I took these photos before haze from the wildfires raging out west drifted in, dimming the sky's intense blue. These glorious North American prairie natives look like they've evolved specifically to highlight a stunning blue sky and spark the rest of us to do good things. Scorching wildfires and haze may have dimmed the sky's radiant blue, but back in the studio, I remember that blue. I remember the prairie. Be sure to check out my paintings at the botom of the page.
Deep summer. Mosquitoes and butterflies. Fireflies. Japanese beetles. Woods are loudly green and prickly. Sweet corn and summer squash. Pup dozes on cool floor. Deer munch green beans to the very last pod. Cicadas hum. First ripe tomato. Anise hyssop. Purple coneflower. Daylilies. Swimming at Salmo Pond. Pulling weeds. Speckled fledgling robins, baby skunks, and adolescent foxes gorge on fallen mulberries. Here comes the basil. Pesto. Yum. Homemade dill pickles. Hammock in the shade. Waiting for a cool breeze.
Drought. Floods. Wildfires. Extreme weather events. Diminishing food security. Increased competition for potable water. Aquifer contamination. Record-setting heat. Largest reservoirs down 60%. Sea level rise. Habitats destroyed. Bird and bee populations plummet. Mass extinctions. Crumbling infrastructure. Poverty. Political division. Uprisings. Suppression. Pandemic. Corporate greed. A plethora of -isms. Arrogance. Ignorance. Denial. Indecision. Inaction.
As they say, if you're not worried, you're not paying attention. Honest-to-goodness, while elated with summer's splendor, I continue to be appalled by the overarching idiocy of my own species. Don't worry, I'm not buying into the doomsday thing, either. Fear and hopelessness drain power and ability to act. And it's the beauty, activism, and innovation that I still see all around me every day that inspire hope—the sky in 2050 will be blue.
The challenges we face are not insurmountable. When we love something, we work to protect it from harm. If you're able, I hope you'll take an opportunity to volunteer in or support local public lands wherever you live, in whatever way you can. Or specifically, help with local prairie restoration here and here. Or actively work to make Earth a better place in any of these 25 ways (be sure not to miss #13!).
Please share with those around you (including me!), the steps you're taking, large or small, toward blue skies and a healthy tomorrow for all of Earth's beings. We need each other's encouragement. And we need to hold corporations, as well as local, state, and federal officials, accountable. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I appreciate you.
I don't know about you, but now that I'm back out there, meeting friends and actually doing things with bunches of maskless people, I notice how awkward and overcome I often feel. Stilted conversations, forgotten gestures of affection, and out-of-practice manners abound. It's like a garden overgrown with weeds–I want my plants to thrive but just can't seem to get started or find the energy to get things done. Well, the weeding has begun. I'm plugging away at it, slowly, surely, deliberately. Here are 3 Helpful Actions that 18 months of relative isolation have left a bit rusty, as expressed in my recent paintings:
1. Say, "Yes, Please," without expectation or self-absorption. It's a big world full of faces and it's not all about me and my quaranteam anymore.
2. Follow "The Golden Rule." Seems a no-brainer. The hard part is taking the time to truly put myself in others' shoes.
3. Make space in every busy day for "Peace, and Quiet." We've gotten used to a lot of quiet time. A lot. The thrust back into hustle-bustle requires reprieve.
Wouldn't it be great if this formidable pandemic left us kinder, gentler, and more receptive? As we launch ourselves into the peopled world after a long, dark year and a half, I wish you a soft and blissful landing. Enjoy summer, my friends!
After a long winter's wait, homegrown salad. Yum. The effort to grow as many vegetables and fruits as possible begins its payoff. Did you know I have eight kinds of edible berries growing in our modest yard?
Joining me in their wait for the season's first berries, robins fill their bellies with wiggly worms. Nearby, big fuzzy bumblebees tumble the columbine and young squirrels are practically giddy with the abundance they've discovered their first spring. It's all so exciting!
Spotting a pesticide truck cruise the neighborhood, I cringe. It's hard to comprehend people still spraying so much poison in their yards. Disheartening—and stinky. Is the sight of dandelions so disagreeable that we poison everyone and everything around us? Trying not to let it drive me crazy, perhaps the most effective therapy is to thank the kind, bright folks who strive to avoid the stuff. Want a truly healthy yard? You're a champ!. Thanks for being considerate.
