This painting may not be done yet, but I was eager to share it with you. It recalls a day when my daughter and I were out botanizing in extremely tough terrain. No trails here~just a wet prairie. The moraines and sloughs are like corduroy in this preserve, with tall vegetation that obscures your footing. One minute you’re on a sandy ridge, the next you are plunging into water and black muck, with grasses sawing your skin and biting insects assaulting your senses. Makes me shudder just to think of it, and Katie and I vowed we’d never go back in there no matter what plant might be growing there! However, one of the things nature teaches us is to look up from our trials and tribulations and see what grace notes she has to offer. On this afternoon we looked up to see these fledglings lined up on a dead limb. Aren’t they cute? You birders can set me straight on what they are. Martins? Swallows?
Imagine that you’re standing at the edge of a vast stand of cattails, about to plunge in. If, like me, you’ve done such a thing, you know what a claustrophobia-inducing experience this can be, with the added excitement of treacherous footing. That you can’t see, because cattails are in your face. And if, like me, you are shorter than the cattails, you also can’t see where you’re headed. But a leading ecologist from the Forest Preserve District assures you there is a fen hiding in the midst of all those cattails. I am filled with awe when I think of Ken Klick venturing out the first time, knowing what should be there and seeking to find whether it was. Of course, he’s a heck of a lot more knowledgeable than I am. Plus he’s considerably taller!
So after plunging through cattails for several minutes, up to our knees (well, past mine!) in water, we felt a slight rise. Fens are wetlands that are fed by mineral-rich groundwater. As I understand it, in this doughnut-shaped area in the midst of the cattails, this water wells up from underground. The water and soil are different here, and support a suite of extremely rare plants. The cattails gave way slightly, and like a miracle, there were the plants we sought. Huh. I’m still mystified, to tell you the truth. And grateful, because had Ken not taken me out there I would have never seen these plants. To mark the occasion I’ve painted this bog rosemary, not recorded in our county for decades before Ken’s spotting of it here.
I’m excited to share this latest painting with you. It was inspired by a walk I took along the Dead River at Illinois Beach State Park. I’ve always been drawn to the view I see peeking between the branches of trees, and this trio of trees really spoke to me. It was early in the year, before things had begun to green back up. A skin of ice is still on the river.
This is a large canvas~ 30″x40″, so laying in the layers of color was a satisfying exercise of big sweeping brush strokes. I usually start my paintings with an under painting in a complementary color and that is what I did here. As subsequent layers of color go on early layers peek through and this adds energy to the painting. Digital photographs don’t always capture this effect well but it worked with this one.
Some years ago I wanted to learn about plants, since I skipped botany in college. So I signed up for a local flora class over at my local junior college. The class was a delight, taught by a botanist of note in our area. I’m sure I’ve mentioned Linda before~she has been studying the sedges of 3 states (that I know of) and writing excellent guides to them. She moves fast for a botanist, so we have to grab lunches pretty quick, but we’ve been dear friends ever since that class. This painting is for her. I kept it sketchy, to suggest a bird about to flit to the next thing…just like Linda!
When I was a girl I couldn’t get enough of peering into pools of water. Whether tide pools at the sea or small lakes here in Illinois, I was endlessly fascinated to see how the light reflected on the surface of the water shifted as waves rippled, and to watch the critters swimming about. Walking along the Des Plaines River, I was tickled to discover that as the river meanders it also creates still pools of water. Edges are wonderful places, full of change and life.
One of my favorite things in spring is when the crabapples burst into bloom. I wish it could last forever! When my neighbor’s tree is done it showers my car with pink petals, like a benediction.
I’d like you to meet my new studio dog, Pete 🙂 🙂 As you can see, he is settling right in, throwing things on the floor and generally causing consternation.
He’s quite fierce when he has hold of this little blue starfish thingy. Big growls from little beast.
As you can imagine, painting time has been curtailed a bit as we get to know each other. I’ve wanted a Westie again for years and years, and am so glad I took the plunge with this wee one. He’s already a great little dog.
A little painting is still happening, thank goodness. It is time to paint butterflies again!