Gone Fishing

boys fishing 2


I hesitate to mention where this painting takes its inspiration for a couple of reasons. Technically speaking, the boys should maybe not be there fishing. When I saw them there, however, I decided I’d much rather paint them than scold them. If we do not allow young people to interact with the natural world, how can we expect them to grow up with a love of it that will move them to protect it? Personally, I think it is a miracle they had fishing poles in their hands instead of cell phones. Or really, that they were there at all.

My other reason for reticence is I’ve recently learned that professionals are no longer allowed to take photos or make images of the preserves. !!!! What?! A friend of mine is a steward, and she saw a ranger hunting down a photographer who’d been reported taking photos. I have to say, even typing these words makes me furious. We pay the taxes that make these preserves possible. We dedicate hundreds of hours volunteering to restore them, and now we can’t take pictures of them? Holy smokes. I cannot even call the person responsible for this new rule, because I fear I won’t be able to be civil to her.

There is a third aspect I’d like to mention, and that is the decision to include people. Just today a woman complimented me on a painting she saw of mine, specifically because it had no people in it. Well, hmm. It’s true that beautiful places sometimes get “loved” to death. But I would like to suggest that this hands-off attitude is part of the problem. Those of us who love nature have gotten the idea that humans are bad and must be kept away from nature. And there is the natural backlash, people who despise nature because they’ve been told it matters more than they do. If you think about it, humans and nature have had an uneasy relationship right from the beginning. I mean, let your guard down and it will kill you! So, for a very long time, humans taught each other that the way to survive was to beat it down. Fell the trees, plow the earth, pave everywhere else. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, with many feeling nature must be protected from humans at all costs.

I think there is a better way. I think this underlying belief that people and nature must be held separate isn’t good for people or nature. Both lose and it isn’t working so well. Instead, I believe we should see how we can weave ourselves back into the fabric of Life. We who love the natural world can’t pretend that people don’t matter, just as the human race as a whole can’t keep pretending the natural world doesn’t matter. Me? I like to see boys leaning on a fence, fishin’.

Published by melissabluefineart

visit me at www.melissabluefineart.com to see my original paintings available for sale.

34 thoughts on “Gone Fishing

  1. Amen, Melissa. We and “nature” are here together. We will and must interact, with both good and bad consequences. Love the painting and the thought behind it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We and nature need to get so much more together. I can’t imagine what they’re thinking not allowing pictures to be taken. That has to be one of the more absurd things I’ve ever heard.

  3. I can’t imagine the rationale for not allowing photographs. It must be a twisted logic.

    The fishing kids do add a true element to your painting. I would have also liked it without them.

    1. To tell you the truth, Jim, I first painted it w/o them and it was really boring. Nobody looked twice at the painting and I had it in a few different shows. I was considering painting it out altogether when I remembered the kids and thought I’d try adding them.
      The rationale, as I understand it, is they don’t want professionals to profit off of public land. All along they have resisted the efforts of local artists to share profits. They could host shows for us and everyone would win, but they refuse to see that. Ah, well. It is one more reason it is time for me to leave this place. I hear there are places that love their artists!

  4. Great colors in your panoramic painting. Nice going.

    I hadn’t noticed till now that you’ve expressed the same idea in your About: “I believe that nature and people need each other. My paintings are meant to lure you out there, get you to fall in love with nature, and learn what you can do to help protect it. I dream of a world where people and nature both thrive.” That would be a happy symbiosis.

    In my nature photography I generally exclude people and human elements like buildings, cars, poles, wires, etc. I guess you could say my goal is to portray nature per se. That said, I’ve occasionally done portraits of people in nature, and in those the personal element usually predominates, although it’s hard to apportion a percent to the role of each, and there are times when it’s more like fifty-fifty.

    My guess about the photography policy in your preserves hinges on the word professional, and I’m assuming the people in charge want to raise money by making those photographers pay for a permit on the assumption that the photographers will be making money from their pictures. If that’s the rationale, then a lot hinges on the meaning of the overused word professional. In general I’m with you, though, and it has long bothered me that some Interstate highways, which we pay for with our taxes, also have tolls on them; that’s double taxation.

    1. Oh, yes, I thought I’d said something like this somewhere. You are right, it would be a happy symbiosis. I’ve noticed that too, that the personal predominates. I found it is very difficult to portray a human in a painting in such a way that they do not immediately hijack the entire composition. This intrigues me as it speaks to my whole point~how to put a human in the scene without it all being about the human? πŸ™‚
      You’re absolutely right, they do not want us to profit from the public land. What I’ve tried to get them to see, without avail, is that what we are doing is celebrating the land, drawing the public’s attention to the nature preserves. I have even offered to have shows and give them a percentage of the profits, and have always been turned down. Furthermore, they all receive salaries for working at the District; what is the difference? I would have thought our goals were the same.
      As to tollways, whew, that is a hot topic here in Chicago-land. We were promised the tolls would be removed after a certain date…several years ago. Now they are firmly entrenched and have reached shocking amounts. I often feel like a frog in boiling water, here.

