Category Archives: Ocean

Inktober 18th

The GNSI prompt was “histology” and I guess I could have done something whimsical with diseased tissue, but I chose “misfit” instead. That one didn’t come easily though. First I tried a weird pattern-based thing that pitted swirling shapes against a Lego block (couldn’t stand to finish the swirls). Then thought I’d try something with lettering (the word “misfit” with one of the letters in an odd font) but couldn’t come up with a letter pattern I liked.

Then I pictured a rowboat. What would be misfit about a boat? The rower is too big? No… the rower is too small. And the boat is misfit for sea conditions…

inktober-18th_hocker

Inktober

I’ve tried to take up daily-art challenges before, and always fizzled after about a week. But something about the “Inktober” challenge that I read about in the most recent Guild of Natural Science Illustrators newsletter made me think, that’s achievable.

The basic assignment is to create one ink drawing per day for the month of October. Prompts are provided. The GNSI-related ones all focus, of course, on science subjects. But I did a little research and found that the broader challenge, posted at inktober.com, has another prompt list that’s very open-ended.

So I copied both prompt lists, and got to work. Here are the results so far; I’ll post the rest as I do them.

October 1: GNSI #1 was “botanical.” I was sketching with my friend Carole that day. She decided to try the prompt too. We went outside at her house; she picked a fireweed stalk and I picked a grass stem and a rush stem. Back inside, I opened up my big sketchbook, borrowed a hand lens from Carole, and did a quick ink comparison study.

inktober1_hocker

October 2: I decided I want to be able to tape the Inktober drawings up as I complete them, building a kind of progressive mosaic. So I broke out a package of blank 3X5 cards to use for the rest of the month.

Carole and I had had a conversation about drawing horses the previous day, so I thought I would give it a try (haven’t drawn a horse for years). It fit just fine with the GNSI prompt for that day, “mammal.”

inktober2_hocker

October 3: New realization: if this is going to be a challenge, I need to take a different approach. The first drawings were pretty much exactly what I’m comfortable with: tidy and realistic. But comfort is not where I want to be. Hence new parameters:

  • Push the dark values (I have a tendency to stay very light)
  • PLAY! Get creative, quirky, surreal. Have fun.

So here’s my response to the GNSI day-three prompt “tidal.” I’m fascinated by the way the tide will sometimes rise so gently that it lifts an empty clam shell like a boat. In time, waves tilt it just enough so the edge dips under, and it fills with water and flutters to the sand below.

inktober3_hocker

October 4: The inktober.com prompt is “freeze.” Here is the pattern formed by early morning frost on the very dusty back window of our truck.

inktober4_hocker

I felt it was fantastical enough to count as creative and surreal.

October 5: GNSI prompt is “airborne.” I stared at the 3X5 card for a while, tumbling the word in my mind but trying not to clutch at obvious straws–birds, dandelion seeds, insects. A winged shrimp fluttered into my musings. I drew it. It needed something large above it–a curved line became a rattlesnake with wings. The snake needed something to chase. And so on.

inktober5_hocker

October 6: I put off the drawing until late in the evening; needed something quick. Inktober.com prompt for the day is “husky.” I challenged myself here to draw a husky quickly, with simple shapes, and without looking at any pictures.

inktober6_hocker

October 7: Inktober.com prompt is “enchanted,” and GNSI prompt is “fish.” OK, I can pack both into one drawing.

inktober7_hocker

 

 

 

On the fringe of the world

hocker-george-island-anchorage

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.

Working on skull skills

hocker-mossskull-in-progress

Another memento mori, in progress. I started out with the same approach I used on the owl skull conversation last month, but the colors in the foreground were too nice to darken, and then it started to become moss, so I’m going with it. Planning to add some more detail (but not too much more) to the moss.

I like the story it evokes: pushing through prickling spruce branches from the bright beach, the cool and so-dark of mossy uplifted-berm forest; a pale glow resolves into a bone-seeker’s treasure. Who brought it here?

Otter skull

hocker-otterskull-sketch2

I went on the Audubon Christmas Bird Count a couple of weeks ago, and while we didn’t have any stand-out birds to report, it was a banner day for bones and skulls. The day’s discoveries included a murre skull, an eagle skull, a partial sea lion skull, a moose jaw, and numerous bird and mammal bones.

Plus this sea otter skull. Sea otters are increasing dramatically in Southeast Alaska. Fifteen years ago it would have been a shock to find a sea otter skull; I’ve seen at least three on or near the local beaches just this year.

Sea otter skulls are similar to river otter skulls, but there are some key differences. The average sea otter skull is visibly bigger than the average river otter skull, with a bigger nasal opening (I wonder why?) But even without these differences, the teeth distinguish them easily. Eaters of hard-shelled prey such as clams and crabs, sea otters have flattened, smooth-cusped molars where river otters have tendon-shearing carnassials.

This otter was probably several years old, judging from the skull size and the worn condition of its molars. I think the canine tooth was broken post-mortem; the break was sharp-edged and splintery, not worn at all.

Sea otters spend a huge amount of time grooming their fur, which is their primary insulation (they don’t have blubber). Looking at those precisely-shaped, comb-like incisors makes me wonder if their shapes have any special adaptive functions for fur maintenance…

New book!

I'm pleased to announce that the new children's book about humpback whales is finally at the printer, and should be in-hand in late June! See below for the cover and a sample page. 

The book is 32 pages, 8.5X11, paperback, with full color illustrations and a parents/teachers section at the end. It costs $11.95. It's being printed now, and should be in hand by the end of June. Contact me if you'd like to pre-order or if you have any questions.

You can learn more about our When You See Flukes  book project, and about humpback whales near Juneau, at our "Spot the Whale" website.

Flukes-cover-4-20-13

 

Flukes-book-sample

Latest Project: Whales!

Hocker hawaii whales I've been working on text and illustrations for a new children's picture book about humpback whales–and not doing much nature drawing–so I thought I'd post an image from the book. My illustration pace has been glacially slow, but I'm hoping the book will be printed by the end of the year… or at the very least by next spring, in time for the whales' return to our Southeast Alaskan waters…

Island Naturalists

Hocker-kayak-trip-sketch- Spent a blissful three days puttering around Benjamin and North Islands with two naturalist friends. Kayaking and exploring conditions couldn't have been better: warm, sunny days with glassy water, cooler breezy evenings, lovely sunsets, few biting insects. Most importantly, we were surrounded by a paradise of nature puzzles and treasures to discover. Here's a first page of sketches; I'm planning a second page of memory sketches and notes and plan to post it soon.

UPDATE: looks like our mystery orchid is Malaxis (Hammerbya) paludosa, bog adder's-mouth orchid.

View from the Mountain

Hocker-mountain-sketch 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.