The last night of our Sea Wolf adventure was spent on the fringe of the world, a tiny island outboard of Elfin Cove that stands sentinel at the edge of the open Pacific. Its forest is all charm: small spruce and hemlock, an understory of windswept, deer-nipped grass, patches of deer-shredded blueberry bushes, and deer-bitten skunk cabbages. A gravel trail meanders from a beach of granite pebbles to a headland capped by a WWII cannon, still pointing oceanward but drooping down as if tired of watching. I could have spent days there, and am already trying to figure out ways to get back. This painting was started at sunset, the light fading fast, and finished the next morning.
One of the fun things about traveling in Southeast Alaska is noticing the often-subtle differences in vegetation from place to place. Wrangell is just far enough south so that cedars are a major component of the forest, lending it a a different texture. Here in Juneau, we have to hike quite a ways in to find the little pockets of cedar that exist here.
The fauna's a little different too. Northern flickers are fairly common around Wrangell, but not so commonly seen here. I love watching their wings and tails flash fiery orange as they fly.
Went up Mount Roberts today–the view is gorgeous though a little surreal: because I went up on the tram I didn't have that feeling of pain-earned and endorphin-fueled accomplishment one usually gets from climbing 1000 feet up that steep trail.
I had sketchbook and a variety of supplies; I wanted to do a very fast watercolor sketch (10 min) of the view down Gastineau Channel. Decided to play with the metallic watercolors, which I hadn't done in a while. I like the earthiness of them.
When it came time to add the human elements in the lower left (bridge, harbor, town), I totally lost interest…Ah well.
Spent a pleasant couple of hours yesterday morning on a small island in Auke Bay, observing a pair of black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) at their nest site. I especially enjoyed watching the different behaviors of the female and the male. The female was very vocal, stood and walked tall when in motion, moved around a great deal. The male crept among the rocks, keeping his head low, and sat still for many minutes at a time. The female was the one to settle on the nest, though.
The scrape nest held three eggs, just at the edge of the ryegrass zone, green with black speckles and very hard to see. It was an eloquent case for being very careful when exploring the shore this time of year–and perhaps just avoiding this type of habitat altogether and staying below the tideline…
UPDATE: I have just learned that the tagged bird is actually a male, so the above-described behaviors should be role-reversed… This male was banded and satellite-tagged about four years ago. He has been returning to the same nesting area ever since.
Here's another sketch page from Unalakleet. I could see these hills from my window, and wanted to try to capture their smooth rhythm, and the way the trees and brush huddle in the ravines. That took care of the top of the page… then I went for a walk on the road out of town and spotted the eagle/raven dynamic. Finally, the last morning I was teaching, there was an inversion layer that caused phenomenal optical illusions, including this view of Besboro Island across Norton Sound.
Unexpected weekend sunshine sent us on a road trip north of Juneau to a little beach near Sunshine Cove. We sat several hours on a rocky outcrop, watching and listening to the abundance of the wakening northern world. I took the opportunity to practice drawing the textures of foliage on the little salt-battered shoreline spruce.
Just got back from a vacation on the island of Hawaii (Big Island). Being ocean people, we spent most of it in the water or directly adjacent. One of the loveliest places we visited was Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, south of Kealakekua Bay on the west coast. Spent the morning alternately snorkeling and sketching, looking across the lava shelf to the serene palms of the park.
Here's a page of sketches from my recent stay in Seldovia, where I spent a couple of wonderful weeks as artist-in-residence. The school is very small (50 kids K-12) so I got to work with every student, every day.Great kids, great teachers, great staff, nice community… thanks, Seldovia!
One evening, I walked out the "Otterbahn" trail (constructed by a group of high school students in the 1990s, I think) to a small beach. As I settled down to sun and sketch, I heard harlequin ducks making agitated noises. The ducks huffed and squeaked, then finally took off just as a big otter rounded the point. He climbed ashore, shook himself off, and proceeded to entertain me for about twenty minutes, as this page attests.
We just returned from a 3-week trip to Chile, so I'll post the results here over the next couple of days. The first is a page from Playa Blanca, a little resort beach south of La Serena. It was a lovely spot, great for lazing around, exploring desert and coast, and sketching. Our condo unit was just above the boulder beach in the foreground here, so we were soothed by the roar of the surf day and night. At dawn, whimbrels and oystercatchers piped their calls into the wind.
We've had quite a bit of snow lately, most of it falling in long, relentless storms of tiny flakes: the kind of snowstorm that softens the edges of not only the physical world but also the world of sound, and, somehow, the province of emotion.
For some reason, ravens seem to be exceptions to that blankness; their silhouettes nearly as sharp as on a clear day, their calls and the rattle of their wings as carrying, their characters as substantial. It's as if they are drawing all the world's crispness into themselves as a joke, leaving the rest of us to drift around, muffled and half-present while they chuckle.