Sunday, June 18, 2017

Digital Prints of Glacier Flower Paintings

Glacier Flowers I, 8" x 10"

Glacier Flowers II 8" x 10"

I recently had my Glacier Flowers paintings printed and am offering both of these lovely digital prints for sale. Each print sells for $100 plus shipping, but as a special I'm offering a price of $150 for the set of both prints purchased together.

The reproductions were done by Old Town Editions, a very high quality archival digital printing studio in Alexandria, VA. The prints are mounted in white archival mats with outer dimensions of 14" x 18" and can be put into frames of that size which is a standard size easily found in art framing stores. Hurry folks, I have only a limited number of prints available. I can take payment with PayPal, checks or credits cards by phone.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Spring Garden

Dawn and Dusk.

This year my spring garden has been more floriferous than ever. My climbing 'New Dawn' rose and clematis 'Etoile Violette' on the porch are looking even fuller than last year! Other plantings that were just getting established last year are starting to come into their own, like this old-fashioned iris my mother used to grow in her garden. It may not be as showy as the newer varieties, but its wonderful perfume, which many of the other varieties lack, more than makes up for it.

Old-fashioned iris

With such warm weather during the winter the grape hyacinths bloomed early, although the new batch I planted last fall (a mixture of several varieties) didn't bloom until late April, along with the Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides). The new pink dogwood in the background complemented the soft blues beautifully.

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) with pink dogwood

The rhododendron planted on our first spring here (I've forgotten the variety, probably 'Yaku Princess') finally put out a few blossoms this year, though the leaves sustained a lot of winter damage. I hope that now that it's getting more shade it will continue to improve. In this alkaline soil, it's hard to grow acid-loving plants such as azaleas and rhododrendrons.

Rhododendron 'Yaku Princess'

The 'Admiral Semmes' azalea planted last year didn't put out much bloom his year, it will need more time to get going. I had expected the flowers to be yellow, but the soft peach color is as lovely as the fragrance (It's a cross between the southern Azalea austrinum and Exbury hybrids).

'Admiral Semmes' azalea


I had ordered a metal arbor structure for the clematis that my sister Bea gave me last year but
I've been having trouble assembling it, so the poor vine is just leaning against a couple of bamboo stakes at the moment. Lovely flowers, though I can't remember the exact variety-- it looks like it might be 'Nellie Moser'.

The east bed

The Japanese maples on the east side of the house are growing nicely. Recently I put in two new native trees--a sourwood (Oxydenrum arboreum) to shade the Carolina Silverbell (Halesia caroliniana) partly visible on the left in this photo, and a honey locust in the back yard. The trees came bare-root and the recent rainy spell has helped the locust to start budding out, but the sourwood appears to be dead--I may have to call the nursery where it was bought to replace it.

Irises and Double Knockout rose

The front walk.

The irises in the front didn't perform as well this year--perhaps they need to be given a bit more room to spread? But the general tapestry by the front walk is finally starting to look as I had envisioned. The expansion and consolidation of the backyard beds continues, with two new shrubs: a Fothergilla gardenii and a Blue Mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue').

Today, I have quite a number of annuals and a couple of perennials to plant, so I'm off to toil in the garden. Happy springtime, dear friends!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Goodbye to Sperry Chalet

The staff at Sperry Chalet (l. to r. Sinead, Jason, myself, Renee, Terri, Stephanie, Katie, Karen)

My last morning at Sperry Chalet dawned much too soon--it was hard to believe two weeks had slipped by so quickly in these amazing surroundings, with such unique people!

The mule train arrived mid-morning right on schedule, bringing up the supplies. I recorded some of the unloading: Sinead and Katie moving the big propane tanks around the dining room to the storage room below. These young ladies were strong! The packers lugged the 30-gallon plastic trash cans with the supplies into the dining room, then picked up the trash and laundry to be taken down (my luggage too, except for my daypack) that had been packed the night before, and strapped the buckets onto the mules.

Stephanie calms a mule while the packer unloads the propane tanks.
Sinead and Katie carry a propane tank to the storage room below the dining area.

Sinead and Katie carry a propane tank down the path.

Katie  holding one of the mules.

I hung around until noon, then started my trek down to Lake MacDonald, where Kevin would meet me. The trail back would be all downhill, and much easier than the hike up. I took my lunch to eat on the way down.

