A look into the inspiration behind the work.

The Bee's Visit to Milkweed

The Bee's Visit to the Milkweed

It’s funny the things we can discover about beliefs and assumptions that we make about our world when we open our mind to new information. I’ve gone out to capture wildflowers for reference now for years. Each new plant I find to photograph seems to amaze me when I start my research. This painting is of the “Common Milkweed” which has been seen less in my outings than the Butterfly Milkweed that sports rich orange blooms. When I found the “common” variety, I thought I had found a treasure. The dusty purple/pink blossoms called to my color sensibilities as I was drawn to photograph it. Much of the time on my field trips I am accompanied by various insects and more often than not I encounter bees. Of course, I don’t have a fear of bees, they simply poke around the flowers and really mind their own beeswax as long as I too mind my own.

Best known for their attraction for monarch butterflies, the Common Milkweed also serves as an important food source for bees. It has been suggested that our food supply, without bees, would put one third of the world food supply in danger. In the news over the last decade there has been concern about the health and welfare of our bees caused by a mysterious phenomenon referred to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Recently experts estimate losses projected in the billions if the honeybee population continues its decline at this rate.

“About 130 crops in the U.S.—worth some $15 billion a year—depend on honeybee pollination, and if bee populations really did collapse, it would mean an agricultural catastrophe,” Time Magazine wrote last April.

There is much conjecture about the cause of CCD including the use of insecticides on our food source fields. However each of us can help by putting the Common Milkweed into your backyard garden and creating a bee friendly garden.

There are many benefits beyond the health of the bees to add the Milkweed to your backyard. According to http://www.wildfoods.info milkweed is also a tasty and nutritious addition to soup, stir fry and even as a side veggie dish. “Because of the myths surrounding the plant, many people have kept their distance from the common milkweed. This is sad because it is one of our best tasting, easiest to harvest, and most abundant edible wild plants,” www.WildFoods.info wrote about the untapped potential of the plant.

Now, I haven’t personally tried milkweed as a side dish, but will gather some up the next time I go flower shooting just to give it a try.

No matter what this is a beautiful, fragrant plant the is invaluable to our ecosystem and deserves for each of us to consider it when we are out on a nature walk. - To check out the Availablity of the piece - Click Here

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Sweet William's Girl

Sweet William's Girl

Sometimes great legends can be found among the unassuming wildflowers. The Black Eyed Susan along with the Southern European native plant Sweet William (which blooms at the same time and are wonderful companion flowers in a garden) tells a romantic love story that is replayed even today with the overseas wars and rumors of wars. The story of a farewell to a lover who is off to an uncertain fate has been experienced by myself twice as my husband, Chuck, left for the Iraqi war in 2004 and again in 2008. He came back not much worse for wear but not every soldier has been so lucky.

This timeless ballad takes us back to the years of our founding father's and their own struggles for Independence. Written in the 1700's by John Gay and at the time the lyrics were very popular in several ballad operas of it’s time. The words were set to various scores by different composers, including Carey, Leveridge, Haydon and Sandonis.

So I ask you as you prepare for this year's July 4th to take a moment and consider these lovers and the insecurity they feel about their future and think about our soldiers, many who have given all and never returned to their own Black Eyed Susan.

The Ballad of Black Eyed Susan by John Gay

All in the dawn the fleet was moor'd,
The streamers waving to the wind,
When Black-eyed Susan came on board,
Oh where shall I my true love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,
If my sweet William, if my sweet William
Sails among your crew?

Oh William, who high upon the yard,
Rocked with the billows to and fro,
Soon as her well-known voice he heard,
He sigh'd and cast his eyes below:
The cord slides swiftly thro' his glowing hands
And as quick as lightning, and as quick as lightning
On the deck he stands.

So sweet the lark, high poised in air,
Shuts close his pinions to his breast,
If, chance, his mate's shrill voice he hear,
And drops at once into her nest:
The noblest captain in the British fleet
Might envy William, might envy William's
Lip those kisses sweet.

'Oh Susan, Susan, lovely dear!
My vows shall ever true remain,
Let me kiss off that falling tear,
We only part to meet again:
Change as ye list, ye winds, my heart shall be
The faithful compass, the faithful compass
That still points to thee.

'Oh, believe not what the landsmen say
Who tempt with doubts thy constant mind,
They'll tell thee sailors when away,
In every port a mistress find:
Yes, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,
For thou art present, for thou art present
Wheresoe'er I go.

If to fair India's coast we sail,
Thy eyes are seen in diamonds bright:
Thy breath is Afric's spicy gale,
Thy skin as ivory so white:
Thus every beauteous object that I view
Wakes in my soul, wakes in my soul
Some charm of lovely Sue.'

Though battle call me from thy arms
Let not my pretty Susan mourn:
Though cannon roar, yet safe from harms
William shall to his dear return:
Love turns aside the balls that round me fly
Lest precious tears, lest precious tears
Should drop from Susan's eye.

The boatswain gave the dreadful word,
Her sails their swelling bosom spread:
No longer can she stay on board -
They kissed, she sighed, he hung his head:
Her lessening boat unwilling rows to land,
'Adieu,' she cries, 'Adieu,' she cries
And waved her lily hand.

To hear one of the most popular of those tunes to which this poem was set can be found at http://www.contemplator.com/england/susan.html

For Availablity of the Painting Click Here.

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Primrose Life

The Primrose Life is more than what it seems. In my painting there is one wonderful bloom shining bright in the sunlight and it is surrounded by a couple blooms that have seen better days and to the left one bloom that has promise but has not reached its full glory. When I was working on this painting I was thinking about how fortunate I am. I had taken off early from work and decided to paint. I’m my own boss, so I can do that on occasion. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to paint this flower was “Primrose Path” which technically didn’t fit what I wanted to show in the painting. As I see it, the primrose has gotten a bad rap from the wordsmith himself, Shakespeare in Ophelia’s warning to her brother, Hamlet:

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.

Ophelia is warning her brother take his own advice and not reject the difficult and arduous path of righteousness that leads to Heaven in favor of the easy path of sin. Shakespeare later used 'the primrose way', which has the same meaning, in Macbeth.

Let’s explore that Primrose Path, which by definition is a life of ease and pleasure, which leads to a bad end. It also seems to be the “in” kind of lifestyle lauded by many Americans today, and they don't even realize what they are missing. Ok, I’m not going to be preachy but I want to explore what an easy life surrounded by pleasure is like and does it always have to a bad end? I think it depends on how you go about your pleasure and whether or not you are serving your bliss or simply falling in with the crowd.

When you find that one thing you love and you figure out how to get that to make a income by doing it, you end up living a life of success down the Primrose Path. Now, you must be careful not to be led down the Primrose Path to your own disaster by the hypocrites, but to find for yourself the path that leads to your own happiness and wellbeing.

Sometimes that road can sure feel like a wild goose chase, but if you choose a path that is true to yourself and fulfilling a need to others which is a true entrepreneur mindset and lifestyle. You will find that your Primrose Path even seen to others to surely lead to a bad end is indeed a path of ease and pleasure with huge payoffs at the end. Discovering this path is not a simple process but it is truly worth the pain to get there.

So now I’ve argued myself into a box. Maybe what we really need is a new Primrose idiom. How about simply the "Primrose Life: A life of ease and pleasure filled with service to others that also creates a good standard of living income." I’m getting a little philosophical here, but I think that turning the negative into a positive is always a great way to live – so I’m taking on Shakespeare. What do you think? Are living a Primrose Life or being led down the Primrose Path?

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Mystique and Madness

This is my first painting of this beautiful treasure with the odd name of "Spiderwort"; I have been fascinated by its simple beauty since the day I found them in a field near Clinton Lake. I found this particular one a few weeks ago, bouncing in the wind near a roadside ditch. It seems sometimes, when I am out specifically looking to wildflowers to capture, they draw me in with a nod with the wind or a glimmer of color. This one brought me in from my moving vehicle with both the nod and the glimmer. When this happens I stop the car, grab my camera and walk back to the place I thought I saw the color. I was not disappointed. Not only did I find this beautiful Spiderwort, I also found a Primrose which will be coming around soon.  

