Painting in Progress, and a Walk


in progress

To begin a painting, I like to create an underpainting con brio. That’s fancy for “letting the paint fly”. This one is planning to be a wetland painting, with an egret in it. Let’s see if that is where it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime I ran off to play hooky at Illinois Beach State Park earlier this week, and I want to share with you some of my favorite photos of the day. They will probably become paintings eventually but I’m slow.

Euphorbia corollata turned red

Here is a Euphorbia corollata, all decked out in red for fall. I love this plant for its lacy white flowers that dance over the savanna for several weeks, and then light up late dog days of summer by turning red.

Dead River TRail

We are on the Dead River Trail, heading toward Lake Michigan in a meandering sort of way. That is my favorite way of getting somewhere, so this is pretty much my favorite trail ever. To the left are older dunes, left by the retreating glaciers. They are cloaked by Black Oaks, Quercus velutina. To the right is a glorious sedge meadow wherin rises the Dead River. In the summer is it filled with fritillaries and many other butterflies. In fact, back when I was the butterfly monitor, this was a very busy spot. Woodland and Savanna butterflies on one side of the trail, wetland and meadow butterflies on the other. Swiveling my head back and forth could make me dizzy but it was worth the effort.

Ladie's Tresses

Ladie’s Tresses! What a cool find. I really like how the blooms spiral up.

DunesAnd that brings us out to the foredunes.  This photo doesn’t show it well, but blazing stars, asters and golden rod were in bloom all over the flanks of the dunes. More, in fact, than I’ve seen before. When I first started coming to the Park, the dunes were much more bare of vegetation. It has been quite interesting to watch succession take place here. By the way, I find it quite odd how the lake appears to be about to pour right off the screen. That is a bit unsettling. A check of the tree reassures me that I was not leaning, myself. Photographers, what am I doing wrong?

As you can see, it was a very good day to play hooky. At one point I looked up and could see the Chicago skyline. You can’t always, but on a clear day you can. I marvel about that~the contrast between the wildness where I stand and the city I can see.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk 🙂

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35 thoughts on “Painting in Progress, and a Walk

  1. Jim in IA says:

    I did enjoy the walk. Taking photos is a good way to keep impressions handy for later painting.

    As to the draining of the lake off the side of the picture, I think the camera was tilted. Had you taken a bottle of wine with you on this outing? Try that next time. The lake might remain level. 🙂

  2. Gunta says:

    Love your underpainting. I love clouds and that’s what it reminds me of. As for your draining lake, the only thing that makes sense is that either your camera or head was tilted when you took the shot. The tree isn’t a perfect indicator since it’s not unusual for a tree to lean somewhat. A crooked horizon definitely jumps out in a photograph. It’s why some cameras or tripods come with built in bubble-levels. 🙂 (Not so sure about the wine to help keep the horizon straight, though! 😕 )

  3. Steve Gingold says:

    Ladies’ Tresses are one of my favorites. As for the speed at which you work, Melissa…to paraphrase Orson Welles-“No Melissa Blue Fine art before its time”. I was thinking that before reading the comments, so wine as a side theme here seems to carry the day. 🙂

  4. Jane says:

    Thank you for taking me on your lovely walk. I enjoyed seeing the kinds of photographs you take that will eventually be converted into paintings. Some things really call out to be painted don’t they? I look forward to sharing in the progress of your painting. I hope to learn some great tips! 🙂

  5. Steve Schwartzman says:

    From what you say, paintings have a mind of their own and don’t always go where your mind would have them go.

    A few days ago I was talking with a native plant person I know who lives about 25 miles away from where I live. Every fall for the last few years she’s alerted me when the ladies’ tresses show up in her neighborhood. A couple of times I went way out there to photograph them, but then I discovered a property near me that also usually has ladies’ tresses. Now I use the alert from 25 miles away to go check out the likely orchids close to home. Compared to your northern latitude, we’re well behind, and the ladies’ tresses aren’t likely to appear for at least a month yet.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      That is interesting, Steve. Everything else seems to be about that far ahead of us here. I guess since it is definitely a late season plant, in your area that translates to a month later. Do you really have a season with not much going on? It doesn’t seem like it and that would be wonderful.
      You are right, the paintings I like best are the ones I don’t try too hard to control. It is certainly more fun that way.

      • Steve Schwartzman says:

        I looked at last year’s archive just now and found that I photographed ladies’ tresses orchids for the first time on October 24 and for the last time on November 12, though the flowers probably persisted a little longer.

        I’d say the bleakest time here is January and the beginning of February. In some years I’ve taken no pictures then, but in other years I’ve gone out and still found worthy things to photograph. In warm winters (of course all of Austin’s winters will seem warm to you) I’ve photographed lingering fall wildflowers and advanced spring wildflowers. There’s no month in Austin when the temperature doesn’t get as high as 70° on at least some days. I remember swimming here once in mid-February when the temperature got up into the 80s.

        You wrote that “the paintings I like best are the ones I don’t try too hard to control. It is certainly more fun that way.” That reminds me of a stanza from Théophile Gautier’s poem “l’Art,” which I may have quoted before, but it’s worth quoting again:

        Oui, l’oeuvre sort plus belle
        D’une forme au travail
        Rebelle,
        Vers, marbre, onyx, émail.

        Yes, a work of art comes out more beautiful
        From a medium that resists working,
        Whether verse, marble, onyx, or enamel.

  6. Gallivanta says:

    I like the way you let the paint fly! And I like your walking trail. Looks like the Lake is trying to let its water be con brio. Do you have photo editing? I find I can straighten my photos a little with the photo editing in Picassa.

  7. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    I really enjoyed the walk, as I love to meander too. I am really looking forward to the steps along the way of the painting!
    Peace,
    Mary

  8. Myriam (Myr's Bytes) says:

    Looks like a beautiful walk :-). Thanks for sharing. I loved your description of the Euphorbia corollata and how it changes with the seasons. I think the tree in your last picture may be a leaner :-D! The lake horizon should be horizontal and the buildings in the distance vertical. Sometimes, if my landscape photos are tilted, I rotate them in Photoshop and crop the border to get a rectangle again.

    Interesting to see the first layer of one your paintings. Looking forward to seeing what it turns into!

  9. shoreacres says:

    First, a hooray — I can see your enlarged image just fine. Whatever the quirk was last time, it’s gone.

    I laughed at your view of the lake. Clearly, it’s a sailboater’s view — you’re just heeled over a few degrees.

    As soon as you mentioned “Lake Michigan,” I thought “boats” because a fellow I know was part of the team that won a sailboat race there last weekend. He’s an amazing fellow: blind, but a crack sailor. Each team for the latest race was composed of two sighted and two unsighted people, and they really did well. One of my customers is crewing on the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac next year. I’m no racer, but I’d love to be on one of the spectator boats.

    Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the view from land. I especially like the Lady Tresses. As far as I know, I’ve never seen them. And your use of “con brio” is interesting, too. I’ve known it only as a musical term, and had no idea that painters use it, too — although it’s a perfect term for a vivacious approach to a painting.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      Ah, delightful! A sailor’s view! Now I am happy.
      How exciting to know a racer. He must be an extraordinary fellow.
      Do you come to the area to see the races? If you are ever here let me know~you are welcome to stay with me and we could walk the Beach together 🙂

  10. circadianreflections says:

    It’s so fun and I think healthy to play Hookie once in awhile. When my kids were in school I let them pick one day to play “hookie”. They could pick something to do. They often chose to go to the beach.

    You had a lovely day, and the colors in the new painting are going to be lovely.

    Hope you’re well!

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