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Ferns in Fall

Fern Frieze

I find ferns to be so beautiful, even now when they are beginning to turn brown. I love how they are patterns within a pattern, but always with a bit of variation.

Fall is beautiful in Illinois, but it still makes me feel sad. At least now that I’m older the seasons fly by faster and faster, even winter.

For fun I thought I’d also share with you an image my good friend made from one of my drawings:


Doesn’t that look cool?! Now, if only I could get her to do that with all of my drawings, I’d have a book! I’m sure this was her gentle way of nudging me into action. I still have several species of plants to draw, and then what? It would be an enormous book. Should I only include some of them? How should I divide them? I’ve been working alphabetically by genus, and currently have close to 200 drawn. Do you have any suggestions? I’d welcome any thoughts.

Also, I’ve been working to create a website here and I think it is coming along although there are definitely still bugs. Feel free to look around and let me know what you think.  One of the bugs is I’m not logged on, for some reason. So when I ready your posts, WP won’t let me make comments! 🙁 I’ll sort that out, and get caught up.

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Distant Trails

20181108_131810I’m not really sure why this title occurred to me for this post, and I’m not sure what I will call the painting. Several years ago a botanist friend of mine and her husband took me to a wilderness area in southeastern Wisconsin.  Much of the land around here is corrugated from the moraines left by the glacier retreats. Low wetlands alternate with narrow fingers of higher ground. Here, we are standing among the oaks that grow in the dry ridges, looking out over a low wet area. I really like how the meandering stream contrasts with the straight lines of the horizon and the trees, plus the sense of being a bit elevated over a vista is nice. As you can see, the colors of fall here are fairly muted. It creates a meditative mood, I think.

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More Dancing Coneflowers


This one is large, 30×40 inches. I began it with big sweeps of color in abstract shapes and then fleshed it in with just a touch of detail. This is a fun way to work, and I think it gives the painting a lot of energy. In the middle ground I chose to leave it looking a bit raw. That’s the way it looks right now, after a big push by the staff to remove buckthorn and other invasive trees. That, and the prescribed burning they did all last fall, are what are bringing us the beautiful coneflowers. Long may they dance!

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Pale Purple Coneflowers on the March

Pale Purple Coneflowers

This little landscape takes us back to Grant Woods nature preserve. A great deal of work has been done there, and the result is waves of sweeping color. One month it might be fields of spiderwort or wild geranium. It is always glorious! On this particular day, it was pale purple coneflowers seizing the day. You’ll be seeing more of them, as I have a large landscape currently on the easel.

~Life truly is a beautiful adventure~

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Grant Woods Stream

Grant Woods StreamIt is such a lift to the spirits to come across a stream in the woods, isn’t it? Grant Woods is home to a remarkable range of habitats, all carefully restored by the stewards and volunteers. This little patch of woodland plays host to a population of cardinal flower. I am always amazed by these ruby gems glowing in the shadowy wet ground along here.

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20180702_080027This little plant is called Cardamine bulbosa, and it likes to have its feet wet. As it happens, so do I, so we run into each other a lot. I quite like how it tosses its little bells out there like its having a party, and that inspired how I approached its portrait. I’ve been saying for quite some time that I yearn for the freedom of extraction, and so for this one I just turned my brush loose. I wanted to let the colors romp about and talk to each other, and then superimpose the flower. The fun part of this is you have no idea how the painting will ultimately look. You just keep playing and looking until you are pleased with it.

As I was gazing at it, thinking of what I wanted to say about it, I realized it reminded me of those fireworks that explode in a white starburst. Perfect! Happy Birthday, America!

…Now, if you’ll excuse me, my little dog, who also likes to have his feet wet, needs a bath…

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Independence Grove

Independence Grove

One of the preserves in my area was formerly a gravel pit, if I’m remembering that correctly. They shaped it and let it fill with water, and planted the hills around it with native seed. Now people walk and jog around the lake, or fish along its shoreline.

