This past weekend I was asked to paint on location at a new store in our area, called Summer’s Boutique. It is a wonderful shop featuring up-cycled furniture and art objects. If you are in the area, look it up. You’ll be delighted with the treasures you’ll find.
I had it in mind to create a demure botanical painting with a nearly white background. By now I should know, that just wasn’t going to happen! Yesterday the painting and I had a long discussion, and this is how things turned out. I’ll never be invited to join a botanical art society, that’s for sure 🙂
In the early woods, at the foot of oaks, sometimes you will come across Hepatica emerging from the muddy, leafy floor. I am always delighted by the clear, clean colors of the petals, and the leaves are so cool. They are a favorite of a dear friend of mine. She is the steward of a wonderful site here in Lake County. She is also an organist, loves Bach, and bur oaks. I wanted to combine these elements into a painting for her. I started by varnishing a sheet of music right onto the canvas. As I added layers of paint I was sure to leave areas where the notes shone through, wanting the music to dance through the painting just as Bach would carry a theme through his compositions.
“Compass Plant Reverie”
melissa blue fine art
In the field, Compass Plants can get quite tall~well over my head. So when I spotted this one lolling over in the lazy hot summer heat, I grabbed my chance. My intention was merely to get a reference photo for a later pen and ink drawing. When I developed the image, however, I was struck by how graceful the plant’s pose was. For the painting I added blooms in the background, and then washed over them with color to mute them and set a meditative tone.
Every painting is imbued with layers of meaning, for me. I remember the day in the field, for starters. The way the heat felt, and the scratchiness of the leaves, the song of birds and the breeze bringing scents of wild roses. The feeling late summer brings me, of joy and sadness at the same time. Most of all I wanted to convey the lyrical nature of a plant ensconced in its proper habitat, its home.
My dad’s house is under contract. I suppose it will be a relief when it is sold, yet… I mention it because of the frogs. Several years ago he installed a little pond in the garden by the house. Winter took out the pump one year, and the fish all died. However, it was colonized by several frogs. Over this past summer I have watched them. There seem to be too many, for the little pond, and yet they seem alright. They could leave if they wanted to. There is a lake at the foot of the hill. The little pond seems to be self sustaining in there under the overgrown plants. Duckweed floats on the surface, keeping the water oxygenated and cool. The frogs keep mosquitoes down, I guess. And in winter? I suspect there is a layer of muck at the bottom where they burrow down and hybernate. Water hasn’t been added to this pond ever. It just stays the same~a cool dark oasis filled with frogs. I draw hope from that little frog pond and sort of wish I’d thought to catch a few to bring home. Maybe I could recreate the setting but it would be too sad if I ended up killing them. At any rate, I think of them there, living out their froggy lives year after year, hanging on in an unlikely little habitat. Life is like that. I’ve read that we are members of the last generation to have played outdoors when we were children. I suspect it is true. There is a trend for families to have more children again. I’m not judging, but just where do these people think all their children will live? Everywhere I look, new roads are being carved through erstwhile fields and woodlands, new houses are cropping up like tumors on the land. I savor the little bits of wild I can find the way I savor the last flowers of the season. But, the frogs tell me, don’t give up. Nature will persist, life will renew itself. At the last moment wonderful discoveries can still surprise you.
I hope you receive a nice surprise today 🙂
Turk’s Cap Lily is a wonderful plant that is a great find when you stumble upon it in the field. I usually see it growing at the edge of savanna and wet prairie. I seldom see it bloom twice in the same spot, which adds to the delight in finding it.
The traditional way to portray flowers in botanical painting is to set them against a neutral white or grey background but this is way too restrained for me. I wanted to suggest the time of year and a bit of the habitat where I find the plant yet still make sure the lily was the star of the show.
“Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
_ Max Ehrmann