Category Archives: Museum

Chipmunk Season

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Lincoln Woods Wildlife Sanctuary, Leominster on October 6, 2015

Wherever I happened to be along the trails at Lincoln Woods Wildlife Sanctuary today, I was never out of earshot of the persistent “chuck-chuck-chuck” of Eastern Chipmunks. At no other time of the year are these attractive little rodents more vocal. I’ve been told that the “chuck” call is given by males defending a territory, so I tracked one down (by ear) and put a scope on the animal. It occupied an inconspicuous perch on the forest floor and delivered it’s “chucks” at regular intervals, otherwise remaining quite still – a good model for drawing!

Chipmunk, Lincoln Woods - at 72 dpi

Eastern Chipmunk, watercolor on Arches cold-press , 8″ x 12″

My dad often used an expression to describe us kids when we got up early in the morning – “BRIGHT-EYED AND BUSHY-TAILED”. It’s a pretty good description of this little guy!

The woods around the parking area in this urban neighborhood are a nearly unbroken stand of Norway maples. The ability of this tree to grow quickly and seed-in heavily allows it to out-compete native trees and form dense monocultures.  As I head deeper into the woods, however, the Norway maples thin out and give way to native species. Heading out along the western side of the Elizabeth Lincoln Loop Trail, I pass through a stand of majestic white pines before the trail joins with Vernal Pool Loop.

Vernal Pool at Lincoln Woods - DRY (small)

A series of vernal pools can be seen on either side of this elevated trail, which runs along a glacial esker ridge. Most of the vernal pools are bone dry at this time of year, but two of the largest pools have some water in them. I wander down to the largest pool to get a closer look. Around the pool, I notice some interesting plants – marsh fern, swamp oak, sassafras, winterberry and dogwood.

Vernal Pool at Lincoln Woods - WET (small)

As I’m about to depart, a movement along the opposite shore catches my eye, and I focus my binoculars on two blackpoll warblers that have come to bath in the pool.

Blackpoll Warblers in Vernal Pool sketch - at 72 dpi

Sketchbook study of young blackpoll warblers, pencil, 5″ x 9″

The bright olive hue of the birds makes an unexpected contrast with the somber colors of the shoreline, and the bird’s reflections seem to glow on the dark waters. Within minutes the birds have moved on, and the pool is once again quiet and still. I make some quick sketches to fix the scene in my mind, and take some digital photos of the shoreline shapes and colors.  I use these references to help me work up this studio watercolor the next day.

Blackpoll Warbler Bathing in Vernal Pool - at 72 dpi

Blackpoll Warbler Bathing in Vernal Pool, watercolor on Arches rough, 10″ x 14.25″

Connecting children with nature through art, observation, and inquiry

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This fall many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders have connected with nature, created art, and have had lots of fun on field trips to the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon. Students have explored our Wildlife Sanctuary, became enthralled by the exhibition of Larry Barth’s amazing sculptures, and created art inspired by nature in our studio and outside on our sanctuary. Our field trips have been focused on close observation of nature and activities that encourage creativity, imagination, and inquiry.

What have we done on the field trips?

On the field trips, students investigated seasonal changes that occur in the fall, focusing on how seeds move and how plants and animals prepare for winter. For example, students explored how the wind and animals move seeds from one place to another.

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“It looks like the field is full of bubbles.” Overheard while students investigated how milkweed seeds have adaptations to disperse via the wind.

In addition, they closely observed the sculptures by Larry Barth in our museum. Everyone marveled at Barth’s incredible attention to detail.

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Using inspiration from the natural world and Barth’s sculptures, students created landscape art using seeds and other natural materials.

Check out the landscape art that students have created

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Using inspiration from the natural world and those amazing sculptures, students created a series of monotype prints.

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Illustrated Lecture with Artist Barry Van Dusen on 10/24

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Barry Van Dusen’s Shoreline at Long Pasture

On Saturday, October 24th at 3pm at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, Barry Van Dusen will give an illustrated lecture on his latest and most ambitious Artist-in-Residency project yet: during a 22-month period, Barry will visit at least 45 Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries, producing drawings and paintings at each location.

Barry is currently about halfway through the project, having visited 23 properties and produced over 50 watercolors, traveling more than 1,000 miles around the state from the foothills of the Berkshires to the Upper Cape.

In this one-hour illustrated talk, Barry will share stories and paintings from his previous residencies, and describe his Artist-in-Residency project at Mass Audubon.

You’ll hear about his adventures exploring Mass Audubon properties all around the state, and learn more about the approach Barry uses to meet the demands and challenges of working on location.  A selection of the original watercolors he has produced for the project will be on temporary display.  Learn more about the lecture

Barry has a long association with Mass Audubon as an illustrator for our publications for nearly 30 years.  Beyond his remarkable illustration work, he has established himself as an internationally recognized fine artist focusing on the natural world and most often birds.

