrain. You can bet I found plenty of subjects for future paintings.

On our way back, we met up with a friendly Fish & Wildlife guy, who offered to take us up to see the fish dam (or weir, as he called it), near Lower Russian Lake, where they count salmon on a daily basis. Wonderful! He was a trove of information on the fauna, and even the flora of the area. We arrived at the lake…gorgeous!

Russian Lake. Gorgeous!

Russian Lake. Gorgeous!

Wonderful hike. I would love to spend time in one of the lake cabins that the F&W guy mentioned, painting and hiking the area every day. Maybe I would even become a bear-whisperer.

One day, in spite of some major vehicular problems in which we spent all morning at the dealership then ended up renting a HOT Dodge Charger…(hello power, and welcome!), we drove to Homer.

Posing with two of my sons, in front of the famous Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer

Beautiful Homer. It featured a long spit on which rested the famed Salty Dawg Saloon (of course, we had to pose in front of it) as well as cute little tourist shops. Glacial-formed mountains swung steeply down into Kachemak Bay, providing shelter for many seabirds in its wind-swept waters. Stunning.

Homer spit

Homer Spit Marina

The next day, we decided another hike was in order. This one, called Skilak Lookout trail, promised incredible views of Skilak Lake. Everyone performed back-bends to get 11 people to their different needs and locations with one car this day, having returned the rental.

Skilak Lookout Trail

Skilak Lookout Trail

This trail was a little more sketchy than the other, being less used, more brushy, and in serious bear country. At one point, I heard a very deep moan-groan (no, it wasn’t me) that was “something” (“something” being an inside joke that family members from the trip will enjoy…). That “something” was probably a moose, we decided later, as we had fresh tracks all the way up to the lookout. At the time, though, we considered the very real possibility it could be a bear, and were on hyper-alert, our bear-spray warriors in the front and the back of our group, thumbs on triggers.

Top of Skilak Lookout

Selfie on the top of Skilak Lookout

My boys and I at the top of Skilak Lake Lookout Trail. Skilak Lake below

My boys and I at the top of Skilak Lake Lookout Trail. Skilak Lake below

Amazing, amazing views. The guides online and at the trail site were a little confusing. Online, the hike was supposed to be 2.5 miles round-trip. Turns out, it was 2.5 miles in, 2.5 out. No big deal for any of us, but took longer than what we had planned.

No bears(sad face). Bonus, though! On our way home, we spotted a moose!

Mama moose with her baby

Mama moose with her baby

Alas, we had to pack up and go home eventually. No bear sightings! I still cannot believe it! My visions of superb paintings of bears must be shelved! I took many photos, though, and have paintings planned and canvases primed to convey to you my impressions of Alaska.

Fish for home

Fish for home

Also? We had around 250 pounds of fish to take home and put into our freezers. Yum. Thanks, fishermen!!

Alaska. Bigger than Colorado indeed, but also more wild, more rugged, more extreme and wayyyy less tamed.

View from the plane of Alaska

View from the plane of Alaskan glaciers on our way home

Goodbye, Alaska. I’ll be back… 🙂

All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen unless otherwise noted.






Sometimes you just have to throw down the paint brush(or place it neatly on the table, since they are so spendy…).

This weekend was one of those times. After a miserably-failed painting(yep, I actually wiped off all the paint and then globbed gesso over it…it was THAT bad), I ended up spear-heading an impromptu camping trip. My middle son had returned from his first year of college, my youngest finished his sophomore year at high school. My husband wrapped up a crazy work week. It was time.

We had a blast.

Kayaking with the boys and Sheba

Kayaking with the boys and Sheba

We camped at Hosmer Lake in nearby Cascade Range. With our campsite right next to the lake, we kayaked a-plenty.

Kayaking with the boys and hubby. South Sister in the background

Kayaking with the boys and hubby. South Sister in the background

Sheba enjoyed a little down-time.

Sheba, watching her crazy humans.

Sheba, watching her crazy humans.

Warm, sunny days filled with relaxation. And a comfy lawn chair.

Hubby relaxing at the campsite. Mt Bachelor in the background.

Hubby relaxing at the campsite. Mt Bachelor in the background.

I talked my husband into a selfie…

Selfie at the campsite. Yep. That's a cold beer.

Selfie at the campsite. Yep. That’s a cold beer.

On Sunday, amid crazy bird cacophony, we scrambled out of our tent in the early morning and went for another kayak trip to see if we could scout out some otters. To our surprise, ice had formed overnight on the kayaks! Brrr!! But it was beautiful that morning. I took so many photos my fingers are sore. Just kidding.

Early morning kayak trip with South Sister in the background.

Early morning kayak trip with South Sister in the background.

