Category Archives: News

Inspiring wonder, creativity, and curiosity at the Nature Lab: An inside peek at the Wild at Art Travel Camp

Our inaugural travel week at the Wild at Art Summer Camp has just wrapped up. From July 9 to July 13, our travel program included a visit to the amazing and inspiring Nature Lab at the Rhode Island Institute of Design.

Campers had a close up look at many amazing natural history artifacts and were able to use state of the art microscopes to be amazing by a tiny world that is almost always hidden.  Enjoy this short video of the day.

Inspiring curiosity, creativity and more with Barry Van Dusen: A Day with the Wild at Art Travel Camp

Our inaugural travel week at the Wild at Art Summer Camp has just wrapped up. From July 9 to July 13, our travel program included visits to Barry Van Dusen’s art studio for an inside look at his craft and a short trip to Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary to paint and sketch with Barry in the field. It was wonderful to see all the campers inspired by a true master artist and wonderful person. Enjoy this short video of the day.

We also visited World’s End in Hingham, travel by ferry to Peddock’s Island in Boston Harbor, visited the Roger Williams Zoo, had ice cream at Crescent Ridge, and visted the amazing Nature Lab at Rhode Island Institute of Design

Nature in a minute: Highlights from Bird-a-thon

Getting Started With Nature Drawing: Advice for Young Bird Artists from Barry Van Dusen

As part of our annual Taking Flight youth bird art exhibition, different acclaimed bird artists will offer advice to budding young artists. The goal of the Taking Flight exhibition is to create a greater awareness, conservation, and appreciation for birds while fostering the development of young artists and sharing their work with the public. Submissions accepted March 1–June 15, 2018. Click here for more information.

Our first post is by internationally recognized wildlife artist, Barry Van Dusen, who was recently an artist in residence at the Museum of American Bird Bird and meet with the young bird artists in the 2017 Taking Flight exhibition.

 

If you’re serious about becoming a good naturalist and a good artist, start keeping a nature journal/ sketchbook to record your observations.

A young artist looking closely and sketching what she notices

Learn to look carefully and NOTICE what you see.

Young artists sketchbook

It’s more important to OBSERVE carefully and RECORD your discoveries than it is to make pretty pictures in your sketchbook.   Try to LEARN SOMETHING NEW each time you use your sketchbook

Young artist’s sketchbook in winter

Make WRITTEN NOTES along with your drawings to help you remember what you observe.

When you’re just beginning, practice drawing leaves, twigs, pinecones, seashells, crab shells, dead insects and other natural object you find outdoors.   These things do not move, so you can take your time to look at and draw them.

Draw the plants and flowers you find in a garden.

Try to draw the SHAPES you see with simple line drawings.  Drawing accurate shapes takes lots of PRACTICE!   Artists call these “contour drawings”.

Visit museums to observe and draw the stuffed animals, skeletons, and other specimens.

It may sound gross, but drawing from freshly dead birds (window strikes or birds hit by cars), is also a great way to practice drawing and to learn about animals.  (Give the birds a proper burial after you draw them.)

You can practice drawing subjects like birds from photographs, too.  Start with sketchy lines to block out the bird.

Notice the proportion of the head to the body, and the different angles made by the bill, tail, wing and legs.   The birds in the photographs don’t move, so you can take your time.

There are lots of places where you can get close to live animals and try drawing them:

Bird feeders…

Farms…

Frog Ponds…

Parks and Duck Ponds…

Zoos and Nature Centers…

Fish Hatcheries and Aquariums…

and Butterfly Conservatories…

…to name just a few.

Most important is to HAVE FUN and enjoy learning about Nature! 

The goal of the Taking Flight exhibition is to create a greater awareness and appreciation for birds while fostering the development of young artists and sharing their work with the public. Submissions accepted March 1–June 15, 2018. Click here for more information.

 

Drawing Owls from Life on Saturday April 7

Have you wanted to look closely at and draw a live Great Horned Owl or Barn Owl? Our Drawing Owls from Live program is a unique opportunity to learn about these amazing creatures in an intimate and beautiful setting. This program will take place in the Museum of American Bird Art from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 7th. 

Check out this video from a similar program for homeschool students that took place in February 2018. This will give you a good sense of how close you will be to the Owls, how the program is organized, and our beautiful museum space where the program will take place.

During this class, you will sketch live owls in our beautiful Museum of American Bird Art. Discover more about these amazing creatures from a trained Mass Audubon naturalist, while you learn to draw owls from life with pencil and paper in this hands-on workshop led by a trained Mass Audubon art educator. You will explore methods for developing your owl sketch, as well as techniques for capturing depth, volume, and texture. This program will take place in the Museum of American Bird Art from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 7th. 

Owls Live Festival on March 24, 1-4pm

Join us on Saturday, March 24, from 1-4 pm, for an afternoon filled with fun activities and a chance to see live owls from Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum. Find out what makes owls unique and which owls you can find in your own backyard!

There will also be crafts, owl cookies to decorate, face painting, an outdoor owl quest, art projects, refreshments, and more. And don’t forget to enter a drawing for a chance to win toys, a Mass Audubon membership, a bird print, or a free week at camp.