While it's busy in the garden, I'm still putting in plenty of studio time. Colors and forms have been bold and strong. Someone recently told me my new painting, "Swing the Balance," seen here, reminded them of "pool toys floating around." I love that! But the only pool around here is a wee kiddie pool our pup loves to lounge in on warm afternoons.
Here's to almost summer! Enjoy!
The energy is palpable. Sky will be interrupted, even blocked, by masses of green that will last until fall. This time of year is exhilarating. Every time I walk outside, birds sing it, insects hum it, flowers dance it. From mighty oak to graceful maple, something exciting is going on and everybody knows it. Sap is rising. Buds are breaking. Leaves are unfurling. Here come the Trees!
I'm off on woodland adventure to one of the trees I appreciate for her willingness to listen, and once in a while, to sing in response. Stretching my arms around her immense girth, I feel a pulse rise through her roots and up through my feet. I thrum back pulses of my own. An energizing reciprocity. I highly recommend tree-hugging. The more hugs, the merrier.
To Trees–some of Earth's wisest, most generous beings–thank you. Happy Earth Day!!
11 Things to Know About Trees- Click on the blue link to learn more
1. One large tree provides enough oxygen for a family of four
2. The world's largest tree, by volume, is the General Sherman Sequoia in California
3. Tree shaded surfaces can be 20-45 degrees cooler than area in open, direct sunlight
4. Trees remove pollutants and reduce stormwater runoff
5. Trees provide essential food and shelter for wildlife
6. The oldest trees in the world are more than 5,000 years old
7. Trees communicate with each other and recognize their offspring
8. Trees and plants boost memory, attention, and cognitive outcomes in children
9. Trees help us all feel good both physically and mentally
10. Forests are carbon sinks and help fight Climate Change
11. Worldwide, a football field sized swath of forest is destroyed every second of every day
Trees do so much for us. What can we do for trees?
See details of my "Talk With Trees" painting here
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I've been getting lots of questions about my painting process, so, with as little fuss as possible, here goes–
Trained in studio art, graphic design, and landscape architecture, I have a broad background in art and design, and enjoy many techniques and styles. Deeply imprinted to lands I've been exploring since childhood, painting cultivates connection and honors my kinship to the natural world.
The last bunch of years, as a full-time painter, I've settled into a sort of abstract expressionism as my process of choice. There's no plan in sight when I begin a painting–no drawings, no sketching on the canvas, no preconceived ideas, just an open mind, a lifetime of experience, some paint, and my brush. Don't get me wrong–I like to draw and sketch, just not as preparation for painting.
My painting process flows from the brain through the brush in the moment. It's entirely spontaneous and unpredictable. Oddly, I find the lack of certainty soothing. Painting connects me to myself, and at the same time, frees me from that very same self. It's about willingness to trust.
When it's going well, painting takes the snippets and shards that make my life and releases them onto canvas in a voyage of curiosity, authenticity, skill, and perspective.
Many of these things are, of course, hard won over time...and...wait for it...experience. Nature knows it. Living humans like me need to remember it. Whether by choice or by chance, we are what we do. We are the sum of our experiences. For the moment, I'm going to keep painting. Then...out into the sunshine! How about you?
Some things about February are worthy of true love.
Between the 1st and 28th of February, we gain about an hour and 15 minutes of daily sunlight- something we can all love. In addition, the sun is moving higher and higher in the sky- about 15 degrees higher here in Madison, WI, USA. I love feeling the light grow more intense, don't you?
Alternately, the clear, crisp night sky is something to love in February. Toward the end of the month, we'll be able to view, without a telescope, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn at various times during the night.
Out in the woods, owls are mating and nesting while squirrels are busy raising their first litter of the year. Yep. The season of reproductive love has begun. Even migratory birds are beginning to make their way to northern breeding grounds. I saw my first robin just yesterday. It looked too tired and surprised by the snow and cold to be thinking about love.
Valentine's Day brings thoughts of love to our species. I'm given to the idea that Valentine's Day is more about love in the larger sense, rather than the guilt-love fed to us by sellers of chocolate and diamonds. Of course I love my spouse, friends and family. And chocolate. But I'm not stopping there.
I love the excitement of standing before a big blank canvas. Woo-hooo!
I love the process that accompanies abstraction, as opposed to more realistic work, because it most rouses my courage as a painter, and challenges your openness as a viewer.