Leaving Sperry Chalet

I lingered to admire the scenery one more time and took some pictures at Sprague creek and its cirque--there were different flowers blooming now than when I'd hiked up two weeks earlier.

Sprague Creek.

Sprague Creek and waterfall.

I stopped for lunch about one o'clock, looking up at the chalet and admiring its impressive height as I munched. Further down I noticed that there were a number of what looked like orchids with inconspicuous small flowers growing by the rill where I'd seen the Red Monkey flowers on the way up. I'm still not sure of the identification, other than it's definitely an orchid, perhaps the White Bog Orchid (Platanthera stricta)? The flowers look very insect-like.

Lots of orchids growing by a rill beside the Sperry Trail

Closer look at Bog orchids (Platanthera stricta?)

Lichens growing on forest on trees

Fireweed growing by the trail

The Fireweed was in full bloom further down, and once I entered the forest, I found many other flowers decorating its shady floor. I recognized rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyeara oblongiflora) in bloom, similar to our eastern  Goodyeara pubescens except without the intricate veining on the leaves, Pipssipewa (Chimaphila umbellata), and one-sided wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) along with other familiar plants.

Goodyeara oblongiflora

Pipssipewa (Chimaphila umbellata)
One-sided Wintergreen  (Orthilia secunda) and Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata)

I looked for huckleberries, which should have been fruiting by now at lower altitudes, but wasn't able to spot any bushes with berries near the trail. The patch of Twin-flower (Linnaea borealis) had finished blooming, and I saw many mosses and fungi but didn't see the Coral Root Orchid seed pods I'd seen on the way up.

Mushrooms on the forest floor.
I continued down the trail lingering over the plants, arriving at the Lake MacDonald Lodge parking lot a little after four-thirty, and went into one of the snack bars to wait for Kevin--we'd agreed he'd meet me at five. I ordered a glass of wine to brighten the wait, and then realized I'd sent down my purse and wallet with the mule pack, so Kevin had to cover my tab when he arrived.

After Kevin picked me up, he drove to his home to unpack the buckets brought down by the mule train, where I could get the rest of my gear. It was a most interesting look at the logistics of the operation--he had a garage-size building next to his home that was used for storing the Chalet's supplies, shelves of goods, and a number of spare plastic trash cans used as the carrying buckets. He quickly sorted through the buckets brought down today and picked out my gear. I'd be flying back tomorrow on a Monday, the day Kevin hiked up to the Chalet for his weekly visit, so he wouldn't be able to see me off then.

Kevin Warrington with me at dinner on my last night in Montana.

We went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant in Columbia Falls I'd sampled during my first days here, the Three Forks, and we said our goodbyes there. What an amazing, unforgettable experience to have been Artist in Residence at Sperry Chalet!

Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax), color pencil drawing, 14" x 11"

I end my Sperry Chalet stories with these goat sketches, done very quickly one evening when Handsome goat was hanging around the rocks near the chalet.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Blue Marsh Violet

Blue Marsh Violet (Viola cucullata) watercolor with color pencil, 8" x 13."

This is one of two pieces I have at the current show of Spring 2017 Art at the Mill. 

I found this lush specimen growing amidst the rocks at Whiteoak Falls in Shenandoah National Park on a hike a friend and I took over ten years ago. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get around to doing a painting, though usually not this long!

This is my fourth year participating in Art at the Mill at the historic Burwell-Morgan mill in Millwood, and every year the shows, in the spring and fall, seem to get better. The space is beautiful, and the Clarke County Historic Society volunteers who hang it are very adept at fitting in all the varied styles of art and media to suit it, with lovely touches like fresh flowers and natural seasonal decorations. If you happen to be in this area of Virginia, please stop by and check it out--the show is open on weekends from April 29 through May 14, Fridays and Sundays from 12 to 5 and Saturdays from 10 to 6.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Last Days at Sperry

Shadow of Gunsight Mountain at sunrise.

I had an unusual dream on my next-to last night at Sperry Chalet. In the dream, as I was hiking over my favorite section of the Sperry Glacier trail between the two waterfalls, I encountered an old man dressed like an Indian chief. He asked me what I was searching for... and I responded that I was looking for beautiful flowers to paint. He climbed up without effort to a rock ledge jutting above the trail and brought me a Columbine plant with flowers of three different colors: most were pale yellow, like the Columbines I'd seen all over the park, two or three were pink, and there was one single white flower. I was delighted, thanked him, and told him I would paint this most unusual plant. He vanished while I wasn't looking.