As one of the few flowers in the Tallgrass Prairie of Kansas with a blue bloom Spiderwort grace us with their pretty petals for one day and then fade away, however the plant itself continues to bloom with each pod taking its turn for glory throughout the month – so the mystique and madness of me finding this very flower and painting its portrait with adoration to lengthen that short lifetime, hence the title. 

Not only does the plant intrigue me, but even in my research, there is a lot of mystique that goes along with this plant, the oddest being that the stamens will turn pink in the presence of nuclear fallout.  I suppose that came in handy for the service men who manned the nuclear missile sites buried throughout the area.

Some of the more interesting tidbits about this plant is that there is a long standing herbalist tradition that the sap from the leaves (which comes out clear and stringy like spider webs or “Cow Slobber” another common name for this beautiful plant.) cures spider bites and an interesting disease called “The Dancing Madness” (symptoms included headaches, sweating, trembling and severe melancholia) which was believed to be caused by spider venom. Never the less the plant gets its name as many plants do through the Doctrine of Signatures which is an ancient herbalist theory that a plant can be used as a medicinal for human ailments based on some aspect of its form or color gives us a clue as to the plant’s beneficial nature to the human body. So, since spiderworts grass like leaves are suggestion of a crouching spider and the sap looks like spider webs, then the plant is a good remedy for spider bites. So there you have it the mystique and the madness surrounds this pretty little blue flower from all sides. – Enjoy!

To see more of this series go to http://michelleleivan.com/collections/21558

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My Lucky Day

My Lucky Day - Violet Wood Sorrel

I discovered this little Violet Wood Sorrel growing in my “Hidden Garden” this spring. I was hidden in among the other foliage and shyly peeking through the shadows. It only grows about 4” tall so you can see why it was a treasure to find.  The day I discovered it, I felt lucky to have found it instead of stepping on the fragile plant. I didn’t realize that day that I had possibly been luckier than I thought.  There is an argument that the Wood Sorrel is the original St. Patrick Shamrock. I don’t know about you, but I remember as a kid spending hours in the playground searching for a lucky shamrock or 4 leaf clover. Well, here I am – decades later and I have actual shamrocks growing in my own back yard!

Through my research on this little guy, I dug up an old manuscript from 1911 that is available on the web, “Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants in All Ages and In All Climes” by Charles Montgomery Skinner. This eBook will be most valuable while considering stories about my Kansas Wildflowers.  I love to learn new things about the plants that I’m drawn to painting, it adds to their character in my mind and make the plant even more fun to paint.

So here is the argument from the early 20th century as to why the Wood Sorrel is actually the original Shamrock – Enjoy!

“The clover which we call wood sorrel was anciently a charm against snakes and other poison dealing creatures; and witches, too, would none of it. On going into fights soldiers would tie a sprig about their sword arms, or to the handles of their blades, that they might be secure from the foul strokes of enemies who had black and secret ways of killing. The Arabic word for the trefoil is shamrak, and Persia makes it sacred as emblematic of the Persian Triads. Our wood sorrel is white with faint ruddy or purple streaks in the petals. A pink variety appears in England earlier than the white, but, as in other flowers, the farther north we go, the more of white appears in the flower, bluebells being white in Russia, and red campion emulating the snow in Arctic lands. Wood sorrel is ‘the hallelujah’ in Spain and Italy because of its blossoming when the Hallelujah is sung, after Easter; the Welsh name it fairy bells; the Scots call it hearts and gowk's meat. Cuckoo sorrel is a common name for it in the British islands, where it appears when the cuckoo begins to sing.

“Among the plants one no longer eats is this same wood sorrel, once used as a salad. Sheep or field sorrel, which is of a different botanical family is still used as greens, though it is sharp to the untrained palate.

“The acid of wood sorrel (oxalic, from the botanical name of the plant, oxalis) is extracted as ‘salt of lemons,’ a chemical in some demand for commercial purposes, but a rank poison. Its leaves yield five per cent. of acid. Because of their heart shape the doctrine of signatures prescribed them as a remedy for heart troubles. The variety cultivated in Bolivia as oca has a tuberous root as well prized as the artichoke; another four leaved variety is used on Mexican tables; the Peruvian species, arracha, is also eaten, both root and leaf stalk.

“Wood sorrel is held by many to be the original shamrock, as its Persian name implies, although the plant commonly worn as such on the 17th of March, when all the bows to St Patrick is Dutch clover. It is a little disconcerting that the authorities are not a unit as to what a shamrock is. The Erse word seamrog is from seamar, three leaved, and og, meaning small. It occurs variously as seamsog, seamroge, shamrote, shamrock, shamrug, oge, and chambroch. The plant actually used by St. Patrick may have been Dutch clover, or trifolium repens, or trifolium minus, or wood sorrel. Early references to it in Irish literature represent it as a food plant, Campion, in history of the island printed in 1571, speaking of ‘shamrotes, water cresses, and other herbes they feed upon.’  Matthias Lobel, a Flemish botanist, tells of the purple and white trefoil, and says of the white variety it is good for fattening cattle, but that it is also ground meal for consumption by the peasantry.  Spenser, the poet, also relates how, during the wars of Munster the escaped starvation by feeding on cress and ‘shamrokes’; and Fynes Moryson describes them as devouring herb of sharp taste, the acrid wood sorrel, one may fancy, ‘which as they run and are chased to and fro, they like beasts out of the ditches.’  If, however, the ditches contained water, the plant was probably cress, which still use as a garnish to our meat.

“The religious association of the shamrock, and its adoption as the emblem of Ireland, is due to an inspiration of pioneer of Christianity in that country:  After his landing St. Patrick found his pagan subjects in deep trouble the Trinity. Preach and argue as he might, he could not prevail on them to accept its possibility till, looking down on the earth, in the course of one of his homilies, he chanced to spy the little divided leaf of the shamrock. It exemplified his point to a nicety. Stooping he plucked it and showed how, though a leaf, it was yet three leaves in one. After the Irish accepted Christianity, they used the shamrock as their sign, the three leaves typing in their formulary, the national virtues of love, heroism, and wit. The leaf was already in general use as a defense against witchcraft in St Patrick's time, and many a peasant plucked a trefoil before he ventured across the moors and bogs where banshees cried and fairies stole the souls of wayfarers. It was the power of the shamrock indeed, over poisonous and maleficent things, which enabled St Patrick to drive the snakes from Ireland, for he had only to hold it toward them to see them go scuttling into the sea.”

From “Myths and Legends of Flowers…” by Charles Montgomery Skinner (source link above)

Well, no matter where you come down on the argument – may the luck of the Irish be with you always.

Check out my entire collection of Kansas Wildflowers in Oil

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Artists to Watch in 2012 on WIBW

The Bee's Secret for the Echinacea

The great folks at WIBW will be prempting their 13 News @ 4 show for the Arts on February 6th. Please set your DVR's to see a sample of what the arts community in Topeka has to offer. The show will consist of three segments that will feature several art venues and as one of those segments, three artists: Marylin Horsch, Michael Allen and Michelle Leivan (I always wanted to prempt a show!) were interviewed by John Ary last month to talk about the the Artists to Watch in 2012 show at SouthWind Gallery. 

Because I know you can't wait to see the show, here is a different short YouTube video from SouthWind Gallery where they asked several of the Artists to Watch in 2012 what the best advice they've ever been given was. This video is sure to spur you on as an artist. And, the exhibit is sure to amaze you. So, if you have not already done so, I would recommend getting over to SouthWind Gallery to see the works from these regional artists! SouthWind Gallery, 3074 SW 29th St., Topeka, KS through February 15, 2012.

Artists to Watch in 2012
January 6 - February 15, 2012
SouthWind Gallery
29th and Oakley
Topeka, KS 66614

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Artists to Watch in 2012, is an exciting new show featuring the work of 10 artists. The common thread that links the artists is their high level of talent and an all-consuming passion for creating art.

