Chris Carter

Salmon, Squirrel, Bird

I bring all my visitors to Tumwater Falls for its Wow factor. Last week when Laura and Liane were here we really lucked out. One of the more anticipated events was going on – the salmon run! The fish swim from the salt water of the Puget Sound up the rivers, navigating turbulent waters and fish ladders to spawn and lay their eggs in the same rivers where they were “born”. 

Chinook and I

Here I am greedily snapping pictures as the salmon swim by in the tanks on their way up the fish ladder and through the viewing portal.

while below in the Deschutes River the hundreds line up for their turn

And down below the falls here the Chinook Salmon are waiting their turn, either to try to leap the falls (which many did!) or make their way up the “ladder” maze. The mind boggling part is that they find their way from the ocean back to their natal river and there they spawn and end their lives. An epic drama.

Another day I headed out to Woodard Bay with Gals Go Birding, a very friendly group of “bird nerds” (my son Andrew’s words, not mine. He’s actually impressed.) If you’ve been following here, you’ll remember that Woodard Bay is where we got our kayak stuck in the muck after seeing the Cormorant rookery. 

There was a light drizzle going on as we headed out to the viewing spots. Since I’m a neophyte wannabe bird watcher whose only gear is tiny binoculars that I bought for my boys when they were little, ahem, I relied heavily on the company of these veteran bird watchers. They would stop and go silent, scanning the trees and ground cover, listening intently, while their world filled up with birds and their stories, and mine waited to see and hear what I was missing.

The Douglas squirrel was pointed out to me – an adorable cousin to the gray squirrel with whom I’m better acquainted. Later I added him to my sketchbook.

I don’t remember what they spotted here. In the background you see the bare trees where the Cormorant rookery has denuded the trees in the past years. Bald eagles are sort of ho hum here where they are so plentiful, but oh, seen through a powerful scope they are breathtaking.

I’m not sure how I’m going to add a sketch kit to my gear, which must already grow to include rain gear and better binoculars! but I’ve been going back to the lessons of John Muir Laws and his nature journaling school. In his book on drawing birds he describes how to sit so you hold steady your binoculars with your non-dominant hand/elbow by bracing it on your bent leg, while drawing/painting with your dominant hand on the sketchbook on your lap, keeping your eye steady on the bird that’s moving and. . .haha! The fun of it is in trying. And this is nothing compared to my friend Chris Carter who has tried sketching while hang gliding and even while under water!

Brooklyn and Central Park NYC

From Princeton Ben, Andrew and I took the train(s) to Brooklyn where I’d rented an AirBnB in Bushwick. Both of them had lived there for a while in the past couple years. The rain we’d had every day in Princeton stopped and the sun came out in Brooklyn. Since it was my first time in Brooklyn, I deferred to them about where we should go. It was soon clear that eating in the excellent ethnic restaurants was high on the priority list!Tarosushi

Ben treated us to a steady flow of Japanese delicacies at the Taro Sushi restaurant in Clinton Hill where he had worked for a while. We even had a good view of the chefs, and since I ran out of appetite while more food arrived, I had time for this.

sushi

Forgive me if I adopt the now popular custom of sharing photographs of food. The point here being that this was only one of the plates that arrived at our table, courtesy of Ben.

bridge

At my first view of the famous Brooklyn bridge in Dumbo I realized I had maybe 30 minutes to sit and sketch something. It was a spectacular evening with throngs of people enjoying themselves. I was trying to swallow the experience whole. Andrew hung in there with me and coached, and even did a bit of video for Instagram. With his encouragement I plunged in with direct watercolor, knowing there was no way I could figure out how to squeeze the whole bridge on my paper (even though I wanted to!) But you know, I have to say that it’s all there in the messy sketch anyway. Gotta love this urban sketching!

centralpark1

Next day I met up with my beloved sketch buddy and amazing artist Chris Carter  at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Again the weather was perfect and the scene enchanting. We decided to go for direct watercolor. I started with a light pencil layout to get the proportions and then went for it. As an afterthought I put in the figure, who looks like she’s on her cell phone, but actually was sketching! There was a drawing class there that morning.

centralpark2_1

After lunch I sat on a bench and listened to the Jazz sax of Ralph Williams. And later shared the sketch with him.

saxplayer

and found out that Ralph has played with some well known Jazz musicians in San Francisco, and now plays in Central Park almost every day.

centralpark3

Last sketch of the day I decided to go for it and bite off a big piece of the action at the Bethesda Terrace. What is not included in this sketch however is the performers who were singing to audiences in the fescoed and ceiling-tiled inner spaces of the terrace, while brides and grooms posed for portraits under the arches, and people leisurely rowed small boats in the pond behind us, and thousands more pictures were taken on tourists’ cameras. This is why one makes the trip to NYC, among other reasons.

I always learn so much and get energized by sketching with Chris. You might want to check out her website and follow what she’s up to. Stayed tuned next for a day in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with Andrew and Maura.