Wild Ozark™

~ Rock Foraging Nature Artist & Real Estate Agent in Kingston, AR ~

Fence Lizard | Starting a New Painting

During the hot days of summer, there are lots of fence lizards skittering around. They’re everywhere there’s bright and hot sunshine- on the driveway, in the garden, on the rocks. This year seems to be a particularly good year for them because so many are large and fat. When the fence lizards and other small critters are far and few between in my garden, that’s how I know there’s usually a snake hiding among the rock terraces of my beds.

A week or so ago, I got a decent photo of a female fence lizard on a rock next to where I was taking a break from working on a project.

Eastern fence lizard, female.

And so I decided to paint her portrait. Yesterday while at the studio, I put the underpainting on the gessoed 4 x 8″ board.

Fence Lizard Progress

Check back soon to see the rest of the progression. I’ll update as I make progress. Follow me on Instagram to see updates closer to real-time, and if you’d like to get an email when the painting is finished, sign up for my newsletter and check off the box for notification about original art.

The connection between fence lizards and lyme

Western fence lizards have an enzyme in their blood that kills Lyme disease and even removes the infection from the tick. Our lizards are eastern fence lizards and don’t possess this magic. However, a straightforward assumption that the presence of this lizard reduces Lyme disease isn’t necessarily correct. While the connection holds promise, scientists are still trying to figure out the way this part of the great web of life interacts with each other.

Our lizards in northwest Arkansas are eastern fence lizards. Unfortunately, they don’t possess the same Lyme-killing capacity. But as it turns out, we do have one critter that helps a lot – the humble possum. They eat a lot of ticks. The scientists suggest that the best way to keep Lyme under control is to control the host animals of the ticks, and this is best done with a healthy balance of predators that eat the small rodents like mice, shrews, and chipmunks.

That’s still not a foolproof tactic, though. We’ve got a lot of predators and a lot of prey for them to eat. And my husband contracted Lyme several years ago. And I contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever before that.

A Little About My Paint-making Process

Since my paints are handmade and (mostly) locally foraged, I have to make sure I have the colors I need before I begin a project. If it’s a plant pigment, then I’ll need to harvest the plant and process it to make the pigment. The only plant sources I use at this time are thyme, and the root bark of Osage trees. The rest comes from foraged rocks, soot, bone, or purchased lapis and titanium dioxide powder.

Here’s a blog post I made earlier about making oil paints:

So, if it’s a rock, then I’ll break it to smaller pieces, then crush it as finely as I can. The crushed rock is the raw pigment. After that I put the powder into a jar and fill the jar with water. Depending on the source rock, I’ll either pour off the colored water into another jar to let it settle, or pour the rinse water out and keep the sediment for the paint. After the water clarifies and the pigment has settled, then I pour off the clear water and let the sediment dry. That is what I’ll make the paint from.

When it comes to plants, there’s more chemistry involved. I’ll make what is called a ‘lake’ pigment. Here’s a post that gives more information on that process.

I hope you love this earthy palette of color as much as I do! Thanks for reading ~ Madison

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