The artists range in age from 20-somethings to Baby Boomers. The show features over 65 pieces of art and includes all genres including figurative, landscape and still-life works in a variety of mediums. The intriguing subject matter ranges from abstract prairies scenes, to realistic portraits of working cowboys, and from the hard steel and concrete of local architecture, to sensual wild flowers spilling out of a porcelain vase. The paintings vary widely in size, from huge oversized canvases to miniatures.

The featured artists are: 
Michael James Allen (Topeka); Jim Clements (Eldorado); Jane Flanders (Lawrence); Doug Frye (Topeka); Marilyn Horsch (Lawrence); Michelle Leivan (Topeka); Cheryl Heller Olsen (Council Grove); Jeannie Pflumm (Lenexa); Richard Prather (Garland, TX); and Deb Schroer (Strong City).

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Meet the Artists to Watch in 2012!

Pollination Anticipation

Please join me and my artists friends on First Friday for Artists to Watch in 2012 on February 3, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm at SouthWind Gallery, 29th & Oakley, Topeka, KS 66614 785.273.5994.  If you can't make it to the artist reception, please stop by and see the show Mon-Fri 10-6 and Sat 10-4 or visit online at http://www.southwindartgallery.com/ 

Artists to Watch in 2012, is an exciting new show featuring the work of 10 artists. The common thread that links the artists is their high level of talent and an all-consuming passion for creating art.

The artists range in age from 20-somethings to Baby Boomers. The show features over 65 pieces of art and includes all genres including figurative, landscape and still-life works in a variety of mediums. The intriguing subject matter ranges from abstract prairies scenes, to realistic portraits of working cowboys, and from the hard steel and concrete of local architecture, to sensual wild flowers spilling out of a porcelain vase. The paintings vary widely in size, from huge oversized canvases to miniatures.

Here is a short video about what inspires each artist!

The featured artists are: 
Michael James Allen (Topeka); Jim Clements (Eldorado); Jane Flanders (Lawrence); Doug Frye (Topeka); Marilyn Horsch (Lawrence); Michelle Leivan (Topeka); Cheryl Heller Olsen (Council Grove); Jeannie Pflumm (Lenexa); Richard Prather (Garland, TX); and Deb Schroer (Strong City).
Artist Reception, February 3rd
Artists to Watch in 2012
January 6 - February 15, 2012
SouthWind Gallery
29th and Oakley
Topeka, KS 66614

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

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Artists to Watch in 2012 Exhibit Opening

"Bees Knees on Echinacea II" currently at the SouthWind Gallery, Topeka

"Artists to Watch in 2012", is an exciting new show featuring the work of 10 artists. The common thread that links the artists is their high level of talent and an all-consuming passion for creating art.

The show features over 65 pieces of art and includes all genres including figurative, landscape and still-life works in a variety of mediums. The paintings vary widely in size, from huge oversized canvases to miniatures.

Participating artists: Michael Allen (Topeka), Jim Clements (El Dorado), Jane Flanders (Lawrence), Doug Frye (Topeka), Marilyn Horsch (Lawrence), Michelle Leivan (Topeka), Cheryl Heller Olsen (Council Grove), Jeannie Pflumm (Lenexa), Richard Prather (Garland, TX), and Deb Schroer (Strong City)
January 6 - February 15, 2012

Opening Reception, January 6, 2012 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

SouthWind Gallery
29th & Oakley - Topeka, KS

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

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Kansans Paint Kansas - Topeka Art Guild Opening Oct. 7

One of three accepted entries of Michelle Leivan's in the Kansans Paint Kansas Competition

Topeka Art Guild & Gallery Hosts it’s Annual “Kansans Paint Kansas” Fund Raiser and Art Competition
A juried competition, open to Kansas artists and students.


Kansas artists come together in a collective art exhibit to benefit one of the biggest supporters of the arts in the North East Kansas area.

Statewide artists submitted Kansas inspired subject matter to be included for consideration in this juried competition. Both traditional and progressive art mediums are represented from artists in all levels of their career. All juried entries are available for sale providing an opportunity to buy art from Kansas artists as well as support the oldest continuing art organization in the City of Topeka. This exhibit was jurored by Judith Mackey an award winning a professional artist of 40 years and a native Kansan who resides in the Flint Hills of Kansas, paints

what she is most familiar with—landscapes of the prairie, working cowboys and the ranch life that surrounds her rural Chase County home. She agreed to judge our newest show, Kansans Paint Kansas. The Topeka Art Guild is grateful for her giving her time and expertise to our big fundraising event. It is an honor to have her participate.

Judith will be showing some of her paintings in the gallery along with the Kansans Paint Kansas show. If you haven’t seen her work before this will be a great opportunity for you to see beautiful Kansas art by Mackey and other members of the Topeka Art Guild.

Opening Reception for Kansans Paint Kansas will be held on Friday October 7, 2011 from 5 - 8pm during the First Friday Art Walk, juror Judith Mackey will be present. The Topeka Art Guild Gallery is located at 5331 SW 22nd Place, Topeka, KS 66614 at Fairlawn Shopping Plaza. This event is free to the public and will continue through November 2011.

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Pale Purple Coneflower Above a Patchwork Plain

Pale Purple Coneflower Above a Patchwork Plain

This piece has been accepted in the Buttonwood Art Space 3rd Annual Visions of the Flint Hills Benefit and Sale.

Come out and help my fellow artists and I support the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills of Kansas.

VISIONS OF THE FLINT HILLS BENEFIT AND SALE is a juried exhibit featuring art of the Flint Hills. The exhibit will run from October 7, 2011 thru November 25, 2011, in the Buttonwood Art Space (www.buttonwoodartspace.com ), 3013 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri. Partial proceeds from the event benefit a non-profit organization which promotes the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills of Kansas. www.visionsoftheflinthills.org

Gallery Hours:
Monday through Friday - 9:00 am to 5 pm
Sundays and Evenings by Appointment
First Friday October 7th and November 4th, 2011 - Open House Food/Drink 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm

JURORS: Jamie Lavin, Buttonwood Gallery Director.

Artist's Comments:

Pale Purple Conflowers are a favorite subject of mine. Here I found them looking over a Kansas landscape known as the Flint Hills near the Konza Prairie Reserve in Riley County. The beauty of the Flint Hills in Kansas is unrivaled and many artists are inspired by them.

The Flint Hills are steep-sloped and overlain by shallow limestone soils unsuitable for cultivation. This region contains the largest remaining area of tallgrass prairie in North America since the majority of the Konza Prairie and the surrounding landscape have not been plowed. To learn more about the Konza Prairie go to http://keep.konza.ksu.edu/friends/

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Tinkham Veale - in September

Bees Knees on Echinacea

Beginning First Friday Art Walk from 5:30 - 8:30 on September 2nd through September, several Leivan Kansas Floral oil paintings are available at the Tinkham Veale Gallery,909 1/2 S. Kansas Avenue, Topeka Kansas. This group of paintings are among the most recent oil painting created during the last few months and include Hidden Garden Red Poppies, Trumpet Flower Trio Playing Taps, That is a Very Nice Way - Sunflower, Daffodil Delight East, Daffodil Delight West and Bees Knees on Echinacea. The gallery hours are First Friday Art Walk and Top City Thursdays evenings. Michelle's long-standing love affair with the flowers of Kansas is gloriously represented in this new collection.

A 1996 study conducted by Virginia Lohr and others showed that rooms and offices decorated with plants and flowers helped sacrifice stress as measured by decreased blood pressure and pulse rates. Researchers have further determined that there is also a correlation between flowers and being satisfied with life. In another study it was demonstrated that flowers will improve a person’s mood by decreasing anxiety, depression and agitation.


Decorating your home or office with Michelle’s colorful floral art instead of fresh flowers, allows you to include flowers in your decor that will never die, dry out or fade. Having blossoms filled with personality as an element in your home can be a positive influence for both inhabitants and visitors because they make a home more welcoming and create an inviting atmosphere. With their versatility and universal appeal, floral paintings go well in any room of your home or office. In a living room or dining room they add a degree of sophistication; in the bedroom they add romance to the ambiance.


