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.
It’s been a while! The book mentioned in the last post, When You See Flukes, is now published, and people seem to be enjoying it. You can take a look at it, and find out more about my latest marine-related art, at Spot the Whale, where you’ll also find another occasional blog, with whale-related entries.
I’ve also been busy with a large-scale (literally) sketching project. Last spring, I applied for, and received, an individual artist grant from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. The grant was for supplies and time to create a series of large paintings in the style of my field sketch pages. So from July through December, I battled canvas, splashed paint, wrestled easels, and learned a whole lot about painting with big brushes, working with canvas, and getting over my obsession with tiny details and fussiness. It was a wonderful experience! Here are a couple of the resulting canvases. First, the version that’s really just about making the sketch page big, then the version where I started letting go of the idea of tidy page arrangement and tidy notes, and tried to just celebrate looseness of brushstrokes and the connections between words and images. Both paintings are about four feet wide.
I might post a few more of the canvases, and the stories behind them, in the future.
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.
…And here's the second page of sketches commemorating the July naturalist kayak jaunt. This time: the view from sea level.
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.
A walk along the road yesterday–partly cloudy day, sun and shadow alternating, temps in the 40s. Although things are melting fast, the ground is still frozen in many spots, and there's some snow left. Ice remains in many of the ditches. Still, a few caddisflies were drifting dreamily across the highway, their pale hindwings flickering.
I followed one until it touched down beside a puddle, then crept up on it, thinking I might be able to capture it gently and take it home to draw. Stealth, as it turned out, was unnecessary. I was able to reach out and scoop up the immobile insect from the puddle edge; it didn't move a bit. I carried it back to the car in my hand, my fingers cramping as I tried simultaneously to avoid crushing it and keep from providing it with escape opportunities.
Once at the car, I couldn't find a container, of course, so I transferred the obliging insect into a blown-up and tied-off plastic bag for the drive home and a drawing session.
What a lovely little beastie! By the lavish maxillary palps, she's female. Based on her early emergence and the pattern of her wings, I'm figuring she's a limnephilid, genus Psychoglypha ("carved mind?" "mind writing?"), known to flyfishers as a "snow sedge." I wound up quite smitten by her, and was pleased to be able to release her unharmed.
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.
Here's the illustration that resulted from yesterday's sketch. Caveat: this is an artwork, not a technical illustration! Although it's based on real references, many of the features are exaggerated or approximated.
They're not out yet, but the snow is starting to erode, and underneath, in the moist soil, in the creeks and ponds and sloughs, they're waiting, dreaming of blood… They're no-see-ums or biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae).
A friend called me to ask if I wanted to offer a scientific view of a no-see-um to an art show in which he's featuring his own, rather more fanciful, version of the bug. Sounded fun to me. The challenge was figuring out what genus the insect in my reference photo is… I think I have it narrowed down to Culicoides, but not sure.
My eye got caught by lichens today, so I brought a few samples home to draw. I got my little digital microscope fired up, and had a great time looking closer and closer…