The migratory birds on Capitol Lake have been a spectacle lately! The American Wigeon is one of the classiest I’ve seen. A real challenge to sketch. All those flashes of white on the head and the beak and wings make for a very well-clad bird and difficult sketch subject. They’ve been sharing the waters with flocks of coots and buffleheads and ringed necks and shovelers, and in a different pool all their own, the Trumpeter Swans!
I’ll throw in some belated mushrooms here, from over three weeks ago before the frost turned them to gooey mush! Evergreen College has a magical trail to the beach. I was pleased with myself for finding two of them in my mushroom ID book. But don’t take my word for it. On my own I am no expert.
Have you watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi on Netflix? Yes? then you know that much of the footage was shot in Olympia, WA and guided by our very own local, Paul Stamets.
Haven’t seen it? then watch it and take the magical mystery tour, without the need to ingest any psilocybin.
Small wonder that I would see my move here as an opportunity to delve into the world of mushrooms. So last week I took a Mushroom ID 101 workshop with the South Sound Mushroom club at Watershed Park, a seven minute drive from my house. The teachers were a team of two young mycologists from Evergreen College whose enthusiasm for the wonders of the forest erupted in a constant flow of shared discoveries and encyclopedic knowledge. With their guidance, the trees, mosses, leaves, and streams, which I am accustomed to enjoying, became a backdrop to a fascinating and downright magical other world of bizarre and beautiful “fruits” that I had never noticed before.
Only a rudimentary vocabulary of mycology managed to find a home in my awestruck brain. Instead I found myself thrilling at my own “discovery” of a lone mushroom with a colorful cap and pure white veil and stipe nestled in the leaves. The delight of the scavenger hunt. The feeling that Nature herself had left it in my path as an invitation to join in. And then the pleasure later of sketching and matching nature’s shapes and colors with my brush and paints. And with no need to taste them or get any high-er on them.
Some mushrooms that made it into the basket after being passed around the group and discussed. Gilled mushrooms, corals, boletes and polypores.
And at the end of the day, all forest treasures spread out on the classroom table. Some tiny mushrooms were so small that a jeweler’s loop was required to see the intricate beauty.
Meanwhile at home, work has begun on the garage studios and the sound of a saw and hammering has become music to the ears.
Yes, it rains a lot here, about every day at some point. And it’s cold and damp. But there are warm clothes to wear, and so much forest life yet to explore!
The living room coffee table is strewn with books on the Pacific Northwest trees, birds and mushrooms that I’m determined to learn more about. I need go no farther than my yard and neighborhood to sample the diversity, and I have yet to run out of new possibilities within a 20 minute driving radius of my house. So on Monday when Andrew was visiting and up for a walk in the woods with us, we headed out to McLane Creek Nature Trail, and hit the jackpot!
Mushroom hunting is an artist’s dream scavenger hunt. It’s also a culinary master’s dream, photographer’s dream and more. And it’s the pot of gold at the end of these daily rains we get here. This two-mile loop trail had a discovery around every bend! Within minutes we’d passed the pond with the flamboyant wood duck and presiding eagle. Minutes later we reached the creek where the salmon were running. Heavy bodied fish at least 18 inches long, resting while settled on the creek bed, until with ferocious effort leaping, splashing, surging upstream to the next resting spot – a strenuous marathon ending in the spawn and the afterlife of becoming nutrients to a hungry biosphere.
I took a lot of pictures thinking I would bring them home and study them for identification purposes. Next week I’m taking a mushroom ID workshop in a park in town.
Meanwhile I continue to find beauties in my yard. There are fairy ring mushrooms that grow in a large ring in the grass. As the aging ones fall apart new rings are born! And here’s some more that made it into the nature journal.
You may know that this pretty white polka dotted Amanita, which I used to find in my yard in Sebastopol also, is poisonous. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to eat any of these!