Proceeds of this fundraiser provide scholarships for our Wild at Art! summer camp.

Please Note

  • All ages are welcome.
  • Registration not required.
  • Parking will be available across the street at Canton High School (900 Washington Street, Canton, MA 02021).
  • Event will take place rain or shine. 

 

Spotlight on Wild at Art Camp: Whooooo loves Owls!!!

Give your child the chance to experience the transformative power of art and nature! Our unique camp setting—part wildlife sanctuary, part art museum and studio—inspires creativity, promotes well-being, and enhances connections to nature. We provide a safe, fun-filled camp experience specially designed to foster a child’s creativity, sense of wonder, and bond with nature. During the spring, we will be highlighting different camp sessions. First, this post highlights our Owl week, which will bring two different live Owls into camp from Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum.

Highlighted Session: That’s Wild Clay-mazing Owls, August 6 to August 10

Do you love owls! Do you want to see live Owls up close and learn all about these amazing animals? Check out the look on the faces of campers from last summer when they see a Great Horned and Barn Owl in our museum.

Owls soar into camp again this summer! Spend the week on the prowl for owls; it’s sure to be a hoot and filled with “owly” puns.

See live owls up close, learn about their special adaptations, and create art based on the different species found in Massachusetts. You will learn different handbuilding techniques, including slipping, scoring, coiling, and more.

Curiosity, inquiry, STEAM, and excitement

We are extremely excited to announce a wonderful suite of programs that infuse pottery, nature, and science into our homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art. Our classes are full of fun, active learning, curiosity, and laughter. Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March. During February, we have also had an amazing three week long class on Drawing Owls and other birds, check out the following videos from two of the classes.

Week 1: Drawing Owls at the Trailside Museum

Week 2: Drawing Owls from Live in the Museum of American Bird Art

In late February and March, we will be offering a Nature Photography Class, Winter Ecology and Art Class, and Ceramics Class. Class sizes are small so sign up early to reserve your spot. If you have any questions, would like to register, or qualify for a multiple child discount please call Sean Kent at 781-821-8853 or email skent@massaudubon.org.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March.

Winter Ecology and Art

Conduct ecological experiments in our living laboratory, investigate amazing adaptations, and reinforce scientific concepts by creating art! Under the guidance of a trained field biologist and Massachusetts licensed science educator, students will explore the winter ecology of plants and animals. Topics that we investigate will vary and will incorporate the interests of students enrolled in the program.

Homeschool Program: Pottery, ceramics, and sculpture

The pottery, ceramics, and sculpture homeschool program is designed to introduce and excite children working with clay. Each student will learn and use different hand-building techniques and the pottery wheel to create unique animal sculptures, vessels, and functional pieces such as plates, bowls, and mugs. While in this class, students will learn basic ceramics terminology, techiques, and processes. In addition to art making students will be able to explore the sanctuary’s trails, meadow, and museum to use as inspiration. During the pottery class, families not attending the program will have a comfortable space to sit, relax, use free wifi, or hike on our 121 acre wildlife sanctuary.

Zooming in on Nature with Digital Photography

Develop the skills needed to capture nature’s beauty through the lens of a camera. Learn the key elements of digital photography while taking photos that convey the magnificence of our natural world. Please note: Participants will need their own digital camera.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in March.

FINISH LINE, part 3: happy ending!

August 24, 2017

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown

It’s my final day on Martha’s Vineyard, so I get up early, say my good-byes to the Murtha’s, and head out for another day’s work.   Hoping to get better (i.e. closer) looks at some of the shorebirds I had seen at Felix Neck, I drive to the Joseph Silvia State Beach, which lies just across Sengekontacket Pond from the sanctuary.   This is a popular tourist spot, but I arrive early and find a place to park near “The Jaws Bridge”.

The JAWS Bridge

This bridge connects the north and south sections of the State Beach, and spans a breach that allows the ocean waters to flow in and out of Sengekontacket Pond.  Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is just across the pond, and Sarson’s Island is closer from this vantage.

I scope the Island and see the same enticing selection of birds I had seen from Felix Neck, but they are still abit too far away for meaningful drawing.  Luckily, there are also shorebirds on the near shore, and with binoculars I pick out oystercatchers, turnstones, dowitchers, black-bellied plovers, yellowlegs, willets and one stilt sandpiper.

Ruddy Turnstone

To get closer to these birds, I hike north up the shore of the Pond.   It’s nearly high tide, and the sun is at my back – favorable conditions for field sketching!

The oystercatchers are wary.  Although I got a close look at the crippled bird two days ago at Felix Neck, these healthy birds are keeping me at a distance.   (Later I learned that wariness is a widely recognized attribute of this species.)  Realizing that I’m as close as they will allow, I set up my scope and work from afar – make some smaller drawings in my sketchbook.

The elusiveness of the oystercatchers, while frustrating, will not prevent me from painting them later.  My time observing these birds has left me with some strong impression and firm mental images that I can carry with me back to the studio…

Here’s a large watercolor painted in my studio after my return from the island.

