Category Archives: Travel

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.

The bear on the beach

hocker-bear-viewing-sketch-kh

Just returned from a phenomenal expedition with Sea Wolf adventures, a small-ship cruise company with extensive experience and expertise on Glacier Bay and the Northwest Coast. We spent so much time hiking and kayaking (interspersed with eating outstanding food) that I didn’t get to do too much sketching, but this page records one of my favorite wildlife viewing moments of the trip.

Student Sketches

sketch show sitkaI just got back from a two-week art residency in Sitka, working with Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary students. It was lovely! For the first week, I worked exclusively with the 4th graders, teaching basic observation and drawing skills; my goal was to get the students excited about keeping a “science sketchbook” and confident in drawing from observation. They drew feathers, skulls, shells, seed pods, and more, and took notes about their observations, their ideas, and their questions.

During the second week the school hosted its annual Project Fair, a chance for students to share their studies in a science fair-like setting. As part of the fair, we set up a table showcasing the drawings from the 4th grade classes. It was really satisfying to see all of that careful observation and learning arrayed together. This photo shows a section of the sketch show; my big example sketches are up on the wall, and the student books are below on the table. Each student chose his or her favorite sketch to show.

Thanks to Keet Gooshi Heen teachers and staff–especially science teacher Rebecca Himschoot, and thanks to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp–especially Program Director Kenley Jackson.

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.

Spring, 1 year later

Wrangell-hbird-hockerIt's amazing how quickly a year passes. I've traveled and taught and sketched a lot in the past year, but haven't returned to my lonely blog til now. 

Just got back from a teaching trip to Wrangell, Alaska, for the Stikine River Birding Festival. Bird highlights for me included sandhill cranes chortling overhead, flocks of white-fronted geese descending on the school football/soccer field, snow geese whirling over the Stikine Delta, and a fascinating talk about the wildlife of Wrangel Island, Russia by biologist Vassily Baranyuk. Also, this sad highlight, a female rufous hummingbird that hit a window. I tried to capture her iridescence by starting with white Prismacolor for the feather texture, then layering metallic green watercolor and several shades of Neocolor pastels and water.

Today, two hummingbirds–a male and a female–are tussling over the feeder outside my window, swirling around each other and surrounded by swirling snowflakes. It has been a long, cold spring.Nice to see these little spots of warmth.

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.

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.