      1. “I found it is very difficult to portray a human in a painting in such a way that they do not immediately hijack the entire composition. This intrigues me as it speaks to my whole point~how to put a human in the scene without it all being about the human?”

        One way that landscape painters in the 1800s did it, as you did in your painting above, was to keep the human element tiny. An example that comes to mind is “Kindred Spirits,” which was among my father’s favorite paintings:


        What you say about tolls on bridges is true in New York, too. Not only haven’t the tolls been removed after half or three-quarters of a century, but they’ve gone way up. The 25Β’ of my childhood has ballooned to $8! Even allowing for inflation, that’s still a whopping rise.

      2. Good grief, that is outrageous! I wonder if there is a way for citizens to roll back some of the taxes and tolls we find ourselves under. My dad’s house has over $9,000 per year real estate tax, way over what it actually appraises at. But even if it were within it’s appraisal, that is ridiculous. Here the lion’s share goes to the school system and they still scream they haven’t enough money. Oh, it makes my blood boil.
        I admire that painting too. One of my favorites, in fact. Thank you for sharing the link!

      3. Gotta fund those sports teams. Everything else will be drastically cut before a penny gets taken away from footballβ€”and the real problem is that most parents are happy with that. My fantasy wish: of all the secondary schools in a district, just set aside one of them to prioritize academics and arts, and allow athletics only as an intramural pastime.

      4. That sounds like the best solution I’ve come across. We’ve had a proliferation of schools around here with all of the building. Wouldn’t it be great if one of them were set aside in this way.

      5. I remember two of your paintings with people in them: The Botanists and your children with a snake (Untitled?). In both, the people seem very much a part of their environment… to me anyway. Did you consciously create this impression? In “The Botanists”, the small size of the people (as Steve mentions of 1800s painters) supports this impression. But there is also that tree branch that curves above that says “the earth holds you”. The painting gives me a sense of cooperation, the earth (and all its living and non-living forms) supports life and the botanists try to understand the earth and improve its ailing health. As for the children with the snake, they are both sitting… and this makes them part of their surroundings.

      6. Oo, I forgot to mention that I love your painting of the boys fishing. The glowing yellowy oranges and the mauvish reds are stunning and joyful. River Park looked a bit like that when I went this morning :-). I like to see small numbers of people in natural settings, enjoying and being kind to their environment.

  5. I would tend to agree with you on humans in the environment but so many of us can’t be trusted. All too often I go to spots where fishermen have been, lovely little ponds and streams, only to find litter and lots of it. Of course, not all people who fish do this, but many do. It is similar along hiking trails. I’ll never understand why people go out into nature for the beauty only to trash it. For me, the peace and quiet, the solitude, is why I enjoy nature and I have mixed feelings about including humans. OTOH, when I am out at 4:30 a,m. there are rarely humans to include. πŸ™‚
    So I wouldn’t say we disagree, just that I am wary.

    In quite a few places the clamps are being put on photographers and in most cases for the reasons mentioned. In National Parks, by rule most of us are not to be hassled. But pros leading workshops and tours are required to get permits. For insurance but also for the fact that they are profiting at the public expense. I am not sure I agree, but I understand. As far as your small parks I would guess it is for a number of reasons. Primarily though, I think money is so tight that the permits Steve mentioned would be the number one consideration.

    1. Oh! Oh! Oh1 I forgot to mention that this is a lovely painting, Melissa. I like it very much. Although I did a little fishing as a boy, I didn’t do much. But I can appreciate the scene you have captured.

    2. I agree, Steve. So many people go out into nature to see what they can get away with, which I simply cannot understand. Like you, I am saddened by the garbage I find along trails (or worse, thrown away from the trail). Why do that? And now I am learning of the growing boldness of adventurers, BASE jumpers and so on who feel the thrill of what they are doing is more important the fragile system they are damaging in the process. Perhaps that is what I am trying to address in my work…suggest to people a more (w)holistic approach to being with nature.

  6. There are so many issues here, I hardly know where to begin.

    It’s a fact that some people see the natural world as the enemy, and view it with anxiety and fear. Others see it only as a resource to exploit, or as a pretty backdrop for their photos. Others experience it as an escape, and seek to exclude others, while some imbue nature with divinity, and worship in various interesting ways.

    In any event, what’s often missing on both sides of the argument is an acceptance that humans are a part of nature, too. We belong in the world as much as the ferns or the raccoons, but we have no special privilege. What we have is added responsibility, to care for what surrounds us.

