Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blanding's Turtle / She in the Moonlight

"She in the Moonlight"
Original Watercolour by Lynne Gerard

"Why haven't you used your gift certificate in the gallery yet?", I inquired.  "It has been a year or more by now, hasn't it?"

"I'm saving it for just the right thing", she replied.

"What might that be?  Can you give me any hints?", I asked.

After a thoughtful pause, she said, "A Blanding's any medium - whether a rock painting, ink wash sketch, or watercolour.  Whatever happens to inspire you."

And who could not be inspired by a face such as this?:

Blanding's Turtle
photo: Ontley McNauth via Wikimedia Commons

I should not have been surprised at her suggestion - I remember her telling me she has been passionate about herpetology since a very young age.  Knowing, also, of the peculiar plight the Blanding's Turtle has been experiencing these past several years on Manitoulin Island, I might have guessed the image of this endangered turtle was something she was hoping to show up in my work one day.

Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
photo: Andrew C. via Wikimedia Commons

The Blanding's Turtles that inhabit Manitoulin Island, specifically those that dwell in the Misery Bay Provincial Park have suffered unexplained casualties.  Several articles have been written about these strange deaths, for example here and here and here. (clicking on the word "here" will take you to the articles)

I had taken some photos of a female Blanding's Turtle that had been attempting to make herself a place to lay eggs on the shoulder of Scotland Road, just to the east of our driveway.  But, unfortunately I took those on my iPad and they no longer are there.  I thought I had taken others with my regular camera, but after consulting my iPhoto library, all I could find were those of a good looking Snapper Turtle that had been cooling itself in a puddle in our driveway:

What an inspiring profile!

What a penetrating gaze!

What a spectacular turtle!

Well, seeing those images I took of the visiting Snapper, I've definitely got to make a painting of that turtle in the near future!  But, I digress...

Back to this particular tale of the Blanding's Turtle.

Working from a myriad of images in books and online resources, I finally came up with a pose for my Blanding's Turtle, which I envisioned with a simple backdrop of the beach and lake.  I did a charcoal sketch to see if what I had in mind would make a decent enough composition:

Charcoal study of Blanding's Turtle
I did indeed think that would make a nice painting, but as it was the middle of tourist season at that time and the gallery was too busy for me to feel confident getting into a watercolour painting, I put the project aside until just two weeks ago.

Since November I had been thinking I should get on with making a watercolour of the turtle, but found myself painting some other subjects first and cutting mats for some of my prints to restock the print bin in the gallery.

Hand-Calligraphed verse and fine art print by Lynne Gerard

While lettering the mat for one of my fine art prints that has a fabulous moonlight theme to it, I got the idea in my head that our Blanding's Turtle would look equally fabulous in moonglow.  Instantly inspired, I quickly worked up a small watercolour sketch of the Blanding's turtle, and included a moon  (and evocative moonlight) over the water:

Small watercolour study of a Blanding's Turtle

This use of the magical effect of nocturne light was also inspired by one of Mark Seabrook's  paintings (who I wrote about in the Journal of Ravenseyrie earlier this month).  Mark gave me a painting he did of his cat, Percy, because I was captivated by the colours and how it reminded me of our own cat, The Black Pearl.  I have framed it and have it sitting now on an easel in my studio, precisely because of how otherworldly the colours are:

Our feline friend, The Black Pearl, admiring a painting by
Mark Seabrook

I thought some of the chartreuse green colour would make for good contrast and effect in my painting, too, and would work well overall with the other greens and blues.

detail of moonlit greens

detail of the watercolour, "She in the Moonlight"

When I showed my husband the painting, he referred to the turtle as a "she".  I had been thinking of it as a male, but Kevin said he definitely had a good feeling of a female when he viewed it.  Without seeing her underbelly or knowing the length of her shell, we cannot really say if she is really a she or a he, but I'm trusting Kevin's instinct.  And so the title I settled upon became "She in the Moonlight".

Finished watercolour and calligraphy by Lynne Gerard
overall dimensions 22" x 26" 

"In the cool hush of eveningtide, moonglow speaks directly to the heart."  -L. Gerard

And will this painting speak directly to "her" heart, she who requested seeing this particular turtle show up in my work?  I will know soon, as I am sending her a link to this blog entry to notify her I have finally painted a Blanding's Turtle.


eva said...

I think you captured the Ur-turtle there, Lynne! Interesting to see the different ways in which the same natural environment expresses itself in yours and your friend's creations.

Lynne Gerard said...

Hello Eva!
There are many very inspiring painters and artisans here on Manitoulin, and each of them have a unique way of expressing elements of the island. Mark's work is very powerful and is something he "lives", i.e. is not a hobby as painting is for many of the others. He always has one or more canvases in progress and is a very prolific painter. I wish you could see the cat painting in is so aglow with colour, it is as if it is backlit! BTW, I put something in the post for you on Thursday...hopefully it won't get too delayed by customs. Cheers!