Q &A – Questions and Artists – Bonnie Paruch

The Peninsula Pulse has teamed up with the Door County Art League (DCAL) to reprint portions of interviews conducted by Randy Rasmussen with various artists. To sign up for DCAL’s monthly newsletter or for more information visit

The following interview with Bonnie Paruch took place at her studio located at 11249 County Road ZZ, just outside of Sister Bay. The studio is in a beautiful setting surrounded by rolling green fields. Paruch, who is represented by Edgewood Orchard Gallery, is a well-known Door County artist who works in both pastel and oil.

Randy Rasmussen (RR): Bonnie with all the interviews you have done are there any questions you can think of that you haven’t been asked?
Bonnie Paruch (BP): I don’t think I have been asked about the emotional aspect of painting. Creating an honest painting which communicates my emotional reaction to a subject is a theme which is very important to me.

RR: You describe yourself as an “American Colorist” on your website…can you describe for our readers what that means?
BP: I use color as one of my tools in creating a painting. I try to combine expressive color and vigorous brushwork to share my perception of our uniquely American landscape. I think most landscape artists are actually historians…preserving a moment in our time.

RR: What do you enjoy painting?
BP: I enjoy painting scenes that emotionally move me. I just painted an old mill in Algoma that struck a chord, carrying me to an early memory of lovely old mills around my hometown.

“River City Light” by Bonnie Paruch, courtesy of Edgewood Orchards Gallery.

RR: Bonnie how did your art career began?
BP: Believe it or not, I started painting in watercolor. I switched to oils and pastels when I became frustrated by limitations in self expression I felt, particularly in plein air painting sessions. When I first began, I would paint when my kids were taking naps. I think those early days played a big role in my “put it down and let it alone” philosophy!

RR: Do you feel plein air painting is important in one’s development as an artist?
BP: Plein air painting is vital to an artist’s development. It teaches the artist vital observation skills; it’s how to learn to draw and to see colors with a sensitive eye. In my work I do use photographs but only as a partial reference.

RR: How many plein air events to you participate in every year?
BP: I have done multiple events in the United States and really enjoy the Cedarburg Plein Air Festival and the Door County Plein Air Festival sponsored by the Peninsula School of Art. I regularly teach workshops in plein air and studio painting and really enjoy seeing the students’ improvement.

RR: Do you use a large number of colors in your paintings?
BP: I use a basic selection of colors – essentially a warm and cool version of red, blue and yellow, along with titanium white. Sometimes I use a dark transparent green.

RR: Is it difficult to use pastel for plein air painting?
BP: I did an article for “International Pastel Artist,” [which can be read online at, where I describe some of the challenges of this medium painting outdoors.

RR: Have you had any changes in your work over the years?
BP: I am trying to simplify the process…essentially paint with simplicity. That is the never-ending goal.

“Working the Dock” by Bonnie Paruch.

RR: Is there one painting that you have done in your career that stands out as being the best?
BP: I am always looking forward to the next painting with all the challenges it brings and, as I said earlier, I remember the emotional impact of all of the successful paintings.

RR: Bonnie what do you enjoy about living in Door County? Obviously your location here is beautiful and serene.
BP: I love the small town quality of Door County. We have wonderful neighbors who my husband and I enjoy greatly. Sometimes there is a need for a quick “city fix,” but we always enjoy coming back to our rural area. When I look across the fields it touches my heart.

RR: An emotional moment?
BP: Exactly.