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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 ūüôā

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Butterflies and Turtles

Baltimore Checkerspot and Turtlehead

“Baltimore Checkerspot and Turtlehead”

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This is my debut with my new smartphone.¬† The Samsung S6 takes amazing photos, but will they translate on the internet?¬† Fingers crossed…

Many beautiful moons ago when I got drawn into prairie restoration and butterfly monitoring, I learned of efforts to rescue the Baltimore Checkerspot from extinction. It is a fascinating business involving host plants and habitat. Although the butterfly doesn’t live at Illinois Beach State Park anymore, (it is hanging on in other sites), I did come across a small population of its host plant, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) .¬† I wanted to paint it in a way that suggested its habitat, and also to pour out my yearning for the butterfly that should accompany it and hopefully will again, one day.

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Yup, those are plastics, residing there in my studio. ¬†Here I’ve been a foaming-at-the-mouth environmentalist all these years and I was blind to what was going on in my own life!

I am reading a fascinating book entitled : “Plastic”, by Susan Freinkel. ¬†The book opens with a quest to list all the things plastic she touches in a day…. that¬†was an eye-opener. ¬†I’m getting a whole fresh look at plastic. ¬†For example, consider the toothbrush. ¬†Before plastic came along, not everyone could afford one. ¬†That gave me pause.

I haven’t actually gotten very far into the book yet, but I came across a paragraph about plastic use by artists, and I knew I’d found what I wanted to write a post about. ¬†It was noted that while designers were having a fine old time with plastics, from dishes to chairs to you-name it, attempts to use the new polymers by artists were “lame”. ¬†I would agree. ¬†In fact, those artists from the 50’s -70’s really gave art a black eye in my opinion. ¬†Say you are an artist to many people and watch their hackles rise. ¬†Think of all the ridiculous “masterpieces” hanging in contemporary museums and galleries, and the skyrocketing prices in the 70’s art world, and you know what I’m talking about. ¬†To this day a prejudice exists against acrylic paint- many is the gallery owner who won’t even look at my work if I tell them my medium before they see the work.

So, why do I persist in using acrylics? ¬†Mostly because that was the medium I was taught, but also because when I research other media, such as oils, I find I really question whether they are any better for the environment. ¬†The solvents and thinners, the fumes…

Recently I came across a manufacturer that is responding to concerns. ¬†I am so pleased by this; ¬†they have developed an extensive water filtering system which allows them to reuse their water in the production of paint, plus allows the water that does leave the plant to do so more cleanly. ¬†Also, they use recycled and recyclable plastic for their paint tubes, using locally sourced materials. ¬†No trans-ocean voyages for these paint tubes. ¬†Hooray! ¬†Now about those canvases that start in India, travel to China, ship to Peoria, then….