When I saw this stand of fresh-faced spiderwort growing at Illinois Beach State Park this spring, I thought, oooh, a pattern of color! I used a background of orange behind the colors to make them pop, with a bit of yellow washed over here and there.
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?
Monarch on Coneflower
Changes fascinate me. As I sit here, I can gaze out at my sodden garden. Unusual warm temperatures hastened blooms, and now it has turned cold and wet. We’re getting quite a lot of rain which seems welcome to me and my button bush. Life teaches us that all things must change, and yet we seem to resist this. Perhaps we should be asking, “what about these changes might be good?”. Just a thought.
There is change going on in my studio as well. As you can see from this lively Monarch, I want to move away from the strict reporting of the facts of representational painting toward a more intuitive response. I’ve been reading about Georgia O’Keefe and am inspired by something she spoke of. Rather than stand outside of creation and report on it, she wanted to paint from the midst of creation. I love the idea of that, and will be exploring it in my own work.
For my Monarch painting, I felt that the blue-lavender background was too static. I wanted to suggest movement and energy, and thought broken color at the top of the canvas would do that. When the paint started to drip, I decided I quite liked that and so encouraged some more colors to drip. Too fun!
So that’s what I’m up to. What changes are you noticing in your life?
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.
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!