Saturday, June 28, 2008

Indian Pipe

The unusual flower you see here is called Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora is its botanical name. The plant is saprophytic, which means it feeds on decaying matter; in this case, the plant's roots feed on fungi growing on the roots of other trees, and there are ten genera and twelve species in this family of plants found in North America. The leaves are actually the scales you see on the stem and both the stem and flower are translucent ghostly white.

Several years ago Herb and I hiked at a local preserve, the Rachel Carson Forest, and found these growing there in amazing profusion. I didn't have a digital camera then, and the photos I took weren't usable. I picked one specimen hoping to get a better photo at home, and was disappointed to find that the plant turns black shortly after picking, or as it dies after setting seed.

I've been searching for this plant ever since. Last year I went there at about the same time of the year and there were none (we had a very dry year). This year, with the rains we've been having, I thought there might be some, so Herb and I went out to look for them today.

We walked all over, but found only a few specimens: a clump just emerging from the leafy ground, one single flower well past its prime, and this one. Here the nodding, bell-like flower is more erect and the outer petals are beginning to turn black, showing it has been fertilized and is beginning to fruit. If the rains keep up we'll go back in the next few weeks hoping to see masses as we did a few years back.

As an extra bonus, as we were walking back to our car, we saw a gorgeous Scarlet Tanager: his red plumage stood out like a flag among the green leaves. Herb said he'd noticed a red bird flying by as we were driving in, but in the forest we had ample time to identify and admire this beautiful bird I'd never seen before.

A Waterlily Jungle in Maryland

Maryland Waterlily Jungle, oils on gessobord, 12" x 9"

Yesterday I went out to Centennial Park to paint the waterlilies. At this time of the year they form large rafts on the banks of the lake. The more impressive expanses are on the far side of the lake, too far to walk loaded down with painting gear, so I'd settled for a few patches closer to the parking lot. The temperature was already climbing into the 90's and afternoon showers had been forecast. It wasn't until after had I set up my easel, I realized I'd forgotten to bring the turpenoid bucket--no way I can paint without cleaning my brushes, so I packed up and headed back home, with waterlilies on my mind.

At home I found some photos taken last summer on the way to Crisfield, on the eastern shore. Linda and I had seen a pond covered with hundreds of waterlilies in bloom, some of them pink, which is an unusual color for this variety, so we stopped to take photos. I wanted my painting to give the feeling that these waterlilies were wild, so I framed them against a backdrop of tall shady trees, and voila! I like to think in ancient times there once were jungles here in Maryland... whether the waterlilies were native or introduced, I have no idea, but if they were indeed native, perhaps there would have been waterlilies blooming in ponds in this jungle.

Send an E-mail to if you are interested in buying the painting. Shipping is additional, payment through PayPal.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kitchen Art

Sometimes one sees objects casually arranged in a way that could be considered "art;" it's often referred to as "found art" and has been around since the days of the early modernists and their pioneering collages. Night before last I was about to steam some sugar snap peas fresh from my garden, and had thrown the strings on a paper towel for easy disposal. Just before picking them up, Herb took a look and remarked that the "arrangement" looked like one of those sea-horses known as a leafy dragon. Believe me, this was not manipulated or planned in any way, the strings and pieces just fell into this pattern, but I rushed upstairs to get my camera and took this shot. Fun, isn't it? Now let me get back to creating some deliberately designed art.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Covey Point Farm

Covey Point Farm, oils on canvas, 14" x 11"

I finally got around to finishing the plein air oil I started in May at the workshop on Covey Point Farm, and here it is. I'll be taking it to Gallery 1683 in Annapolis as soon as it's framed, along with a new painting I'm working on right now for the Red White and Blue show in July. Please visit Gallery 1683, and Riverview Gallery in Havre de Grace too. I'll be up there on Saturday July 12 to gallery-sit.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Golden Wedding Anniversary Party

Zenaida and Higinio Perez at their Golden Wedding Anniversary party

Last week my sister Bea called to tell me my goddaughter Susana had invited us to a party celebrating her mother and father's golden wedding anniversary in Connecticut, where they live. Her mother, Zenaida, was the lady who took care of us when we were children and I still adore her, so of course I couldn't pass up such a special occasion. I rode up with Bea and her husband Sergio on Friday for the surprise party.

Zenaida and Higinio were completely overwhelmed--there were over a hundred people there! It was wonderful to see them and their family: I had not seen some of them since we left Cuba. Wonderful too, to meet the many friends they have made over the 47 years they've lived in Waterbury. Painting will have to wait for another weekend, it was a privilege to attend such a memorable occasion for such dear friends.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Annapolis Secret Garden Tour II - Dorsey House Garden

Dorsey House Garden, oils on canvas, 11" x 14" SOLD

The weather was a little kinder on Sunday and the shady garden of the Dorsey House on Prince George Street (now owned by St. John's College) more spacious; it was easier for me to work here. I set up toward the rear of the garden so I could feature parts of the house in the background surrounded by a variety of colors in the foliage: beautiful large American boxwoods, golden Crytopmeria, silver-edged grasses and dwarf golden bamboo (there were no flowers in this garden).

I started around one o'clock with the painting showing the dappled sunlight under the trees and one docent sitting on a bench. Lots of people trooped by with many positive comments and I managed to give away a number of business cards and gallery brochures. It started getting cloudy around four-thirty, as I was nearly finished. The breeze picked up, a hint of an impending shower, so I began to pack up my gear. I had everything else packed, but couldn't find the top for my turpenoid jar as the first drops fell. One kind docent picked up my painting and held it under her umbrella (bless her heart!) as I frantically searched for the lid. By the time I found it, the rain was coming down hard. We ran out from under the trees in the downpour to take cover at the Harwood-Hammond House, a block around the corner.

The rain passed as quickly as it had started, and I called the gallery, but it being after five, I got only the answering machine--Sandy had closed and gone home. So, I left my gear with the volunteers at the Hammond-Harwood House and walked to the gallery to get my car, then drove back to pick up my things. Another adventure-filled day painting in Annapolis! The painting will be at Gallery 1683 as soon as it's dried and framed. Please stop by to see it in person.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Secret Garden Painting in the Rain

Centennial Park, oils on archival canvas board, 9" x 12," $100

What the well-equipped plein air painter wears

No sooner had I set up my gear in the charming garden of the William Coe House on Duke of Gloucester St. (a historic house dating from 1747, now the Georgian House B & B) than a peal of thunder announced the opening salvo of a series of summer showers. The skies opened up and it poured for the next couple of hours, forcing me and the two volunteer docents to take cover inside. The owners were entertaining a large wedding party from New Zealand at the B & B, so we had to wait it out on the back stairs entry on our feet.

Thankfully, the owners of the home had set up a big umbrella and my painting kit stayed under; since oils don't mix with water, my only concern was that the wooden palette might warp and not slide back in place, but it didn't.

Eventually the rain let up, and I went back out to try to get some painting done, but what with the interruptions, the dull light, puddles and the garden tour folks milling by, it was too distracting. Around five o'clock the sky cleared and the sun came out--I should have waited to start my painting then, the light was wonderful. But I was tired and my painting was too far along to change it, so I packed up and headed for home. I'll rework it later with the aid of my photos to see if anything can be salvaged. I hope to have better luck this afternoon painting at the Dorsey House.

In the meantime, above is the painting I did last weekend at Centennial Park. I like the fisherman--he was there for just about ten minutes, but I think I managed to capture his pose nicely. If you are interested in buying it, please contact me at Shipping cost is additional and I accept PayPal.