The Painted Door

This summer my dear friend Barb took me on a field trip to The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.


In the summer of 1900 a boardinghouse for artists began operation in the quiet shoreline town of Old Lyme, Connecticut. For the next two decades Miss Florence Griswold’s house on Lyme Street was home to one of the most famous art colonies in America and critical to the development of American Impressionism. – Hildegard Cummings, independent art historian and curator

Flo DiningRoomRight

The story of Miss Florence and this house is fascinating, but what intrigued me most were the painted doors. Her summer guests were an elite group of American Tonalist and Impressionist painters including Childe Hassam and others.

Miss Florence allowed her favorite artists to paint on her interior doors.


I’m a door painter from way back. I started in the 1970s, painting rural trompe l’oeil on close to a dozen barn doors at Doolittle Farm in Shoreham, Vermont.


Painting these gave a me a local reputation and I did several more barns before leaving the state in 1980.


Like William Henry Howe, who painted this Normandy Bull on Florence Griswold’s door, I made portraits of animals, children, and random chickens.


This busy scene on a barn in Shoreham needs only the kitchen sink to make it complete.

And this one is a faux door–painted to match the real one next to it.


The nice thing about doors is that every house has some. You always have a canvas if you want to try this at home!


Happy Birthday, Dear Rowan!

24 years ago I was waiting.


I was expecting another child, sex unknown. I knew this one was big and strong.


The kicking and rolling were constant. Working on a long, circus mural on the only available flat surface-the floor- was a huge challenge.


But it was fun wondering who would arrive. I decided to design a new birth announcement print to celebrate.

I loved this excerpt from A Poem for a New Born Baby Girl, by Grace Hazard Conkling.

“Now from the coasts of morning pale
Comes safe to port thy tiny sail.
Now have we seen by early sun,
Thy miracle of life begun.”

Birthday Sail Blue med res

And soon, I was able to fill in the details:

Rowan Wolff Russell

 born September 25th, 1990

 in San Francisco, California

8 pounds, 12 ounces,

21 inches


Happy Birthday, Rowan. You were SO worth waiting for.

I love you!

Painting a Cottage Card

Last summer I was into drawing fairies. The mushrooms in my forest were transformed into moonlight bathtubs.


But this year I returned to ‘realism’ and featured the diminutive red eft. This brightly colored, juvenile phase of the Eastern Newt is on the move to winter quarters They are scuttling speedily along the mossy forest trails, looking for their new pond. 

RE_1 I paint a lot of Cottage Cards each summer and send them to my special friends. To make it a little faster I do them in batches. Each one is different, but they all use the same basic elements and colors.

After I’ve drawn the image in pencil, I completely saturate the paper with clean water. Using gouache, I paint the orange eft-wet into wet.RE_2 When the 1st wet layer has dried, I use a bright, mossy green to paint the background. reserving white areas as I go.RE_3 I add various colors to the mushroom caps.RE_4 The deep greens of the forest are added as an indigo layer in the far background.RE_5Purple-blue shadows under the mushroom caps and the eft’s body come next.RE_6 A winding Partridge Berry vine is added to three of the four cards, along with some mossy texture. I use a gold ink pen to outline the eft’s eye and the red spots along her body.RE_7 The final layer is a diluted wash of cobalt blue to focus attention on the red eft.

RE_8Now I remove the tape and, voila!




Tracking the Red Eft

The Eastern Newt has a juvenile phase where these small amphibians are land dwelling and a striking shade of orange.


These creatures are tiny–I am always afraid I’m going to step on them as they cross the mossy forest trail. As the summer wanes I see more and more of these on the move. They travel long distances using magnetic orientation. After 2 or 3 years on land they’ll find a permanent pond and become green aquatic newts.


Their gold rimmed eyes and delicate spots are such fun to draw and paint.


A Red Eft, painted in gouache, is the star of my 2014 Cottage Card.

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Indian Pipes

The Indian Pipe, also known as the Ghost Plant or the Corpse Plant, pops up the woods in the late summer.


They are eye catching in their pale rosiness.  They lack any chlorophyll and are essentially parasitic.

Most importantly, they are fun to draw and paint.


They were the star of one summer’s Cottage Cards.

If you enjoyed this post, please like Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, visit my webpage here, my Etsy shop, or follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar. 



A Mural for Karla’s Room

I grew up with a fold-out frieze of Noah’s Ark running around the top of the walls of the room I shared with my sister. Gazing from my pillow on the top bunk, I studied every detail of those animals. I’m sure that must have influenced my choice of subjects to this day.

Last summer I painted a fantasy mural of a clearing with a pond, horses and some little houses for my grand niece Julie Anna. Her family had a new baby on the way and this summer,  7-month-old Karla got her own fantasy mural.


To prepare, we set up lamps and a worktable, and draped the room with sheets.  


I began with an spongey oval to echo Julie Anna’s  Pastoral scene, but I decided to go underwater this time.


I added a sandcastle in the background and built up turrets and windows and seaweed until I was happy.


Now it was time to introduce the star–a fat, little mermaid with long dark hair.
Mural_14 copy

Of course she needed an entourage of sea creatures,


including a whale for Julie Anna, a dolphin for Karen, and an octopus for me.


My other favorite bits now are the pearl in the oyster and the eel in the cave.


Karla seems pleased. No smiling for the camera this time–she only wanted to pat, pat, pat her little mermaid.


If you enjoyed this post, please like Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, visit my webpage here, my Etsy shop, or follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.