Animals

Boca de Tomatlan III

Have I said anything about the climate in Boca de Tomatlan yet? Sunny and around 80 degrees every day with a gentle ocean breeze. Warm ocean. It never seemed to get too hot, even in the sun. I was there for one week with two of the days spent in travel from and back to home. That left 6 full days and so much to see in the area. 

But even trying to pack in the experiences, side trips and more, it was relaxing. . . except for the next day’s bumpy bus ride to Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica. The city was full of tourists and stores and attractions which I realized were more a dis-traction. I couldn’t wait to get back to Boca, the small fishing village which felt a bit like our home by the third day.

The following morning I walked the plank bridge (three boards wide supported by rocks in the rushing river) to the other side where boats were being loaded and unloaded with everything from boxes of produce to bags of trash. 

Sitting in the shade on one of those rectangular benches, I picked a house across the narrow river to sketch. It was the palm thatched roof and the dark interior that drew my eyes, but as I sketched, the thatching disappeared as I got absorbed in the sunlit palms!

A house in the jungle, swallowed up by vegetation. I stopped short of the vines that encased it on either side. Too much green! and added a spectator Snowy Egret and boat landing on the river’s edge.

Our scheduled trip for the day was a drive up the mountain to El Tuito, which translates to beautiful small valley. It’s claim to fame is the artesan cheese, breads, cookies and the restaurant, El Patio de Mario, where we ate lunch in a sunlit courtyard with a parrot, . Here I had my first taste of the real Mole, so good! After walking around the dusty village with not much shade to be had, I returned to the restaurant to watch the open kitchen and sketch the lovely ladies at work.

The best part is always sharing the sketch and getting that picture!

The last day before the long trip home to our northern climes, we all spent time on the beach.

This cheerful shop was our neighbor, three doors down. You could buy a drink and snacks and have access to an umbrella table and chairs on the beach, which we practically had to ourselves on that Friday.

I’m not much for sunbathing, being a redhead (well, gray now) who burns even with sunscreen. So an umbrella and a scene to sketch with the warm ocean breeze . . .well that’s the best.

I had to include the dog because I never sat down to eat at the beach restaurant without at least four dogs of all sizes and shapes encircling the table, cozying up to our legs and imploring us with silent doleful eyes. Otherwise you would find them sound asleep in the sun in the middle of any pathway. 

That’s a tiny bit of the story anyway. I’ll be sketching from a few photos now, hoping to prolong the trip just a bit longer.

Muchas gracias to our hosts, Bob Masla and Monica Levine, who shared their winter home and retreat center of the past 18 years with us. It was a small group that week and we enjoyed their delightful company as they got us settled, joined us at meals, and guided us on all our excursions.  The Casa is filled with Bob Masla and other master artists’ work and the open air studio-with-a-view on the upper levels a tantalizing place to paint. Bob and Monica taught us as much about the local culture as about art so that we could feel at home there. Gracias! also to the cook, Rubi, whose meals were the best of regional cuisine, and to all the other Mexican locals who welcomed us to their small village with open hearts and hands! 

If all this has wetted your appetite for a Mexico art journey, visit the Casa de los Artistas website for more information about workshops coming up.

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Running with the salmon

Sometimes I forget, when encountering a natural attraction here in my new Olympia home, that my reverence for such things has been long running. Like the salmon run. Just now I used the search window in my blog to see what I might have sketched, painted, written about the salmon run. And this post from July 2011 popped up. A mixed media Muse piece with a native woman kissing a fish and my words written in reverence:

The salmon always run, and we must welcome them as the sustenance for more than the body of woman. . .as the running fervor of a life worth living, even through and beyond the destruction of habitat, even through the unconscious living which lacks the vibrancy of a shimmery wet creature wriggling in your hands and burrowing into a space, not only in your stomach, but in the heart, where its beat and yours are joined in celebration. . .

And now that I live on the land where the peoples of the Salish Sea have worshiped the salmon for thousands of years, that feeling has grown. 

On Wednesday this week some of us nature journalers met at Tumwater Falls to watch the salmon swimming and leaping upstream. I’ve been trying to capture the drama with my phone camera, but wanted to tell the story in my sketchbook, on location.

watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mix Media Sketchbook

I started on the opposite side of the viewing bridge from this point, where the fish were lining up on the river, resting up from the already tumultuous trip up the river from the ocean. Ahead were the big leaps that would take them to their spawning waters (or the hatchery tanks). They were barely visible underwater, dark undulating shapes, so I started my story there.