This is a large canvas, 24″x36″. As I gaze at the image here, I am remembering that a few months ago I felt I had room for some new activities in my life. Isn’t that hilarious? I should have known all I had to do was wait a bit. Sure enough, events rushed in. My husband broke his foot. It is a bad break, one that takes months to heal. No weight on it. He can’t drive. Suddenly, I’m very busy! Also my little dog needs to have surgery on his knee. I’d hoped to put that off a bit but he is limping more now so it is time. Two patients at the same time! I suppose the heat wave we have plunged into is a good thing in a way, because it is much easier to convince Pete that walking is not such a great idea right now. When this is all over the 3 of us will be hitting the trails together. In the mean time, I’ll content myself with painting the trails I long to visit.

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Dragonfly Lair

Dragonfly LairDragonfly Lair

As you know, one of my favorite places to be is Volo Bog. Here, the Arrowhead has gone to seed. It is a hot day toward the end of summer and if you walk quietly you’ll see the dragonflies lurking. Thanks to them, the mosquitoes and biting flies are rarely a problem there as they are elsewhere. I chose a slightly different set of colors for this painting, relying much more on blues and greens. A wash of red across the background yielded some nice soft colors I really like. I wanted this painting to have a bit of an abstract feel but still convey a hot day at the bog.

By the way, I was at the bog again yesterday with my daughter and we saw THIS lurking in the water:



YIKES!! Pretty cool, though. It is a water snake. I thought it was an eastern water snake but I think when we looked it up it was a northern water snake. I believe it has its head hiding under the mat of vegetation there. Because that way we couldn’t see it, right?

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Eagle River

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This one is for my son. He fell in love with Eagle River Wisconsin several years ago, and when he took me there last summer, I could see why. The place is dripping with North Woods magic. The air is crisp and clean and smells of pine. The pace is slow. People are few. We found several trails that led off into deep woods. It felt wonderful and I never wanted to leave. Of course, then winter comes. I whine about winter here, and we run a good 20 degrees warmer! I can’t even wrap my mind around how cold it gets, or how deep the snow gets.  So, it isn’t for me. I am forever grateful I got to take that vacation with him, to see it, though. Isn’t it pretty?

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Beach Parade

Beach ParadeBeach Parade

Ah, an afternoon at the beach. Can’t you just feel the sun warming your shoulders, as your feet relish the sand and the water that never really warms up? I saw this trio the last time I had my daughter at the beach at Fort Sheridan. I really liked the dog leading the parade with his big stick, just like a parade marshal should. The graceful way the mom moves between the child and the dog, linking them. The adorable child, concentrating as she navigates the waves and sand and rocks along the shore. I painted this very loosely, to suggest the casualness of a summer afternoon, and used saturated colors to capture the bright sunshine. It was a bit turbulent in the water that day, so I had a wonderful time with color and brushstroke to suggest that.

This is a place on the shore of Lake Michigan that has a rich history. It was a military fort for a long time~there are photos of soldiers in the water with their cavalry horses dating back to the civil war. The area was closed to the public right after the afternoon in question. The Lake County Forest Preserve and the Corps of Engineers are working together to stabilize the shoreline and the ravines that terminate at the shore. You may remember Ray Bradbury talking about ravines in his wonderful book, “Dandelion Wine”. His ravines are from Waukegan, a bit to the north of the ones at Fort Sheridan. Stabilizing them is a tricky balance, because they are home to unique suites of plants that actually need erosion to thrive. Too much erosion from above, from home building, for example, will of course sweep away the whole thing. Too little and the plants will begin to die.

You may be wondering why I started talking about ravines when this is clearly a beach painting… 🙂 The thing is, it is all connected, all part of the same system. A thriving shoreline helps keep the Lake healthy and clean. Involving the nearby homeowners gives them a sense of connection, too, helping them understand how their actions affect the whole. The beach isn’t just a place to spend the day. It is part of their home.