Thursday, November 3, 2011


Bittersweet is what I would call the last few weeks.  The fall will soon give way to winter.  While the brilliance of autumn has muted now to warm russet colored reds and oranges and the weather has cooled, these day's still hold warmth in both temperature and color.  I love the earthier colors later in the season-the dusky purples and red browns of the trees and the ochers of the fields against the deep blue of the November sky.  I love color! 

When I walk through the forest now most of the leaves have fallen.  This emptiness highlights the bittersweet vines bright display.  Nondescript during the rest of the season, bittersweet vine makes itself known as a star when most all else has been spent. Its hard yellow orange outer shell breaks open in thirds to reveal a deep orange-red berry. 

There are many theories for why it is called "bittersweet".  One theory is that one varieties bark, used for medicinal purposes, tastes bitter but leaves a sweet after taste.  Another, that the vine, while beautiful, will eventually choke whatever it wraps itself around.  One variety, called deadly nightshade, having beautiful red berries that when ingested prove mildly poisonous.  My reason would be because it's berries keep their orange outer shell and red orange berries until the early winter snows fly and the birds eat them.  Sort of falls last hurrah!

The meaning of the word is self explanatory.  Bitter and sweet at the same time.   I find myself happy to let go of the heat and green of the summer to welcome the cooler temps and bright fall colors.  But along with that I am reluctant to leave it and head into the long cold (and in the Midwest-dark and gloomy) winter.  I love the snow and cold and find great beauty in winter, but each change of season holds a bitter and sweet side at the same time.   

This painting was from a piece of the vine I brought home to do a watercolor sketch in my journal. The finished piece is now up at Wingspread Gallery for the holiday season.  Using the vine I brought home with its berries for inspiration, I enjoyed using the bold shapes and colors in an almost abstract way.  Like the earlier painting of maple leaves showing negative and positive shapes, this paintings focus was bold color and pattern.  I used the angles of the shell to contrast the round shapes of the berries that follow the lines of the vine itself. 

And to get creative with the whole theme here:  What activities or thoughts in your life are "choking the life" out of your creativity?  How do you view the duality of bitter and sweet in the creative process?  Does the bitter aftertaste of failure (and it's going to happen) keep you from trying again?  Do we "consume" the "bright red berry"-that flashy easy part of our art that poisons our creativity and kills our growth?   

Yeah, I know, "where does she get this stuff??"  But it's something to think about...