Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crepuscular Delights

They're back! Spotted my first Swallow-tailed Kite this evening about 7 p.m. It's such a beautiful raptor. So graceful in flight. Other treats this evening included a huge flock of White Ibis flying over, a Great Egret perched on a tree along the board walk trail, and..... a Barred Owl in flight. Since we moved the clocks ahead, I love being able to go out after dinner and enjoy whatever Nature brings our way.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Spring is popping all over the place :) Today's dog walk on and around the boardwalk yielded lots of sights. In just the last couple of days, a lot more tree species are starting to pop. The bare deciduous landscape is now dotted with splashes of bright yellow green, grass green, mineral green, pink and red against stands of dark pines. I found a Highbush Blueberry in bloom, saw my first Common Yellowthroat warbler, listened to the sweet murmuring of a small flock of Cowbirds high in a tree, enjoyed antics of 2 Carolina Wrens, and was scolded by a Red-winged Black Bird that chose to mark his cattail territory too close to the boardwalk!

But, best of all, was my glimpse of the first dragonfly of the season :) I'm thinking it was a Darner as it was pretty big. But, alas, the dogs and I were going in the opposite direction of this winged wonder, so even a semi-accurate ID was impossible. I'm still smiling, anyway :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday visit to Sea Pine Forest Preserve

My anticipated February visit to SPFP finally came to be.... a month late, but we got there! I was wondering how the landscape would compare to past February and early March journal entries.

Nature seemed to be in order. The red maples were starting to pop and I saw the wildflower 'Innocence' Houstonia procumbensin bloom. I also found Southern Dewberry, Rubus trivialis, a trailing vine with small thorns that has delicate 5 petal flowers white to pale pink with cranberry colored centers. (drawing to come)

I used my new set of Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils for the Lake Mary illustration and tried out the colorless blender pencil to act as a mask to help keep the whites. While it did repel most of the pigment, there is a twinge of color. Oh well, still experimenting. Saw lots of big gators swimming while I worked on this!

Though Nature was right on course, the Forest Preserve had undergone change since our last visit. The roads were in peak condition, bushes trimmed, a new benched placed in honor of a devoted birder and fisherman, and the meadow that's usually tall with dead dog fennel had been mowed. And, mysteriously, the tall grasses that are usually along the left shore from our picnic area were gone. I can't remember a time that they weren't there. Those area's are favorite hunting spots for the wading birds.

We settled into the picnic area near a little cove on the Anhinga Trail. The reflections in the cove caught my eye. I pulled out my small travel set of watercolors and gave capturing the ripples a whirl. I usually paint water from well studied photographs. I think I'll keep trying to paint it plein air. T'was fun :)

Not many birds to speak of. Just as we were leaving, I did hear a Barred Owl call. One of these days I will see the phantom. All in all, three hours of bliss. I am reenergized.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

General's Sketch & Wash Pencil

Another favorite tool in my pencil case is General's Sketch & Wash Pencil. It's water-soluble graphite. I enjoy it, as up to this point in time, I don't have the patience to create shaded pencil studies. I do love working in black and white. You can concentrate on tones versus color and in the end, these studies will help you work with color.

I drool when I look at the drawings of Debby Cotter Kaspari. They make my artist soul want to push the comfort envelope and give the 'pencil' another try. We'll see what this year brings :)

For now, though, I want to make sure you try your hand at the sketch & wash pencil. They come in a 2 pack which includes a metal pencil sharpener. This pencil will also add another shade of black to your watercolor pencils. Sometimes black is just too black and the tone of the graphite does the trick.Both the storm studies above and the trees to the left were done on watercolor paper.
The sketches of the egret were done in my AquaBee Super Delux sketch book. A fun exercise is to draw just the shaded areas of your subject. This was my quest while observing this Great Egret hunting.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Yummie Carolina Spring Day

Toady I practiced being a vegetable, soaking up the sun and enjoying what ever birds flew by. I did see 2 barn swallows, though they were using different tactics to gather insects. I always enjoy watching their flight patterns as the pluck insects from the air but today, they were both on the ground driving their bills into the sod to collect their bounty. A Great Blue Heron flew over, 2 Black Vultures glided by, and there were myriad crows, both American and Fish.

