I’ve been hard at work on a few different pieces, none of which are fit to share yet. Here is a little one I did quickly for the Daily PaintWorks site.
Curvy trunks of a service berry reach up into blustery skies while native sunflowers tumble gleefully down a hill.
It will be changeover time at Lemon Street Gallery this weekend up in Kenosha. I haven’t been there since a few days after the rioting there. What I saw that day was distressing~demolished buildings and boarded up windows and doorways everywhere. But. On all that plywood were messages of love and strength and healing and inclusion. What a beautiful thing. Let’s bring those things to the whole country.
Grant Woods boasts many habitats with surprising amounts of biodiversity. But it also boasts a sweet little pond, with a sweet arched bridge over one side of it. From the bridge you can make out the shape of a rubber duck~hence its fun name. A couple of summers ago I was botanizing along the shoreline and happened to look up. The water was almost entirely still, and reflected changing foliage of a number of trees as well as the limpid sky. Lilly pads floated, frogs croaked and willows danced at the edge. It was glorious and some photos I took became the inspiration for this painting. The foreground leaves were the same color and value as the lilly pads so I tried a few different ways to differentiate them, finally landing on this light peach color.
Here is another tree with personality, it seemed to me. A black oak, Quercus velutina, he is in the vanguard, stepping out early onto the dunes. Some decades from now organic matter will build up here and there will be more trees but for now he is alone. You can see his family there behind him, on a distant, older dune farther from the lake. Fall colors here are muted to gentle shades of orange and yellow, shared by both the oak and the little bluestem.
Walking on a trail one day I was delighted by this tree. It had so much presence, I just had to stand and admire it for awhile. I love how it spreads out its multiple stems, reaching out to embrace the sky. Yet, when I painted it in a formal way, it just looked kind of dull. Over the following week I tinkered and played with it. I decided the low horizon should largely disappear, as it seemed to imprison my tree. And it seemed to want color to describe it. I started out with tentative colors at first and finally just let loose. I’m happy with it now. You have to try to picture the yellow at the bottom much softer, though. WP has turned it a very acidy, lurid yellow. Eek.
I’ve been helping monitor a high quality wet prairie near me the past few weeks. We go out and walk a transect that was set out long ago, and monitor populations of plants there to see how management is affecting the overall health of the site. It is just so rewarding to be a part of this~I hope I get to keep doing it. We have tremendously talented biologists in charge of our preserves and I am so lucky to be a part of what they do.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful bottle gentian, something I saw yesterday.
To call this a turbulent summer would be an understatement, for sure. For me it started out promising to be a banner year for exhibits, with 12 wonderful opportunities falling into my lap by the end of January. The exhibits would have kept me busy all the way through the year….and then Covid-19 hit and everything screeched to a halt. But then, commissions started rolling in! The first was for a dear friend of mine, a botanist. She’d told me about a very rare plant that grows in the lake near her. It doesn’t always bloom, but when it does, a charming yellow daisy-like flower holds its smiling face just above the water.
As you can see, it has an impressive array of leaves under the water. I couldn’t resist adding a spotted gar swimming among the leaves, and a baby painted turtle. This was such a fun painting to do.
Then, it was decided that an exhibit at Volo Bog would go on, with great care to protect everyone’s health. I believe I mentioned this exhibit in another post. Springing from the sale of one of the paintings was a commission for 3 more paintings to accompany it. They were all to be 6″ high by 12 ” long. A strong horizontal format, which gave me interesting challenges. Here are two of the resulting paintings:
It just goes to show that when it appears that all is lost, something new and wonderful may be on its way to lift you back up. I am so grateful for the opportunity to paint these commissions. May good things wash up on each of your shores as well.
To begin this painting, I laid in the sky using pretty much all of the colors on my palette, with a great deal of white to keep them all getting along. In person it looks a bit more grey~it is always interesting to see what digital imaging does with my paint. Dunes can be tricky to paint convincingly as photos flatten them. To add drama I dropped the horizon very low, and I pushed the value for the near dune to emphasize the contour and separate it from the dune beyond. It was tempting to put in a lot of detail in the foreground but that made it look fiddly so I went back in with broad brushstrokes and bold colors.
Illinois Beach State Park has been a spiritual home for me and over the years I’ve done several paintings inspired by the dunes and the delicate habitat they contain. Here is a slide show of some of them for you to enjoy.
There is a small lake I love to visit, nestled in the heart of Moraine Hills State Park. You won’t find wave runners or water-skiers there~just peaceful water reflecting the blue sky and a ring of native vegetation gracing its edges. This is how I remember lakes being when I was small. Humans pride themselves on “putting their stamp” on things, and boy around here they sure have. I’m thankful there are still a few pockets of nature to be found here and there, unstamped.
As summer draws to a close, I thought I’d show a collection of my summer landscape paintings. Here in Lake County several different types of habitat are woven together, so to separate one out to paint can be overwhelming. To address this, I’ve explored different ways of expressing what I see out there. In the top image, we are in a wet mesic prairie. It was exciting to see this land get restored, and to see the birds return.
In the second image I’ve taken you to see the dunes at Illinois Beach State Park. As organic matter begins to build up in the older dunes, we begin to see in increasing number of plant species.
Further from the lake we find oak/hickory woodlands. This is Grant Woods, which has been carefully maintained to control invasive species. The results are spectacular.
And finally I’ve brought you to a restored wetland close to my home. It has been wonderful to see the land respond to the care of professional ecologists along with a large dedicated group of volunteers.
When I was working on this butterfly, I just thought it would be a fun painting to share with all of you. The question mark is hidden on the underside of the hind wing, but you can identify this butterfly from the lovely lavender line along the hind wings, and the angularity of the outside edges of the wings.
However this morning my heart is heavy with questions and sorrow. ANOTHER white cop has shot ANOTHER black man in Kenosha WI and there was rioting last night. I have paintings in a sweet little gallery there. It is a co-op. We love out little gallery, and our artist community. It tears my heart to think of it with boarded up windows, and to think of the deep new would in that town that is trying so hard to thrive.
These paintings all sold at this year’s Bog/Bird Art Show at Volo Bog. I wasn’t sure how the show would go this year. To be safe, we did not have a reception and I think many people in the community are continuing to stay home. And yet, the show was a great success with a lot of beautiful art, and a great many sales. I am deeply grateful to the staff at Volo Bog for putting on this great show every year, and to the wonderful people who appreciate and collect art. If any of you are reading this, my sincere thanks to you!!
One painting remained from the show, and it is a favorite of mine.
I painted this very loose, with lots of color. I wanted to suggest the reflections in the water of the sky and surrounding vegetation, plus the swirling drifts of duckweed floating on the surface. It isn’t common to see a redwing blackbird’s nest, and I was excited to see this one with eggs in it.