I woke up feeling the dream had been a communication from beyond... perhaps just my subconscious, but very telling, none the less. I had taken the old man's question literally in the dream, but the question was really a metaphysical one--what was my spiritual quest in this remote place? And the symbolic answer, the three colors of the flowers: yellow for remembrance, pink for platonic love, white for purity... charged with meaning!

The sun was just rising above the ridge of Gunsight Mountain and I could see clearly the shadow of its twin peaks cast on the valley way down below. I'd been told this shadow was the reason for the mountain's name, which one could easily discern.

I went down to breakfast early, determined to paint some Columbines on my last day here. I told Kali about my dream, and she was intrigued. She told me of the Blackfoot Indian legend about Akaiyan, which I had not known about, and that the second waterfall on this trail bears his name--which I had not known before. We both marveled at the coincidence, though I don't really believe it's coincidence as much as divine providence. I suspect these instances may be more a case of our subconscious contacting something beyond our normal senses that is actually present. I sometimes experience these revelations in dreams.

Trail crew member at work.
Trail crew at work.

On my way up the trail I saw two young men who were working repairing the trail near the first waterfall. They were members of one of the park's many trail crews. I had remarked how well-maintained the trails were and they told me trail maintenance is done all throughout the short season. The crews move from camp to camp as they work on different trails. Working in pairs, the work is grueling--they dig runoff trenches, move and stabilize rocks, cut down fallen trees blocking the trails, whatever the vagaries of nature call for, all with only basic hand tools--mallets and chisels, shovels and a crosscut saw.

A bit farther up the trail I saw some nice Columbines, and set my gear down to sketch them, giving as much space as possible for others to pass by. It was still nice and cool in the mid-morning, and a number of guests walked around me to continue up the trail to Sperry Glacier. I worked diligently as the sun rose overhead, and the day warmed. Whew--I shouldn't have worn a black T-shirt, the color absorbs too much of the sun's thermal spectrum.

Painting Columbines

A couple stopped and offered to take the photo above, which I accepted gladly. After finishing the Columbine I started to add other plants to the background. I ate my lunch, and by two o'clock, it was so hot I was ready to call it a day. I have yet to finish the sketch I started there, even though I've worked some on it since getting home.

Columbine (Aquilegia flavescens) with Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), color pencil, 10" x 8"

The composition needs to be resolved--the pale yellow flowers of the Columbine need a darker background to stand out, to give the impression that they are growing on a rock ledge, like the ones in my photo below. But this is a decent field sketch to use as the basis for another painting.

Columbines and blue harebells on a rocky ledge.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around Sperry Chalet, taking photos of the staff and storing up memories of my wonderful two weeks here. I have a sense that these are the memories that will sustain me through those rocky patches every life must traverse, particularly as we age.

Kali, Karen, Ranger John (AKA "The Plumber") and Josh relax in the kitchen of Sperry Chalet.

Kali washing dishes.

Katie and Renee by the vintage cash register.
The vintage cash register has been in operation since Sperry Chalet opened as a park concession in 1954.

Renee and staff under the Sperry Nation banner, made by a young guest who loved the place.

Hikers stow their gear against the exterior wall of the dining room.
The dining room at Sperry Chalet.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Yellow Fringed Orchid and Pollinator

Blinded by Pollinia - Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) and Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), watercolor, 17.5" x 13.5".

Today I'm interrupting my Sperry Chalet artist-in-residence postings to show you one of my latest art works. This painting was created as my entry to an exhibition that the Botanic Artist Society of the National Capital Region (BASNCR), of which I'm a member and officer, is putting on, "Natural Attraction: Virginia Plants and Their Pollinators." The show will be at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, VA from April 6 through May 14, 2017.

I'm really pleased that my painting was selected for the show (it is a juried show). I couldn't have done this painting without the inspiration of Jim Fowler's fabulous photos in his blog, capturing this unique instant as the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) is visiting the orchid flowers.