It's been so unusually cold lately, and I've been so busy, that it felt wonderful just to veg. These notes will have to suffice :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Water Oaks

Over the last week, the leaves of the tardily deciduous Water Oaks are finally starting to turn yellow. Soon to fall to the ground, I'm sure.

Spring, spring, spring! Such a lovely word :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Longleaf Pine Savanna

My first impression of the Longleaf Pine Savanna in Webb Wildlife Center was 'magical.' We fledgling Master Naturalists stood on the edge of the managed Longleaf Pine Savanna listening to the fascinating eco-history given to us by Bob Franklin, a Clemson Extension Agent.

The trees were so tall, you had to stand way back to take them in. The diversity of plants in a Longleaf Pine Savanna rivals that of the rain forest! Did you know that there are 300 plants, 74 amphibians, 91 reptiles and 71 species of birds that require an ecosystem that has forest fires every one to three years?!?

Wiregrass, Aristida beyrichiana, is the primary under-story ground cover. Summer fires are required for fall seed production.

According to the USDA, the GA, FL Coastal Plain has the highest frequency of thunderstorms of any region of North America! Native Americans, of the southeast, came to learn the benefits of wildfires caused by lightning strikes. They would purposely burn areas to promote new plant growth that game would flock to, to eat the tender new shoots of plants. Their fire-managed ecosystem lead to consistent food stores.

Prior to our field trip to Webb WMA, we had read the Sherpa Guide articles I've linked areas of this post to. You owe yourself some 'good reads' by clicking on these links.

I'm fascinated by the Earth friendly ways of Native Americans. I am drawn to them like bees to honey. Thus, the 'magical' first impression of the Longleaf Pine savanna. I could picture a lone NA standing in the tall grasses, an arm outstretched, feeling the tops of the grass. The same way Kevin Cosner stood on vast the prairie in Dances with Wolves. A peaceful beauty went right to my soul.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Webb Wildlife Center

We fledgling Master Naturalists arrived at Webb WMA at 9 a.m. on February 25th, 2008. My journal page notes indicate it was cloudy and chilly but the sun broke thru around 11. All in all, a pretty spring day.

I've scanned part of my journal notes for the morning session. We visited a Cypress/Tupelo swamp and bottom land hardwood forest to ID trees.

You'll note that my page is written in ink. I actually wrote it in pencil, and then after the field trip, cleaned up any misspellings, ( I'm famous for my phonetic spelling - sometimes spell check can't even identify my spelling interpretations!) and added an illustration of the Bald Cypress. This process really helped me distill the flood of new information gathered in class. I'm one who has to go over and over information to help it sink in and stay in my memory banks. It's one reason I've decided to share my field notes in my blog. One more opportunity to refresh my memory :)

I hope you'll enjoy learning about the Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum. Later this spring, after the cypress leaf out, I hope to make a journal page devoted to both the Bald and Pond Cypress trees. Their leaves are really quite different.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gopher Tortoise

A year ago, at this time, I began Clemson University's Master Naturalist Program at the Low Country Institute in Beaufort County.

One of our first field trips was to Webb Wildlife Management Area. I will discuss the morning session of our field trip in another post. In the afternoon, we visited a sand hill area that is the northern extent of the Gopher Tortoise, G. polyphemus, range in South Carolina.

As we walked closer to an area that contained a Gopher Tortoise burrow we were given a warning to watch for rattlesnakes, as they like to bask in the sun around borrows. We saw Harvester Ant mounds. Very interesting, but mostly our eyes were watching for snakes :)

Finally, we made it to the tortoise burrow. Tony Mills brought fiber optic equipment to insert into the burrow to see if it was occupied. After many tries, nothing was discovered. The tunnels can be 30' long and up to 16' below the surface! We didn't have quite that much cable.