There’s so much for me to learn about the mystique of Pacific Northwest nature, the flora and fauna which change dramatically each week, so different from the areas of northern California where I lived for the past 37 or so years before moving to Olympia, Washington this summer. I want to know the names of trees and other plant life and birds and bugs and learn their habits. And what better way than to have an illustrated nature journal! So I ordered a sketchbook to be dedicated to this pursuit – a beige toned Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbook, 8 X 10″ soft cover.
and to inaugurate it, took my stool out to the front yard to sketch the march of mushrooms across the lawn with pen and gouache, in the process meeting yet another of my friendly neighbors walking by. Mushrooms are abundant here where we have been getting some rain most days for a while now, while the sun plays hide and seek.
Tolmie State Park has a glorious beach on the Puget Sound and trails through the forest with markers to answer some of the questions that arise as you encounter massive root systems connecting the understory of trees growing in community, branches that resemble giant fuzzy tarantulas, and trees with “legs” growing on rotting stumps or fallen trees called nurse logs. I’ll be back to many of those to put them in the journal. But these fairy-like mushrooms on their exquisitely lichen and moss covered host tree totally captivated!
And then more mushrooms in the yard, and new favorite caterpillars! Woolly Worms, which have been making their way across the Chehalis Trail where I walk. One day I noticed something about the similarity of shape and color with the tiny pinecones around them – another clever nature camouflage? Unfortunately many of the Woolly Worms never make it across the trail as cyclists are not able to see them in time, not to mention walkers like me with poor vision. I’ve taken to walking with eyes down so as not to smoosh them.
And that’s really saying something, because in that position one is apt to miss some piece of the gaudiest show of autumn color I have ever witnessed, anywhere. Lest you think I am exaggerating, get a load of this, totally unprocessed/unfiltered picture I took in my neighborhood yesterday.
It reminds one of those male birds of certain species, seen in nature videos, that will go to absurd lengths to woo the female of their kinds. What is going on with these maples? It’s enough to make a sketcher throw in the towel after trying to capture that in paint. Believe me I’ve tried.
But before I end, just one more show stopper, with a tree’s version of jewelry (bling!)
Look at the plain green tree hiding within.!
I’ve been rereading the Pulitzer Prize winning, The Overstory by Richard Powers , “a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world”, and it’s hard to ever feel the same about trees when you’ve read it.
You’ll also see my reference to Forest Bathing. It’s an actual healing modality that can help boost immunity and and mood and reduce stress and involves immersing oneself in the natural environment. It’s always made sense to me. Wouldn’t you agree?
I went downtown last weekend for the opening of Olympia Arts Walk, a semi annual event that was attended by thousands in pre-Covid days. Wandering around I came upon an impressive hip hop dancing performance of a group of teens in front of the Performing Art Center. Not being at the time in possession of my sketch gear, I took pictures and later did sketches of some colorful bystanders.
I keep trying to understand the style in Olympia, but have decided there is none, except maybe tattoos on all the younger generation, and in abundance. Instead there is an abundant show of individuality that is quirky and colorful from head to toe, and often purchased at thrift stores and combined in intriguing ways.
The lady in the red was participating in the Silent Disco, where the disc jockey sets you up with headphones, and you get to shake your bootie alongside other silent dancers shaking theirs!
Meanwhile we had a bit of excitement last week in finding a contractor to build our studios-in-the-garage! When he submitted the drawings for a permit, our project was promptly put in the pile where there will be an 8-week wait for a permit to start. Phooey, especially since the temperature in the garage is dropping with the fall weather.
So I have moved my studio into the house in a carpeted room where messes must stay on the table (meaning watercolor and gouache) and out to the backyard where the fall color begs to be painted!
Not to mention the mushrooms of various varieties that have scattered themselves through the grasses in familial processions.
These are not chanterelles, but what are they? The bigger ones are about 6 inches across and they don’t look very edible. I keep promising myself to learn my mushrooms! I did try to look these up and in the process discovered that there are a great many different types of mushrooms that are the psychedelic variety, not that I would ever want to explore them without expert guidance!