American Oystercatchers on Martha’s Vineyard, watercolor on Arches coldpress, 14″ x 22.5″

Oystercatchers really are ODD birds, and I wanted to capture their strangeness in this portrait.  The strong legs and feet of these birds are especially expressive – there’s nothing delicate about them.   In color and in form, they remind me of bubble gum fresh out of the wrapper!

And here’s another odd feature of these birds:  when I have had opportunities to observe them at close range, I have noticed that some of the birds have a lop-sided or irregularly shaped pupil.

detail showing eye fleck

Checking on-line, I found references to “eye flecks” in American Oystercatchers, caused by areas of black pigmentation on the bird’s iris.  Even more interesting was a recent study that indicates a link between eye flecks and sex.  Birds with eye flecks are usually females!   Male and female oystercatchers are difficult to tell apart, and this feature may be useful for determining the sex of these birds in the field.  Presumably, my painting shows a male on the left, and a female – with an eye fleck – on the right.

Thankfully, some of the other shorebirds at the state beach are more cooperative for field sketching.  A turnstone and a willet allow close approach, but more alluring to me is a small, tight flock of sanderlings, settling down to wait out the high tide at the water’s edge.   The seven or eight birds are all adults, in various stages of molt.

Sketchbook studies of sanderlings, pencil and watercolor, 9″ x 12″

Some have nearly completed their transition into winter plumage and their upperparts sport the overall pearly gray tones of winter.   Others show dark patches of summer plumage mixed in with the newly emerging winter feathers, giving them a rather motley, unkempt aspect.  On the heads and breasts of some birds are patches of rust– also a remnant of their breeding dress.   In winter, sanderlings are the palest of our shorebirds, and some of these birds have gleaming white heads and snowy white breasts and undersides.  I revel in these variations and get to work recording them in my sketchbook.

Sketchbook studies of sanderlings, pencil, 9″ x 12″

This sketchbook page of the sanderling flock is deceiving – the birds look serene and settled.  In fact, the birds were continually in motion – standing up or sitting down, or shifting positions in an intricate game of musical chairs. Drawing the group required a good deal of patience and improvisation, the arrangement owing more to serendipity than to calculation and planning.

Late Summer Sanderlings, watercolor on Winsor & Newton coldpress, 12.5″ x 22.5″

My studio painting of the scene is more deliberately conceived and composed, but you can easily pick out all the poses I had recorded in my sketchbook.   I’ve tried to show the variations in plumage I observed at the State Beach.  Can you find the two birds that have molted completely into their winter plumage?

detail

This is what I would characterize as a “high key” painting.  Most of the painting is composed of values in the lighter end of the value range, with just a sprinkling of the darkest values.  I wanted to convey the light-filled environment of a sandy beach in summer.   The darkest accents are the bird’s bills and eyes, which form a repeated rhythm across the middle of the composition.

With such good models to work with at the State Beach, the morning passes quickly and it’s soon time for lunch, which I enjoy on the breakwater next to the Jaws Bridge – my feet dangling in the clear ocean water while jellyfish float by on the tide.

Driving through Tisbury on my way to the ferry, I stop to use a restroom at the town library.  As I walk through the butterfly gardens around the front entrance, I am distracted by a flurry of motion.

Sketchbook page of Monarchs, pencil and watercolor, 9″ x 12″

On one liatris plant, I count eight Monarch butterflies – a phenomenal concentration of these handsome migratory insects, whose populations have been down in recent years.  There’s just time enough to do some sketches before I leave to catch the ferry at Vineyard Haven.

From the upper deck of the Woods Hole boat, I watch Martha’s Vineyard receding on the horizon.  I sit back and reflect on my travels over the past two and a half years, visiting all 57 of Mass Audubon’s public properties.  In that time, I’ve accumulated a wealth of experiences and impressions – some recorded in my watercolors, sketchbooks and blog journal, and others preserved as indelible memories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following my travels around Massachusetts, and to YOU READERS – my sincere THANKS for your attention and words of encouragement!  With the completion of my sanctuary visits, the purpose of this blog has been realized, and my postings will become less regular and less frequent in the months ahead, but I will, from time to time, post updates when they relate to the residency project.  PLEASE STAY TUNED!

With the project completed, I will NOT stop visiting Mass Audubon sanctuaries – there is still so much more to observe and enjoy!   Maybe I’ll meet you on a sanctuary trail someday soon…

Nature and Art Discovery Program

The Nature and Art Discovery program is a drop-in program for ages 2.5 to 5.5 with an adult (siblings welcome) from 10-11am. Each week is a different nature theme and will include a story, playing and hiking in nature (weather dependent), and creating art. When the weather is nice we will spend time outside and there will be plenty of time for free play in our nature play area at the end of the program. This will be a weekly program.

The program will run for 9 weeks beginning on Saturday, January 20 through Saturday, March 17, 2018.

Each week is $8M/$9NM per child/adult pair. A winter subscription is available for $50/$60, which includes the admission for all Nature and Art Saturday programs.