I love what I do in the studio and while walking in wild places because it keeps me directed toward the sublime unknowable- the place of my heart. My artistic process is a progression of making adjustments and exploring the edges rather than capturing any sort of ideal. I hope you love it. It won't break my heart if you don't.
Enough about me. How do you find heart? Where do you find love? Things to ponder this strange, sparkly, chocolatey, red, pink, and love-ly February 14th.
Happy Valentine's Day, my friends!! Take care and be well!
The above painting collection includes some of my available favorites that feature red or pink, completed in the last four years.
A friend recently wondered what two words I'd use to describe the past year. My answer–complicated and precarious. I'm sure you can do better. But more specifically, when it comes to my own work in the studio, upside down and backwards come to mind. When the pandemic began, I thought to myself, "Isolation? No problem. That's my game. That's what I do every day in my studio."
I'd been expecting a relatively unchanged routine as a highly self-motivated artist, who loved nothing better than spending hours alone in her studio or out exploring the wild countryside. The gut punch was that instead I felt as disengaged from myself and my work as I've ever been. While many of my artist friends were sharing mounds of new work and creative inspiration, I felt oddly thick and stuck. It took a couple of months for me to gain some footing in the new normal. That footing is still precarious, as most of us understand by now.
Yet, pandemic and political mayhem somehow provoked a new level of focus, determination, and inexplicably, joy, in my art practice and small business, as well as my spirit.
I'm working to amplify the impact of gratefulness as changing norms disrupt my comfort zone. Or in everyday English–being able to say thank you is more important to me than ever. So thank you. You've reached out with words of encouragement and support. You've looked, shared, purchased my work, read this blog, and so much more. I sincerely appreciate every gesture, however small.
Too gushy? With so many people unnecessarily silenced forever, I think not. It's no time to be lax, numb, or indifferent. We just passed the one year anniversary of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the US. In memory of the silenced, to avoid ending on a down note, and for curiosity's sake, what are your two words to describe this year, and what have you come to appreciate more?
Hey! You can see the above finished painting here.
Follow me on my Facebook Art Page and on Instagram for more studio hubbub.
December 21st, the official start of winter in the northern hemisphere, marks Earth's maximum "away" tilt from the sun. In Wisconsin, we'll take in around 6 hours and 22 minutes less daylight than the longest day in June.
I don't know about you, but for me that's way too short a day. Plus, it gets blasted cold in my cement-floored studio and I have to don long underwear and drink too much coffee to stay warm in here. Not to fret–the amount of daily sunlight we receive grows after the solstice as we edge toward spring. Though my studio will stay chilly a few more months, additional daylight warms my spirit.
Noting the Winter Solstice as both the night of deepest darkness and the return of light is more than an act of faith. For me, celebrating this celestial event honors ancestral abilities to figure out how the world around us works, and our drive to continue doing so. Celebrating Solstice is my salute to brave, brainy, inquisitive human minds throughout the ages.
Here's to following your curiosity, Happy Solstice, my friends!!!
Grateful feels weird this year. Like many others with high risk for COVID-19 complications, I am not without moments of panic pretty much every day. Nothing about these times is normal or easy, and we all know our daily lives will not go back to the way they were, nor should they.
An artist friend commented on an artist interview I recently did, "I don’t know how you can be that happy in the middle of a pandemic, but more power to you!"
My response was, “I know what you mean, but honestly, it's invigorated my thoughts about how precious every moment is. Sounds trite, but dang, it's a lesson I learned young, and the universe seems to continue reinforcing it.”
Is it possible to find the positive and hang on for dear life? Choosing love over fear, day after day, can be exhausting. As Mr. Rogers wisely said, “Look for the helpers.”
I'm choosing bright, bold colors and wild, loopy forms as helpers. Box breathing is another helper. It really works. So does a vigorous hike in the woods. Writing a note to a friend makes me feel better. So does a physically distanced walk around the block with a neighbor. I thought comfort baking was a helper until I couldn't zip my pants, so it's been downgraded to the "un" helper list.
I have no illusions about what a long, formidable winter this will be. Find your helpers.
Can we share our humble gratitude for a moment? Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!
My last entry was was a hallelujah to tomato red. Well, things have cooled down considerably and I've been all about blue. In surveys spanning continents and cultures, blue, in fact, is the world's favorite color. It's been awhile since I've written about blue and it's worth a reprise.
