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?
This is a work in progress, but I wanted to share it with you. I rather like the polka-dot flowers against the bands of color in the foreground but am not sure about the egrets. The one in the water I painted out, then sort of put back in. Anyhow, it is that sort of day.
Recently I saw a bumper-sticker that I liked. It read, “I would rather be here right now.” I love that, because it seems to me a lot of the problems in our world stem from people wishing they were somewhere else and so neglecting the place where they are. The ecosystem, the community. Of course as I type this, the wind outside is howling, it is bitterly cold, and there is a bunch of snow on top of ice and I dearly wish I lived somewhere else. Like I said, it is that kind of day. Anyhow, this is where I am right now so I’ll do my best to embrace it.
The dress is white and gold.
Or at least, I was pretty sure of it. Last night my son and I were bantering about the silly things we find online, and that dress was one of the things we were chuckling about. He brought up the image, and it was clearly white and gold. He looked at me oddly, and said, “blue and black.” We looked warily at each other and then showed it to his dad and sister. “White and gold” said my daughter. “Blue and black” said their dad. The four of us stared at the dress and each other, mystified. In our house at least, it seems to come down to male vs. female eyes. This morning I saw a photo of the dress and it was blue and black. What goes on here? To see for yourself, here is a link:
This is a triviality, except it made me question what I take for reality. What any of us take for reality. Then this morning when I was photographing this painting to share with you, there it was again. The painting has a lot of purple in it. My camera, however, insists that it is blue. I tried taking the photograph in different rooms, different lighting, different settings, no matter. Blue. Also, the camera has sort of compressed the image so the proportions don’t look right. I am putting all of this down to the questionable magic of digital media. Or perhaps I’ve lost my marbles…
In any event, here she is, fresh off the easel. Last summer on a gorgeous warm day, she graciously took pity on me and my inadequate photographing skills and posed on the remains of a train trestle that whispers of past human activity there, in the dunes at Illinois Beach State Park. The photograph I took in the field has lots of noise in it which I would ordinarily have translated on the canvas, depicting habitat. This time I was after something more dramatic, pared down. I haven’t done this before, but I think I like it. Or maybe the dress is blue and black….
Do you remember the first time you encountered a hawk? I do. DDT had just about wiped out our birds of prey so the world I emerged into was quieter than it should have been. My family and I moved to a rural corner of northern Illinois in 1974. On the one hand, it was grand~great stretches of open land were available for exploration. I had woods, fields and wetlands to play in. But even as a kid I could tell that something was wrong. There were a lot of thorns, a few big old oaks, a lot of one kind of grass, and no flowers to speak of. Still, I loved it all. And so it was out there in the field when I first heard that cry that stopped me in my tracks and lifted my eyes…a Red-tailed Hawk! Wow! How exciting. With DDT not used (here) anymore, their numbers have rebounded. Nature rewove a strand into her fabric, right before my eyes. Talk about wonder.
I’m still thrilled when I see one. I was hiking up along a ridge last fall when this one dropped right in front of me. I think he missed his mouse, but he paused long enough to allow me to admire him. Happy sigh.
Pelicans have always owned a place in my heart. Perhaps it is how unlikely they look, or the fact that they hang out in my favorite places. For all that I love them, though, I never thought of them as graceful until one golden afternoon in Carmel by the Sea. There I was, mesmerized by the WHUMP of the huge waves coming in, when a skein of pelicans soared in to land. Wingtip to wingtip they floated on the air, effortlessly adjusting to air currents and each other.
That moment lives on in my mind to this day, and inspires me. For this painting I wanted to give the viewer that sense of soaring freely out over the limitless water.