The River in Winter

Des Plaines River Snow

This painting is actually from last year, I believe.  It was before my son moved away to northern Wisconsin, and we could still go out for rambles together.  It seemed fitting to share it with you today because yesterday we got hit with snow, and today, to seal the deal, record cold.  I’m not a fan of winter…  I wish I could tell you that this is how the painting looks today but I can’t.  After taking this photo of it I decided it should have some more snow falling, so I went about spattering white paint on until it looked properly snowy.  After a few weeks I took it to my gallery for changeover.  Apparently it wasn’t as dry as I thought (it is an oil painting, somewhat new for me) and someone brushed up against it.  Now it is but a smear.  sigh.  It sits there in the studio, reproaching me.  Can I bring it back to this fresh scene, I wonder?  Maybe I’ll just have prints made from this image and move on.

I do have happy news to share, and a shout out to my friends Jill and Diane 🙂  Jill is a wonderful graphic designer and she created an amazing brochure for me, while Diane is a member of our local Wild Ones chapter.  They were hosting a conference last weekend and she invited me to have a table there.  I felt like Cinderella, with my new brochures spread out on my table along with a small sampling of my work.  It was an amazing conference, with 3 really good speakers.  The final one was by a man in his 60’s who retired from one landscaping company, bought 60 acres, and is restoring it by himself.  Wow!  And, he has started a new firm in which he uses only natives to create wonderful, sustainable designs for people.  I walked away from that conference with my hope restored.  Yes, things are changing and maybe in rough shape, but it isn’t too late.  We can help turn things around.  He said that in the US, 60% of the land is in private hands.  That means that what we do, you and I, with our yards, matters.  If we can put out some native plants, and if our neighbors will as well, think what we can do with our 60%!


      1. This was my thought as well. I’d love to photograph that image with the bare branches in the foreground & the bridge in the background. Oils do take a long time to dry but they blend so much better than acrylics. Been a long time since I painted anything. I’m better at photography. Nice work!


      2. Thanks Lisa. After working in acrylics for 30+ years, I’m pretty comfortable with it and can get it to do pretty much whatever I want in terms of blending and glazing. When I pulled out this one to take a closer look to determine what it would take to resuscitate it, I found that the white paint had all turned yellow!!! So much for pure, archival pigment. That never happens with my acrylics so I think I’ll stick with what I know.

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  1. I’m sorry about the painting being smeared, but appreciate the good news. People in my family with houses have been giving over more of their yards & lawns for wildflowers, milkweed, etc. so I hope every little bit does help somehow.

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  2. It sure is. You work in oil, don’t you? How do you cope with wet paintings? I don’t really have room to stack them around waiting for them to dry. Although admittedly this was my first attempt and I think I had it way to oily. I was applying the paint as I would a wash in acrylic.

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  3. It’s interesting that a painting that depicts winter seems so warm. It reminds me of those perfect winter days when the wind is still, and the silence seems as deep as the snow. It’s really beautiful.

    What you say about the complexities of oils drying is familiar. We’ve moved into the time of year when oil-based varnishes, used outdoors, require a change in solvents and real attention to the clock. Varnish later than 2 p.m, and there’s a risk of milkiness when the dew settles. Have you ever used an accelerator in your paint? The old-fashioned addition to varnish is Japan Drier. I use it in winter, and occasionally during lovebug or “fluff” seasons, when I want the surface to tack off more quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have gotten exactly the sort of day it was, there on the river, still and silent with big fat flakes drifting down and catching on our eyelashes.
      I hadn’t considered an accelerator. That is fascinating, the chemistry you must bear in mind as you work through different conditions. Thank you for mentioning it.

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  4. What a shame that your painting was smeared. I hope you find the time and motivation to restore what was damaged. It is very much worth the effort. If not, well, I know someone who’ll print it on canvas for you.
    Your use of the tree to give us the sense of reaching out across the river is a strong element. And I think that it is impressive that someone who hates the cold has made it look so beautiful. Very nice, Melissa.

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  5. Your painting illustrates what photographs have a hard (if not impossible) time achieving. There’s the luminance and contrast that even the newest fangled sensors don’t get. It’s lovely. How very heartbreaking to have it smear…. Perhaps a bit of adjusting? You might even shape it into something equally lovely, if not the perfection of the original. Sad, but life goes on?


    1. Thank you Gunta 🙂
      As it turns out, the painting is more ruined than I realized. When I pulled it out to look at it, I found the white paint had not only smeared, but turned yellow! I’m not sure what caused that because I was using pure pigment and black walnut oil, which isn’t supposed to yellow. I concluded it isn’t worth trying to switch to acrylics. I like them and know what they’ll do. I’m not sad. Life does indeed go on.


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