 Also at Tinkham Veale Gallery:

The silent auction fundraiser for Doodle it Downtown is coming to an end this First Friday Art Walk, September 2nd. To view and bid on the pieces go to the foyer of The Tinkham Veale Gallery,909 S Kansas Avenue. This will be your opportunity to own one of these amazing pieces. The programs offered by Downtown Topeka,Inc. and Topeka Parks &Recreation Foundation will both benefit from the Auction.

Sponsored by local business, the artists created their pieces on 26″x 40″paper outside during record heat from Noon to 7:30 pm on July 28th. Among the participating artists was Art Print Express’ sponsored Michelle Leivan who painted a sunflower “Ad Astra Apollo” pictured in chalk.

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End of the Season - Sunflower

End of the Season - Sunflower

The sunflower faithfully tracks the sun through a late summer watching the evening sun set and soon returns toward the east to meet the morning. This sunflower shows the wear and tear of an entire season. On occasion I find myself feeling more and more cynical about the world we live in and this sunflower echoes the withering of my optimism. It seems every time I tune into the world today whether it is on TV, Radio or on the Internet, I am inundated with disaster, murder, war and loss of various degrees. It is exhausting!

However, we must remember that with the passage of time come eternal change and the promise of a new day just as the change of each season. When I feel overwhelmed by the media and the pessimistic events of our day, I rummage around in my mind for a bit of comfort. Lately I’ve found an item of peace with an ancient observation offered by King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible and later brought into pop culture in the ‘60’s by Pete Seeger of the Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn, to Everything There is a Season.”  

Turn, Turn, Turn - The Byrds

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late

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Ensley Echinachea

16"x20" oil on canvas

Michelle Leivan at Ensley Gardens
Ted Ensley Gardens
Art Competition and Sale
A fundraiser for the Friends of Ted Ensley Gardens
Sunday, September 19, 2010
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Garden House at Lake Shawnee, 37th & West Edge Rd.
(Refreshments served)

In June, SouthWind Gallery invited 35 artists to participate in a one-day plein air painting competition at the beautiful Ensley Gardens at Lake Shawnee. Shown is a photo of me (taken by Dylan Clemmons) painting my "Ensley Echinachea" pieces near a fantastic collection of purple coneflowers in Ensley Gardens.

The paint-out is part of a fundraising event organized by the Friends of Ted Ensley Gardens. The public is invited to attend the juried art exhibit and sale on Sunday, September 19, 2010, from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., at the Garden House at Lake Shawnee, 37th & West Edge Road. Jurors for the art competition are Gary Blitsch and Sharon Hotchkiss of SouthWind Gallery.

The World Class Ensley Gardens would not be possible without the public and private partnership created between Friends of the Ted Ensley Gardens and Shawnee County Parks & Recreation. All proceeds from the art sale will be used to support local artists and to ensure that the Ted Ensley Gardens remain "World Class Gardens" for all to enjoy. *

View additional artwork online at SouthWind Gallery: www.SouthWindArtGallery.com.

To learn more about the Friends of Ensley Gardens or to volunteer, contact Shawnee County Parks and Recreation at 267-1156.  

*Sales Proceeds: Participating Artists will receive 60 percent and Friends of Ensley Gardens will receive 40 percent.  

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Tulips and Daffodils found a home

My Facebook posts led to my most recent paintings, "Daffodils - Signs of Spring" and "Easter Tulips" to find a home tonight. As with many art buyers there is a story. Identical twin grand-daughters, one who loves daffodils and the other who loves tulips inspired the purchase of these two paintings. Grandma wanted something unique and beautiful in her house that reflected her beloved girls. I love this story, it is art sold for exactly the way art should be acquired and is the exact reason why I paint. There is not a better complement than to find that your work makes a connection and for it to bring a lifetime of joy and memories for another person. Thank you Jeanie!

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Take Kansas Home dot com!

Take Kansas Home.com
Echinacea Tile Set

Take Kansas Home!
TakeKansasHome.com was created through a public-private partnership between the Kansas Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Division and Free Bird Business Solutions.  The goal of this venture is to feature Kansas culture as it is represented in the fine artisan goods produced in our state. Kansas artists offer a host of wonderful handcrafted items, from specialty foods, to artwork, crafts and glassware.

You can find specially selected 8x10 prints, ceramic art tile sets, wine charm sets, note card sets and my Stroke of Genius Game.

http://www.TakeKansasHome.com Go check it out! Find out more about the site, and
do a search for my name!

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Creations Unique With Originals!

Creations Unique in Topeka now Showing Several of My Originals! 4028 SW Huntoon (Gage Village) Phone: 785-271-8288Playful Peek
I had the pleasure of meeting Tamra at Creations Unique.
She was gracious enough to offer me her entire south wall to exhibit my originals. You have got to stop in this month to take a look!

I was thrilled when I stumbled upon her store a few weeks back, a customer at Framewoods was needing stain glass repair and we guided him to Creations Unique. So, I thought I'd better go see where we were sending people. Tamra teaches classes on stained glass, fused glass and glass bead making. I also discovered that she sells the glass tiles that I've been coveting for my jewelry design. One of the things that is important to me is to find the items I use to create my work in the local economy and nearly jumped up and down when she brought out exactly what I spent all summer looking for!

Along with my originals, you will also find my Stroke of Genius game, note cards, wine charms and tiles and hopefully soon, my jewelry!

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Dreamy Wildflower Necklaces!

Can Be Found at
Dreamy Wildflower Necklaces
I have been working all summer designing a new product line. In our current economy it's good to have a variety of options for the art lover and I wanted to make something fun and can be worn next to your heart!
Kansas romance in its finest form can be found with these glass tile and ribbon necklaces featuring a print of a wildflower painting from the Kansas Wildflower Series, handmade, by me!
Pendant measures approximately 1" in length are made with a selected print which is adhered to a slumped glass tile and covered with water resistant glaze. This necklace also features 19" coordinating ribbon and cord strands with gold tone Aanraku bail and clasp. All displayed delightfully on a gift card and packaged with an envelope.
There are several designs to choose from and they make a wonderfully unique gift!

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Summer Solstice

Acrylic on Canvas 48"x36"

This piece features the Kansas wildflower St. John's The dark spots on the petals are said to represent drops of St. John's blood. KSwildflower.org

Saint John who had been sentenced to death was beheaded violently. Saint John's splashing holy blood formed the red oil spots on the translucent yellow leaves of St. john's wort . The Saint's healing power passed to St. John's wort and the plant was called the root of Saint John.

The medicinal property of St. John's wort for many different health problems raised it to a legendary level and made it the subject matter of myths and folk beliefs.

In Ancient Rome they called the St. John's wort the "demon scare". It was a talisman hanged in houses for driving away and being protected from the evil spirits. Besides that, it was believed to be protecting the house from thunderbolt and death. Ottoman soldiers used to carry with them the oil of St. John's wort for to treat wounds. Much more at StJohnsWortOil.com The magickal herb

It was customary in Britain and Europe on St John's Eve, to gather certain herbs, such as St John's wort, vervain, trefoil and rue, all of which were believed to have magical properties. St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) does, in fact, have scientifically proven anti -depressant qualities. Drinks were brewed from it to cure madness, sciatica, epilepsy and paralysis. The salve made from the herb cured wounds from spears and swords - or, so it is said.

Flowers of St John's wort used to be collected in Britain and Europe on St John's Eve (June 23rd) and worn on the body or hung over doorways as protection against witches. It was also placed near windows as witches can look in to cast a spell. Even in recent times the people of the Landes district of France would make crosses of wort on their doors. In Britain, one old custom was for a maiden to pick a sprig of St John's wort and wear it in her bosom until Christmas, by which time the man who was to be her husband, and he alone, would see it and take it from her. More at WilsonsAlmanac.com

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Apollo in Delphos Facing the Evening Sun - Large Acrylic on Canvas 48"x36"

This is a larger version of the smaller piece with the same name Apollo in Delphos... 20"x16"
SouthWind Gallery owner, Gary Blitsch asked me to recreate the two pieces accepted by the Art in Embassies program, but make them large so that he could put them in the gallery window. This is the first of the two. Stop in the gallery to see them if you can.

