One night in 2007, while driving south with my husband on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, a glance to the east gave me a breathtaking view of the full Moon rising over the dark waters of Lake Michigan.
That vision has haunted me ever since that night.
Lunar Power And Presence
The full Moon arrives on schedule every month, giving a graceful rhythm to our days and inspiration to our nights. Each time we gaze upward at its monthly fullness, we can feel the lunar power and presence that have such dramatic effects on Earth such as the tides, our emotions, and health.
Enjoying the Moon during its full phase brings not only pleasure at such a splendid sight but a feeling of deep connection to all creation and wonder at how we fit in to a much larger whole. By tuning in to its beauty, we feel our relationship to this satellite of our planet, our constant companion throughout our days on Earth.
Sometimes, Moon gazing can stir not only our hearts but our very souls. On that night in 2007, the Moon and her magical power left me speechless. It touched something deep within, and I knew the experience was operating on the soul level and pushing me to respond. As an artist, I felt compelled to capture my feelings and the experience in some way through painting.
Full Moon Watercolor Painting
I began with watercolors. Beyond my love for this medium, the subject of this Great Lake, Michigan, seemed to demand expression through water. Also, the Moon herself is linked to water: besides ruling the water sign Cancer, she represents dreams and consciousness, which have a mysterious, watery quality.
Here is that first version of the full Moon, Moonrise Over Lake Michigan I. As you can see, this watercolor full Moon painting has a classic landscape format, slightly rectangular. The big, full Moon is just rising in the eastern sky above Chicago’s Lake Michigan. The moonrise fills the painting with light, both in the sky and on the water’s surface.
The result pleased me so much. I loved the dramatic sense of bright moonlight, thanks to leaving several areas of the paper white or nearly so. Also, the loose and energetic brushstrokes for the blue sky and indigo lake give this painting a liveliness and painterly quality. I also loved how the paint and water ran, especially in the center, at the right edge of the Moon’s reflection on the water.
The shape didn’t feel quite right to me, though. It seemed too boxy, too square. Also, the paper’s size felt a little too small to capture my vision’s grandeur.
Full Moon Oil Painting
So I decided to try this subject a second time, using oil paints.
That’s the version you can see at the top of this post, Moonrise Over Lake Michigan II.
I chose a sharply horizontal format, which represented a significant departure for me. Many of my oil paintings at the time (2008) measured 16 by 20 inches. This more horizontal shape began a new interest in this format, which continued later in the year with a sunrise oil painting.
The greater width compared to height reinforces the feeling that the lake stretches out, seemingly forever, in a dark blue mystery penetrated only by moonlight.
I realized later how strongly this horizontal orientation appeals to me. As a child of the Midwest, born and raised in Northern Illinois and now living in Chicago, this region’s essential flatness is bred within me. Ours is a prairie place, an area of flatness stretching out in every direction, which makes it perfect for agriculture. Its sameness invites appreciation for subtle beauties, minute gradations of topography.
In the Moonrise Over Lake Michigan II oil painting, the full Moon has just emerged fully over the lake, as in the watercolor version. Pale yellow on the Moon and in the water’s ripples indicate the golden glow of the Moon when it’s low on the horizon, soon after it rises at night.
This version feels more mysterious and closer to my emotional experience during that night ride by the lake. Rather than filling the entire painting with light, as in the watercolor painting, here the Moon lights a path on the water while leaving the areas beyond that in relative darkness. With the greater horizontal space available, I was able to include much more of the sky and lake, giving the sense of unknowing and mystery that lies in darkness, beyond the surface of large bodies of water, and in the deeper recesses of human consciousness.
Cancer And The Full Moon
For me, this painting calls to mind the astrological sign Cancer, which is ruled by the emotional, intuitive, ever changing Moon. Among many other associations, this sign is linked with blue and white, this painting’s two dominant colors.
Everyone has the sign of Cancer somewhere in their astrological charts, so everyone has a bit of this nurturing sign within their personalities. No wonder the Moon inspires us so deeply, with its mysterious light and cool nighttime beauty. The Moon is universal: everyone on Earth can see her in the night sky, and her full phase offers a spectacular silvery light that inspires us all.
Oil Painting Available As A Card And A Poster
The Moonrise Over Lake Michigan II oil painting is available as a greeting card and as a poster.
The card comes in three sizes, and the poster is offered in many sizes with numerous framing options:
Two Full Moon Paintings – Which Do You Like Best?
Now that you know the story behind these paintings, which one speaks most strongly to you? What do you feel when you gaze at them?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts. And enjoy comparing these paintings!
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