A Tree Grows in Grayslake

Bur Oak Silhouette (1)     Bur Oak Silhouette

 

There is something so deeply satisfying about a grand old open-growth bur oak tree, standing there against the horizon. I see this one nearly every day as I drive past it, and thank God and the forest preserve district that it didn’t fall victim to developers. I’ve wanted to paint it for some time, and probably will do another from a closer vantage point. But when I saw this sky, I though the two would work perfectly to convey the power and spaciousness of nature. Often my paintings take weeks to months to complete, but this one came together in just a few sessions over the course of a week.

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Sanctuary

20170825_133009Sanctuary

Over the years I’ve spent quite a lot of time out in nature, off-trail (only where permitted). In those many many jaunts I found myself noticing little pockets of shelter, somewhere a plant or a creature might be safe from the elements which can certainly be harsh.

Today there is a Pow Wow near my home~a friend of mine is of Native American descent so he always participates. If the rain stops long enough I plan to go. Oh, the drums and the costumes are wonderful. But what I find astonishing and irresistible is the acceptance you find there. Native Americans have as much right as anyone to harbor a festering hate in their hearts…and yet they don’t. They hold these pow wows in part to offer healing. All are welcomed and even invited to dance in the circle, regardless of race or sex. It is a powerful experience. They aren’t trying to convert anyone, merely spend some time dancing together. It creates a sanctuary of peace, one I hope we can all experience.

Fledglings

IMG_20170803_161604_443                                                       Melissa Blue Fine Art

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?

A Rare Little Gem

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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.

Patterns of Light and Dark

Dead River TreesPatterns of Light and Dark

 

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.

Linda’s Bird

Linda's Bird

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!