The Saint Paul Cathedral

Angel on dome

Over the years of living in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, I made many visits to, and many paintings and drawings of the Saint Paul Cathedral and the various buildings and landscape surrounding it. For quite a few years, this was a favorite destination for my days spent out of the studio.

While I might not ever recommend building such a facility to house church services today, I sincerely appreciate the way this building helped to direct my thoughts Godward as I spent time around it. And having not grown up with any experience of the Catholic church, this architecture speaks volumes to me. It’s vastness speaks to me of the absolute bigness of Angelsour creator. The specialness or distinctiveness of these building’s uses reminds my how unlike anything else God is, his otherliness or holiness. And the rich symbolism at every turn never ceases to catch my attention. And while I’ve had the same experience in other cathedrals, this one was close enough to visit over and over again, almost weekly for a few years.


I spent time drawing the buildings as they looked today, as well as what they might’ve looked like in the landscape they were originally a part of. I made pictures of up-close details as well as landscapes with the buildings as only a small but still significant part.

Most all of the paintings I produced of the cathedral are now in private, and perhaps a couple of public collections. And what I have left are these sketchbook drawings, and a couple of my watercolor prints.

IMG_1187At one point even the Archdiocese asked for some more artwork for a commemorative project of one sort or another, but nothing ever came of it. I wasn’t concerned however. I really didn’t need a special commission to keep painting this historical landmark.

It really is quite amazing to me how the buildings we live and work in, the ones we worship in or drive past or even hardly ever notice because of our familiarity—it’s amazing to me how theses structures add a richness to our lives. We grow to appreciate the shapes and smells, the textures and sounds, and the meeting places they become.


One of the things I’ve loved about these old buildings is that through every cultural trend and bias over the past hundred years, these old buildings have stood out in the midst of the landscape pointing towards our creator. Every time we’ve traveled past, they’ve been silently reminding us that there is one who rules over the entire universe whether or not we’ve wanted that reminder or were paying any attention. And the continue to be architectural sign posts, if you will, pointing to our heavenly Father.

That’s my take anyway, at least for today!

Memorizing the curves of their faces…


One of my favorite things to look and admire at for the last twenty plus years has been my children. But getting them to hold still long enough to do a drawing is quite another matter altogether. Even still I was able to capture a few moments along the way.




When our second one came along, our daughter, it was amazing to watch our firstborn, tough little man that he was, come alongside her and begin to care for, protect and entertain her. I caught them sitting in a bentwood rocker together several times. We had bought that already worn out chair for five bucks at a garage sale and it turned out to be the perfect backdrop for these two little ones.


In this drawing she’s just a few months old. And he looks like the perfect big brother as they watched Jungle Book for the hundredth time! By the time I got around to painting them I’m pretty sure they were on to the Little Mermaid or something. But it held their attention just long enough to get some work done. And the rocker is a bit more frayed, but still serving as a decent backdrop.


As they continued to grow I caught them in all sorts of different poses, different activities and even different frames of mind. But is was always a treat to study and memorize every little part of their faces, their smiles, frowns, ears and eyes.


One day my youngest son propped his chin up on the stair railing leading to my studio. And he just stayed there for more than a few moments watch me paint. I slid the painting I had been working on over to the side, got a new piece of paper out and began drawing that wonderfully curious face.



But it’s not just the kids faces I like to memorize. This painting of Brenda was done from memory about 6 months into our marriage while she was at work one day. I needed a break from the commissioned piece I was working on and, so I did a painting of the love of my life.

For obvious reasons, these are still some of my favorites!

The Northern Minnesota BWCA

A few years ago I took a week-long canoe trip to the BWCA, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, in northern Minnesota. It was a chance to retreat, find some great peace and quiet, enjoy to great outdoors, and hopefully do a little watercolor painting. And while I did get to produce a great many smaller drawings and paintings, this particular painting has long been one of my favorites.

BWCAIt was near the end of the day and the sun was getting low in the sky. And when this happens the colors, the light just seems to keep getting warmer and richer. And this rich, warm light was reflecting beautifully off the rocks as we paddled by. And the water was not quite perfectly still, rather it sort of seemed like we were looking through an old poured-glass window that slightly distorted the scene being reflected into it. The entire scene was so stunning, so warm and inviting and peaceful that it was etched into my mind for years to come. Whenever I linger at the original watercolor which hangs in my studio, I revisit the calm peacefulness of that evening.

Over the years I did many paintings of this scene, capturing it from different points of view, because I just sort of memorized it as we paddled past that evening. In fact I probably just stopped paddling as we drifted past…thinking, reflecting, praying, absorbing, memorizing. And as I’ve remembered that scene, the evening calm as we slowly made our way to a campsite, the richness of life—as I’ve remembered and re painted that scene over the years, I’ve constantly come back to this verse from the great Hebrew prophet Isaiah:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30.15).

IMG_1169For me, this scene has become a reminder of the way our heavenly Father offers his salvation and strength to us. In this verse there are four words describing what we do and to words describing what he provides. And there is so much contained in these words: repentance, rest, quietness and trust. I experience each of them in this painting. Here’s one way to think about it. Picture each of these words like individual paddle strokes, activities we do, to help us get more in touch with the one in whom real salvation and strength lives. These activities do not bring us salvation and strength, but they put us in a place where we can finally receive what our Father offers. And what he offers is so well worth the paddling, so well worth the effort.

In this scene I’m resting in the place of being able to receive what he offers, what my soul has always longed for. This painting is one of my reminders that repentance, rest, quietness and trust, is a very good place to be.

This print, just like the rest of them, is available if you’d like one!