As they crossed under the bridge they largely disappeared in the foaming waters, except an occasional one would attempt the leap up the falls and the onlookers would gasp in delight and amazement. Above the falls it was easy to see the fish up close in the hatchery tanks where some had “bruises” from hurling themselves against rocks on their passionate journey!

In the annotated version here you see the fish ladder to the right of the falls where I presume most of the salmon were able to ascend the river successfully.

the tank above the falls, visible at eye level to the public

Many of the Chinook were already turning this golden color. See the wounds on the mouth of the one on the lower right side. Many of these salmon are quite large, around 50 pounds. If you have a lot of questions about this salmon migration and hatchery, I recommend this article to read.

This sketch was done at home from a picture I took from a different vantage point. It happens quickly, this sudden burst of energetic athleticism. I waited minutes, with breath held and finger on the button to capture this shot.

It never gets old, this adrenal rush and the moment when the fish slaps the water. You can feel it in your belly.

A Garden Journal Day

watercolor in 8 x 8″Travelogue sketchbook

I was banished from my studio for a day to make room for the installation of my sink cabinets by son Andrew. The buddleia bushes are in bloom next to the patio table, and while I meditated on the intricate details of this bloomer, I got my first sighting of a monarch butterfly, along with the tiger swallowtails that have been fluttering around for weeks now. (and yes I know I mispelled sighting on the sketch. always happens when I’ve been drawing!)

Been scratching my head a bit about how to nature journal plants like these without doing a whole landscape treatment. This was one of my first tries at a hybrid-type sketch. The thing I noticed immediately about this plant is that it grows simultaneously in every direction, a rebellious cultivar. Not like your sunflowers that move their heads in unison to face the sun. With the 4th of July just two days away, and my neighborhood already testing out their rockets, these flower spires reminded of what was to come.

As Andrew labored on in the studio I moved onto some more of my summer favorites that are already blooming and going to seed, which they repeat continuously throughout summer. My plant app gives me more than the one name, usually very descriptive or at least imaginative. But I’ve never heard a plant named “Ruggles” before, have you?

Andrew finished installing the cabinets (which he had designed and built in his shop in Seattle) just after dinner. Bob remarked that I now have the finest piece of furniture in our house, and I must agree. Thank you Andrew!

Are you finding time to “just”sit in a garden? I mean without the socializing, reading, eating, or weed pulling? If not, adding paper and pen and brush to the garden time could be just the thing!

Lilly pond

I’ve been admiring the Dancing Goat (Batdorf and Bronson) garden since sketching inside the roastery in the winter, and waiting to sketch the spring and summer beauty. The lilly pond with its bouquet of subtle shapes and pastels attached to dark orange stems called up an image of hot air balloons rising up in celebration!

and the long grasses arching over the water, blowing in the breeze like prayer flags. . .

It takes mere moments to get the memory down in a sketchbook/nature journal, including only the details that most capture attention.

And then throw in some insect life at the end to tell a bit more of the nature story, that warm, buzzy, prickly summer feel!

Mr. Flashy Bumblebee

brown fountain pen, watercolor, white gel pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Mr. Bumblebee had his haunches loaded down with red pollen while performing his nectar retraction on the purple lupine, with no idea of how flashy he was! Did the red come from the flowers next to the lupine? Or was the yellow waist pack another pollen carrier, and how did he keep the pollen colors separate? Watching nature always leads to innumerable questions. I looked up the dainty red flowers on the Leaf Snap App which I make daily use of, and found a great many variations on the name. My favorite is Purslane. So Shakespearean.

I’m trying to sit out and nature journal from life more now that the weather is cooperating. The patch of shade under the tree was working fine, though eventually the tiny green spiders covered my arms and legs; nothing scary/creepy, mind you, but it got pretty itchy, so I put the finishing touches on inside.

Squirrel Acrobatics

watercolor, fountain pen and white gel pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Ever since I took away the squirrel and bunny picnic table feeder (it was attracting raccoons) my squirrel friends have become even more adept at bird feeder acrobatics. So I thought I’d try to capture the action. Not easy! but lots of fun to try. Can you imagine going through all that leaping and swinging and eating while hanging upside down, just to get a few seeds? It makes me dizzy to watch.

The bunny action here is ramping up too with lots of cottontails bouncing around the garden. I caught one getting through an opening in the fence around the vegetable garden and chased him around the beds til he stopped and took a nibble while looking me boldly in the eye. I felt as foolish as the Mr McGregor character in the Beatrix Potter books.

