Oklahoma artist Kelli Folsom sometimes wonders what artists from places like Colorado would think about her favorite place to paint. There are no dramatic mountains, no breathtaking canyons. But Folsom has found more beauty at the pay lake she paints than anyone might imagine.

“Arcadian Clouds,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 6 x 8 in.

“Some may not find Arcadia Lake all that beautiful, but each part of the lake has different things to consider,” says Folsom. “When I go to Colorado or someplace similar, I’m so overwhelmed, it’s so gorgeous. I almost do better when it isn’t some grand place. It becomes more about making lemonade out of lemons. You can be more artistic and push things, exaggerate colors, or simply find something interesting where most people wouldn’t see something.”

“Casting Shadows,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 8 x 10 in.

“Autumn Trees by the Lake,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 11 x 14 in.

Now that summer is gone, Arcadia Lake is pretty quiet. “Maybe a few fisherman,” Folsom notes. A visitor can pay a day rate of $7 to go to Arcadia Lake, but Folsom bought a season pass for $75. She has definitely gotten her money’s worth. “I’m there nearly every day — it’s just five minutes from my loft condo,” she says. Folsom doesn’t know how long she’ll keep that up, though: She is the first to admit that she’s not so dedicated a plein air painter once the winter winds begin to blow. “The other morning I was painting from the fishing dock and it was 36 degrees — just freezing!” she says.

“Overcast Lake Afternoon,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 6 x 12 in.

This will hardly cramp her style. Folsom’s still life paintings done in the studio are much in demand. She just loves to paint en plein air when she can. Arcadia Lake, good-sized at 1,820 acres and convenient in its location just northeast of Oklahoma City, offers a variety of scenes. “One area of the lake is very secluded, and the still air means no waves — it’s more like a pond,” Folsom reports. “There are more geese and other birds there, and the reflection on the water is nice. Another area is very open, and Oklahoma is windy, so you get waves. The soil here is red oxide, so the beach and rocks are red. In one spot, Fisherman’s Point, you get a completely different view depending on which direction you face.”

“Lakeside View,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 8 x 10 in.

“Lake Brush,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 7 x 5 in.

Folsom also relishes the changing weather conditions. “On days with good clouds, I can’t pass that up — I do cloudscapes and studies,” she says. “I never have a planned spot, and the weather is often different. I wake up not knowing what to expect, and I just see what the painting opportunities are going to be that day.”

“On the Edge,” by Kelli Folsom, 2014, oil on panel, 5 x 7 in. 

The artist is growing attached to Arcadia Lake. “Like a friend, the more you get to know a spot, the more you discover,” says Folsom. “The more intimate you become with an area, the deeper the investigation.” And then the possibilities are endless. 

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