Barry brings this rich experience to the task of capturing compelling natural history moments at Mass Audubon’s treasured sanctuaries.  Fellow artist James Coe says, “Barry Van Dusen’s paintings are among the most original works being created today. Every perfect
gesture; each lively glint in a bird’s eye is there because Barry observed that in nature.”

Learn more

Pastels: A Step-by-Step demonstration by Cindy House

Creating landscape scenes with pastels is a wonderful way to create art. In the summer, the landscape is rich with brilliant and vibrant colors along with many subtle shades. A few years ago, pastel artist Cindy House created a slideshow with captions, explaining each step in the process of creating a pastel landscape, from the initial scene selection to putting on the final touches. Check out here video here and please share in the comments what ways you like to use pastels to create art. Check out here website as well for amazing works of art.

On The Edge

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Cook’s Canyon Wildlife Sanctuary, Barre on July 11, 2015
After reading the orientation panel at the Cook’s Canyon Wildlife Sanctuary parking area, I decide to check out the old Town Pound, only a few hundred feet further down South Street. I’ve explored other historic pounds in Massachusetts, but this one strikes me as being particularly well preserved. The high stone walls are still straight and true, and even the old oak gate is in good condition, despite hanging off its hinges.

POUND at Cooks Canyon (small)

Along the first segment of the Cook’s Canyon Trail, I spot an attractive colony of Clintonia, with its small clusters of bright blue berries atop spindly stalks. The bright green, slightly glossy leaves form a strong pattern viewed from above, set off by pine needles and a large piece of pine bark partially hidden by the leaves.  It’s pretty obvious from my painting why this plant is often referred to as “bluebead lily”.   I paint in the berries last – I know they’ll make little explosions of color that will bring the watercolor to life!

Clintonia, Cook's Canyon  - at 72 dpi

Clintonia at Cook’s Canyon, watercolor on Winsor & Newton cold-press, 10.25″ x 8″

Further along the trail I read an interpretive panel about dam removals. A small dam across Galloway Brook was removed here about 8 years ago, restoring the brook to it’s free-flowing state. Ebony jewelwings flit around the brook, perching on swamp milkweed in full bloom. From what I can see, I’d say the dam removal was a complete success!
The second, larger dam on the brook is the main destination for most visitors, since it becomes the site of an impressive waterfall when there’s enough water in the brook. And it was flowing strongly today, due to the heavy rains of yesterday!

WATERFALL at Cooks Canyon (small)

Below the waterfall, the brook tumbles down a narrow gorge – the “Canyon”. I’m impressed with the way the trees cling to the steep slope, and set-up to paint a view of the north wall of the canyon from a narrow trail that skirts along the top edge. There’s barely room to set up my pack chair, with a steep drop-off immediately to my right. I feel a little guilty to be blocking this little section of trail, and apologize to a couple who graciously agree to detour.

Canyon Wall, Cook's Canyon - at 72 dpi

The Canyon Wall, watercolor on Arches cold-press. 12.25″ x 9″

I usually do a lot of editing to a forest scene like this. There’s a lot more detail than I could possibly paint in on location, and much of the detail would clutter the scene anyway. If you want to see just how much I leave out, take a look at this photo of the scene and compare it with my finished watercolor.

CANYON WALL at Cooks Canyon (small)
Returning on the Galloway Brook Trail, I hear at least three ravens yelling back and forth and circling above the trees. It appears to be a family group, and I pondered whether they might have nested somewhere on the canyon walls.
Growing right along the brook is a delicate, airy vine with leaflets of three and thread-like stems curving and twisting up onto the tops of other streamside plants. This is hog peanut, a relative of the more common ground nut. I enjoy doing a study in my sketchbook, letting the lines wander (like the plant tendrils) around the page in a spontaneous manner.

Hog Peanut sketchbook study, Cook's Canyon - at 72 dpi -

Hog Peanut sketchbook page, 9″ x 12″

Acclaimed Bird Artists Visit A Naturalist’s Eden

A group of bird artists gathered at MABA yesterday to revel in—and draw inspiration from—the artistry of Don Eckelberry’s watercolors, now on exhibit.

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Left to right: Lucia deLeiris, Rob Braunfield, Jim Coe, Al Gilbert, Cindy House, Gigi Hopkins, Barry Van Dusen, Mike DiGiorgio

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The artists taking in the Don Eckelberry Exhibition

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Left to right: Julie Zickefoose and MABA director Amy Montague

 

Barry Van Dusen sharing his amazing collection of art from his residency at the Museum of American Bird Art

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