    As for the issue of photography on federal lands, and in other places, this is an issue that’s been developing for some time. This article is long, but comprehensive, and does a good job of explaining the rationale and the law. Clearly, not everyone agrees with either.

    It’s interesting that the language has shifted from “professional” to “commercial” photography, and that social media has played a role in expanding the definition of commercial — making it so broad that it can cover nearly anything someone wants it to cover.

    According to the Forest Service, someone posting a video to YouTube might well fall under the definition, since advertising is a part of YouTube. Mom throwing up an instagram of the kids is one thing. Someone with a hundred thousand followers on YouTube or Tumblr is something else. And, as BASE jumpers and kayakers increasingly draw attention to themselves by posting to social media, laws that have been on the books for years suddenly are being enforced.

    Also, now that both the Forest Service and the Park Service are involved, the amount of land falling under their jurisdiction has been enlarged. I’d be interested to know who’s in charge of the Preserve you mentioned. If it’s Forest Service land, a memo may have come down. If it’s purely local, it may be that someone familiar with the laws and the emerging practices has decided to get in on the action. I think it would be worth exploring.

    In any event, the article has some good information about the laws, the history of their enforcement, and the current issues.

    1. I read the article with dismay. I was familiar with both the original law and the Ansel Adams Act, but had no idea that the law was being used to go after photographers in such broad strokes. You are absolutely right, it is time to talk with the Lake County Forest Preserve District and see what they have to say. The woman I was told who is enforcing this was formerly married to and bitterly divorced from…a photographer. It is hard for me not to draw an obvious conclusion.But I will investigate this further. It seems much or all that I do as an artist is illegal and since I consider myself one of the good guys, this in not happy news. I wonder, what is the difference between an employee of the Park Service or County who makes their living from the preserve, and an artist or photographer who also makes their living celebrating the preserve?
      Thank you so much for the thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, and for forwarding the article.

  7. I personally enjoy seeing people in landscapes, especially children. πŸ™‚
    Adults and their “progress” have done far more damage to the environment than young children do. It’s often the opportunity to interact with nature and come to love it that increases a child’s desire to protect it when they grow up. The separation of humans from the natural surroundings can encourage people to view nature as alien and frightening…something to be conquered. The relationship that Indigenous Australians had/have with the land is an example of humans being able to live in harmony with nature. However, when Europeans arrived they judged this relationship as not productive because they couldn’t see any “progress”!
    Beautiful picture, Melissa! πŸ™‚

  8. Gone Fishing is an apt title; makes me think of gone fishing for answers because you raise some difficult questions. The problem in our systems of government is that they always seem to go about trying to solve an issue with a punishment or a prohibition. You can’t do this or that, or you are banned from doing this or that. And if you look to Europe, you can see what prohibitions may be coming your way next. http://www.dw.com/en/freedom-of-panorama-will-the-eu-ban-landmark-photography/a-18554383 It’s all utterly ridiculous and unenforceable, in my view, but if these ‘moral’ and ‘copyright’ issues must be addressed why not address them in a positive way. Maybe an app of some sort or a public machine with words like this…if you have enjoyed taking photos in this area, please press the button to make an automatic donation to ….. or “if you are a professional photographer or a commercial photographer, please consider donating some of your royalties,etc etc.” Or ,as you say, encourage photographers to hold exhibitions in the area concerned. People respond so much better to incentives and encouragement and it’s so much easier to ‘police’.
    Finally, I do like the boys in the painting. They look at ease, and their presence adds warmth and depth to the scene.

  9. Oh, dear, As I read your link I am realizing that this issue is far bigger than I realized. Why must governments control us to such an extent? Terrorism, sure, but photography?! Incidentally I got a return call from the commander of security in our county. He assured me that I was free to take all of the pictures I want, even though I repeatedly told him I use them as reference for my paintings. Evidently he doesn’t believe an artist could make a living by brush alone, a common misconception. I have mixed feelings about that. Great to have the permission, not so great to be dismissed!

  10. Yes! So glad you put the boys in, and even more glad that they were there in real life, and actually without cellphones!! Shocked to read about no cameras in the preserves….don’t get it at all.
    Another beautiful painting….thanks for sharing it. ~Rita

  11. Beautiful painting! You had me at fall colors πŸ˜‰
    I was completely unaware that the natural lands folks don’t want photos being taken. I didn’t learn that in class. They can take me to court, as far as I’m concerned. I will whip out a tax bill that states this is mine. πŸ˜‹

    1. There seems to be confusion on the point. I asked the chief of the rangers, and he told me I could click away so that is what I’m going with. Thank you so much for your kind words!

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