Today I am working on a 30x40 oil of Nelson’s Lake, a local preserve west of Batavia, Illinois. Lower right corner is where I will be adding paint. I’ve made many, many trips out to this preserve over the years. Met the couple who began it by restoring their farm to its natural, wild state. They have passed on since then and now the state maintains the preserve. The wildflowers, the birds, snakes, and snapping turtles make their home there, along with deer. Pelicans visit as they migrate, birds of prey raise families here. Insects of all kinds keep the wildflowers pollenated and humans running for their Deep Woods Off , which in my case seems to be the dinner bell.
On my first visit to the place my students and myself were visited by several different kinds of snakes, all harmless - I think. Linda, my friends wife, was petrified as a few charged us. Linda is afraid of worms so it was a real remembrance for her. Another trip a swarm of bees surrounded us. No stings, just a few had to be pulled from our palettes and paintings. These bees seem to go for the color blue. Spent many Sundays out there with my class teaching painting and learning from them about which plants were edible and which kept flies away.
These days I work in my studio from photos of Nelson’s Lake and from the few plein air paintings I have left from my many trips out there. My eyes see many more colors now than I did while actually there. I smile each morning entering the studio remembering a screaming Linda as three garden snakes slid under her stool one Sunday. Forty years later I watch Jordan pick up a tiny toad from the path, talk to it, and move it to a safer place.
I remember these little things as I mix colors and lift my brush to just the right spot and lay in a blade of grass, or give the milkweed one more summer leaf. A touch more yellow for one green than a bit more blue to another. Several greens are already there on my palette straight from the tub, but the greens of nature call for more mixing, and for greying in some cases. Greying things is not usually in my nature, in most cases embellishing is my way. There are times, though, where a touch of black is called for. My days are full when painting, remembering, making decisions, and mixing and lifting dabs of color.