Did you know that blue is an anomaly in nature? While banding a bluebird many years ago, I learned that most critters we think of as "blue" only appear blue. It's optical hocus pocus- birds' blue feathers, insects' blue wings, even blue eyes only seem blue. They contain no blue pigment. Their blue is purely a function of specialized frameworks and the scattering of light. If you pulverize a blue feather, it will no longer appear blue because its tiny reflective structures have been damaged. It will look gray or brownish. Contrast that with beets- they remain red when crushed because their color comes from pigment.
Nature produces only a wee handful of blue pigments. A few minerals, such as lapis lazuli, azurite, and cobalt, can be ground to create blue pigment. Blue dyes can be conjured from a minute number of plants like woad (Isatis tinctoria) and true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria). Historically, painters know blue as the rarest and most expensive of colors. Most of the blue dyes and pigments we use today are synthesized.
Blues range from deep teal to rich indigo, and have been significant in human culture for at least 5,000 years. The mantle of the Virgin Mary, Egyptian mummy linens, and the Hindu God Krishna's clothing, have often been depicted as blue. In some religions, blue is the color of the 5th chakra, and indigo is the color of the 6th chakra.
Blue is said to be the color of wisdom, intuitive knowledge, and transformation. Blue conveys integrity. It makes us feel calm, yet vibrantly strong. If you're affected by a prevalence of negativism and fear-mongering, it may be time to roll out the blue.
Choosing to be surrounded by color, grace, and resourcefulness in discordant times is empowering. It invigorates our senses and emboldens our creativity. It makes the muses frisky. And that's where real magic happens.
PS- I'm going to be clever now, and confess that my favorite color is whichever one I'm squeezing out of the tube. What's yours?!
PSS- If you haven't voted yet, now's the time. Is my sudden blue obsession a less-than-subtle nudge? You'll have to decide. Be well, my friends of all chromatic persuasions.
See the details of any painting by clicking on the image.
To see more of my "Blue" paintings, click here.
Why is the sky blue? https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/blue-sky/en/
Is the sea really blue? http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/201505226-is-the-sea-really-blue
Oh golly, do I have tomatoes on the brain. For weeks now, I can't stop seeing tomato red. Literally bursting in the garden, a rouge party of Brandywine, San Marzano, Jaune Flammée, Amish Paste, and Sungold gathers on the cool countertop. The kitchen is rich with the steamy scent of garlic and tomato. Over 100lbs processed so far–fresh, frozen, canned, sun dried. Even homemade ketchup. I'm going wild in the garden, the kitchen, and in the studio, soaking in these bountiful days, putting up yum for the colder days to come, and painting the plenitude.
Grateful for a distraction from the day after day monstrosities occurring near and far, maintaining physical and mental health these days is no small thing. Who knew tomatoes could be salvation? Can homemade ketchup bring enlightenment? Definitely maybe.
The last few days, though, I've noted a pull to begin cooling things down with some calmer blues. We'll see what comes next.
Meanwhile, I wonder–what are you doing to be well? What simple things lighten your heart?
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please take good care. And if you like tomatoes, now's the time!
Click on paintings' photos to see details.
My smaller Quarantine pieces are still available for a limited time. If you've been wanting one, this is your chance! See them here before it's too late.
When this quarantine began, was I the only one who imagined it would be over relatively quick? Well, half a year later, a pandemic, with no end in sight, is still testing our mettle. To the family, friends, and acquaintances who've helped me get to today, whether with a "safely distanced" walk, a video chat, or a simple "like" or kind comment on social media, thank you. It all helps.
As the heat of summer cools toward autumn, I've been thinking more about thank you. The Quarantine Collection is my simple gesture. As you know if you've seen my work, I love painting big! But I get it. Big paintings take up a lot of space and are less affordable. Well, during this time of isolation, I've painted some smaller pieces and it's a win/win.
The original paintings in this collection are the lowest price I've offered in years. Plus, your purchase supports these inspiring organizations–Black Votes Matter, Rainforest Foundation US, and National Women's Law Center. They'll receive 40% of the profits from your purchase.
If you've been wanting to own one of my paintings, this is your chance. My 12"x 12"paintings normally sell for $500. These are just $225 each. The metallic gold, gem-like 9" x 12" pieces are a steal at $200. Perfect for any room, or as a housewarming or holiday gift. They're great in pairs or groups, too. Remember, 40% of the profit goes to uplifting causes.