There can be as many as 300 species of animals (including insects and other invertebrates) that use or inhabit the Gopher Tortoise's 'digs!' This makes the endangered GT a keystone species. The sand hill environment contained lots of wire grass and Turkey Oaks. These areas, like the Long Leaf Pine forests require fire regimes to stay healthy. The Turkey Oaks, Quercus laevis, are well adapted to drought stress and fire.

One of the things I enjoyed the most, while studying to be a Master Naturalist, was learning about the interplay of different species in their ecosystems. Everything is so intertwined and dependent upon each other. Image what would happen should the GT become extinct! What would happen to the 300 different species that seek shelter in the burrows?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Peepers, Leopards and Bronzes...... Oh My!

Well, my title doesn't roll off the tongue quite like Lions Tigers, and Bears.... oh my! But, the evening frog chorus that has filled my ears for the last week sure does bring a smile.

Yellow Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens (l.) Aiton f., has started to bloom once again. I broke off a sprig and put it in a vase. I want to do an illustration of it to put on a spring themed wedding invitation. Think I'll include some red watercolor droplets to represent the red maples buds that are popping.
February in the low country.......... Spring has sprung :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2009 Journaling

The weather has been so cold (for SC) that when we get a day off and it's warm enough, we've chosen to play golf. I don't mind as golfing has become a '2-fer' for me. The challenge of golf and the pleasure of journaling :) I must say the journaling and my new driver are really helping to reduce my handicap. Golf is such a mind game....... After 26 years of trying to play the silly game, I think I may be catching on!

Our first game of the New Year was a treat. We played with 2 women that were visiting from Germany. They were so fun! The phrase of the day was Oooo la la! They said it with such a great lilt in their voices. They also knew how to say s--t. Quite the all purpose word in golf. Their pronunciation sounded better though :)

January 22nd we broke our 55 degree rule. That will be the last time we do that! Tooooo cold. Saw lots of birds though :)
February 1st was still a tad chilly because of the wind but...... we saw 4 Osprey catching the thermals over the practice range. It's good to see them back once again.

Today was one of the 'special order' days. It's why we northerners love living in SC in the winter. Sunny, 74 degrees, a west, 10 mph breeze - perfect! I could do 365 days like today. Didn't see many birds though. We played Hilton Head National. They have 3 nines there, The Weed, The National and The Player. We played Weed and National today. It is sooooo beautiful. I highly suggest playing this course should you visit this area. There are lots of Fox Squirrels too!

I've only 10 blank pages left in this journal. It should last the rest of this year. What a joy it is to look back through our days of play. The art is somewhat whimsical and the type crooked but the memories warm my heart :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spring Peeper

In the late evening of Ground Hog day, after Phil had seen his shadow, I heard a lone Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer, call from the woods :)

There is hope that is cold blast will end!

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's back............ The Osprey Webcam!

At last, Palmetto Electric has turned on it's Osprey Webcam for the 2009 season :) When you visit this site, make sure to click on the Osprey Gallery too. And, if you really get addicted..... there's a blog you can take part in. Happy virtual birding!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Water Studies

I have had a long love affair with water. One of my earliest journal entries was of a reflection study at Look Park in Massachusetts.

In the 90's I explored water, this time my media was fiber. I was weaving on an 8 harness floor loom. Great fun! Now, all that know me understand my affinity for birds, especially those that frequent marshes, lakes, swamps and oceans. Hmmmmm, there seems to be a pattern here.

My latest acrylic, Who's the Fairest, begins yet another study of water, but this time, with wonderful winged creatures. I've been sorting all my images, of water reflections, I've photographed over the years. Can't wait to dig in, but first, I can't resist playing with a new image I photographed a few days ago.

It really is pretty drab but....... when I looked through my sun glasses into the view finder there were these wonderful colors. It must have been caused by the polarizing lenses. This dull, gloomy winter water reflection became....... well, here's what I saw.

