All posts by Birgit Zipser

Artist Round Table

Our group, the Artists’ Roundtable, which has been active for about 35 years, gathers on Sunday mornings for breakfast at a local pub, where we discuss art and various other topics. Our members include painters, sculptors, and textile artists, each with distinct interests.

I became a part of the group in 2011. In 2016, we collaborated on a book titled ‘The Artists’ Round Table’, showcasing our collective work.

From May 17th to June 17th, our members – living in Traverse City, Interlochen, Empire, Glen Arbor, Beulah, and Lake Ann — are exhibiting their work at the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort.  I am not ready to let go of my own work  but others will offer most of their work for sale.



Autumn Man

Rowing on North Bar Lake in the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan, on an Autumn day

oil on linen-covered ACM, 12 x 6 in

I met Peter on a winter day at Empire Beach. Given his work for public media in Traverse City, addressing me, a stranger, felt natural to him.

It was a wondrous encounter. His vivid descriptions of the nature spots he had discovered while traveling across the US brought back similar happy memories for me, momentarily making us forget about the cold wind blowing along the beach.

Our meeting was fleeting, akin to two ships briefly acknowledging each other as they pass by. He went off to a warmer climate after he provided a snapshot on Instagram, upon which this painting is loosely based.

Georgia o’ Keeffe’s Blackbird over Sleeping Bear Dunes

oil on wood, 24 x 18 in

This painting depicts a freely painted motif of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, 460 ft above sea level, looking west over Lake Michigan with a famous blackbird.

This blackbird motif has been in my mind’s eye for a few decades ever since I saw it painted by Georgia o’Keeffe.

Here, turned horizontally, the bird flies  North with the glow of the dunes underneath its wings.

A quote attributed to Picasso jokes: “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

Using oil, Van Gogh painted ‘First Steps’

based on a pastel and charcoal drawing by Millet.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Van Gogh “considered his copies “translations” akin to a musician’s interpretation of a composer’s work. ”



Winter Dune Walk


Many years ago, walking in the Sleeping Bear Dunes on a snowy day, Troels and I took photos of one another. Making a montage of these photos in adobe photoshop and using some tricks, produced most of the red and green seen here.

Winter Dune walk. Oil on wood, 16 x 12 in

After a decade, I pulled the picture out of storage to fix its ‘value’ problem, meaning there was not a wide enough range of light and dark. Now orange and yellow were introduced as lighter colors. An artist friend encouraged me to add even lighter hues. But I liked what I saw and did not want to risk further changes. Now I am contemplating to make a copy of the painting but adding lighter colors.

One historical precedence of an artist copying an earlier motif with added changes is Titian, the 16th-century Italian artist. Titian copied his painting of an important cleric, with changes that comment on the cleric’s fate. 

The two portraits show Archbishop Filippo Archinto, an Italian lawyer, diplomat, papal bureaucrat and finally archbishop. The first painting finished about 1555 (MET, NYC) is not considered remarkable compared to the second version (Philadelphia Museum of Art) painted in 1558, the year of Archinto’s death in exile. Political intrigues in Renaissance Italy  prevented him from taking his legitimate post as archbishop of Milan. 

In this second painting, Titian added a gauzy, white curtain that obscures half of the archbishop’s face from our view. The cape, here faded to reddish brown, had been painted purple. In the 16th century Vatican, brilliant purple stood for sorrow and suffering. 

The changes Titian made in the second version of the portrait were not just aesthetic alterations but carried deeper symbolic meanings related to the subject’s fate and circumstances.