All paintings in this collection are acrylic on archival hardboard, mounted on cradled wood with a natural finish, so framing is not necessary. Ready to hang, these original, one-of-a-kind paintings are signed on the reverse. Sales are through an Etsy shop I set up just for this collection.
This is a limited time offer and will end in September. Whether brightening up your home office or getting some early holiday shopping wrapped up, now's the time!
A big thanks for your consideration. I truly appreciate you. Feel free to contact me with any questions. And be well!
Two days ago, while leash walking our dog, he snatched a baby rabbit hunkered down alongside the path. He did it so fast, I'd have missed it if not for the piercing squeak, and tiny feet momentarily dangling from his mouth. One gulp, and bye-bye bunny. I was horrified. And I was wrong. He wasn't being a “bad” dog. He was just being a dog.
As Homo sapiens, we like to distinguish ourselves from other animals who simply follow their instincts. That in itself is a hotly contested topic. Regardless, our imagination, ability to think abstractly, and ingenuity have tipped the evolutionary scales greatly in our favor. This rise to dominance is also our curse. We make choices under the delusion that we can separate our own well-being from that of the rest of the world. But survival of the fittest is an incomplete story. Nature is a continuum composed of a multitude of living things and interactive systems. Research is demonstrating that cooperation is a key driver in evolutionary success, What I do as an individual is inescapably about what I do to the rest of the planet. My daily actions mark my direction as surely as fossilized dinosaur tracks on long-gone shores.
These days, when I read the news, I'm pretty sure that in spite of evolutionary success, we are the most reckless, idiotic species ever to walk the planet. Still, I believe in us. But the stories we currently tell ourselves and each other limit our vision and restrict our possibilities. Humanity is at a critical juncture–Can our ingenuity and imagination help us open up the world in new ways that bring real ecological awareness, social justice, and unity? Can we stop being so selfish and take the long view that considers balance and well-being for all?
Please say, “Yes.”
Listening, processing. I believe change for the better is coming. But first it's going to get much more uncomfortable as we reckon with centuries of injustice, pain, and fear. That's why I need to keep my eye on the good that will follow.
See details from above painting, New Wings.
See details from below painting, Sun 1 (Flowers).
See details for below painting, When the Lilacs Bloom.
This is my "social" veggie garden. It's planted along the street. Passing neighbors stop to ask questions or chat. Favorite moment so far this year–a 4 year old neighbor gleefully shouted from the road, "You look like an old farmer in that big straw hat." His dad quickly interjected, "Not OLD farmer." with a wink.
Is COVID-19 distancing giving you a boxed-in feeling? I have a positive suggestion–take a moment the next clear evening to take a look at the night sky. Worldwide industrial shut downs have led to drastically improved air quality and clarity so stars are looking brighter and more numerous than ever. It's heart-stirring to imagine this singular moment and our place in its vastness.
I was a child when the first Earth Day was celebrated 50 years ago this month. I remember a tattered copy of Silent Spring on the coffee table, though it would be 12 years before I read it. Its author, Rachel Carson, became one of my heroes. I'd tell you about her, but I can't do her the justice that Maria Popova does in her Brain Pickings article, The Writing of Silent Spring: Rachel Carson and the Culture-Shifting Courage to Speak Truth to Power. I hope you'll take time to read it, and maybe even Silent Spring, in celebration of our unique and magnificent planet Earth.
As artist and naturalist, thoughts about my place on this planet and in this universe are undercurrent to all my work. I've recently been working on a series of paintings in honor of Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and Earth Day. I've included several on this page. Learn more about my paintings, Sense of Wonder, Among the Beauties and Mysteries, Spring After Winter, and Spring after Winter 2.
Thank you, Earth, and Happy Earth Day! We best remember that every day is your day, so that we may continue ours. Be well, my friends.
A few of my favorite quotes by Rachel Carson–
"Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?"
"There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide."
"Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life."
"If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."
"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter."
While social distancing, desperately hoping to “flatten the curve” I've been craving more time in the woods and prairies and less in the studio. If you've gotten outside at all, it's hard not to notice that other species are in spring frenzy mode. Thank goodness it's March. Imagine if it were November, with holidays to be spent in isolation and many dark, cold months ahead. A small thing to be grateful for.
