Wild Rose

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Wild Rose 

One of the many floral delights to be found at Illinois Beach State park are the fragrant and lovely wild roses blooming along the trails.

My grandmother was know as “the rose lady” in her little town in northern California. She grew tea roses, and I dearly loved when she would take me on a tour of her garden. Each rose had its own metal tag to identify it. Hers was a test garden, as I recall, for one of the breeders of roses. It all seemed so magical to me….until you ventured into her garage where she kept her cocktail of chemicals to spray on them for a myriad of ills.  I grew up thinking roses were fragile things that needed ’round the clock care and dedicated life support. What a revelation it was to me, then, to come across these gorgeous and tough wild roses. They grow all unaided, in lean sandy soil. Nary a black spot mars their leaves, and you’ll see no sign of wilt or aphids or malingering of any kind. It gives me hope for what I might be able to achieve in my strictly no-fuss garden, and I’m thinking I’ll take the plunge this year.

Here, in the meantime, is a painted bloom. I started this little painting  2 years ago, and somehow never got back to it. It’s done now, though, and is serving to remind me of warmer days to come.

Patterns of Light and Dark

Dead River TreesPatterns of Light and Dark

 

I’m excited to share this latest painting with you. It was inspired by a walk I took along the Dead River at Illinois Beach State Park. I’ve always been drawn to the view I see peeking between the branches of trees, and this trio of trees really spoke to me. It was early in the year, before things had begun to green back up. A skin of ice is still on the river.

This is a large canvas~ 30″x40″, so laying in the layers of color was a satisfying exercise of big sweeping brush strokes. I usually start my paintings with an under painting in a complementary color and that is what I did here. As subsequent layers of color go on early layers peek through and this adds energy to the painting. Digital photographs don’t always capture this effect well but it worked with this one.

Spangled Fritillary

Fritillary

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?

…And a Dragon

Illinois Dragonfly Painting

Small original painting by Melissa Blue of a red dragonfly on native flower.

There is a lovely woman at the farmer’s market every week who brings cut flowers from her garden to sell. It must be a small farm, really, because what she brings is really impressive. As much as I love fresh organic vegetables, fresh cut flowers are a real lift to the week! Her space is right in front of my studio and we get to talking a bit as I sit there painting. She asked me to paint something small and colorful for a gift for her mom. This is the painting I did for her. I really love this little flower  for its light airy feel and gentle pink color. The attraction is mutual…later, it will form broad flat seeds that adhere to my jeans when I brush past. The dragonfly is one of several species I see flying at Illinois Beach this time of year.

I’ve been without a computer for a week. That will certainly make you realize how much you rely on one! The old one has been slowing down and balking more and more but I didn’t realize how bad it was until finally I just went out and bought a replacement. This new little Mac is solid-state and lightening quick. I’m having a lot of fun learning it’s controls and loving how intuitive it is.

 

Painting in Progress, and a Walk

in progress

To begin a painting, I like to create an underpainting con brio. That’s fancy for “letting the paint fly”. This one is planning to be a wetland painting, with an egret in it. Let’s see if that is where it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime I ran off to play hooky at Illinois Beach State Park earlier this week, and I want to share with you some of my favorite photos of the day. They will probably become paintings eventually but I’m slow.

Euphorbia corollata turned red

Here is a Euphorbia corollata, all decked out in red for fall. I love this plant for its lacy white flowers that dance over the savanna for several weeks, and then light up late dog days of summer by turning red.

Dead River TRail

We are on the Dead River Trail, heading toward Lake Michigan in a meandering sort of way. That is my favorite way of getting somewhere, so this is pretty much my favorite trail ever. To the left are older dunes, left by the retreating glaciers. They are cloaked by Black Oaks, Quercus velutina. To the right is a glorious sedge meadow wherin rises the Dead River. In the summer is it filled with fritillaries and many other butterflies. In fact, back when I was the butterfly monitor, this was a very busy spot. Woodland and Savanna butterflies on one side of the trail, wetland and meadow butterflies on the other. Swiveling my head back and forth could make me dizzy but it was worth the effort.

Ladie's Tresses

Ladie’s Tresses! What a cool find. I really like how the blooms spiral up.

DunesAnd that brings us out to the foredunes.  This photo doesn’t show it well, but blazing stars, asters and golden rod were in bloom all over the flanks of the dunes. More, in fact, than I’ve seen before. When I first started coming to the Park, the dunes were much more bare of vegetation. It has been quite interesting to watch succession take place here. By the way, I find it quite odd how the lake appears to be about to pour right off the screen. That is a bit unsettling. A check of the tree reassures me that I was not leaning, myself. Photographers, what am I doing wrong?

As you can see, it was a very good day to play hooky. At one point I looked up and could see the Chicago skyline. You can’t always, but on a clear day you can. I marvel about that~the contrast between the wildness where I stand and the city I can see.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk 🙂

Blazing Stars to Racine Art Museum

Blazing Stars along Dead Rivier

http://www.zhibit.org/melissabluefineart

A couple of summers ago the Blazing Stars blazed brightly at Illinois Beach State Park.  They made a spectacular show, and I’m so glad I was there to witness it.  My soul is happiest when I am able to drink deeply of the beauty I find in one special place, and it has been amazing to see what nature has offered up for me over the past, er, several years.  I’ve seen wonders, such as the time the Dead River blew out it’s sand bar, creating sine waves far out into Lake Michigan.  Some years one plant is ascendant, other years it might be rare turtles.  What a great journey!

I see my life as a quiet one, hunkered down in one spot, learning to see it deeply, celebrating it in paint.  Pursuing my career pushes me out into the wider world, however.  This doesn’t come easily…I read the business books and quail at the advice.  Mailing list?  Newsletter?  EEK!  What I have found is that I can fold my career right into my life until it is a natural extension of myself.  Focus, and do the next thing.  The next step always appears, as if by magic.  It has also become an interesting journey.  Most recently, it has led to my being invited to take this painting to the Racine Art Museum to be part of their rental and sales program.  I’m so excited!