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.
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!
For several years the Lake County Forest Preserve District has been working to complete a green corridor that would run from Cook County to the south to the Wisconsin border to the north. This summer saw this project completed! An entire series of preserves has been linked together along the Des Plaines River, so that species aren’t trapped in isolated islands of habitat. A wonderful trail system reaches the entire length~some 30 miles, I believe. It was along this trail that I came across this patch of sumac last fall. I was enchanted by how they seemed to be tumbling down the hill like playful children, dressed warmly in their colorful fall sweaters.
Great spangled fritillaries are the cheetahs of the butterfly world~orange streaks of energy flashing past as you walk along. As you can see here, they do stop to fuel up at monarda blossoms, and that gave me my chance for a photograph.
Twenty years ago, if you drove for any distance in Illinois your radiator and windshield would be fairly covered with, I’m sorry to say, dead bugs. Today, you’ll have almost none. I’m seeing very few butterflies of any species when I go for walks now. They re still there, thankfully, just in reduced numbers. They could come back, if we have the will to change. What will we choose to do? Will we stand up to Monsanto in time? Do we need a new book, this time about Roundup and the chemical soup we create when we apply pesticides? Yes, it is farms. But it is municipal agencies doing mosquito abatement. It is homeowners, spraying for grubs and dandelions. You can’t see chemicals, so it is easy to forget they are there. But they, or their break-down residues, linger far longer than the companies want you to know. And they combine with other chemicals to create ever more toxic brews in our soils and water. It would be one thing if it even worked but guess what-it doesn’t! We still have dandelions and mosquitoes. But we are losing so much else.
What do you choose?
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.
Working intensively in my studio can make me feel like I’ve been underwater for quite awhile. When I went in, the temps outside were in the teens…today it is 53 and rainy. Perfect! Well. If you like that sort of thing, which I do.
So here you can see the next step in the painting. I begin roughing in the background, in this case, the trees and fence. I rather liked this, but then I remembered that my client wanted the canopy of the main tree to show. That required some finessing, to squash a tall tree into a horizontal format. Things had to shift.
I like to stay in contact with my clients so they can offer input. A lot of artists abhor this, but to me, if I’m not hearing from the client, then how do I know they like what they are getting? The painting is for them, after all.
So we went back and forth a little bit, moving dogs around. Here is the final version. I delivered it yesterday and was absolutely bowled over by her response. What a privilege it is to make someone happy doing something I love to do.
These two came home to me from the gallery in Chicago that represented me for several years. It was a very enjoyable association. The owner once told me that she would never carry abstract art, but sadly, she has been forced to as that is what people want to buy. It is called “wall decoration”, now, not art. I suspect this comes from HGTV, with every single show selling pretty much the same look. Stylish, certainly, but also generic. Paintings, if the designers use them at all, are mere smears of color, as if to actually look at a painting would require entirely too much time and effort. Well ok. By contrast I just watched “Monuments Men”, about the effort to save art toward the end of WWII. Wow! What a beautiful movie. I found it deeply moving that a group of men would risk their lives to save art. Granted it was great art. But I couldn’t help thinking that when Rembrandt was painting his self-portrait, he wasn’t thinking that one day it would be considered a masterpiece worthy of going to war over. It is an intimidating thought.
Anyway, when these two came home I studied them and thought they could use some tweaking. I wanted to blue the grasses on the far side of the water and warm up the vegetation in the forerground. Both of these were very dark before. Now I wonder if they aren’t too bright and busy. Hmmm. Another thing I notice about both of them, from pretty much the same spot at Spring Bluff, is that they are composed of bands going across the canvas. When reading a post from Rick Braveheart’s excellent blog, I was reminded that one should lead the eye into the scene. Here I seem to be saying, “Look, but don’t come in.”
In any event they are off to another gallery tomorrow so I’ll varnish them tomorrow and move on to new canvases, bearing in mind what I’ve learned.