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NEWSLETTER March 2011
Greetings from the mountains of western Maine!
Winter is so reluctant to let go of us this year. One day I am sitting on a tree stump in the woods, watching the bugs going about their business in the half-frozen leaf litter beside the melting snow. And the next day it is snowing again.
But the color and texture of the landscape has begun to change imperceptibly. The dry brown branches look a little less dead. Some buds are visibly swelling. The subtle shift in the color of the woods from brown towards purple signals that spring really is on its way. In Maine the warmth of spring lags so far behind the sun’s crossing of the celestial equator that I am thankful for every small reassuring sign.
Sitting under a pine tree on one of the warm days, I found a red velvet mite on a small scrap of wood at my feet. Red velvet mites are the tiny bright red arachnids that live in gardens and on forest floors. Close up, you can see that they are covered with thick scarlet fur and have spider-like mouth parts.
They are Good Guys in my book. Unlike their cousins, the chiggers and ticks, they do not feed on us, but rather act as predators on some of the insects that eat our garden produce. Apparently not very much is known about them. They are clearly important in the forest ecosystem, but their actual role still remains a mystery. Their impossibly bright color is eye-catching and appealing. I did not try to keep this one in order to draw it, however, but let it go.
My studio time has been limited this month, but I did go back and put another piece in my butterfly project from last summer. You may remember that in my August newsletter I told you about finding a stunning one-of-a-kind butterfly that was an “intergrade” between a white admiral and a red-spotted purple. (If you did not read that newsletter, here is the link to it in my blog: http://betsy-bell.artistwebsites.com/blogs/newsletter-august-2010.html.) The image here is one of the finished drawings of the mystery butterfly.
As you can see, it looks more like the red-spotted purple side of its family than the white admiral. But it does have a little of the admiral’s white, and the row of orange spots on the top side of the hind wing. It took many layers of colored pencil to get that purple-brown velvet color on the wings. Prismacolor pencils have a slight transparency and a soft waxy texture that is perfect for this kind of work.
Spring is definitely a season for new beginnings. In this time-honored tradition, I have started two art-sharing projects that will keep me busy for a while. For one thing, I am overhauling my website, posting new work and changing how the galleries are arranged. I would like it to be more narrative, to tell the story of the art I have been doing and how it has developed.
And the other thing is that I am seriously looking into the idea of putting some of my work on household items like mugs and t-shirts. Enough people have told me, “That would look great on a t-shirt!” (or a mug or a plate or a drawer pull) that it has finally gotten my attention. Besides, I would really enjoy drinking my morning tea out of a white china mug with one of my butterfly drawings on the side of it.
The way I see it, I am foraging for beauty here in the Swift River Valley and sharing it with you all. If that is the form you want it in, that is fine with me. Times being what they are, few people have the luxury of adding new art to their walls. I have always said that I would rather sell a hundred prints of a painting to a hundred people than sell only the original to hang on just one wall where one person sees it. So stay tuned for new developments in the next month!
My gift to you this month is a file of the mystery butterfly drawing. You may do with it what you choose. I have printed a row of butterfly drawings on cardstock and cut them into strips for bookmarks, one butterfly per bookmark. As my sister says, you can never have too many bookmarks.
For more information on “Swift River Treasures,” my artmaking process, or to check out my blog, see my website at http://betsy-bell.artistwebsites.com/. Here you can order prints of my work, and have them matted and framed if you choose, courtesy of Fine Art America’s great print-on-demand service. They also offer posters, and greeting cards, either single or in packages.
If you want to look at the Moments of Transcendence book, here is the new link to it on the Blurb.com booksite (a different link than last month):
This month’s quote is especially meaningful for those of us who grew up in northeastern Ohio: You can't see Canada across lake Erie, but you know it's there. It's the same with spring. You have to have faith, especially in Cleveland. (Paul Fleischman)
Thanks for joining me in the journey. I hope that you enjoy looking at the art as much as I have enjoyed making it! I would love to hear from you, too, so please do reply with comments.