I had hoped to see the pollinator of the purple fringed orchids when I was studying the small population found on Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park) a few years ago, but I didn't see any during the times when I was doing my field sketches. So hats off to Jim, for his extraordinary combination of luck and patience in capturing this elusive occurrence.

The butterfly is attracted by the nectar found in the long thin spur behind each flower. As the insect puts its head near the opening of the spur to insert its proboscis, it comes in contact with the pollen sacs (pollinia) near the openings. The pollinia then attach to the insect's eyes by means of a sticky thread called the viscidium.

As the butterfly visits the flowers, a number of pollinia are collected and later deposited on other flowers where they can fertilize the style, which is also near the opening of the spur. The butterfly can become disoriented when it has a lot of pollinia stuck to its eyes, therefore my title, a takeoff on the song "Blinded by the Light."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sketching Featherwoman Lake

Featherwoman Lake, watercolor pencil, 8" x 10."

My time at Sperry Chalet was drawing to a close, and I wanted to hike up towards Comeau Pass one more time, to sketch one of the lovely alpine lakes in that vicinity. I picked up my bag lunch after breakfast and got my gear ready for the hike. The morning was fine and cool, and I took time to observe and photograph the progression of wildflowers along the trail.

Glacier Lily seed pod.

The Glacier lilies near the chalet path were gone, only their seed pods remained. The yellow Groundsels and purple asters were starting to show more flowers as the Pentstemons and Spireas began to fade. I photographed other interesting plants such as Elk thistle, Yellow buckwheat and Cow Parsnip that I had observed earlier but hadn't had a chance to record.

Arrow -leaved Groundsel (Senecio triangularis)

Elk Thistle (Cirsium foliosum)
Cow parsnip (Heracleum sphondylium)

As I climbed upward into the alpine zone, the progression of bloom continued to change. Patches of Pink Mountain Heather that had been blooming the week before were now setting seed, and new plants emerging from the melting snow patches were blooming. Yellow Monkey flowers, which I had not seen before, bloomed under rock overhangs with pink shooting stars.

Going up the trail to Comeau Pass.

Pink Mountain Heather setting seed (Phyllodoce empetriformis)
Tiling's Monkey Flower (Erythranthe tilingii) and Dark-throated Shooting Stars (Primula pauciflora) bloom under a ledge.
Red-stemmed Saxifrage (Mycranthes lyallii)

Lyall's Rockcress (Boechera lyallii)

The steep switchbacks seemed a little easier to negotiate this second time, and with the patches of snow along the trail gone, I managed to reach the first lake before noon. The rocks crossing the lake's drainage had been nearly covered in snow the week before, but now they were exposed and the water flowed freely.

The trail crosses the first lake.

I walked onto some rock slabs around the lake towards the upper meadow, looking for a good vantage point to frame a painting. Clumps of wildflowers dotted the meadows--pink and yellow Mountain Heather and other alpine plants. There was still some snow on the surface of the lakes.

Wildflowers dot the meadow around the lake.

I set up my camping stool on a ledge and unpacked my lunch. The minute I started to dig into my sandwich a hoary marmot came out from behind a rock and tried to make off with one of my hiking poles a few feet away. I shooed him off and went back to my sandwich. A minute later, the marmot was back, now from behind a different rock, trying the same maneuver again. I stood up, scolded him and sent him off again. A few moments later, he was back--this time approaching from a different direction. I had to give him points for determination, or was it desperation? These creatures really craved salt...

Me waving. (photo by Linda Hsu)
Trying to scare the marmot away. (photo by Linda Hsu

The wily beastie.

 Unknown to me, one of the guests at the lodge, a young lady named Linda Hsu, had witnessed the marmot's antics and my attempts to stave him off, and photographed the exchange from a distance. The pictures which she sent me after I got home are too distant to be very clear, but give some sense of what was going on.  After a number of frustrations the marmot finally left for more promising pastures, and I was able to finish my lunch undisturbed. Afterwards I took in the view, and decided that a bit higher might give me a better painting, so I gathered my pack and stool to hike a bit farther up to the next lake.

Featherwoman Lake

This lake, which I later learned was called Featherwoman Lake, held all the grandeur of these heights: a veil of waterfall dropping into the melting snow, and Gunsight peak in the background. I walked out on the rock ledges for a closer view--perfect! I spent the rest of the afternoon there working on my watercolor pencil sketch, then hiked back to Sperry Chalet.