I decided, since this was my first large watercolor pencil study (9x12), I'd make scans at different stages. The first scan shows the initial sketch, right side is straight pencil, left side has been wet with a Niji waterbrush.The final scan for this post may be the final stage. I have to let it sit for a day or two and see if I want to play anymore. I used the Faber Castell pencils and the large Niji brush. I went thru a bit of water. 2 barrels on the first scan, but then water output slowed down. I think traditional watercolors may be easier. I think I would have had more control on the water ripples also. Let's call this my impressionistic take :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Watercolor Pencil Workshop at SOBA

I always get so excited when it's time to teach a workshop. This time the theme was not the usual "How to Create a Nature Journal," but an "Intro to Watercolor Pencils." I didn't mandate what type of paper or watercolor pencils the participants should bring but, insisted that they get a Niji WaterBrush.

This workshop was part of the Saturday 'Winter Blues' Series at the Society of Bluffton Artists (SOBA) Gallery, and they are three hours long. By far the shortest workshop I've given. I will teach a mini "Intro to Nature Journaling" on two consecutive Saturdays, at the end of February. No watercolor pencils then, though. I think it will be best to focus on how to get your subject down on paper and enjoy telling about it :)

Some of my students already owned their wc pencils prior to the workshop, but really hadn't explored the possibilities yet. None had ever used a waterbrush before. What fun we had!

First, they took their pencils out for a spin by creating color charts and mixing colors. Then I did some demo's on how to create marsh grasses, waves and clouds. To my dismay I forgot to show them my technique for spanish moss.......

Then, each went to work recreating their watercolor pencil rendition of a photograph. I hovered and gave pointers/mini demo's when asked. It was a quick three hours!
When the weather warms, I promised to arrange a plein air instruction session. Thank you, Carol, Debbie, Ruth, Donna , Judy and Pat! See you soon!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breeding Plumage

The other day I saw a Great Egret with the beginnings of breeding plumage! Such a celebration to see these magnificent birds alive and well. To think they were once hunted and killed for their plumes for the millinery trade. Thank you, George Bird Grinnell for creating the Audubon Society in 1886 and for the group of women who started the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1896. They boycotted clothing that used bird feathers! Our voices can be heard!

The day I made the above journal entry, I was in search of Great Egrets in breeding plumage. I went to Pinckney Island NWR and walked to Ibis Pond toting my spotting scope, Nikon coolpix camera, and journaling supplies. When I arrived, there wasn't an egret in sight. Common Moorhens were chattering away. They always make me smile. I walked around the right side of the pond, still nothing. Then, as I reach the far side, I spotted a Great Egret in the reeds. At last! I can set up shop and get this scope off of my shoulder - it gets heavy!

My initial view of the egret was at a weird angle but, I loved it. While my one eye was looking thru the spotting scope the other helped guide my hand with a modified contour sketch. The green of the bird's lores was amazing! Could I do them justice with the colors I had on hand? After my sketch was finished, I watched the bird a little longer, taking some digiscope photos. I chose to create this painting using a different body position that looked more believable. I'll always love my Quasimodo Egret sketch though :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sea Pine Forest Preserve

Lake Mary, at Sea Pine Forest Preserve, on Hilton Head Island, SC is one of our favorite spots to spend the day.

We bring the dogs, our cameras, my scope and most important.... my journaling supplies. The dogs get so excited as we make the turn into the Preserve. We head for the picnic table area off the Anhinga Trail and set up camp for the day. Since we don't have the type of dogs that can be 'off leash,' we bring their x-pen and their picnic carpet pads (no, they are not tooooo spoiled) so Rob and I can do our thing and the dogs can enjoy a snooze in the sunshine. The above journal page is from January 2006. We will be back in our favorite spot in a couple of weeks. I love returning to places and journaling. I love to see the changes and compare observations from season to season. You can really engrave favorite places into your heart this way. I hope the Brown Pelicans will be there. We usually hear a Barred Owl call. Perhaps this year we'll see it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside! (more journal reflections)

Back in 1981, I was living in Littleton, MA. Frost patterns on the windows have always intrigued me. One of my bedroom windows faced east and I can remember this lovely, cold, January morning as the sun streamed through the window creating such beauty through the frost. Tooooo bad that you can't see the image that's in my memory from looking at this page.... It's beautiful!

