Painting Missouri
The Counties en Plein Air

by Karen Glines

illustrations by Billyo O'Donnell

published by Karen Glines & Billyo O'Donnell

produced by Sweetgrass Books

  • With more counties than most other states, Missouri posed a unique challenge for Billyo O'Donnell. Setting out to create an outdoor painting on location - en plein air - for each of Missouri's 114 counties plus the city of St. Louis, this award-winning artist devoted years of travel and logged more than 150,000 miles to capture the many textures of a multifaceted state.

    Painting Missouri is an extraordinarily rich collection of scenes and seasons along the highways and byways of the Show-Me State. Turn these pages to find a farmer driving a combine in a Ray County cornfield or the Benedictine convent in Nodaway County or mist rising from snow at sunrise in Prairie State Park. Here are scenes both familiar and intimate: farmhouse and barns, Lover's Leap in Hannibal, and the view of St. Louis from the roof of the Cathedral Basilica. O'Donnell even captured Pierce City before a tornado destroyed the town in 2003 - and painted Canton from a vista that another twister had newly opened.

    Karen Glines provides essential historical information about the counties, from interesting facts about their foundings and names to the stories behind their courthouses. Drawing on extensive research in many local historical societies, Glines shares what she learned about the early histories and present concerns of the state's diverse regions, including local anecdotes, Civil War stories, and insights into the roles of Native Americans in regional history. Additional comments by O'Donnell relate some of his experiences while creating the paintings. Paintings and essays combine to create a masterful volume that immerses the reader in the passion that both artist and writer feel for the state's beauty.

    "In Missouri," observes O'Donnell, "I have found all that an artist needs, and beyond this, I have found an even deeper connection to place." For all who pick up Painting Missouri, that connection will surely resound.

248 pages, 11 3/4" x 8 1/2", 116 illustrations, 1 map(s), index, 10 softcovers per case

ISBN 10: 1591522013
ISBN 13: 9781591522010


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Painting Missouri

Macon County is unique in that both the county and the county seat have the same name. Pioneers, predominately from Kentucky and North Carolina, arrived here in the early 1800s. The Sac and Fox tribes departed in the 1830s. Hemp, tobacco, and hogs became the chief products for the settlers of this new territory. Organized on January 6, 1837, Macon County is named for Nathaniel Macon, a Revolutionary War soldier and North Carolina statesman.

Bloomington was selected as the first county seat of Macon County, and a temporary log structure was built for court proceedings. This was followed by a courthouse. Due to Southern sympathies during the Civil War in this area, Union General Lewis Merrill ordered the town burned. Fortunately in 1863 another officer, Major Thomas Moody, decided as a military necessity to move the county seat, and an act of state legislature took the seat to Macon, the city.

The Macon County Courthouse was built in 1865. It is a two-story structure constructed of red brick and is one of the oldest courthouses in Missouri. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The old trade route called the Bee Trace ran approximately the length of the current U.S. Highway 63 and passed through Macon. Early pioneers used the trail in the fall when they were hunting for honey, the sole sweetener prevalent in the region. Macon may attribute its early growth also to the 1859 junction of two railroads, the Hannibal & St. Joseph (Burlington) and the North Missouri (Wabash).

Lester Dent, one of America's most popular pulp fiction writers in the 1930s–1940s, was born in LaPlata in 1909. He wrote the "Doc Savage" series for pulp magazines under the pen name of Kenneth Robeson. Olive G. McLorn, also from LaPlata, was an interpreter for the Red Cross and witnessed the Russian Revolution when she traveled across Russia from Siberia to St. Petersburg in 1914-1915. She contributed articles to the Yale Review and Harper's and eventually moved back to LaPlata, where she died in 1981. Her Queen Anne home is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inspirational points in Macon County such as the Thomas Hill Reservoir and Long Branch State Park provide recreation. Birding has become popular at the north end of the Thomas Hill Reservoir, where beavers also manage to become the "civil engineers" of several freshwater marshes hosting a wide variety of migrating and nesting birds. In the late fall and winter, sightings have included red phalaropes, western grebes, Pacific and red-throated loons, and black-legged kittiwakes.

Long Branch State Park is a 1,834-acre park situated along the banks of Long Branch Lake. Restored gently sloping prairie and wooded areas make up this region. Long Branch Lake, with 2,430 acres of water, offers a beach area for swimming, campgrounds, a marina, and fishing. In addition to recreational opportunities, the lake provides flood protection and supplies water to the neighboring communities.

-from page 120, "Macon County"

Karen Glines align= Karen Glines is an award-winning journalist and educator at the University level with degrees from St. Louis University and Webster University. She is editor of New Regionalism: The Art of Bryan Haynes. Her honors include the Governor's Humanities Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement for writing Painting Missouri: The Counties en Plein Air, which "recognizes an individual or group whose book or publication has increased understanding and appreciation of Missouri's history and culture," and the Quest Award, which acknowledges "Individuals whose work reflects an enduring quest for the highest standards of professional ethics and excellence," from the Missouri affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. A native Missourian, she resides in Des Peres, Missouri.
 align= Billyo O'Donnell is founder of the Artists Along the Katy Trail project and was selected as one of America's Fifty Exceptional Plein Air Painters by the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California. A graduate of Missouri State University, he received the Missouri Arts Council's Individual Artist Award in 2012 - the highest award the state can confer to an artist. He received the Governor's Humanities Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement for Painting Missouri: The Counties en Plein Air, which "recognizes an individual or group whose book or publication has increased understanding and appreciation of Missouri's history and culture." His works are included in prestigious collections in the United States, Japan, and Europe. Born and raised near the Missouri River, his studio is located in Byrnes Mill, Missouri.

Praise for Painting Missouri:

"Billyo O'Donnell has captured the state by creating a painting for each of the 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. His depictions are striking. These wonderful paintings are accompanied by brief but informative essays written for each locale by Karen Glines, who has uncovered captivating facts and lore at every turn. This unique combination of words and art offers an especially pleasing and rewarding experience for any reader."
—Lawrence O. Christensen, coauthor of A History of Missouri: Volume IV, 1875 to 1919

"The art of Billyo O'Donnell has long documented the life of Missouri - its people, its spirit, its countryside. For Billyo to have created this rich portrait of the Show-Me State in all of its variety and beauty is a gift not only to the people of Missouri but also to all Americans who seek a tour-de-force visual record of the region at the nation's crossroads."

-John N. Hoover; Director, St. Louis Mercantile Library Association

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