As we take time to give thanks for our many blessings, Abigail McBride remembers a grandmother who insisted on planting a tree over her husband’s objections. That tree and the grandmother’s encouragement are represented in one of McBride’s treasured plein air paintings.

“During an extended painting trip to a family farm in Northern Minnesota, I did this painting of a tree my grandmother planted, even though my grandfather didn’t want a ‘messy tree that changed colors and dropped leaves he would have to rake,'” says artist Abigail McBride. That grandmother, Frances Karlsson, was an accomplished artist who worked primarily in watercolor and gave her granddaughter her first art lesson when Abigail was just 7 years old. “That early lesson was the impetus for me to continue drawing and painting,” Abigail says. “And I have the palette she was determined to pass on to me at the end of her life.

“Over the years I did a lot of paintings on the farm, and most of them have been sold to private collectors. I made a point of keeping the painting of Grandmother’s tree, and I sometimes show it to my students to help them understand how to model foliage in full color and to suggest how emotionally charged subjects often make the best paintings.

“My grandmother did graphite drawings on location, and she made elaborate color notes on the edges of the paper. She painted the story of the small family farm: the broad fields of grain, big skies, and hay wagons, old log buildings, solitary churches, cattle barns. Her paintings exude the simplicity and solitude of farm life. Karlsson’s fresh, painterly style epitomized the eternal hope of the next grain harvest, rain clouds lingering on the horizon, and a love and nurturing of the fertile land.” For more information, visit


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