Category Archives: Plants

Inktober 14th

Inktober.com prompt is “overgrown.” This was an interesting exercise. I thought I’d be fighting my internal “make it realistic” voices more, but once the pattern started asserting itself, I was in service to that rather than to reality…

inktober14-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

 

 

 

The Headache Tree

hocker-headache-tree

I went to a friend’s house yesterday to do some sketching; had a lingering headache from earlier in the morning so I was a little restless. An old cottonwood–a massive black dendrite in the yard–caught my eye, so I pulled out a brush pen and tried to work out the hierarchy of branching directions.

What is it that makes a cottonwood? A certain powerful upward angle of primary branches (trending to bowed lower on the trunk); graceful swoops of secondary branches. And the short, stout bud-branchlets, bristling out almost perpendicular to the more sinuous smallest branches.

By the time I reached the bottom of the tree my brush pen was almost dry, but it felt OK for the drawing to stutter out.

Looking at the drawing today I’m struck by how it feels like a visualization of my headache–the tendrils of pain branching around my neck and head. I like the thought–it’s comforting somehow.

More from Wrangell

Wrangell-park-sketch-hockerOne 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.

Gustavus willow

Hocker-gustavus-willow-sketchI just got back from a great two weeks in Gustavus, where I was working with students and teachers at the school.The school is wonderful; there are just over 50 students, grades K-12.  And Gustavus is a fascinating place: a broad, flat landscape, formed by outwash from the Glacier Bay glaciers over many centuries. The combination of flat land, lush meadows and wetlands, wandering rivers, and pine/spruce/cottonwood forest are an unusual mix in Southeast Alaska.I saw swans and herons, listened to a wolf moan under the stars, and got thrilled (even a little over-thrilled) by moose.

I'll post a series of Gustavus sketches next, starting with an iconic plant: willow.

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.

Unalakleet visit, part 3

Unk-sketch-4 On the ski picnic, I collected some branches of white spruce (Picea glauca) and felt-leaf willow (Salix alaxensis) that had been cut during the festivities. The willows in particular were interesting. The tips of many of the branches were as densely-furred as hares' feet, making them shine and sparkle as if frost-covered. Within a day of my bringing this branch in and putting it in water, the catkins were swelling dramatically, shoving the protective scales off at the tips–a process that's listed as one diagnostic characteristic of this species.

Unalakleet visit, part 1

Unk-sketch-1 I just returned from a two-week artist-in-residence visit to Unalakleet, in western Alaska on the shore of Norton Sound. It was a wonderful experience–and in addition to getting to work with wonderful students and teachers, I had the opportunity to observe and sketch a fascinating corner of the world. I'll be posting sketch pages from the visit over the next few days.

The first page was done from memory on my first day, when I was whisked off to visit some ice fishers on the river.