I just finished this painting this afternoon and am pretty excited about it. This is my very first memory. It took place shortly after my mom married my step-dad, and he took us out to the redwood forest that grew behind his little cottage. I will never forget how I felt, standing before that spongy, felty red log sprouting ferns and moss. I felt a Presence there, enveloping me and claiming me. I was flooded with a sense of belonging. Even though that stand of redwoods has been clearcut, never to return, it lives on in my heart. The Presence I felt there has been my guiding light ever since.
It isn’t just trees, with me. There also lurks in my heart a passion for horses, and I am fortunate enough to live near the Temple Lipizzan farm. As a child living in Brazil I saw these horses perform and it made an indelible impression on me. Many years later, when I was expecting my first child, I learned that they would be performing in Peoria where we lived at the time. My son was born shortly before the performance, so off I went, brand new baby in tow! You can imagine my delight then when I realized their home was very near mine when we moved to northern Illinois. I get to drive by and see the mares in their pasture this time of year, and wait with bated breath for the babies to begin to appear. They are born black, and over time turn classic white.
Here I’ve painted a stallion performing a piaffe~a collected trot in place. I’ve placed him next to the pillar on the one side, and indicated a tree beyond him. In the Spanish School of Riding the horses are taught a series of elegant dressage moves as well as “airs above ground” , moves that served to protect a rider in battle. The pillar represents the years of training a horse and rider undergo to be able to perform at this level. The tree represents nature, for these horses are not forced. The people who own Temple Farms are proud that sometimes their gleaming white horses have grass stains, and the movements are stylized versions of actions the horses do naturally. So a beautiful dancing Lipizzan is a wonderful union of nature and human endeavor.
There is a curve of the Des Plaines River that often catches my eye as I drive past. I like how the tree leans out over the water, and have thought that it would look lovely with snow. We’ve only had one snowstorm this winter, so on that morning my son and I grabbed our boots and headed out. All was silent as big fat snowflakes fell. It was really lovely.
I did this painting in oil. As many of you know, I’ve been wanting to switch to eco-friendly oils. It has been an adjustment to be sure but worth it to know that rivers are not being polluted that I may have paint. This is messy stuff to work with. I mix the colors myself with walnut oil and am usually pretty well pigmented by the end of the day! Mixing the oil into the powdered pigment is meditative. And fun!
This painting has been nearly a decade in the making. That is kind of embarrassing to admit! Usually if a painting is just not working I paint it out and use the canvas for something else. This one, though, I always felt could be worth finishing. Finally yesterday I realized what I needed to do was to run a wash of light color over all the detail my younger self felt was so important in the far meadow. And just like that, the painting resolved itself. This seems like a metaphor for life, really . When I simplify, I find things become more clear.
I meant to be painting snow, but when I was glancing through some photos I took in the fall I was struck anew by the play of colors and texture along this stretch of trail. Late afternoon sunlight was slanting through, picking out the stems of this this fine tall grass. Besides, we’ve hardly had any snow this year, and I don’t want to tempt fate!
A delightful thing happened one day as I stood at my easel. An old acquaintance happened to be passing by and saw me standing there, wielding my brush, so he stopped in. He does graphic design and marketing work for a number of clients. Among them is the owner of Green River Soda. Are you familiar with it? Around here it has deep and nostalgic roots. People will instantly begin to reminisce about their youth, sitting at a counter in a drugstore while the soda -jerk created this concoction of green syrup with soda. Misty eyed they describe the old glass container that held the syrup, the stool they sat on, everything comes back to them. Isn’t that fun? At any rate, the owner wanted to refresh the label design, and they asked me to create this painting. We wanted to be true to the 30’s Art deco design. If you google Green River Girl, you’ll see her. So, that is where I’ve been for the past few weeks, harking back to the wonderful era of Art Deco. Soon, I hope, the owner will come see the painting and approve it. And then, perhaps, my art will appear on the labels of the soda in stores! I’m so excited.
A little over a year ago my daughter and I went exploring in a different forest preserve than our usual haunts. Illinois can be a bit flat, but here we found a lovely ravine with a bit of a stream meandering along at the bottom. The air was soft and still, and golden leaves drifted quietly down. Everything seemed to glow.