Thursday, August 28, 2008

At Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park, oils on canvasboard, 11" x 14"
This painting is now framed, and selling for $450 at Gallery 1683 in Annapolis.

Last Saturday I got up early to to paint at Great Falls at my first MAPAPA event. It was another delightfully cool August morning with beautiful weather. The park was deserted when I got there; I lugged my gear from the parking lot to the other side of the Tavern. Despite the great conditions, the force was not with me. After picking my spot and starting to set up, I realized I'd lost a crucial piece of my Guerilla paintbox along the way--the knob that holds the lid which is the painting holder. Going back to find it (I was lucky to recover all the pieces) cost me the first hour. Then the focal point of my composition (the C and O barge on the canal) got moved after my painting was too far along to change, so I gave up on that one. I finally started this painting around eleven-thirty, with a bare hour and a half to try to finish before critique time. Needless to say, I wasn't able to finish it, but it was a nice start. I finished it later in the studio from my photos.

Contact me at if you are interested in buying it. The price will go up after it's framed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Brookside Gardens

Summer at Brookside Gardens, oils on archival canvasboard, 11" x 14"
This painting is now framed and selling for $450 at Gallery 1683 in Annapolis.

About twenty-five years ago Herb and I lived a block away from this beautiful botanical garden in Silver Spring and we used to go for walks there frequently. In fact, I was just starting to paint plein air watercolors in those days and worked outdoors in all seasons and weather conditions: lovely spring days as well as blustery fall days when my hands ached from the cold, nose freely dripping on my artwork (mixed media?). It was good training for an aspiring painter. Later on I had my very first solo show in the small lobby of their greenhouse and sold one piece.

Since those days Brookside has built a new Visitor's Center, completely fenced in and redesigned the gardens so that there no longer are any wild areas. Last week I was meeting an old friend who lives nearby. We agreed to meet at Brookside so I decided to come early to paint for old times' sake. This view of one pond was about the only place I could find that remained recognizable. I stood under a gazebo on what once was a tiny island where Canada geese used to nest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cartoon of Nancy Pelosi

You may not agree with the politics, but I had great fun doing this cartoon to illustrate my article "Masters of Green" written jointly with my husband Herb Borkland. We did the article for Cubanology Bi-Weekly Issue #10, a free forum for political discourse and opinion published on line by my friend Jose Reyes. You are invited to read the article and comment.

The original of the cartoon is for sale, if anyone would care to make an offer, I'll consider it. It's watercolor with pen and ink, 12" x 9" on archival sketch paper.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Painting the Lotus at Mattawoman Creek

Wild Lotus, watercolor, 10" x 5", $100.

After lunch at Mattawoman Creek park, Linda and I put the kayak in the water, loaded our gear and started paddling upstream. In this tidal area the waters are so calm it was difficult to detect much of a current but according to a fisherman we passed, the tide was going out . We paddled lazily past marshy banks of pickerelweed and spatterdock with some grassy plants that might be wild rice. We went round a bend and behold--here were expanses of the creamy yellow blossoms of the native American lotus at the height of their glory!

We continued upstream to a tiny island where Linda had gone swimming other times, but the water weeds were so thick near the shore it wasn't very appealing, so we gave up on swimming and explored on foot instead. We found several spikes of bright red cardinal flowers, pink butterfly weed and hog-peanut vines in flower. A bald eagle soared overhead, its white head majestic in the sunlight. A couple of fishing boats trolled past. With the sun at a lower angle now, it was just the right time to paddle back to paint the lotus.

We pulled into the lotus stand and parked the kayak near one blossom starting to open among several emerging leaves, their curious folds forming half moons sticking out of the water. I looked behind me and was amused to see Linda floating her small watercolor set on top of a lotus leaf (I'm used to holding mine in my left hand like a palette because it has a thumb-hole). I snapped a shot with her camera.

A splash behind us proved to be an osprey diving for fish. The osprey missed its prey and circled around for several passes but eventually gave up and flew away. We finished our sketches around six and paddled back in the evening light at the end of a marvelous day. I felt exhausted but my spirit overflowed with joy at the sight of so many lovely lotus flowers. It had been a perfect lotus day!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Perfect Lotus Day

Lotus at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, oils on canvasboard, 14" x 11," $200

Yesterday I left the house early to get down to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in time to take advantage of the morning light. The day was delightfully cool and clear, a rarity for August in DC, when the phrase "dog days" seems to have been coined with our area in mind. By a quarter to nine there were quite a few photographers and a couple of painters there already. I walked around the nearest ponds overflowing with Asian lotus and set up my easel in a shady spot under a Bald Cypress, where I had one perfect flower in sight for a focal point.