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Art in Embassies Program Accepts Kansas Wildflower Artwork

I am so excited! Two of my Kansas Wildflower Series paintings were chosen for the  Art in Embassies Program. They will be a part of the exhibition at Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay in the U.S.. Embassy Residence in Asuncion. It will be on loan for the next 3 years. The pieces "Apollo in Delphos Facing the Evening Sun" and the "Apollo in Delphos Facing the Morning Sun" were both selected.

It is amazing how serendipity plays a part in life. I work two days a month a the local co-operative gallery Collective Art Gallery of Topeka. This month, I swapped work days with a fellow artist, this is common when we discover conflicts in our schedules, just seemed like a typical day at the gallery. I received a phone call from a gentleman from the Art in Embassies Program and he inquired about member artists who have sunflower pieces. He was putting together an exhibition for the Paraguay Ambassador and sunflowers where a connection between the two countries. He had called the gallery because he knew there had to be an artist in Kansas who painted sunflowers.

Being caught of guard by the call, not a single artist came to mind... except my own. I stuttered and hemmed a second or two and said "At the risk of sounding self serving, I paint Kansas wildflowers and have several sunflower paintings, but I could make some calls and see if our other members have sunflowers they'd like to submit."

He asked me if I could send him Jpgs of some of my pieces and I told him he could have instant access on my website. We disconnected, I made a phone call to help my foggy brain, gathered a list of fellow sunflower painters.

A short time later, he called back and was very complementary about my two Apollo in Kansas paintings and requested to send them on to the curator. Making a long story short, they were accepted by the curator and off we go on the adventure. These pieces will be more world traveled than me! How exciting!

Had I not been working for someone else that day, would my pieces have been suggested or selected? All I can say is WOW! You can never predict what a day will bring you.

I didn't know about this program and I am pleased to discover it. The Art in Embassies Progam also accepts submissions.

About the Art in Embassies Program:

Established by the United States Department of State in 1964, the ART In Embassies Program is a global museum that exhibits original works of art by U.S. citizens in the public rooms of approximately 180 American diplomatic residences worldwide. These exhibitions, with art loaned from galleries, museums, individual artists, and corporate and private collections, play an important role in our nation's public diplomacy. They provide international audiences with a sense of the quality, scope, and diversity of American art and culture through the accomplishments of some of our most important citizens, our artists.

ART's curatorial team develops thematic exhibitions in collaboration with each ambassador, taking into account the host country's artistic traditions and cultural mores. They recommend artists and works of art, negotiate all loans, and propose placement of the art within the embassy residences. After all loans are secured and the art insured, ART's registrars coordinate with professional art handlers for the assembly, packing, crating and safe shipment of each exhibition to post.

Art in Embassies Program

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Memories of Smoky Hill

Acrylic on Canvas 20"x16"

I grew up around the middle of the Smoky Hills. Named for the "hazy" appearance at sunrise and sunset, the Smoky Hills provide a transition between the mixed-grass prairie and the short-grass prairie of the plains. The area flows through the middle and covering the western two thirds of Kansas and overlaps the western edge of the beautiful Flint Hills. The Smoky Hill River Valley covers the north and south of I-70 from Abilene west. It was a beautiful place to grow up. For more about the Smoky Hills: http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Extension/smoky/places.html And the Smoky Hill River Valley http://www.nwk.usace.army.mil/ka/history-travelers.cfm

In the well drained hillsides of the Smoky Hills can be found wild Echinacea often referred to locally as "snake root." (not to be mistaken for White Snakeroot - Eupatorium rugosum a poisonous.) The locals meant Echinacea angustifolia - Narrow-leaf Coneflower which could be dug up in the cow pastures and sold for cash at a broker that very day, it was like picking up nickels, dimes and quarters. A body could dig for an entire day and make about $100. At the time the new age herbal movement was in its infancy and the whole process of collecting it seemed mysterious as to why they were buying it? the stuff wasn't sold on the Wal-Mart pharmacy shelves as it is today. Nonetheless, the plant got us through many a tight spot through our college years for which I am forever grateful. This is one of the reasons I frequently paint the purple coneflower. There is such a personal connection for me that is deeper than just the simple beauty and grace of the plant.

This current piece reminds me of the popular Tuscan Style Décor with a twist of Kansas, which leads me to think about Italy and wines? talk about the beginning of a romance!

When you grow up in a place and have become accustom to what the landscape offers, you can find yourself out of sorts when you drive down a road you haven't bothered driving in a while and as you pop over a hill, there is suddenly a sample of Italy where there once was flowing acres of wheat. A few months ago I was pleasantly surprised to discover the vineyard and winery that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, just 3 miles north of Salina on Old 81 hwy. It had been years since we traveled that road. It was common in my childhood to drive Old 81 as family once live along that highway. That day we discovered this "new" feature we didn't have time to stop in and have a taste.

This weekend, finally we had an opportunity to try this fine Kansas Product. We located a selection at Lakeside Liquor Store at 29th and Croco, Topeka. We selected the "Czech Red" This long-time popular wine from Smoky Hill Vineyards is crafted from a blend of several grapes. "Czechoslovkian style" means it is a sweet wine created to yield an abundance of fruit flavor. The wine's brilliant cherry red hue invokes thoughts of the palette of color found at many area festivals celebrating the heritage and cultural diversity in Kansas. Light-bodied and sweet, it is great with hamburgers fresh of the grill. Enjoy it served at room temperature, or chilled to bring out the full fruitiness of the wine. Yep they nailed it. Yummy! www.Kansaswine.com

All this talk of the Smoky Hill Wine and Flowers reminds me that I haven't mentioned my new set of products in my blog. Kansas romance in its finest form can be found with these wine glass charms featuring a print of a wildflower from the Kansas Wildflower Series, handmade, dated and signed. They are like jewelry for your wine glass, but they also serve the purpose of marking your glass at a party because each set of charms features six different images making it easy for identification.

They are currently sold locally at Ice & Olives at 29th and Croco, Topeka and online at my new Etsy.com shop LeivanOriginals.Etsy.com.

Customer Feedback
"Michelle is a wonderful artist and very professional to work with." - Cheryl Logan
"I love having a Leivan in my entryway, it brightens up the entire space." - Carol Turner
"I enjoy Michelle's wild flower series so much I had to have two!" - Karen Hiller

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Apollo in Delphos Facing the Evening Sun

20 x 16 Acrylic on Canvas

Crimson faced sunflower isn't as common in Kansas as is the yellow sunflower but I find them inspiring with their brilliant reds set off with their green foliage. Inspiration comes from many sources... Delphos Kansas being the background for this piece as it was the last piece.

I am using a new technique to create these pieces. I have used templates that I have created by taking photo enlargements and cutting the template out in many stages to separate the initial colors. Then I continue with finishing the floral by painting them much like I have done with my past pieces. This technique expands my freedom with composition and contemplation of several possibilities. I am no longer tied to the first stroke of the brush to position the flower.

Apollo, Delpi, Delphos, UFOs!

The following incident occurred in Delphos on a dark, clear night November 2, 1971. It has never been debunked...

A sixteen-year-old farm boy heard a rumbling noise. When he stepped outside to investigate the noise, he saw a brilliant object near the ground. Although it was not clearly visible, he noticed a mass of blue, red, and orange colors on the dome shaped object. The object was said to be around 8-feet in diameter. With a bright, shimmering glow which extended from the base to the ground, illuminating nearby trees and the ground. After the object flew off, a glowing ring appeared on the spot. Analysis showed that the soil had undergone considerable physical and chemical changes that lasted for several months.

