Depicting Door County: Plein air painters show representations of The Summertime

This article started with my painting The Summertime Restaurant in Fish Creek several weeks ago. I have, as many other artists have, painted this location multiple times. As I set up my easel and started to paint, Terry Bolland, one of the owners of The Summetime, came by and we talked about the restaurant and what the building means to the many artists who paint Fish Creek.

After Terry left and I tried to capture the building with the wonderful east light, I started thinking about why so many artists want to paint in this location.

This year, in the Peninsula School of Art Quick Paint, held during the Door County Plein Air Festival, there were at least seven artists doing different views of the location. In this article you will see paintings of The Summertime done by four artists – including myself – and read why they wanted to paint this iconic location.

Painting by Ernest Beutel.

Ernest Beutel

I do not consider myself a traditional plein air painter, so it is only appropriate that I choose vivid colors and exciting subject matters to paint in Door County. This time I chose The Summertime Restaurant, an excellent eating establishment in Fish Creek.

One may say it is a staple in Fish Creek and a very traditional subject matter in plein air. I would agree, however, something about the way the sun hits off of the building during certain parts of the day allows beautiful orange-red and blue hues to translate well into a vivid painting. The building most certainly has character and I feel a little bit of that rubbed off on my painting. Let’s face it, ‘There ain’t no cure for the Summertime Hues.’

View more of Beutel’s work at

“Last Day of Summer” by Kyle Martin.

Kyle Martin

This is The Summertime painted on the last day of summer. I played with the notion of chasing the last day of summer even though the temperature and overcast sky spoke of the change in season – towards autumn. Because of the overcast day the painting became about simplification and pattern due to the lack of contrast of a sunny day.

The Summertime presents the challenge of simplification and decision making as in including every umbrella, table, flower, and building would overwhelm me. Local color plays a larger roll and the session was less immediate because there was no pressure to chase the light.

I have gone into smaller paintings over the course of this year, focusing on the model and removing the superfluous can create an intimate atmosphere for both the painter and the painting. Due to the weather, it seemed appropriate for the model to be in close proximity. I felt almost as if I was treating it as an interior, even though it was outside. These tables are interior elements, outside in the open air. The umbrellas act as a miniature outside roof.

My speed and approach was also dictated by the overcast day and feeling of interior. The grey of the sky was reflected into the painting, and the blue of the physical building heightened the steel blue effect. I always feel like I am painting in Cape Cod when I am in Door County. Listening to Ray Charles and making Ray Charles paintings.

View more of Martin’s work at

Painting by Randy Rasmussen.

Randy Rasmussen

This article started a few days ago after I did a plein air painting of one of Door Counties most iconic structures, the The Summertime restaurant in Fish Creek. I have painted this location at least four times in the Peninsula Art School Dockside Quick Paint competitions.

As I was painting this location I began trying to understand why artists are drawn to this location. For me, it is the ‘quirky’ architecture, beautiful morning light, wonderful color and just the ambience of the location. The only place I have seen that compares to this wonderful spot is the pagoda in Cedarburg.

Next year I will probably be back painting one of the many views of I think my favorite place to paint in Door County.

“Before the Morning Traffic” by Tom Nachreiner.

Tom Nachreiner

These are three of the reasons I like painting this subject:

1. The Summertime is a long-standing landmark to Fish Creek and to Door County, historically employing people that I know there and a popular meeting spot for young and old all over, some living in Fish Creek. There are many stories from many of the Fish Creek residents, that center around that meeting place.

2. The building has a red roof that grabs your eye and catches the early morning light. It’s like a beautiful rose in a garden of wild flowers.

3. As I see it, that intersection, with the view coming down the hill is, historically, the heart and soul, and long-standing ‘entrance’ to the ‘heart of Door County.’ It is a scene that many visitors and residents have etched into their mind’s eye. That’s why I have done so many paintings of this view looking down the hill, with the The Summertime as a focal point.

To view more of Tom’s work visit

Since 1910, The Summertime, originally called The Maple Street Café, has been delighting Door County visitors. The building was designed by Charles Gabert of Chicago and was conceived as a retail summer ice cream shop. The original owners, the Barringer family sold the business to Roy E. Kinsey, a Fish Creek native, in 1940. The Kinseys changed the name to The Summertime. In 1986 it was sold to the present owners, Terry Bolland along with his daughter Heather and his son, David. Today The Summertime is a fine dining establishment.

For more information about The Summertime call 920.868.3738 or visit