A couple of mornings ago, I was wandering a half-frozen, marshy area full of artesian springs and was nearly overcome by the smell of skunk. My young dog was pretty interested until he figured out it was just skunk cabbage. Did you know skunk cabbage makes its own heat? One of the first blooms of spring, it emerges even when the ground is still frozen. Warming themselves up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, they melt surrounding snow and soil. The stinky spadix (see below photo), or flowering body, attracts early hatching flies and carrion beetles.
We'd found skunk cabbage paradise. Next to a gurgling, crystalline spring.
My small observation is that the rest of the environment is managing our human pandemic rather well, so far. Lack of air and highway traffic means air quality worldwide has seen drastic improvement. Lack of boat traffic in Venice has brought back water clarity. Not since 9/11 has science had such an opportunity to gather environmental data, and hopefully, turn it into strategies that foster resilience.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next month in the midst of a global pandemic, it's become glaringly obvious that human existence on this planet is part of a delicate balance. "Oh, no!" moment: Just before hitting "publish" this morning, I nearly choked on my coffee when I read that the EPA "temporarily" suspended enforcement of regulations because of the virus.
An added observation: OMG. "Never waste a crisis" taken to a whole new level of lunacy.
Politics and corrupt economics are killing us in this very moment. Some would say that's nothing new.
But I'm not giving up. Adversity can be the best teacher, if we're open to learning from our mistakes. It's about building on what history has shown us, guided by science, to cultivate a flexibility that is not afraid of diversity, knowledge, and expertise.
Maybe then, next time the tiniest things in the natural world lay siege against us, we'll be armed to fight back with our strongest evolutionary weapon–our brains.
Be well. Be smart. Get outside to enjoy the spring while maintaining proper distance. And please, VOTE.
See details of Early Light 2 and Early Light 1
Animals living in areas where cold is a seasonal norm survive using a broad set of adaptive mechanisms. They insulate, hibernate, store food, synthesize anti-freeze in their circulatory systems. They pupate. They gather together for warmth. They prey on those weakened by winter's harshness. They store fat to burn during leanest times.
As a painter, these cold days I'm thinking about survival via the power of adaptation. Broadly speaking, to adapt means making adjustments to meet variable conditions or situations. Because I work without expectation or subject, and not from drawings, photos, or sketches, painting an oversized canvas is a strange exercise in adaptation based on experience.
Abstract expressionism in process, my painting is physical, emotional, immediate, and unpredictable. When it's going well, it feels wild. Every brushstroke creates a new path, to which whatever follows will totally adjust. Sometimes the whole thing goes kerflooey. If it doesn't go kerflooey once in awhile, I know I'm not pushing my boundaries. So kerflooey is good.
I'm well-aware that painting is not a matter of life and death in the larger world. It's not saving the life of a gunshot victim. It's not fighting fire, or being a foster parent to traumatized teens. But even after decades of practice, painting continues to teach me new things. In incremental measures of letting go, facing fear, asking questions, messing up, and making new things, I find joy. Painting helps me be a positive presence in a world that can feel pretty dim.
I am one lucky human animal in the middle of this cold northern winter.
I don't know about you, but this getting-dark-early thing gets old fast for me. It's kind of not good when the sun sets at 4:22 pm and my hypothalamus is signaling, "Bedtime!"
December 21st marks the longest, darkest night and the official start of winter.
In Wisconsin, we'll take in around 6 hours and 22 minutes less daylight than the longest day in June. But not to fret- from here, the amount of daily sunlight we receive grows as we tilt toward spring. Something to celebrate!
Our well-used, wooden stepladder has become part of the celebratory tradition. Three years ago, the long-time family ritual of cutting our own tree morphed. Born of an effort to minimize consumerism, and supreme laziness, the Christmas Ladder now blesses our home with light and joy. And it's beautiful. Thanks to our neighbor, Beth, for the inspiration.
In the studio these days, I find myself oscillating wildly between monochromatic grays and vivid brights–a form of compensation? Or celebration?
Happy Solstice! Bring on the light!
View additional photos & details of below painting, "The Chase," here.
We all live with and depend upon the land, whether consciously, or mindlessly. I am curious about how I experience the land that surrounds me, how I feel it deep in my bones, how to express that relationship, and what I can learn from it.
Thanks to the land that sustains us, and to you for encouraging my explorations! Your kind words, likes, thoughtful critiques, and support mean the world to me.
It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.