For more about this please visit http://www.ufocasebook.com/Kansas.html

The strange and unusual can be found in many places and it is particularly inspirational when it hits close to home and your own history. I can remember people talking about this in my early years. It has been a great source of conversation and debate. The UFO issue at large is like arguing with someone about their religion. You aren't going to sway them from their faith either believing or disbelieving. Which brings be back to the Greeks and their Oracle at Delphi dedicated to Apollo. You couldn't convince a Greek that the Oracle at Delphi was just getting their prophecies through inhalation of methane causing a hallucinogenic trance. This suggests that there is so much about the world that we simply accept through our faith in the unseen or misunderstood.

I will suggest here that there is much more to Delphos, Kansas rich history. I would suggest visiting if you get the chance? for online information go to the city website http://skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Delphos/

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Apollo in Delphos Facing the Morning Sun

20 x 16 Acrylic on Canvas

The golden faced sunflower is extremely common in Kansas they inspire all of the mythology that surrounds the Greek concepts of their sun god who supported all the arts in the ancient culture.

From deTraci Regula, About.com Apollo was the son of the supreme Greek god Zeus and Leto, a nymph. Zeus's wife Hera was outraged and convinced the earth to refuse to allow Leto to give birth anywhere on its surface. But the island of Delos allowed Leto to take refuge there and give birth to Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the hunt and wild things. The goddess Themis assisted in raising him by feeding him ambrosia, the sacred nectar of the gods.

When I first learned about Greek mythology, it intrigued me to discover that a familiar nearby town name had Greek inspiration. We have all heard of the Oracle at Delphi, well, Delphos is a quaint (blink and miss it) town where I grew up in central Kansas. I remember many events I attended at The Bohemian Hall which stands three miles west of the Pike Monument in the post-rock country. This was the center of the early Czech community.

But there is much more to this little town than meets the eye?

Spiritualism first came to Ottawa County, Kansas in 1873. The first meetings were held in a home. The group became known as the Universal Church, which is said to be the earliest religious organization in the area, although Methodists, Catholics, and Presbyterians also came to this area in the 1870's.

In 1877, the group traveled to Delphos, Kansas with 13 members. Within a few years, their numbers grew to nearly one hundred members. The camp was located in an oak grove northwest of Delphos, were Spiritualists held summer camp meetings for many years. Hundreds of people attended the meetings, many of them coming in on special trains, which ran two or three times a day from Salina, through Solomon, and onto Delphos.

It's estimated that the trains brought in between 1500 and 2000 people at the peak of the Spiritualist's popularity. The train tracks ran right along side the campsite. The meetings in those early years had a carnival-like atmosphere with many tents and a large stage.

A large tent was used for services for two years after the camp was moved. Later, a local resident had dug a basement on his land in Wells, planning to build a house over it. When his finances ran short, he sold the lot to the Spiritualists. The basement was enlarged and with the help of the men in the community, rock was hauled from surrounding pastures, to lay up the basement walls. Cooking for the men was done on a wood range in one of the cabins, which were moved from the Delphos Camp.

The original charter was issued by the State of Kansas in 1881. And it states, "This Corporation shall be The First Association of Spiritualists of Delphos, Ottawa County, Kansas [...] The purposes for which this corporation is formed are the attainment and promulgation of knowledge, religious, scientific, and educational." Due to the death of many of the older members, the fact that more had moved away, and flooding along the Solomon river (which had caused several meetings to be canceled), the camp was dismantled and moved to Wells, in 1934. From http://skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Delphos/our_history/spiritualist_camp.html
Learn more about the Spritualists at http://www.sunsetcamp.org/

My parents lived in Wells, Kansas early in their marriage. My grandparents had a farm just a couple of miles outside Wells. I can remember my mother talking about having gone to one of these meeting simply out of curiosity. She was told that she would soon have a drop leaf table with seating for three... I have that drop leaf table right now in my kitchen and I use that table often to create my paintings.

What a wildly ironic connection, Apollo, Delphi, Delphos, Spiritualism and my kitchen table which is used to create art!

I am using a new technique to create these pieces. I have used templates that I have created by taking photo enlargements and cutting the template out in many stages to separate the initial colors. Then I continue with finishing the floral by painting them much like I have done with my past pieces. This technique expands my freedom with composition and contemplation of several possibilities. I am no longer tied to the first stroke of the brush to position the flower.

Believe it or not there is more to come on the next Post. Apollo in Delphos Facing the Evening Sun!

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Wild Indigo Sunspot

Acrylic on Canvas 20x16

Talk about stepping out of the box. The last painting "Susan on Denim" started a flurry of inspiration and activity. It's so refreshing to be inspired and productive. The Holiday season kept me so busy it seemed I never had any quietude. No time to sit and contemplate not to mention to act on inspiration.

Today, during a quite moment, I was thinking about my backgrounds, wanting to mix it up bring some energy to my method and "paint roller, in the shed" just popped into my head. "Wow, that would be fun to experiment with," quickly followed. So I spent the afternoon playing with the paint roller. Mixing it up with the floral work and the new direction of color was fantastic fun. Filling the roller, then only putting paint on a part of the roller, then two colors together, the possibilities seem endless. I am pleased with the final image and I believe I'll experiment a bit more with the rollers.

This piece shows a single strand of Wild Indigo with several suggestions of the sun set in a patchwork background with blues and purples.

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Susan on Denim

Acrylic on Canvas 20x16

Oh what fun it is to have some closure on a piece that has been bugging me for weeks. Sometimes inspiration comes in spurts and jumps. Like the human that I am not everything I work on is successful and so when I am struggling with a piece it gets put in the "later" box.

Then every once in a while, when I'm feeling courageous, I'll rummage through the box and pick one to rework. This is one of those pieces and this week I found complete satisfaction, working through a former block.

With this rework also came a bit of experimentation and turning away from a rut. This is also quite freeing. I pulled away from my strong bright colors and allowed the background build with a variety of layers creating a rich denim color behind the bold Black Eyed Susan. I also wove the square through the petals bringing a playful dialogue between foreground and background. Finally, I scrubbed through a few areas of the top layer to reveal the under painting that had given me such trouble in the past. It was a little like taking a victory lap.

I hope you enjoy this piece.

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Tenacious Troika

This piece is from the Kansas Wild Flower Series
original painting by Michelle Leivan

Artist Comments
I am not sure why I chose to paint these Pale Poppy Mallows at this time. Maybe I needed a break from my Echinacea. I remember photographing this set. I took several pictures trying to get the right angle and lighting to capture their character. They are grouped in protection but still hold their own personality. This set makes me think of the closeness of my family of three and individual growth that is safely nurtured in our home. This trio of Pale Poppy Mallows is presented with a blue-green background.

Customer Feedback
"Michelle is a wonderful artist and very professional to work with." - Cheryl Logan
"I love having a Leivan in my entryway, it brightens up the entire space." - Carol Turner
"I enjoy Michelle's wild flower series so much I had to have two!" - Karen Hiller

20" x 16" on 3/4" deep canvas. Gallery wrapped (image extends around edge) this makes it ready to hang without a frame.

This is an original painting; it is not a print or reproduction. This piece was painted with professional grade paints to create a piece that offers cheerful addition to any setting needing a touch of vibrant color.

Professional grade acrylics on quality canvas and it glazed with a UV protectant seal.

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Twining Touch

Twining Touch - Acrylic on Canvas - 20x16

Twining Touch features two pale purple cone flowers (echinacea pallida) depicted in a loving private embrase with their petals and stems. They seem to have found a space of their own that can not be disturbed by the outside world. It remindes me of the longing for my husband's touch while he was deployed and the bliss of his gentle touch when he arrived back home.I think we all need these tender caresses from a loved one just to remind us we are among the living.

This is the second piece that will be place in the "Flower Power 2" show with SouthWind Gallery of Topeka. This show opens January 16th and runs through February 15th the Artist Reception is on February 6th during the First Friday Art Walk.

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New Year News! What a way to begin!

Candid Introspection - mixed media on paper - by Michelle LeivanI have had a very eventful and successful Holiday Season, I hope that the Holidays found you well and ready for a Happy New Year!