But equally exciting in my studio garden right now is the exceptionally large return “crop” of pipevine, which is a tangled mass on the iron trellis right now with hundreds of fuzzy buds which will soon pop open with those glorious Dutchmen’s pipes. And then next month, the return of the pipevine swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs.
But back to mushrooms – I have been recording them in different media for years now. Here’s a couple of earlier posts, featuring crinkled Masa paper and monoprint/collage/stamps: January 2011 and December 2018
The Fly Agaric or Amanita mushroom is the flashiest ‘shroom in the fungi world. And I found them growing right next to my driveway this week. Not only are they gorgeous, but they are constantly morphing into a new variation each day. From round topped to flat, and brilliant scarlet to gold, from two inch to seven inches across in a couple days!
But don’t eat them! Although apparently few people die from eating them. Except maybe flies. The term fly- refers not to insects as such but rather the delirium resulting from consumption of the fungus. Now I know it’s become more popular to consume mushrooms lately, especially the psychedelic sort. And the amanita may provide a high, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Flies on the other hand may find the delirium referred to here to be quite a spiritual experience!
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how this painting started. Somewhere at the beginning was a smoke painting that later got covered up, when the irresistible mushroom shapes I’d rescued from another painting took over.
smoke, inks, acrylic, collage, acrylic texture on w/c paper, 10 X 11″
the uprising of the ‘shrooms from darkened earth
the lizards and voles and birds
even Phil the cat, in their nature shrine
have grown accustomed to the exotic air
spiced with herbs and decay
while we worship at our manmade temples
and hope for salvation there.
“The Citadel”, inks on acrylic gel coated w/c paper 10 X 11″
inks, acrylics coarse pumice gel on gel coated w/c paper 10 X 11″
All of these are demos in the Monday Muse Group were we experiment with a myriad of mixed media materials and techniques! These last two were from a lesson where we started out with watercolor paper coated with three dry layers of gel medium. The surface becomes more slick so that the paint/ink does unexpected things!
Think you might want to join us? There is one spot left in the session that starts June 4 and runs weekly for the month of June. For more info and to register visit my website!
Sometimes the greatest successes in mixed media painting are repurposed “experiments”.
We were doing the gesso texturing method called “decalcomanie” in Muse Group. Slather gesso on the paper, put another paper over it to “pull” the wet texture out to create a rough painting texture when dry. Then paint wetly over it.
acrylic over gesso texture with collage on 10 X 11″ watercolor paper
A rush of golden energy punctuated with silver whisperings. It’s not time to lie down. This is the ‘shroom dance of spring, the spores rising and settling in a fine mist. It’s time now to wake early and watch the birthing of these golden days.
This painting was not the beginning. It started with various textures painted on two pieces of paper. The first (below) was a class demo/sampler of different acrylic textures, with pumice and sand and molding paste. It got very confused the more I tried to “finish” it.
See what I mean? I liked the mushroom (‘shroom) theme and cut this painting up.
Can you find the mushroom (later modified somewhat) that landed in the first painting when this one (above) was cut to pieces?
Now I have such an abundance of choices to collage into yet another painting in the series.
I also went through my collage file to find other elements that could be added. Can’t wait to work on this some more. It’s an invitation to “build” another painting with the most interesting materials.
acrylic inks and gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″
It’s a Christmas of sorts.Sugar plums and all the rest.
“Even though it’s dark and cloudy
Sun may peep through and say. . .howdy. . .”
How do you do?when the world says CeLeBrAtE! CELEBRATE
when Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays rule
and you just want to take long naps and walk in the rain,
spotting mushrooms and those red hatted peckers.
I actually painted this earlier in the month. An old songbook provided a collage element and a prompt for the writing. The year has just tipped past the solstice point when (slowly) days will lengthen again. Here in California the sun showed up as if on cue.
Something about this picture, taken under an umbrella outside my studio door, seemed to connect with the above piece. These mushrooms, large and small have been like sugar plum treats, not to eat! but to inspire art through that connection with the fruits of the earth.