The Cardinal

The Cardinal

I completed this painting a few weeks ago, but it looks like I forgot to post it so here it is.

One of my favorite memories was of my dad taking us hiking in the Sierras.  We marveled at the widely spaced, enormous ponderosa pines that we walked beneath.  The air was scented with pine, and the ground was springy from the fallen needles.  It felt like heaven to me.  I don’t know that I’ll ever see that again, but here in Illinois sometimes I’ll come across a stand of eastern white pine, and it takes me right back.

Every year I look around for a new group to join, to keep life fresh and interesting.  This spring I was invited to join a botanical arts group, and I’m just thrilled.  Needless to say some of the members find my work a bit loosey-goosey but I do have all those pen-and-ink drawings to show for myself.  I’ve bought some botanical art books, and some watercolors and hot-pressed papers.  Now I’m standing on the end of the diving board of new experiences, considering my next move.  It will be fun, I think, to see how precise I can be with watercolor….kind of a contradiction of terms, really.  And I’ll keep pushing my paintings looser and more expressive.


  1. Without the post’s title I wonder how long it would have taken me to notice the cardinal. Even with the title, I started scanning the painting from the left, and so arrived at the bird late in my search. The cardinal isn’t that different from the patches of red “southwest” of it.

    As for the Sierras and their pnderosa pines, I’ll bet you do get to see them again.


    1. Chuckle…I thought naming the painting after the little splash of red would provide a fun puzzle, and yes, I wanted to add a few red deciduous leaves to give the cardinal some context. I love it that you methodically started at the left~
      You are very kind to say that, Steve. I hope you are right although I’m not sure I want to see them as they are today, all crowded, built on, and charred!


  2. A very beautiful painting, Melissa that makes me actually smell the pine needles! Wishing you lots of fun with your new art group! Happy painting! 😄


  3. I love the size of the bird in this. It’s an epiphany, just as when I see one in my yard. I saw it right away, then my eye wandered through the trunks and branches.


  4. Probably because the cardinal’s one of my favorite birds, I saw it right away. You have it both hidden/not hidden, and that’s part of the fun.

    Your painting reminded me of another story about a different painting. A friend’s mother, an artist, was downsizing prior to a move. She had a winter scene painted on pressboard: a barn, plenty of snow and trees, and so on. When I asked the price, she gave it to me, and I put it in a place of honor. I especially like the bright red cardinal she’d placed in one of the trees.

    Some time later, we were talking about the painting, and I mentioned the cardinal. Obviously puzzled, she asked some questions. As it turned out, the “cardinal” I so much admired was a bit of red paint that had accidentally fallen from her brush onto the completed painting. She decided not to mess with it, and just left it.

    After learning the truth, I never could see the cardinal in the painting again. There’s some sort of lesson here, but I’m not sure what it is.


  5. Aw, that is sort of disappointing, isn’t it? I think the lesson was for the artist~say “thank you” and leave it at that! Many times people have seen animals lurking in my paintings where none exists, and I’ve made it my policy to respect what people see.


  6. The painting is beautiful, and the looseness – and colors – are, for me, what make it so appealing. But I also know the appeal of botanical art, first hand – do you know that I took a two year botanical illustration course at the New York Botanical Garden? It was wonderful. I enjoyed all of it – but looking at botanical illustration, my favorite pieces were always those that showed some emotion, some spirit of the plant if you will. It doesn’t happen all the time, but some illustrators manage to incorporate feeling AND accuracy. 🙂 It will be interesting to see how the group experience evolves for you – I hope any member who thinks your approach is too loose will ultimately learn to loosen up themselves.


    1. That is so cool you did that. Do you still make illustrations? I also have been doing a pen and ink series, to go along with my paintings. At this point I’ve done over 100 illustrations of native plants from my county. It appears to me that the group is going through a shift, with newer members (including the president) being in favor of loosening up. The woman who was giving me the hard time strikes me as someone who is extremely uncomfortable in her own skin, so I’m inclined to give her some slack.


  7. Beautiful, Melissa. He does blend in well into the background.
    I don’t know how, but somehow I didn’t get notified of your new posts, wrongly thought you were no longer on WordPress. I am glad I was wrong and to have found you again.


    1. Oh Tanja,
      it is so good to hear from you! Thank you, I’m glad you like him. I actually did leave WP very briefly and then got a fresh start. I’m still reconnecting with everyone. Thank you so much for finding me! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Cardinals are my favorite bird. They’ve always been just outside the back door … until I moved to Colorado. They are outliers here, rarely seen, and I’ve really missed them. I spotted yours right away.


    1. Thank you! That is sad you don’t get to see your cardinals very often. I’ve thought and thought about moving to the west coast (back home, for me) but one of the things that gives me pause would be having to trade the eastern blue jay for the Stellar’s jay. Just not the same…


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