Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chicago Weather Center Blog

If you love weather, even if you don't live in Chicago, you must check out, WGN Channel 9 Weather Center Blog.
I just happen to stumble upon this gem which is written by the bestest meteorologist, Tom Skilling. He's so knowledgeable and he explains EVERYTHING! There's a section where you can ask Tom weather questions and even a photo gallery (my fav) where local people take pictures of storms, skies, sunsets. etc.
Soooo Cool!

Because We Love Snow

Oh lets enjoy a few more pictures from the Bullfrog Lake area, part of the Palos Trail System!
This picture was at the beginning of my trail and the snow reminded me of sand from the Indiana Dunes, with weeds growing here and there. That's exactly how it looks, except I visit the Dunes when it is much, much warmer!

Do you see that water pump? I don't know why it is there. I wonder if during the warmer months it even works? I saw several of these on my hike. A close up of the pump with trees in the background might make for a nice painting though.

This picture tells a story. Can you tell?
If you follow the shadows, you can see evidence of a steep slope. The left side of the slope is in complete shadow, away from the sun. The right side has trunk shadows riding uphill. I love how shadows follow the contour of the land. It is very clear against the snow. I am facing north in this scene, so you know it must be close to evening because the sun sets in the west and the shadows are casting towards the east. There is one tree that still has snow along its side. That proves that the snow storm was blowing from the south to the north...evidence all around us!
I love how much information you can get from a simple picture.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bullfrog Lake Frozen

Feeling time slip and the snow melting as we speak, I decided to head out to Bullfrog Lake, just to enjoy winter a few more hours before the impending warm up.
As I walked the trail by the lake I came upon this stunning scene, which will soon be made into a painting. Sparkles shimmered in the sunlit snow and my eyes followed the tracks into the distance, suddenly three crows began to "caw" at this very spot and followed me to the lake which was at the end of my trail.
It was an exciting moment.

Here we see the beautiful Bullfrog Lake in its frozen state, part of the Palos Trail System, located in Willow Springs, IL. In the middle of the lake are serious ice fishermen with tent gear and all, and across the lake we see many sledders enjoying the day. On this photo you can see animal tracks near the cattails and skier tracks on the lake.

And here we have a giant Chicago Nature Lady print, brushing back the snow, stepping on the ice of the lake and later having to touch it with her hand!
"Strange human," said the crows, "Strange human!"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow Shadows

Crazy weather is about to come upon us once again. After experiencing freezing temperatures this week, by Monday we are due to hit 50ºF with rain, same for Tuesday, but then Wednesday is going to greets us with a cold blast and highs of only 19ºF!!!

This weekend I am going to appreciate the snow before it is gone in a hurry. I woke up this morning to find beautiful patterns of sun and shadow playing on the snow in my garden. Simple things like this always get me. I guess it really doesn't take much to amuse me.

Let's Experience This Picture:
"But it's just a picture of snow?"
Oh no, there's a lot going on right now.....

The smell outside as I take this photo is what snow smells like, clean, cool, and wet. There is a slight breeze hitting my face, not hash but gentle. I hear a lot of bird activity as they are flying overhead. Do you see the scalloped edge on the left side? That is from my fence. Too bad the sparkles shimmering in the snow did not take on the camera, just believe it is there! I also see pinks, purples, and various shades of blues but they are all very still, not moving as you would see in the spring or summer with leaves swaying in the wind...winter shadows are very quiet and still. I love them.

Hope you enjoyed experiencing the snow before it's gone!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Still Holding On

Who loves nature?

We do! We do!
This is a picture I took at Tinley Creek Woods when it was much warmer and the snow had melted. What did I love about this scene? Many things:

First, this picture was taken this January, notice all the trees in the background have lost their leaves. This little guy held on to his. I stood there and thought about all the wind storms that came through this winter and I'm pretty impressed with the tree's strength, especially because he's standing in an open field all alone. Perhaps it is because of his youth that he is able to hang on or maybe the background forest is his shield, a row of soldiers. Maybe the forest is looking out for this little guy? The tree probably is still holding on to it's leaves because that's just the nature of an oak tree (boring), but it's much more fun to think of all other possibilities. I'm sure there's a life lesson in here somewhere.

Secondly, the detail in the trunk made me say, "Ooooo." I love it's "arms" reaching out near the bottom, searching for all possibilities in life.

Thirdly, warm colors in the dead of winter rock! My interpretation exaggerates this feature...I'm just whipping out my artistic license here.

Here is my translation of what was actually there. My main goal was to keep this little guy the focal point and not get him lost with a busy background, notice the blue forest (represents distance) and is shorter that actual photo.
I had a super difficult time attempting to draw any trees in the background, it was just shades of blue. I really thought I was going to ruin it by painting trees. Gary, who is a wonderful teacher, challenged me and said, "Do you always want to be stuck at this level?"
WOW, no I don't...growth is good!
Gary taught me to turn the painting upside down and get loose with the background. Dandy! It worked!

This pastel took a total of 5 hours to complete over a period of 2 days. It will be made available in a few days at

Hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pastel Step by Step

Well, because this weekend was so cold it just happened to be perfect for hibernation and artwork. Every weekend is perfect for artwork, but when the temperature dips below zero, instead of looking for inspiration outside, you start digging out pictures from warmer memories.

I thought I would show you the materials and a little bit of the process of creating a pastel painting. Oooo it's so much fun! Here is my setup. The tan paper to the left is Ersta pastel paper, made in Germany, bought on line. Ersta is just like sand paper, it holds the soft pastel pigment as you grind it into the surface.
My subject is to the right, a sunset picture I took last November. All around I'm surrounded with beautiful, beautiful pastels....

Oh such lovely colors! You can never have too many colors, however they're not exactly cheap, so you must cherish them to the last speck of crumb! These are Rembrandt landscape soft pastels, notice how much I like the blues they're almost gone! How can a Chicago artist not like the blues...hahahahaha

Here is the painting, which I've named, Sunset Fire, in progress. I usually start at the top and work my way down. Meanwhile, I start with underneath layers of color and work my way to the top. It's so much fun and I believe anyone with training can do this!
Speaking of training, once a week I will be working under the direction of artist Gary Wick, who creates amazing art. He's just a neat, creative artist whom I admire a lot and a swell guy! Lets hope he can transform me into something!

Just working my way down...adding the sun's highlights to selected clouds. Yellow is the complementary color to purple and orange is the complement to blue, that's why these colors look so good next to each other. Nature has it all figured out!

©2008 Christine Kane Art

TaDa.... the finished painting. Foreground trees silhouette in a mixture of dark blue and dark purple...never black...too harsh. The cloud "holes" were softened lightly with my finger and the highlights in the horizon are left strong. The mood has been translated into paper.

This painting, Sunset Fire, is now available on Christine Kane Art on the autumn pastel page because this picture was taken last autumn.

It is so neat to see my nature friends become artists themselves. We all must have that desire to take what we love and in our own "language" show our version of a moment in time.
Click on links to view art.
Tom with Ohio Nature has attempted his first painting after many years and he did a super job, I love it!
Tom at Monarch's Nature, takes breathtaking photos which is artwork in itself. It's too hard to pick a favorite, but I love his frost photos.
Jennifer at A Passion for Nature has been adding beautiful text to her photos, creating a wonderful piece of art.
Drowsey at DrowseyMonkey has pick up her artistic skills after many years also, such great talent cannot be left unused!

I'm happy to see talent not waisted! I encourage everyone who has had a love for art in their younger days to polish off the brushes and develop your skills where you left off. Don't worry, It's not as hard as you think!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Deep Freeze

Here in Chicago we are under a bit of a freezing spell. This morning at 9am, the temp was -2 degrees and right now it's a whole 3 degrees! Tomorrow's forecast is going to be much the same. Needless to say, I'm staying inside! That means unless nature comes knocking at my window, there won't be many photos this week.

Remember my inexpensive birdbath heater? Look at what a great job it's doing in -2 degree weather, that's when I took this picture. You can't tell by the photo but, the water near the heater is actually steaming! Even the stupid squirrels need water right now.

And here we have Stella having a breakfast treat. She is eating "Nutty Delight" made by C&S, sold at Sid's nursery and other places. I think this is the woodpecker's favorite. I notice a lot more activity with this flavor than others, or maybe I'm just coookie.
Speaking of Stella, I know we have more than one "Stella". There is a Stella with clearly defined black and white stripes on her head, as in photo, and there is a Stella with a different, more messy or undefined black and white shapes on her head. Maybe one day I'll get a clear shot of both to compare.

Notice my suet cage is different, the last one was green and had an opening in the bottom. Those nasty squirrels figures out how to open the bottom and remove the suet cake! They even chewed through heavy plastic cable ties that I tried to fasten as a lock.
No match for evil squirrel.
This cage has a side opening which I'm hoping is a little more difficult to open...we'll see!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mystery Solved

This is a stick that I found on the ground about a week ago. I just think it's cool. The dark bark is due to the stick being saturated by rain, I like how the bright white and tan colors of the growth contrast the darks on the stick.

That's some set of teeth you got there Mr. Stick! Close up pictures always reveal something amazing.

Do you remember this picture a few posts ago?

I was fascinated by the color of these mushrooms, wondering if the green was the mushroom taking on the color of the moss or if they were just green mushrooms. Well, Cestoady brought up an intelligent fact that perhaps it's algae growing on the mushrooms and not any of the above reason I had wondered. Very interesting!

I happened to ask David Fischer with who co-wrote, Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America and Mushrooms of Northeastern North America, and asked him about my "very smart person's" (Cestoady) comment.

Here is David's Responce:

"The mushrooms appear to be a Trametes or, less likely, a Stereum (I can't tell without seeing a very tight close-up of the undersurface). Your very smart person is correct: the green is caused by algae that are using the mushroom as a substrate."


Great job Cestoady for your correct response and thank you to David Fisher who took the time to review my question!
Mystery solved.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Bartel Grasslands Field Trip

This last weekend I met up with a whole bunch of passionate birders to seek out the short eared owl and the Norther Harrier at the Bartel Grasslands with birdie leader, Dick Riner, which was sponsored by the
Chicago Ornithological Society.

OH BOY! Here we go, we are walking to the Bartel Grasslands located in Tinley Park, IL. Look at these professionals with their really cool equipment! I had binoculars, a baby camera, and hand warmers...that was the extent of my equipment!

Here is out destination.... right behind these pines lay a mound where birders can set up their scopes and have a magnificent view of the grasslands.

The goal of this trip was to witness short eared owls and or northern harriers. This trip was scheduled for late afternoon which made it perfect for our subjects to put on a show. Unfortunately, the owls never showed, but boy did the harriers make and entrance! Northern harriers are hawks that fly low to the ground in search for prey such as mice, small birds, rabbits, etc.

It was about 30 degrees with a strong biting wind. Such a strong wind that the harriers were able to hover and glide in the same spot for several seconds, real low to the ground. It was really amazing. I witnessed males and females which both dove towards the ground, but I failed to see them rise with prey in their mouths.

This grassland has several metal posts which are strewn about. The owls, I was informed, like to perch on the posts. Not today however, but a female harrier did perch on one for about 5 minutes straight! It was exciting to watch her scope the ground in anticipation for an unsuspected rodent.

As evening quickly approached, we began to retreat to our cars. This scene made me stop and I don't know why. Sometimes I see a scene and think...oh, this would make a good painting, but not this time, it was more like.... maybe there's a story behind here, or maybe it was just the misty sky partnering with some massive oaks (notice the scale of the car, bottom right).

At the end of the evening it began to flurry. It has been a successful night of mostly female and some male northern harriers which gracefully skimmed the grasslands while ignoring us gawkers. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of any harriers because they were too far for my camera to grasp. I guess I'll just have to paint a picture of it!

I hope you have enjoyed this field trip to Bartel Grasslands.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mr. Cardinal in Pastel

Here is Mr. Cardinal painted in pastel as a vignette. A vignette is a design that has no definite edges, to put it simply. I love them because the subject is never in question and the viewer has the ability to finish off the background in his or her mind.
You may recognize Mr. Cardinal's pose from a watercolor I did earlier. I used the same picture to create this pastel. Pastel paper is so much fun to work with because it feels and looks like sandpaper. It holds the soft pastel's pure pigment and there is such satisfaction scraping the pigment into the paper....oooooo, it's so much fun! Everyone should try it.

In a few days this original pastel will me made available on Christine Kane Art
Hope you enjoyed!

Seven Random Things

A few weeks ago, I was tagged by Nina from Nature Remains, who writes a beautiful nature blog btw and today I found enough time to sit down and play.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Random Chris Things:
1. I write much much better than I speak in real life. I never have a timely or clever comeback, it usually takes me an hour before I say, "Oh, I should have said..."
2. Due to my grandpa Rich, I am the nature loving freak that I am. Every summer my grandparents took the grandkids camping since we could remember. It has been the best experience I could ever have. Thank you grandpa.
3. I tried to give up fast food and be healthy, it lasted a good 30 days! Damn Taco Bell gets me every time. I'm trying again.
4. I rarely watch TV.
5. Planes freak me out (in a bad way). If God meant for us to fly He would have given us wings...right?
6. I can't stop drawing and painting, I love it! When I have a subject or get an idea to paint something, it HAS to come out! It consumes my weekends because I have a full time job that pays the bills :(
7. I was so painfully shy in grammar school, kids thought I was "snobby" because I didn't talk much. Wow that's far from the truth!

OK they may not be the most interesting but there it is!

I'm tagging:
The Girls at 3 Cat Blog
Tom at Ohio Nature
April at Nature at My Doorstep
Joan at Joan's Nature Journal
Moe at Iowa Voice
I think every one else has already done the random tag thing, so that's it for now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Morning Light

Beyond the pine and through the maples, a current of vapor sways...
Just as the morning light begins to touch it's peaks...
"Renew," says our Creator...
"and seek your strength through Me."
C.Kane ©2008

This was the beautiful sky that greeted me this morning as I was about to go to work. Work will have to wait...this is much too important to miss! No sooner than seconds did this picture's color dramatically change, but this frame was the very best. What a great way to start the day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mysterious Sky

This is what the sky looked like before all the rain. Several layers of clouds quickly whipping by, the lowest layer being the fastest. Something is coming.

How spooky and wonderful all in the same frame.
What wasn't wonderful however, was the area of the Illinois and Wisconsin border which was hit by a tornado the next day that had traveled 13 miles on it's January trek. A tornado in January in Illinois is unheard of.

The further south of the city you are, the more rain you received. Many low areas are still flooded, but thankfully I didn't need a boat and the streets were pretty much clear with only the ditches flooded in my area.

Record breaking temperatures are passing and a cool front is on the way with, get this......snow flurries tonight!?! Tornado yesterday, snow today?
Would this imply Global Warming or the Apocalypse?
Just kidding...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Big Thaw

From zero degrees a few days ago to....

To a record high today of 61 degrees officially recorded. 61 degrees!!! Is this winter? Wait, is this spring? What season am I in?

Do you see all of the pools of water on the ground in this picture? That's the 4 inches of snow we had last week. All gone. The problem is, tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday we are under a flood watch due to such high temperatures, we are going to be pummeled by heavy downpours and even thunderstorms with a continue record high temps!!!

Isn't this January? The beginning of it?

Chicagoans: Prepare your boats!


Look what happened. Just great. This shoe is made by The North Face. It is one of those $90 waterproof, freeze proof, but not goof proof hiking boots. The metal post popped right out as I was lacing them up.
I don't throw $90 around very easily. It takes a lot to squeeze that much out of me...but I learned my lesson with The North Face this time!
Do you see how nice that shoe looks? Only one year old and almost in pristine condition.

Should this be a Nature Product Review? A BAD Nature Product Review? Why yes it should.

As usual I couldn't save a receipt to save my life, so I'll be taking this somewhere to get fixed. Grrrr.
Buyer beware with The North Face.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mossy Mushroom

This is a picture I took of a decomposing log when I went hiking at Country Lane Woods last week. The green caught my eye right away. I didn't realize that despite the cool temps, moss can still thrive. I think these are a type of polypore mushrooms (growing off of wood) I don't know exactly which kind but I've seen them before. I've seen them many times before but they were brown. These mushrooms have green in them. Does it have to do with the moss? Are they taking on the color of the moss? Very strange. This is a question for supermushroom-man or woman! Unfortunately that's not me.

Very interesting web site on mushrooms: David Fischer's American Mushrooms

Very interesting posts on mushrooms: Winterwoman's A Passion for Nature

Go shrooming around!