Friday, August 30, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

An apple a day...

Working on a new work of Wilson's Orchard, one of my favorite local places. Not only does the orchard feed the bodies and souls of many of us here in the region, it is also an integral part of many animals, insect and bird lives.

A couple years ago, I made a print of a pair of indigo buntings set in late summer/early fall. I've always wanted to do a four season Wilson's Orchard series and this summer I got around to "Spring".  It features robins and full nests and blossoms and pink trees and a fresh blue sky. Plus an orchardist inspecting the early growth, if you have sharp enough eyes to find him!

 Here is the scratchboard black and white line work...color coming soon.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Smoke, but no fire

Currently in Iowa, it's hotter than Hades. Close to the 100° mark. Not much fun being outside. But I hate feeling pent-up inside all day. Walking through the woods in the cool of the evening is a pleasant option, much better than a noon jaunt. Under a canapy of oaks, there is a significant reprieve from heat.

On such a recent walk, I wasn't expecting to see anything new blooming in Hickory Hill park, but to my surprise I spied a stand of Indian Pipe. Maybe it was the slanted golden evening light that highlighted the grouping. But there they were.

Indian Pipe is one of several common names for this plant. It is also called Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant, all three names quite descriptive. Pale and ghostly, the plants themselves are such oddities. I've illustrated them before (as part of the foreground to a spread in the Woodlands book) but I used photo reference in the rendering. I was excited to see them in person, like finally meeting a friend face-to-face. Although Indian Pipe look like fungi, they are not. They don't produce chlorophyll like most plants however, thus their white palid, anemic and delicate look. They apparently grab nutrients from decaying material surrounding them.  Since these disconcerning warmer temps make me worry about nature in general, to be reminded of how simply observing something new in nature refreshes, it makes me re-commit to advocating enviromental awareness for young people. So, it's take a kid on a walk in the woods week, even if that kid is 14 (or 40 or 80) years old! Even if it's a bit warm out. And keep your eye out for Indian Pipe.

This is the illustration from the Woodlands Counting Book, the 11 Indigo Bunting page.
Indian pipe can be seen in the very foreground of the piece,
sticking up right up from the edge

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Native Sons

Several indigenous prairie plants grow in my garden, lots of coneflowers, grasses, butterfly weed, etc. Joe Pye Weed is one such tall native with purple cluster blooms. Butterflies are especially into them. I took a photo of a gorgeous swallowtail enjoying some nectar on my Joe Pye outside the studio recenty.

Joe Pye is such a friendly name. I've often wondered who Joe Pye actually was, as plant nomenclature  fascinates me. A quick Wiki turned up a suspiciously lack-luster explanation, so I found a reputable prairie plant site and read a well researched article (backed by primary sources) that gives the most possible origin of the name. Looks like there was a Joseph Pye, aka Shauqueathquat, an 18th century Mohegan who lived in Massuchesetts. He was also a well-known herbalist. The plant mentioned as Joe Pye weed shows up in one of the earliest American botanical guides (and an even earlier mention of Joseph Pye, the individual, in a diary dated 1787).

I'd love to have been a Quaker woman of this age, and converse with Joe Pye some sunny late summer afternoon about this flower or that root and thank him for lending his name for the common term of Eupatorium purpureum!

Link to the Joe Pye article posted on the Prairie Works blog is below...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Observations on a walk through Hickory Hill Park while trying to unjam my creative block

1. Dragonflies riding the thermals
2. Woman on run
3. House cat with fresh bunny in mouth (or, did it really not have a tail? and therefore, 3. Small bobcat transferring kit somewhere)
4. Ripe mulberries and wild grapes
5. Forming wild rose hips
6. Dark colored butterfly with blue trim (must look up)
7. Deer, raccoon and dog prints by the creek bed
8. Neighbor on a cell phone, with speaker on
9. Kids in the creek looking at stuff
10. black beetle with long probiscus

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tale of an afternoon in the studio

Our nearby woods offers joy and inspiration most of the time, but occasionally I see nature the way I wished I didn't have to- birds lost of storms, an injured deer, that pitiful bit of rabbit remnant...

Today a cat, who shall remain anon, brought a small rabbit to the studio door. Really, the cat was more curious than hungry, as the bunny lippet-ied around her. It would have been quite a large meal, so I'm not sure it was intended as lunch. After securing the feline inside, I scooped up the bunny. Unharmed and docile, it let me carry it up to the hinterlands of our woodlands in my hand.  I deposited it in a safer (let's hope) locale.

I know it was just a dime-a-dozen rabbit, but up close, it was so extraordinary. Striking eye markings, soft mottled fur, blinky brown eyes. Very beguiling at this age.

I thought about Beatirx Potter and the tame Peter she kept in her Victorian nursery. As her pet, she sketched him at her leisure. Hmm, bunny in the studio?  Not a practical thing for me at the moment, but I did make this little pencil drawing directly after release. Beauty in small, simple furry package.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Georgia and I saw at 35,000 feet

Last week we flew to the Pacific Northwest to visit family. Over the Rockies, I noticed these lovely clouds outside my exit window seat, number 27 A. Like flattened meringues piped from a pastry bag, they were rounded and uniform. I could see the corresponding cloud shadows below.

It reminded me of one of Georgia O'Keeffe's great pieces "Sky Over Clouds IV".  It is a huge canvas- as big as a garage door, or more. It resides over a stunning stairway in Chicago's art institute. Of this work, Georgia said "Not my best and not my worst." It is one of my favorite O'Keeffes. She must have liked clouds, too.

Here's a colored pencil sketch of my own, the very clouds I saw, and a shot of Georgia's work taken on one of my recent trips to the Institute.

Sky Over Clouds IV @ the Art Institute.

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