I'm sure glad it doesn't get that cold here in SC :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Do You Know Where You Were In January 1976?

For me, the New Year always brings a time of reflection. Back to my journals I go :)

1976 was my second year out of college. The New Year began with reflections of the summer of 1974 when my college friends and I spent our last 'free' summer after college on the Cape (MA). This color pencil rendition was inspired by a photograph I had taken. East Dennis was the home of my (at the time) heart throb :)

My friends, Chrissie and Patty and I worked various jobs that summer. I was a hostess at an IHOP in Hyannis. My claim to fame was being able to carry 12 glasses of water (all at once and w/o a tray) to a table. Oh, I also remember seating Herb Reed of the Platters and he gave me a $10 tip!!

Note the poem by Rod McQuen. I still have three books of his poems that filled our hearts during and after our college years. Sigh........

I could go on and on about this magical summer but, not today. See why journals are so priceless? So many memories come flooding back with just a glance of a page :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So What's the Journaling Hold Up?

Here's a bit of what's kept me from getting out-in-the-field!

The Wedding Concertina was a delight to work on. My client was taken with a Marriage Blessing read at a wedding she attended. I was tickled when Judy contacted me and asked what type of calligraphic goodie could be created using the Blessing so the couple could always have a remembrance of their special day.
Upon reading 'A Blessing for a Marriage' by James Dillet Freeman, Silent Unity's founder, I was so moved. This piece needed to be more than a framed calligraphic rendition. It was destined to be more alive. Something that could be used in celebrating each anniversary. The Wedding Concertina was born! It has 12 pages plus the cover. It is laced with a metallic gold ribbon, used as a closure. On the cover, I used metallic acrylic inks. Inside, I chose a copperplate font and created watercolor illustrations to highlight certain passages. I dug into my reference files and found information on the meanings of flowers. I used ivy, asters, phlox, purple hyacinth and a peony to compliment James Dillet Freeman's words. Then I made a slip jacket for the book so it could remain protected and find it's place on a book shelf.

As I worked on this book I decided I must make one for Rob and me. How wonderful it would be to read this beautiful blessing each year and to look back and consider how we measured up to the love and respect we pledged each other so long ago. If you get a chance, click on the title above as it links to Unity's site and page for the blessing.

My next calligraphic commission was a family tree. I came to know Captain Timothy Marshall and Hilly Woodbury of Ipswich, MA. Their union in 1776 produced quite a family tree. During the planning stage as I wrote and rewrote the names, I began to feel like I knew each person. My imagination was quite busy thinking about their lives. I felt blessed to be a part of this family tree. When the project was completed, I let my client know how much I enjoyed getting to know his relatives.

My home portrait business is gathering steam! I call it 'NatureScape Home Portraits.' It's time for me to create a webpage of offerings. There are traditional treatments like this one to the left and Storybook portraits that feature the home or a portion of it, and then around the main illustration are vignettes of special things clients want to highlight about their home. My signature, the thing that really sets my portraits from others, is adding critters, birds and pets. I am a nature artist after all! I want my home portraits to portray what each client loves about their home and property.

This last feature wasn't a commission, but my most favorite Christmas gift that I made for dear, dear friends. You know that I'm big into journaling. How wonderful, I thought, to have a Christmas Keepsake book to write down a few things each year that brought joy to your heart. And, best of all, rereading these memories in years to come!

I usually hand paint ornaments (sea shells) for the children. But, it's been quite a while since I've been to the beach and I didn't have any shells suitable for ornaments in my stash! What to do?? Pressure was on, it was a week before Christmas and no matter what I did I'd be late, as I needed to mail this present to NY!! Why don't I get these Christmas present ideas in July when there's time?? Ho, ho, ho! What's a little more Christmas pressure! Breads to bake, cookies to make, artwork to create........ I had a great time! Not much sleep mind you, but lots of joy in my heart!

And, the blessings of commission work continues :)

Thank you to all my clients for making my year a success!

Happy New Year!