Belonging

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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.

Des Plaines River

des-plaines-river-snowMelissa Blue Fine Art

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!

Through the Trees

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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.

Big Bluestem at Illinois Beach State Park

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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!

Bird in an Autumnal Sumac

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I haven’t made up my mind about this one. It is in oil. The new Earth Paints are a joy to work with but of course there are ways in which they behave much differently than my acrylics. I think this doesn’t match my desire to paint wild abstract-y interpretations but I really wanted to highlight the gorgeous shades of red of sumac leaves in the fall. Plus, I couldn’t resist the little bird 🙂  I’d love to hear what you think!

Pickerel Weed

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Melissa Blue Fine Art 

Pickerel Weed is such a wonderful plant, standing tall right at the edge of water where I like to hang out. Frogs lurk here, snakes sometimes slither, herons stalk while dragonflies hang in the air taunting us mud-bound creatures.

For years I have been playing it safe with my paintings. The occasional expert would look quizzically at me and ask why I was holding back. I would pretend I didn’t know what they meant. However, the more I enjoy all of the amazing blogs I find here, the more I realize that simply recording the wonders and beauty of nature can be done far better with a camera. Oh, there is photorealism, of course, but I always found that a bit pretentious. And so, it is time to take a deep breath and jump into whatever pools of creativity my heart and paintbrush can take me to. My best college professor would stand at our elbow, urging us to push ourselves, and then push further. At the time I felt it was all I could do to generate a good composition and overall image. Every canvas was like leaping into a deep lake and swimming across. I’d get to the far shore panting, relieved just to have made it, let alone worried about the style with which I got there. You don’t want to know how long ago that was! Well, you might but I don’t want to tell you 🙂 At this point I feel I may well drown, or retreat back to the muddy shore I’m so fond of. But I’m going to try being brave, pushing myself into expressing whatever it is that my soul wants to express about the natural world. It’s wordless, so don’t ask me to explain!

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin