Immersed 9/6/18

Dear Friends,

I so enjoy swimming in Lake Michigan in late summer. By August, the water has warmed up enough that I no longer have to brace myself for cold, and I don't have to move quickly to warm up. Swimming becomes more languid and playful.

A few years ago I bought a waterproof camera, a Canon Powershot D20. I wanted to show you what I see when I'm out in big water.  

I wasn't actually swimming when I took the 
video below. I was kicking while wearing my long fins, holding the camera slightly above water. The fins allow me to zoom, which is great fun.


Photo credit: Karen Darling

At the start of the video, I'm facing north, with a view of the rocks at Promontory Point, where my swimming friends gather every morning. Then I turn to face east, and at about 22 seconds into the video, there's a buoy. Behind it you can see rain showers some distance away. At the end you'll see the view as I face south.


People often tell me they think my paintings look like photographs. (I don't think they do at all.) They ask if I take photos then use them to create my paintings.

I do occasionally use photographs in the studio, but I very rarely try to make a painting that looks like a particular photograph. Instead, I use photos as reminders of color or light a particular day.

When I paint I rely on my muscle memory developed over two decades of painting and drawing waves, as well as my kinesthetic memory of what it feels like to swim in Lake Michigan. 


Deep Summer #575, oil on panel, 36" x 36", 2017

As the painting progresses, I hone my decisions about color, contrast, and composition. My eye, my body movements, and the feeling in my gut guide my decisions. I know that I couldn't make the paintings I do without the visual memories I've accumulated from open water swimming.

Looking Closely, Leaping In
Panel Discussion
Sunday, September 9, 2pm

I'm excited to take part in a panel discussion at the Chicago Cultural Center in conjunction with the exhibition Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle.

Seven Chicagoans, all of us working in creative fields, will talk about the impact of the lake on our lives and our work. Daniel Schulman, the Program Director/Visual Art at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will moderate the panel.

Here's the link to the Facebook event page. If you're in the Chicago area, I'd love for you to come. 

Sunday, September 9, 2:00-3:30pm

Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington 
Chicago, IL 60602

Exhibition Hall, Fourth Floor

Gray Dawn #517, oil on panel, 36" x 36", 2014
  • I will participate in a two-person show with photographer David Travis at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) in Chicago. The ELPC maintains exhibition space in their office to show work by artists who engage with the natural world. The opening will be in mid-November.
  • In December, I'll have several paintings in a group show of small works by women artists at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco.