Sunday, November 7, 2010

Milkweed in the Rain (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

5 November finds me painting under an umbrella in the Milkweed patch behind our house in Bishops Mills, Ontario. It is a light rain with not much wind, and my blue and white beach umbrella is enough to keep my canvas and palette dry. A blanket over my lap and a touque on my head keep me warm.

I photographed the Milkweed yesterday - but when I tried to paint from the photos I missed the richness of colour, and the subject got mixed with the background. So there is nothing for it but to get out there and paint, with rain clotting the silky fluff and dripping from the tip of one of the pods. Wetness also brings out the strong black silhouettes of the Milkweed stems. It looks like they're wearing black stockings. The upper surfaces of the pods are also blackish where they've gotten wet so often this autumn. I think it may be a mildew type fungus like the blackish stain that grows on old grey barn boards. It makes a striking contrast with the glowing tawny gold inside the pods.

To the right of the Milkweed in my painting the fuzzy white heads of Geum are dripping their fluff with the weight of the rain.

Blue Jays are giving their "rain" call, and a woodpecker makes a coarser "eck". The ever present Chickadees peep as they forage in the wild Apple trees and Dogwood bushes. Marigold the dog pricks her ears at a sudden distant Coyote-like yammering and would like to join the hunt. We heard gun shots earlier. I guess it's deer hunting season.

Chad Clifford has posted a youtube video of rope-making from Milkweed stems.

Here is a photo that Fred took of me painting Milkweed in the rain.


  1. Beautiful, Aleta! Nothing beats painting en plein air -- you've just proven it again!

  2. Thank you, Karen! This was a particularly challenging painting, but as is often the case with outdoor paintings, time was limited so I just forged ahead, putting paint on the canvas with the faith that when I got the underpainting all covered, it would look more or less like the subject!

    ...and as it often happens, I bring it back thinking that it will require a fair bit of indoors work from the photos.... and find that it requires very few finishing touches. I am still amazed at the energy and guidance my paintings receive from the "real thing" - I'm constantly learning!

    I am a little worried about how my production has slowed since we've returned home - there's so much to do on the home front that I must really struggle to put out even three paintings some weeks. Fred says that they're still "daily paintings" if I'm trying....

  3. Great work!!

    This is the stage when the Milkweed's fibres are ideal for making natural fiber cordage/rope. It has very strong fibres once twisted into rope. It is one of the stronger natural fibres we have in Eastern Ontario. The seeds or the white fluff also holds a great coal when compressed and rolled. Great for flint and steel or the bow and drill fire.
    Chad Clifford

  4. I'm looking forward to that Youtube video on making rope out of Milkweed stems that you mentioned in your e-mail to me, Chad! I'll be watching for another comment here from you when the link is available.

  5. The suggested title for this painting was "Soggy Fluff," but the artist wasn't prepared to be that bold.

    This is the Milkweed patch where, each year, several of our spring meals come from, and the lower, forked, stem in the painting may have contributed its original flowerheads to pot-herbivory.

    There are two kinds of plants in this stand, some with rounded and the others with pointed leaves; I don't know if these represent two clans or two clones. Some are afflicted by what appears to be a virus that stunts them and turns them yellow.

    The patch sometimes attracts adult Monarch Butterflies, but we've never found a caterpillar here.

  6. Hi Aleta,
    Finished the Youtube video on the Milkweed rope making.

    Just an end note to it: although live stalks work fine--the black stalks work fine too--but just dont ret (soak) them long (even just wetting them at this stage is enough).

    I will have another Youtube on using the old seed pods for fire starting (flint or bow and drill) soon too.


  7. Thank you for the video, Chad! I have also put the link into the bottom of my Milkweed in the Rain post. I look forward to seeing your other videos!


What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?