Sunday, April 29, 2012

Botanica Exhibition

African Violet II, watercolor, 9" x 12."

I was surprised and pleased to learn that my two entries have been accepted to this year's Botanica, the exhibition of artwork presented by students and teachers at Brookside Gardens' School of Botanical Illustration. This year's exhibition will take place from May 19 through July 6 at Brookside Gardens Visitor's Center.

Now I'll have to get my pieces framed (another expense I hadn't planned on!) but I'm used to it --art is an expensive if rewarding mistress.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Green at Jug Bay

Spring Greens at Jug Bay, oils on linen panel, 9" x 12."

Yesterday I had signed up to go on a hike with the Maryland Native Plant Society. This was to be a hike to see the big trees at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary and check their statistics against previous years' records. I was really curious to learn how these big tree statistics are recorded and kept, and which kinds of big trees are found in this natural area.

It was a beautiful spring day, and I was ready to spend some time enjoying the outdoors. The hike was scheduled for the morning, from 10 AM to noon. Since Jug Bay is a long drive from home, I decided to take a sandwich and my plein air kit, intending to stay after the hike and paint in the afternoon.

That turned out to be providential--I was about ten minutes late, and when I arrived at the agreed upon meeting place, I found a hand-written sign saying the hike had been cancelled because no one had signed up. Actually, two of us had. No problem--more time for me to paint. I went to the visitors' center to check out the trails and views.

There is a viewing platform on a bluff behind the visitors' center overlooking the marsh. From there I could see a pair of ospreys fussing over a nest about 50 yards out. The male swooped down and scooped up a fish to take to his lady love who was cleaning out the nest. Looking down I saw a narrow boardwalk by the water and some Pinxter azaleas blooming. I took the trail to the boardwalk to check the view from there and the marsh looked wonderful framed by the azalea blossoms. I saw lots of huge mountain laurel and high-bush blueberry plants down there too. The boardwalk was wee bit narrow, but wide enough for me to set up provided no one else needed to walk by.

I went back to my car, fetched my kit and trundled, heavy-laden, down the steep steps to the boardwalk. It was breezy, but not so windy that my easel was in danger of blowing into the muck. I set up, trying to leave as much room as possible to walk by, but in order for anyone to pass me, I had to move out of the way and ask them to be very careful to not knock my easel into the water. Sure enough, while I was setting up and getting started several groups of hikers, some families with small children, showed up and needed to be let by. I checked my watch as the last group went by--twelve thirty! And I was only half-way done. Lunch could be eaten later, I wanted to finish my little painting before the light changed completely.

Fortunately, the day was becoming more overcast, and the shadows softened. I reoriented my easel to keep the glare off my painting and kept on working. No more hikers came after that. I checked my watch again as I was finishing-- two o'clock. How is it that time goes by so quickly when one is so absorbed? I started to pack up my kit, taking a few photos of myself on location first so you could all see my set-up (Guerrilla painter 9" x 12" box) on the boardwalk.

After packing up I walked down the boardwalk with my gear over to the other end, where I found a convenient bench overlooking the water, and had a late lunch there. I took in the osprey who had settled down on her nest by then, the one azalea bush that overhung the water--I had no idea they grew so close to water--and other interesting plants nearby. I took photos of some of them to identify later, and decided to call it a day. This is the first time I've gone out to paint plein air since our vacation in February, and the first time with oils since last fall. I'll have to try to do this more often now that nice weather is back.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Viola tricolor, watercolor, 12" x  9."

My latest class opus are these pansies. I bought a flat of six plants at Riverhill, our local garden center, to take to class. In the drawing I merged two plants to show a little of  the range of different colors and markings these hybrids sport. There is also one with ruffled orange flowers, and another all-blue double I may try to record before their season ends. I planted the pansies in the front flower bed after the painting was finished.

Monday, April 2, 2012


A few years back I dug up a new flowerbed under the maple tree in my front yard and planted Virginia bluebells, a Bleeding Heart a fern and some European ginger there. My idea was to have a progression of blooms from early spring through summer, perhaps extending into early fall. The following year I added some crocuses and blue Grape Hyacinths, and some Lamium to extend the blooming season. The plants have been slow to get established because of the maple roots and the compacted soil, but they are finally starting to pay off with a lovely blue and pink color scheme.

This is the first year my bluebells have actually blossomed and I am so pleased to finally enjoy their lovely flowers here at home! I wish I had time to do a botanical illustration of them from life, but life is going at so fast a pace these days, I know I won't get around to it this year. Their growing season is so short, the blossoms will be gone in another ten days, and the plants will disappear by mid-May to lie dormant until next spring.

 I want to do some botanical studies of this native plant, it may yet become part of my Botanical Illustration Certificate project. That would involve digging up at least one of the tubers to illustrate the root structure, but I am not about to do just yet; not until the plants have managed to propagate a bit more.