As fall descends on the upper hemisphere, I was moved to incorporate the colors of the season into my new work. With the circular sunflowers representing the sun, this new digital collage, Setting Sunflowers of Autumn, alludes to shorter days and earlier fall sunsets. Like the petals above, the leaves also sport yellow, orange, and scarlet hues.
In addition, I am intrigued by fractals, nature’s self-repeating forms at various scales. The center disc of a sunflower grows in a fractal spiral, so I created a green and black background texture to echo this effect.
More Autumn Colors, in Pastel
Although the pastel to the left is a pastel still-life, it was inspired by the season’s colors. To describe my vision, I wrote a short narrative after a drive among the hills where I live: in Wisconsin, along the Mississippi, autumn brings a feast for the eyes. I noticed this driving a winding road between the bluffs, rolling and climbing toward the blue sky and then plunging into the valleys below. The mid-green trees displayed sun-kissed touches of yellow, and I even noted an occasional shock of red. Interspersed among the hills were farmlands offering a scene of golden stalks of corn. Around the curve, I observed beige prairie grasses that rolled up and down the terrain.
These chive blossoms were the perfect subject for my new collage series because I love color, pattern, and oval shapes. I was intrigued by the sense of whimsy these botanicals demonstrated as they sprung from the earth. In addition, the flowers are environmentally friendly, attracting bumblebees. They are even edible, adding a mild garlic flavor to food. Finally, to complement the beauty of these florals, I added green and purple graphic elements.
For me, this colorful cluster represents the joy of spring and summer coming forth. At the same time, they are analogous to our new path; the need for social distance is lessening, and people are gathering again.
A Cautionary Tale
Yet, let other countries tell a cautionary tale. Early in 2021, the government of India imposed few restrictions on crowds because they thought the virus had peaked. Then the latest COVID-19 Delta variant appeared, and illness increased rapidly. It is more contagious and affects younger people in more significant numbers than the original virus. Of course, many counties also lack access to the vaccines that we have.
Lurking (above) is also composed of purple and green colors but has a more somber tone and feel. I created it in October 2020, when we were in the thick of the pandemic. This image blends thistle foliage with a portrayal of the coronavirus. These spiky, intertwining plants could be symbolic of a place where the virus still lurks among us.
That warm, muggy evening of July 20, 1969, seems like yesterday. It was 50 years ago. I had just watched the live televised moon landing and then went out to my front yard to be with some youthful friends. We gazed at the full moon, with its bright surface and craters. It seemed so distant, and yet a little closer than before, with the utterance of the words by astronaut Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
In honor of the first moon landing anniversary, I am re-posting my collages from the series, Full Moon Musing. I started working with a simple photograph of a springtime tree and billowing clouds behind it. With a few experiments in PhotoShop, I realized that the clouds also took on the shape of craters within the appearance of full moons. Thus, the series of art prints began. Eventually, I added elements of water, shells, and flowers to the circular shapes. I was stunned at the visual connections between earth, water, and sky.
This new image visually contrasts flowers and the aging technology of the electrical grid. These flowers, although thin and wiry like the transmission lines, are animated and lively. By comparison, the towers appear to be an ancient construct. As the window for preventing dramatic climate warming closes, the energy transmitted through the grid continues to be produced by a 63% blend of fossil fuel and nuclear, rather than environmentally friendly renewable sources.
The electric grid in its current state brings to mind the over year-long recovery of Puerto Rico from the destruction of category five Hurricane Maria. The island grid was almost totally destroyed. The power has not yet been restored to all of its citizens. Puerto Rico, vulnerable to storms, is also rich in renewable sources such as wind, solar, water, and biomass. Still, with our current laws, FEMA is required to restore power to match the destroyed system exactly as it was. And so, the government is currently rebuilding the grid without updates. Tall towers are being built in inaccessible areas such as mountain tops in favor of more manageable local grids fueled by solar or wind. In addition, the importing of expensive fossil fuel needs to continue.
In spite of these FEMA requirements, philanthropists and private companies have come in to help. They donated roof-top solar systems, which form small renewable grids. This technology has helped some neighborhoods regain their electricity. While Puerto Rico’s energy problems and recovery are an extreme example of lack of economic and environmental foresight, I hope that we as a nation can learn from these missteps.
I am always searching for the unifying patterns in nature, whether it is the spiraling design of a seashell, the petals of a flower or magnificent formations of clouds. As an artist, I take joy in these visual treasures. In my art prints, I interpret the rhythms, colors and patterns in nature. I incorporate and organize these elements in pleasing, yet surprising ways.
Patterns in art
In my art print below, one can observe a galaxy of pattern on three starfish. They are nestled on an imagined beach among naturally purple seashells. In this invented world, bright colors, drawn from my acrylic painting, and resembling the northern lights, blend with these sea creatures.
I have asked myself, why do I consistently use the rounded shapes of natural forms such as seashells and flowers as subject matter for my digital collages? In addition, I wonder why I am attracted to nature’s patterns in clouds and waves on water. I have concluded that not only is this subject matter beautiful, but it is calming and gives me peace. Of course, as an artist, I also seek an original perspective through color, line and form. Perhaps for me, combining both the meditative and the novel is the key to my motivation.