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story.lead_photo.caption Billyo O'Donnell, left, chats with Faye Zumwalt on Sunday at Capital Arts. O'Donnell, an artist, and writer Karen Glines (background, left) held a book signing for their book, "Painting Missouri." Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

Dozens of people came to Capital Arts on Sunday to meet the artist and writer behind the book "Painting Missouri: The Counties En Plein Air."

The book signing featured Artist Billyo O'Donnell and writer Karen Glines. They teamed up on the book as a way to showcase their love of the state, O'Donnell said.

The seven-year project resulted in a 248-page University of Missouri Press book that retails for $54. All 10 reviews on Amazon.com give the book five stars.

O'Donnell painted 115 scenes in the book, one for each county in the state, plus the city of St. Louis. Glines provided the text, explaining why each location was selected for the painting and giving some of the area's history.

The oil paintings were all done "en plein air," the French term for "in the open air." In other words, O'Donnell painted them all on location, not from a photo.

Glines also visited each county, sometimes talking with the locals at cafes and diners to learn about the area.

Ironically, O'Donnell painted the Cole County painting in Callaway County as he painted the Capitol from the north side of the Missouri River.

Other paintings include farmhouses and barns, Lover's Leap in Hannibal, and the view of St. Louis from the roof of the Cathedral Basilica.

O'Donnell, of Eureka, Missouri, is the founder of the Artists along the Katy Trail program. It's through that program that O'Donnell and Glines met in 2000, Glines said.

O'Donnell lives in Eureka and Glines lives in St. Louis.

"He and I always said there should be a book on all the beauty of Missouri," she said.

O'Donnell was selected as one of America's Fifty Exceptional Plein Air Painters by the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California. His works are included in prestigious collections in the United States, Japan and Europe.

The book is a labor of love more than a business venture. University of Missouri Press was skeptical of the idea when they first pitched it, doubting that a single artist and writer could cover all counties in the state in one book.

So they started the project without a contract. A few years into the project, they were awarded a contract, Glines said.

"We were already so into it, there was no turning back," said Glines, a former mass communications teacher.

The book can be purchased various places, including at www.paintingmissouri.com.

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