Sand Coreopsis Drenched Dunes

Sometimes it takes me a couple of years to process something I’ve seen and this is a good example. A couple (few?!) years ago Steve Schwartzman and his wife Eve came up this way and I had the pleasure of meeting them in person and showing them some of my favorite places. I had such a wonderful time with them and really hated to see them leave for home. As if to honor their visit, Illinois Beach State Park put on and amazing show, the dunes blanketed with sand coreopsis. I’ve not seen that abundance of bloom before or since so I took lots of pictures.

Recently, I bought a REALLY BIG canvas~it is a whopping 36×48 Inches! Wow! What fun, but also a bit intimidating. Also, it barely fits in my car. ahem. I wanted a subject worthy of so much canvas, so started hunting through my archives of photos and came across the series from that wonderful summer visit. This painting is based on those photos. My goal was to make the viewer feel they were standing right there on the trail, surrounded by sand. The underpainting is a very loose layer of soft colors, which I later allowed to remain visible in places to highlight the open nature of the habitat. Although succession is occurring on the dunes, still the plants are widely spaced because the sand hasn’t accumulated much organic matter yet to support dense foliage. Change has come surprisingly quickly, though. Just over the 24 years I’ve been studying them, I’ve seen the vegetation grow much more densely along there.

Today this painting and a handful of others will be heading up to Kenosha to be part of a month-long exhibit at Lemon Street Gallery. Hope I can get it in the car….


  1. Can you believe it was almost three years ago? Tempus fugit. I never would have known about Illinois Beach State Park (and the resort where we stayed) if not for you. I looked back and a post from 2016 reminded me that the sand coreopsis was the flower I most often saw there. Where I did closeups, you’ve presented people with a pleasant overview showing the flowers in their customary environment on the dunes.

    Have fun with your show at the Lemon Street Gallery. Too bad we can’t be there for the reception on April 13.


  2. This is so delightful. I stopped by a fringe of beach last week, and found some similar flowers there: maybe coreopsis, but maybe greenthread. All of them are so pretty and cheerful, and finding them covering dunes must have been an amazing experience. Flowers do what flowers will do, so you were wise to spend the the time talking photos and soaking it all in.

    As for the painting, it has an easy expansiveness that makes it especially attractive. Does working with a larger canvas give you a sense of exhilaration, or do you find yourself thinking, “Oh, my gosh — I’ve got all this canvas to fill”? Whatever your experience while painting, you’ve produced a beauty.


    1. Thank you! I was anxious to find a fitting subject for such a large canvas, but once I dove in, it was pure luxury. I’m so glad it gives you a sense of expansiveness. That is just what I was after with it. I love it that many of our flowers overlap.


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