See details from, Invisible Trails (Perception), here.
See details from, A Wild Delight, here.
See details from, Between Seasons, here.
The calendar says it's late fall. Our first accumulating snowfall is expected tonight. I've put the gardens to bed, stowed the lawn mower, and located our bird feeders and snow shovels. On the surface, you'd think I'm gearing up for a cold, northern winter.
But that's not the whole truth. A chance, mind-blowing encounter with many thousands of monarchs, migrating through my own backyard in southern Wisconsin, still has me reeling a month later. I've never seen such a thing in all my years. I can't get it out of my head. What serendipity, being outside in the right place at the right moment. I am humbled and grateful.
Not usually given to representational work, these are a couple from my series called, "Fluttering Sky."
Update: Mother Nature brought us our first snowfall, as predicted, last night. It's gorgeous. And about a month earlier than average. Goodbye, butterflies!
The Art World. Smart. Edgy. Elite. Select, successful talents exhibiting world-as-we-know-it-is-over kind of stuff. Who's hot? Who's not? Why? So much to respond to. And I appreciate that work.
But it's not my work. My work is anti-that. Standing in front of a big, blank canvas, silencing the stream of information, distraction, judgment, messaging, and tasking, just to see what happens, is my thing. Unplanned, spontaneous tapping of the well-spring. Trying to make something from as absolutely nothing as possible. Painting a picture made of unregistered experience, immediately unrecognizable as anything in particular. Attainment is variable.
To be honest, working this way sometimes feels un-American. I hear the anthems–How many paintings have you sold? What are you trying to say? How does it contribute to the Contemporary Art Conversation? I note self-doubt, guilt, and limits creep in just thinking about it. Shut up, already, you muse-slayers.
What I know is that for me, cultivating process over outcome is worth it. On that indeterminate, earthy trail, I encounter patterns, forms, and thoughts that are truer, deeper, and richer–the things that foster perseverance. And perseverance, not any single piece, or judgment, is what measures success. Anyone can make art, but will you do it again? And again? And again?
5 Steps to Becoming a Successful Artist
1. Take a risk.
2. Make something you want to see/experience.
3. Go ahead, be vulnerable and share it.
4. Listen, but don't obsess over response.
See additional views and details for the above painting,
Invisible Trails (Bee & Flower, Pink & Red) here.
Honestly, I get all emotional walking through acres of restored prairie in late August. It's that plaintive, wistful feeling that comes from life bumping into skin bruised by grief and yet touched by grace. That longing that doesn't even know what it wants, but longs for it anyway.
Prairie speaks to me. I like to listen.
Cicadas buzz. Bluebirds gather. Unhappy to have her nut-burying extravaganza interrupted, a flustered squirrel is scolding my pup from the upper branches of an old oak.
July's peak wildflower explosion of colors is over. Now yellow runs the show. Silphium and Big bluestem tower overhead, dripping cool morning dew onto my face as I brush past. Red is just beginning to touch the leaves of the sumac.
Even though I'm not ready for summer's end, I can feel it coming. Here in this prairie, I can breathe deeply and give it a grateful and reverent goodbye.
Only a teeny, tiny fraction of our original, native prairies remain. Once the dominant ecosystem here, isolated remnants can still be found near old cemeteries, along roadsides and railroad tracks, and on steep bluffs, where accessibility, and plowing, is difficult.
The good news is–prairie restoration. Local, state, and federal governments, schools, businesses, and homeowners have been planting native prairie species and working to create larger prairie ecosystems. These prairies provide food and shelter for native insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. And the good medicine of solace and respite to humans spending time wandering and tending them.
“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability” – Sam Keen
Scent of clover rises as I tickle my way, barefoot, toward the garden.
Time-keeper cicada initiates a drawn out, mid-afternoon buzz, beginning the chorus.
Red Admiral butterflies float and flutter.
Long firefly evenings.
Lawn mowers. Mosquitoes. Construction zones. Dog sprayed by mulberry-gorged skunk.
In summer's humidity, paint dries more slowly. Lines are looser. Colors melt and flow. Or not. Cool concrete floor. Weeds and grasses so tall the studio window is barricaded in green.
Deep summer. Time to slow. Just sit and watch that tomato ripen.
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. Her abstract landscape paintings cultivate connection to the lands she explores.
©2021 Michelle Louis All rights reserved. Content and images are property of the artist.