The painting went quickly and was finished around eleven. I left my gear in place and walked around the other ponds to take photos of some of the other blossoms, but the light overhead was not great, so I stopped to chat with another painter I'd seen earlier. I'd noticed she had the exact same type of Guerrilla Painter box as mine, and it turned out she was a member of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association (MAPAPA, which I joined just last week) so we shared information about the Annapolis Plein Air event coming up in September. We were both interested in the Dueling Brushes competition, for which our morning session is great practice, and the street sale afterwards, similar to the Easton Quick Draw event.

After taking more photos I packed up, trundled to my car and drove on towards Southern Maryland, where my friend Linda lives. She had told me earlier that she'd found a large stand of the native American Lotus at Mattawoman Creek, an extensive Potomac River watershed some miles from her home. The American lotus is slightly smaller than the Asian, and the flowers are creamy light yellow.We'd agreed to take a two-person kayak she owns so we could sketch them up close, and this was the perfect day for it.

It was a bit work to get the kayak secured to the top of my car, and Linda was kind enough to lend me some extra gear: water shoes and a pair of shorts (I'd worn pants for painting, forgotten I'd need to wade) plus lots of drinking water and sunscreen. We stopped off at Safeway to pick up some sandwiches along the way and reached Mattawoman around two. I was starving by then, so we ate lunch before setting out in the kayak.

To be continued: Painting at Mattawoman Creek.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Little Night Painting

Moonlight on Black Walnut Point, oils on canvas board, 12" x 16"

This was my night painting from Walt Bartman's workshop. There is something mysterious--perhaps eerie--about this historic colonial house surrounded by ancient walnut trees on the last point of land of Tilghman Island. In the light of the full moon, with the stiff breeze stirring the leaves, it seemed magical. I liked the way the soft glow of lights from the house was reflected in the swimming pool and echoed by the moonlight on the bay.

It's now framed and is priced at $450. If you are interested in buying, please contact me at

Friday, August 1, 2008

Yesteryear's Sunsets Today

Sunset at Bar Neck Cove, oils on canvas, 14" x 11" $150

As toddlers in Cuba, my mother initiated my sisters and I into the ritual of seeing the sunset by the sea. Every evening as the sun started to descend we would walk the block from our house in Miramar to what we called la playita (the little beach) though it was really the farthest thing from a beach. Actually a rocky shoreline made up of the dead corals commonly called dientes de perro (dog's teeth) in Cuba, we children would while away the time playing in the tidal pools and pause to watch the final dramatic moments as the sun dipped into the sea. Every day we watched intently to see if the legendary "green ray" would appear: an unusual phenomenon that occurs once in a great while when the light of the sun's rays is refracted through the water.

The sea would be furious, foaming froth in January when the Nor'easters blew, strewing Man-of-War jellyfish with their long poisonous tentacles onto to the rocks, and we'd play tag with the spray from the waves. On lazy summer days it could be so calm we'd be tempted to go in for a swim and only the grownups' cautionary tales of the many eaten by sharks at that spot would keep us out of the water. The light on the clouds projected marvelous images of castles, epic battles, and beasts to fill our imagination.

I cherish those memories now as the sum of all my childhood sunsets--it was not until much later I realized: while I played, I was being imprinted with a sense of nature's timeless beauty that would form the ground for my artistic impulse. Who could have known a few years later we'd have to leave Cuba and never see our Playita again?

Sunsets on the Chesapeake Bay have a very different flavor, but they share the same enchantment of the clouds and sun over the water. Bar Neck Cove on Tilghman Island is the site of Walt Bartman's Summer Duck Studio where we painted. It was hard to find a spot where the glare wouldn't be blinding, so I picked this place behind a tall cypress. The reflections on the water were still so strong I had to close my eyes and rest for periods of time to get rid of the retinal after-images. I wasn't sure exactly what I had painted until the next day, but oddly enough, the painting communicates the heat and the hazy atmosphere of the day in the intimacy of the small cove.