It is amazing what can happen unexpectedly. One of my goals I've created for myself is to have new work with each new show at The Art Collective and at The Art Guild of Topeka and to add at least one new place to exhibit my work each month. Well, thankfully this has turn out fairly simple for the first two months of 2009 so far. I have shows in Western Kansas at the Gorham City Hall, and Eastern Kansas at SouthWind Gallery, and Sun Resort Tanning and Fitness in Topeka. Details below... 

Please let me know if you have been out to see  any of these events. Feedback is so fun to hear and is important to me.  
Wow! What a great way to kick off the New Year!  and hope to see you in the galleries in 2009!

Feminine Desert
Sun Resort Tanning and Fitness
Location: 1301 Gage location in Topeka, Kansas
Event Dates: 1/2/2009 - 2/28/2009
Reception: 1/2/2000 · 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
I will have a solo show of my Feminine Desert: Paintumentary at Sun Resort Tanning and Fitness, opening First Friday Art Walk and running February of 2009.
About the Series:
"Feminine Desert: Paintumentary" is a series of paintings and prose based on the perception duality many young women present to the world. The conflict of the independence they believe they portray versus the true co-dependency they actually exhibit to the world, a contradiction they are too often unable to recognize.

Each piece is dominated by abstract human figures. The pallet used allows expression of the human form in a multicultural, non-ethnic specific tone, capturing the universal aspect of humanity. Notable the use of color creates a striking contrast to the expected outcome in portraiture.
The Inspiration:
As young women I watched my sister-in-laws struggle with co-dependency issues. I believe many young women, including myself, at some point in our lives have a tendency to please others and are eager for self sacrifice and believe we are happy if the people in our lives are happy with us.
My in-laws and I spent many evenings in long discussions about their relationship choices and their desire to define themselves through other's eyes. I ached to witness their lives filled with disappointment and tough affairs of the heart. I sought relief and turned to my art to sort out my own anguish I began painting the series.
One evening I was nearly done with the current twenty pieces and I had another long night talking about relationship disillusionment with one of these young women. During the drive home I mulled over the long debates. I found my inspiration to complete the series. As soon as I got home, in a flurry of creativity wrote all of the accompanying prose for this series. What developed was an intricate intertwining of imagery, prose and use of anagram within each title to create a message which mimics the complexity of co-dependency. I hope that the message will encourage women of all ages to find love within and discover their inner freedom and beauty. 
Sun Resort Tanning and Fitness
The imagery, commentary and call to action that Feminine Desert presents is for young women to find love within rather than seeking approval from others. The message encourages the seeking of inner beauty which will only enhance the great looks the customers reap through Sun Resort Tanning and Fitness' services.  
This show has also spurred the completion of my second self-published book Feminine Desert: Paintumentary, available online under my "Book" link on my website.

'GoodWildfowers Invade Western Kansas
Location: Gorham City Hall
125 Market Street
Gorham KS 67640
Event Dates: 12/1/2008 - 4/30/2009

This month my Kansas Wildflowers are invading Western Kansas! Several pieces will be on display and for sale in Gorham City Hall through April 30th. Ok, so I know the mayor - that's how it happens! If you get a chance to stop in say Hi! to Mayor Martinson for me!
For more about Gorham Kansas go to http://skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Gorham
Three's Company - Acrylic on Canvas 20"x16" by Michelle LeivanFlower Power 2
Location: SouthWind Gallery at Framewoods of Topeka
Event Dates: 1/16/2009 - 2/28/2009
Reception: 2/6/2009 · 6 pm - 8:00 pm
3074 SW 29th
Topeka KS 66614
Hours: Mon-Fri 10am - 6pm Sat 10am - 4pm

Sometimes working at a gallery has it's advantages - I will be showing two new works at SouthWind Gallery at Framewoods of Topeka in the Flower Power 2 group show. The show features floral works by regional women artists. I am honored to have my hung work with all of these excellent artists.
Which opens January 16th with the artist reception on February 6th during February's First Friday Art Walk.
'Ophelia-The Collective Art Gallery
3121 SW Huntoon St.
Topeka, KS 66604-1662
ph: 785.234.4254

HOURS: Wed-Fri: noon-4 p.m. Sat: 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
or by appointment.

The Collective Art Gallery presents:

                "NEW ART FOR A NEW YEAR"

     In honor of the new year, the Collective Member Artists are mounting a  group exhibition, featuring new work by each one such as pictured piece "Ophelia" by Michelle Leivan.... (yes it's uninhibited self promotion here.)
Opening reception is scheduled for Friday January 2, 2009, 5:30-8:30PM in conjunction with the "First Friday Art Walk!"
Show runs through January 31, 2009
'OrangeGates and Portals
Location: Topeka Art Guild
Event Dates: 12/5/2008 - 1/31/2009
Reception: 1/2/2009 · 6:00 - 8:00
Art Guild Gallery
Topeka Art Guild, Inc.
5331 SW 22nd Place
Topeka, KS 66614
Phone: 785.273.7646

"Gates and Portals"
Member Artists reveal their own concept of Gates and Portals to bring us into the New Year! Artist Reception Jan 2, 2008

The Art Guild Gallery, located in the west end of Fairlawn Shopping Center, Topeka, KS, is staffed by volunteer members. It is free and open to the public.

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Art Heals and Comforts

Evening Promise - Acrylic on Canvas 24"x30"

I was strolling through the bookstore the other day and was approached by one of my patrons. To my surprise I discovered that my artwork has provided spiritual comfort and growth when hung in private sacred spaces. This particular patron, Debra Fisher told me her story that I would like to share with you.

Debra was going through a divorce and suddenly lost her only daughter Claire in a car accident. One day to her surprise she saw "Evening Promise" (pictured) in the window of a gallery. It reminded her of Claire with the colors and the mood it created and she couldn't help but look at it every day as she drove to and from work. Drawn, she inquired about the piece. She was pleased to discover the name of the piece because it solidified her connection because evening was a special time of day for Claire. All of her original art was gone from the divorce and this piece was her first purchase to rebuild her collection. Taking it home, she placed it in the bedroom in which she had created a sanctuary. Every morning as she woke and evening before bed she would gaze upon the piece and feel closer to Claire and gain strength to face another day with her other trials. As time went by her divorce was finalized and she began to heal from the year's losses. She discussed the comfort the piece gave her and the healing progress she was proud of and in response, her friend pointed out, "It's no wonder the painting helped you heal, its Echinacea which is a healing flower."

Her story nearly brought me to tears. When painting these pieces I can never anticipate how they will find their way into people's lives. All I know is that they also help me through the process of painting them in a variety of different ways and I am always honored to discover that my work has inspired healing and comfort. 

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Singing Morning - Acrylic on Canvas 12x12

"Singing Morning" Acrylic on Canvas 12x12

It has been a very busy week and I am behind on my art blogging. This piece was painted on Wednesday while I gallery sat at tht Topeka Art Guild. It was my first day to attend the gallery and it was very quiet that day. There wasn't the opportunity to sit on my back porch this time and paint from my collection of live flowers so I returned to my photographs.

This flower is a pale purple cone flower which grows wild in the area. They present with a paler purple, almost a white which is strikingly different than the purple cone flowers that are commonly seen. Their petals are long and spindly which give them a delicate and dancing appearance.

My inspiration for this piece was from a photo I had taken a couple of years ago and I have painted from the photo more than once. It was insteresting to step back into those images I have many than I have plans to paint and several that are my favorites. I decided to paint one of my favorites because I was more comfortable with the image and knew that I could be successful even if I was interupted several times while I was working in the gallery. I believe it was the right decision and I am please with the way it turned out.

For me this piece seems to sing with color and to be as fresh and bright as the mornings have been around here. Hence, the name "Singing Morning."