Okay, okay. I’ll admit to a little bit of painting. Just a quick sketch to remember the moment.

Watercolor journal painting on Sunday.

Watercolor journal painting on Sunday.

Now, I’m filled with energy and can’t wait to pick up the paint brush. I took photos of a man fishing with a dog for my dog series, took some pics of our wine with Mt. B in the background (I know, right? Another wine painting for my friends!!), set up flip flops with lake and dock backgrounds for my flip flop series (thanks to my peeps for loaning me your flip flops) and took GREAT up-close photos of a mama duck and her ducklings. Can’t wait, can’t wait to paint! Next plan, draw all these out for my annual Colorado Paint Retreat!!

All images taken by and copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen.


A couple of weeks ago, my husband, son and I managed to get away for our annual anniversary vacation. We usually go camping, and typically at the coast. However, this time, we thought we’d try Mt. Adams in Washington, about 3 hours from Bend. Beautiful! Gorgeous! And WET…

August 2014 031

My son and I near the base of Mt. Adams. Yep, those are some scary clouds building in the background.

The day after we arrived at our campsite, we took a hike heading up to the base of Mt. Adams, near Adams Glacier. Though it was the middle of August, the wildflowers were blooming like crazy! Indian paintbrush, Lupine, Asters, and Penstemon in large fields of pink, red, and purple gave me fits of color-happiness throughout the hike.

It was quite a steep trail, but not terribly difficult. We only packed the essentials for a quick picnic at the top and a little travel painting for me.

Two hours later, we arrived at the top of Killen Creek. We could see Mt. Saint Helens and Rainier in the distance…along with some nasty-looking clouds. Clouds being those serious thunderheads you see in the photos, not the clouds of MILLIONS of super-hungry mosquitoes looking for some extra-sweet (ahem…) blood. Ours.

Near the top. Uhmmm...does anyone notice some you know...clouds?

Near the top. Uhmmm…does anyone notice some you know…clouds?

Let me tell you, those skeeds were, well, let’s just say crazed with hunger. Once we reached the top, my husband and son explored around while I sat down to paint. I usually plan a focal point and a color scheme in my journal paintings. When I sat down, I had a beautiful spot and perfect layout for a horizon line, with the focal point at the juncture of thunderheads and crippled high-alpine trees.

Here's the area I wanted to paint

Here’s the area I wanted to paint. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Anyway, I sat down to paint the journal painting and Wham! Wham! Wham Bam Wham….well, you get the idea. Mosquitoes from their leafy lairs were landing and screaming for blood. I whacked and slapped and, as in my son’s terms for killing bugs that lbite him…we needed lots of body bags. I spent about 5 minutes? Maybe? Seemed like 2 hours, trying to paint. I think I have mosquito parts smooshed into my painting.

Mt Adams Killen Creek 08122014

Hurried painting at the top of our hike.

I’m serious when I say it was VERY rushed. I usually take a lot more time. But the mosquitoes were just SO BAD!

Anyway, I gave up, packed the paints away and stood to go check on my guys. That’s about the time the first threat of thunder ka-boomed at us. Yikes! We were on top of an exposed meadow, above timberline! Head on down, folks! Head on down! We beat feet to get out of the area as soon as we could. Thunder began to rumble around us like a mad monster as we hurried down the hillside. We received a few sprinkles, a scattering of hail, but nothing too bad until we got about 30 minutes from the truck at the trailhead. Now…NOW the rain really began. This was a crushing blow of a bucket of water dumped with force. Within seconds, we were completely drenched. I’ve been in many storms while hiking in the forest, but this one was one for the record books. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet with clothes on. We walked/ran/stumbled and could barely see, in a 6 inch river down the trail until we came to the truck. We ended up just laughing at how incredibly hard it rained on us. We drove slowly back to our campsite in the deluge. We sat for hours in the truck. We ate cold tuna in our truck. It rained all night. And we were TENT CAMPING. Ugh.

The next morning threatened more storms so we packed up and changed location. I managed to get two (better) paintings done in my journal during the rest of the trip. Without the rain and mosquitoes!

Laurence Lake 08142014

Laurence Lake near Mt. Hood, Oregon. Journal entry.

Mt Hood from Laurence Lake 08142014

Mt. Hood, Oregon, from Laurence Lake. Journal entry.

 And even managed a beautiful and peaceful kayak float one morning.

August 2014 058

Kayaking at Laurence Lake in the morning.

A few days later, back to Bend and work. But what an incredible trip. Full of laughs, water, hiking, kayaking, painting, and even a dinner in the truck when it rained so hard. Love the outdoors. Wouldn’t change a thing.

Feed the beast, people. Keep creating and enjoying life!

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