Melissa Blue Fine Art
Pickerel Weed is such a wonderful plant, standing tall right at the edge of water where I like to hang out. Frogs lurk here, snakes sometimes slither, herons stalk while dragonflies hang in the air taunting us mud-bound creatures.
For years I have been playing it safe with my paintings. The occasional expert would look quizzically at me and ask why I was holding back. I would pretend I didn’t know what they meant. However, the more I enjoy all of the amazing blogs I find here, the more I realize that simply recording the wonders and beauty of nature can be done far better with a camera. Oh, there is photorealism, of course, but I always found that a bit pretentious. And so, it is time to take a deep breath and jump into whatever pools of creativity my heart and paintbrush can take me to. My best college professor would stand at our elbow, urging us to push ourselves, and then push further. At the time I felt it was all I could do to generate a good composition and overall image. Every canvas was like leaping into a deep lake and swimming across. I’d get to the far shore panting, relieved just to have made it, let alone worried about the style with which I got there. You don’t want to know how long ago that was! Well, you might but I don’t want to tell you🙂 At this point I feel I may well drown, or retreat back to the muddy shore I’m so fond of. But I’m going to try being brave, pushing myself into expressing whatever it is that my soul wants to express about the natural world. It’s wordless, so don’t ask me to explain!
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin
With a title like that I bet you were expecting red spots, weren’t you? Well, they are there, but hidden on the underside of this large butterfly’s wings. I’ll try to photograph one with his wings raised so I can show you how pretty they are. Hopefully you share my delight in this side of things as well. I love this dramatic black butterfly with its electric blue markings. The larval food for these butterflies is the black cherry tree. I’ve never seen an adult get nectar on flowers~I only ever see them hanging out on trees. I suspect they get sustenance from sap, as do Mourning Cloaks and a few others.
I started this painting 2 weeks ago, but have been busy with a commission, so I finished him today while sitting outside for a classic car show going on in our town. I had no delusions that anyone there for the cars would be interested in paintings of butterflies, but I did think it would be fun to sit out there and admire the classics and it was. We had a dragster (Do I have that right?) start up to drive away~my, was it loud! Most impressive.
Yesterday I attended a meeting for a new artist coalition forming in my little town. This is exciting news. We’ll have painters, a circus performer, jazz musicians, and authors. How cool is that? I never thought Grayslake was capable of such coolness🙂
Melissa Blue Fine Art
These little butterflies are quite zippy and skittish. I see them fluttering low along the trail and moving restlessly from flower to flower. When I began monitoring, in Peoria, they were quite plentiful but up here they aren’t as numerous. It is interesting how digital photos can see right through layers of paint~this week’s image is a case in point and I have to say, a bit disappointing. I almost didn’t post it but then I didn’t want to lose my momentum of a a butterfly a week🙂
Melissa Blue Fine Art
I’m partial to these small powdery blue butterflies. I saw this little fellow along the trail at St. Francis Wood in Libertyville. They are similar to spring azures, but much easier to study as they will settle down for you. Azures are very skittish, in my experience, and difficult to sneak up on.
The little tails off the hind wing resemble antennae. In fact, when at rest or nectaring, eastern-tailed blues rub their hind wings together so it looks like the “antennae” are moving. This confuses predators long enough to allow the insect to escape in the other direction. It seems to work for them, as I have often seen them with a beak-shaped holes in their wings where the tails used to be. I’ve painted this one a bit larger than life.
Great spangled fritillaries are the cheetahs of the butterfly world~orange streaks of energy flashing past as you walk along. As you can see here, they do stop to fuel up at monarda blossoms, and that gave me my chance for a photograph.
Twenty years ago, if you drove for any distance in Illinois your radiator and windshield would be fairly covered with, I’m sorry to say, dead bugs. Today, you’ll have almost none. I’m seeing very few butterflies of any species when I go for walks now. They re still there, thankfully, just in reduced numbers. They could come back, if we have the will to change. What will we choose to do? Will we stand up to Monsanto in time? Do we need a new book, this time about Roundup and the chemical soup we create when we apply pesticides? Yes, it is farms. But it is municipal agencies doing mosquito abatement. It is homeowners, spraying for grubs and dandelions. You can’t see chemicals, so it is easy to forget they are there. But they, or their break-down residues, linger far longer than the companies want you to know. And they combine with other chemicals to create ever more toxic brews in our soils and water. It would be one thing if it even worked but guess what-it doesn’t! We still have dandelions and mosquitoes. But we are losing so much else.
What do you choose?
Small original painting by Melissa Blue of a red dragonfly on native flower.
There is a lovely woman at the farmer’s market every week who brings cut flowers from her garden to sell. It must be a small farm, really, because what she brings is really impressive. As much as I love fresh organic vegetables, fresh cut flowers are a real lift to the week! Her space is right in front of my studio and we get to talking a bit as I sit there painting. She asked me to paint something small and colorful for a gift for her mom. This is the painting I did for her. I really love this little flower for its light airy feel and gentle pink color. The attraction is mutual…later, it will form broad flat seeds that adhere to my jeans when I brush past. The dragonfly is one of several species I see flying at Illinois Beach this time of year.
I’ve been without a computer for a week. That will certainly make you realize how much you rely on one! The old one has been slowing down and balking more and more but I didn’t realize how bad it was until finally I just went out and bought a replacement. This new little Mac is solid-state and lightening quick. I’m having a lot of fun learning it’s controls and loving how intuitive it is.
Melissa Blue Fine Art
What is it about Tiger Swallowtails? Maybe it is the size of those wings. One can almost imagine donning wings like that and soaring away over the treetops. This one is nectaring on a swamp milkweed that grows in my garden. Have you ever smelled these flowers? Mmmm~heaven.