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Blessing and Sprouts ? Acrylic on Canvas 12"x12"

Blessing and Sprouts ? Acrylic on Canvas 12"x12"

My sister-in-law has been on my mind lately; she has three young ones and is a single mom. They came to visit last week and I got a huge dose of young sprouts. I have no idea how she keeps her sanity. For the few days they were with us it almost felt like someone had opened Pandora's Box right in the middle of our living room and it permeated everything we did or attempted to do. Even the simplest tasks such as cooking would be interrupted by the pandemonium. The boys were ornery, energetic and seemed to literally bounce off the walls. Her littlest of two years, was amazingly curious and she has such a beautiful radiance that you can not really get upset with her. She has a mischievous smile that will make any annoyance evaporate. I had forgotten what it was like with my son, but of course he was the only one. The mix of ages and interests is just astounding to consider taking on. I suppose when you start out with them new and adding them to your life gradually, you figure out how to handle it. I think I was just overwhelmed because it was completely out of my experience. I can honestly say though, I enjoyed having them here but was relieved to get back to my quiet comfort zone.

I do know I was thankful for the tools in my own mental toolbox to cope even for the short time they were here. Yesterday I mentioned Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" this book is such a wonderful resource if you a seeking peace of mind. The day I bought the book I picked it up and read the first chapter and I was hooked. It spoke to me on so many levels and inspired me to further explore my Kansas Wildflower Series and to begin my experimentation of doing them en plain aire.

One passage struck a cord with me, and I'll share it here:

"Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. They not only had a scent that was delicate and pleasing to humans, but also brought a fragrance from the realm of spirit. Using the word 'enlightenment' in a wider sense than the conventionally accepted one, we could look upon flowers as the enlightenment of plants."

There is much more to that chapter and the book in it's entirety but this is the one paragraph that continues to inspire my current work with my wildflowers and on a deeper level explains human reaction the arts and the intrinsic desire to be creative. It has also dawned on me recently you can find the same joy, love and wonder when observing our own tiny sprouts.

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Wednesday Night Discussions ? Acrylic on Canvas 12"x12"

Wednesday Night Discussions ? Acrylic on Canvas 12"x12"

Several weeks ago, well maybe it could be classified now as months, my neighbor Barbara and I happened to be outside at the same time and we got to talking. This isn't a new experience, over the last few years living in our house we often saw Barbara outside working in her lawn and on occasion we would strike up a conversation. But this day, months ago, proved to be significant. For some reason we began to talk about religion and faith, we seemed to be on a similar wavelength. I brought up a new book that I'd started. Currently, it's a very popular book and was currently being hyped by Oprah. It was Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth." By coincidence she had also been reading the very same book and a good friend of hers, Pat was too. They had wanted to get together and discuss the book but hadn't gotten around to doing it. I was game if they where game. So, our Wednesday night discussions began.

As our conversations evolve, we frequently get away from the book and discuss the many things that are happening in our lives. Through these experiences we have grown a friendship that I would not have anticipated. I look forward to our weekly get together and each week we struggle to remember which chapter we are on. Over the weeks we have become quite lax in our intended agenda, but as if fate dictated our path, whether starts out pointedly about the book or not, swings to be significant to the chapter we initially intended to discuss. Being that it is the end of the day, we are quite informal and spend most of the time, simply enjoying each other's company. Oh, it's so much fun!

This last Wednesday, I shared with both of them several of the pieces I have gotten done in the past few weeks. They expressed an interest and watching how I painted and to see the creative process. So, today I called Barbara and told her I was going to be painting this morning and if it pleased her, she was welcome to come over and see what this painting thing was all about. She sauntered on over and before she knew it, she was getting involved in the painting with ideas, comments and a new perspective. As the piece grew, it started to show an influence of the three of us and our Wednesday evenings. I think just having one of them there and the interactions we've had subconsciously dictated the end result. None the less, it was refreshing to have another to get involved with my process. Maybe next time I can put a brush in her hand too.

So, to honor our morning today and as a reminder of my new friends and our "Wednesday Night Discussions" I have named this piece to reflect these two important relationships with my neighbors.

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Morning Allure ? Acrylic on Canvas 36"x36"

Morning Allure ? Acrylic on Canvas 36"x36"

Morning is such a peaceful time of the day; it's the beginning of a whole world of opportunities. Ok, I know how cliché that is, but it is true. If you stop and really take the time to observe the fresh day you can find deep wells of peace and serenity. If you allow it, the chaos and clutter of the previous day can be washed away with the dreams of the night before and a state of clearing of the mind and hope for what the day will bring. It brought to mind "Morning Has Broken."

As Sung by Cat Stevens
lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Last evening I was in a tense mood, I had more on my agenda that didn't get done and on top of that, my teenager decided to be obstinate. He's in trouble and for some reason he thinks he can still create his own agenda. Then, after the threat of a local thunderstorm (figuratively and literally) this morning was relatively cool and is promising a mild day.

This piece is painted plein air directly from my new Echinacea plants. My potted plants are showing the toll of the warm up from the last few days and I am pleased that a few blooms remain. There are also new buds which are persevering to break open despite the July heat. Perhaps a lesson can be learned from these blooms to remember that no matter what the weather, life goes on and each morning can be an opportunity to start anew.

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Susan's Wind Dance 20"x20" Acrylic on Canvas

Susan's Wind Dance 20"x20" Acrylic on Canvas

Another piece from the gift of a bunch of potted Black-eyed Susans from a mother of one of my son's friends, once again painted en plain aire. I was so excited to sit down and create from this lovely gift.

However, it  never seems to fail that I have a manic Monday. My day started out very serene and pleasant, I found myself up early and made myself busy immediately with the tasks planned beginning of course with painting. Then as the heat of the day came on, and distractions seemed to have been blown in with the wind and the dance to balance everything began. I know you've experienced a day very similar, suddenly pulled away by circumstances beyond your control, then appointments to keep that drag on forever. Now mind you, it wasn't what I'd classify as a "bad" day, just a variety of unexpected turns and surprises, not all of them pleasant or what I'd jump up and down for joy about.

The first distraction was the discovery that my son had gotten into a fight with a long time friend, (I think if you boiled the issues down and got to the meat of the matter,  it concerned testosterone poisoning and alpha male posturing) no one was seriously hurt, but egos were bruised. Several other boys were spectators and instigators so that took the better part of the day to sort out. I was so thankful that I knew the parents well of the boy he actually fought. We all agreed both where in the wrong and that we would punish each appropriately. Needless to say both boys have lost many privileges and are grounded for a while. Oh, the angst of the teenage years!

Then I had a car appointment that was just crazy, I ended up with a phone call that they couldn't start my VW bug! If you have never owned a VW bug then you might not know that if you put the key in upside down it won't start the car! LOL. I had to make a special trip back into town to start the car for them so they could pull it in to do the servicing. They did a wonderful job despite not knowing how to start the VW (by the way it was a new windshield they were installing and not any of the mechanical things!!! We can be thankful for the small things.)

Needless to say, as the day waned, I was so pleased to finally wind down my day by getting back to where the day started and to finish what I had begun. The most amazing part is that I was just a little frustrated with this piece in the morning when I believed all was right in the world, then later in the day after the chaos, the piece came together without a hitch. I must have needed to get away from the piece and deal with the issues for the piece to evolve as it did. The creative process, who would've thunk it!

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Big Sky Beauty

48"x36" - Acrylic on Canvas

You never know what a day will bring to you. I woke up this morning at 4:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. So I decided that my day should start so I ate breakfast and waited until 6:30 to take my son to his football weights program. When I got home it was such a beautiful morning I decided to paint. I have been broadcasting when I paint on the web at http://leivan.camstreams.com and decided to broadcast this session. While on a break I viewed the chat room and there was a viewer there "ArtLover" who I found out was in London? simply amazing. We started talking about the piece and invited a critique. Together we discussed many aspects of the piece. What a wonderful experience! Input can be so valuable. Sometimes painting can seem so solitary. Thank you anonymous "ArtLover" for your input and friendly chat. Hope to see you on again.

About the name of the piece, I painted these "en plain aire" direct from potted Echinacea that I purchased a few days ago. These particular flowers are called "Big Sky Sundown" and they are a special hybrid by P.P.A.F Evan Saul. Their color is more of a sunset pinky orange (what I love to call sky blue pink) rather than magenta. They are so lovely and I enjoyed painting them.

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