Marsh Wren and more

watercolor, white gouache, white gel pen and brown ink fountain pen in Nova beige toned sketchbook

Such a funny little songster, the Marsh Wren. What I like about them is you can see them close up in the marshes and watch that beak open alarmingly wide while the strangest squeeky sounds emerge, plentiful and varied.

On that same walk on the Chehalis Trail here I can stop now to gaze at the osoberries and salmonberries and honeysuckle climbing out of sight up towering trees. The moth was in my backyard where I’m making an effort to appreciate insect life as well, in hopes that most of these tinier residents are the beneficial ones not eating my vegetables. At the moment it seems rather unfair that the hungry green-eaters are focusing on my spinach and chard while the abundant “weeds” in the yard are given a pass. 

Insects

watercolor, gouache, gel pen in beige toned sketchbook

It’s become quite irresistible to be out in the garden lately. I don’t have the kind of strong body that can spend hours weeding and other heavy gardening pursuits, so I’m learning to “waste” all kinds of time in closer observation of the birds and the bees and other crawling and flying insects. They don’t particularly appreciate me nosing around them when they’re going about their business, and you can be sure they wouldn’t sit still for a detailed drawing. So I use my iPhone camera to take a bunch of shots and then study them up close to learn their jewel-like markings. Will I remember their names? Probably not. Dragonflies and Bees are enough for me, though my phone is now loaded with apps to help me ID what I’m seeing and hearing.

Bunny Town

brown fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Langley on Whidbey Island is a pretty little North Puget Sound town with colorful buildings, views of the snow covered Cascades and the art/restaurant/shopping scene tourists like. But my favorite was the omnipresence of bunnies cavorting everywhere like they own the place! And not just the little brown bunnies that populate our lawns now in Olympia, but a smattering of other breeds of different sizes and colors and fur types. Like these above. And the story goes that the 4H’ers had a show in town and somehow the bunnies got loose and did what bunnies to so well to populate the town with their offspring. Reminded me of the bunnies we raised when my boys were little. I’ve forgotten their names but remember the soft twitchy trembly-ness of holding them on your lap.

From Whidbey we took the half hour ferry back to Port Townsend and then the two hour ride home. Port Townsend, another colorful sea town with its own character, preserving its 19th century history of glorious and sometimes ornate downtown buildings. I got greedy trying to fit as much as possible into the one sketch I had time for.

Now I’m back in Olympia and staying local for a while. People here are complaining about the record breaking cold wet spring this year. I gotta say though, when the sun shines like it did all day yesterday, and with the exuberant blooming and birdsong, it seems worth the wait!

I’m even considering joining the #30X30DirectWatercolor challenge this month. It’s become a yearly tradition now among Urban Sketchers and other folks and I have not participated for a while. But I think I’ll give it a try. Marc Taro Holmes and Uma Kelkar are both inspired artists and teachers and the founders , offering lots of coaching and ideas for exploring your own artistic goals. Check it out!

https://citizensketcher.com/30x30directwatercolor/

North Carolina

Just back from a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina visiting my son Ben. He lives in a little town outside of Asheville. To my utter delight his apartment overlooks a marsh which is teaming with birds and other life. Behind that is a green strip of woods and an open green meadow where a white horse grazes and behind that, a red barn and behind that, many layers of blue mountains dissolving into a tapestry of billowy clouds and blue sky. I have to describe it here, because I had very little chance to paint, sketch, or journal, though I have been playing a bit of catch up today. 

w/c in 5″ X 7″ mix media spiral sketchbook

Due to travel delays I had a whole day to myself before Ben joined me. He recommended I head over to the U.S. National Whitewater Center not far from the Charlotte airport. So I spent a sunny warm day watching white water rafters, kayakers, rock climbers, zip liners, and other sports I have no name for. . . listening to shrieks of delight. . . chatting with other observers, eating delicious food and occasionally trying to sketch the action. Finally Ben arrived to join me.

Another day we drove to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, this time with me watching him doing his elegant white water maneuvers, holding my breath at times when he rolled under, before popping back up again. Whew! The water was so cold that my bare feet could handle only half a minute before the chill became an ache.

It takes skill to kayak safely in rivers like these, so I wasn’t about to try it. But watching the zip liners flying across the water, and feeling the spray of the rubber rafts bouncing along the rapids, I thought, another time. . .yes, I’d try that!

w/c and white gouache in beige toned Nova sketchbook

From Ben’s balcony we watched Barn Swallows, brilliant Cardinals, noisy Red winged Blackbirds, melodious Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, and one night listened to (what the Merlin app identified as) a Yellow-breasted Chat, that carried on for hours in what must have been courting behavior!

The river otters were another day. Stay tuned for more about the week.