Highlights from Week 5 of the Wild at Art Camp: Butterfly Safari, Caterpillar Lab, and Nature CSI

It has been such a wonderful summer so far and I am so grateful for all the families that have sent their children to the Wild at Art camp this summer. We have been having a wonderful week at the end of July. On Monday, we talked about going on journey this week looking for spectacular “things.” Here are a few highlights from the week with all our spectacular findings.

Highlight #1: A visit from the amazing Caterpillar Lab!

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Highlight #2: Making spectacular wildlife discoveries with friends

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Highlight #3: Exploring in the brook for aquatic critters

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Highlight #4: Creating art and making friends

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Highlight #5: Exploring in the meadow

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Summits and Snowies, part 1: Great Blue Hill

March 2/3, 2017

Blue Hills Trailside Museum, Milton

It’s cold and very windy on the morning I arrive at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton.   Mass Audubon runs and manages the Trailside Museum, the visitor/interpretive center for the Blue Hills Reservation.   This 7,000 acres public reserve is the largest open space within 35 miles of Boston, and is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

I figured winter would be a good time to visit the Trailside Museum, since it would offer opportunities for both outdoor and indoor work.  The Trailside Museum is only minutes from the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton – the sponsor of my residency.  I’ll stay overnight in MABA’s guest suite and spend two days at Trailside.  Sean Kent, the education director at MABA joins me both days (thanks, Sean for your photos in this blog entry!).

Boston Skyline from Great Blue Hill summit

Today, March 2, Sean and I hike to the top of Great Blue Hill (elev. 635 ft.) and take in the view of Boston and the Harbor Islands.  While at the summit, we visit the Blue Hill Weather Observatory – the oldest continuously operated weather observatory in the United States.

Blue Hill Weather Observatory

We crawl up onto the observation deck at the top of the observatory and hang onto the railings with the wind gusts nearing 60 mph (the anemometer is a spinning blur!)

Descending from the Observation Deck

Below, in the control room, a technician points out a glass case of antique mercury barometers – still working and very accurate!

Antique mercury barometers

Down off the summit, and out of the wind, we set up to do some landscape work featuring the rocky outcrops along the Summit Trail.

The temperatures have been dropping throughout the day, and it’s in the low 40s when I begin drawing. I’ve brought along a few of those chemical hand-warmers, and slip one into the glove of my drawing hand.  I can’t draw with the glove on, but I slip it on and warm up my fingers periodically.

The completed drawing done on location

I complete the drawing on watercolor paper, but am getting seriously chilled by the time I finish, and can’t summon the courage to take out my paints.  I’ll finish this one in the studio…

the work in progress…

Here’s the painting about half finished.   You can see that I laid in the tones of the distant background first – I’ll want them to recede in the finished painting, so deliberately make the colors pale and subdued.  Next, I paint the areas of ground between the rocks with a rusty brown tone, which at the same time organizes the shapes of the rocks.  Then, I paint the shadow pattern of the rocks and lay in the darker tone of the three dominant tree trunks.  The shadows on the foreground rocks are among the darkest notes in the painting, so I’ve now established the full range of values.

Summit Trail, Great Blue Hill, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 12.25″

Now, it’s just a matter of laying in the middle value grays of the rocks.  I try to add some interest and variety here, by varying the complements used to mix the grays.   Most of them are mixed from ultramarine blue and cadmium orange, but I also throw in some burnt sienna and cobalt violet here and there.

Back at the Trailside Museum that afternoon, Sean and I make some drawings of the snowy owls in one of the outdoor pens.  The birds are sitting on the ground in the rear corner of the enclosure, but with my telescope, I have “in-your-face” views of the bird’s heads and do several pages of studies.

sketchbook page, pencil, 9″ x 12″

sketchbook page, pencil, 9″ x 12″

There are two owls: one almost completely white with only a few scattered markings on the wings and tail, and the other heavily spotted and barred all-over.

stay tuned for Blue Hills Part 2: Creature Feature…

 

Soaring Owls, Field Biology, and more: Highlights from Week 3 of our Wild at Art Summer Camp

We have been having a wonderful week of camp with the campers enjoying owls, art, and nature. The campers have been able to see live owls up close, with a barn owl and great horned owl visiting this week. In addition, each group has been finding exciting wildlife and plants in our wildlife sanctuary – discovering froglets and salamanders in our vernal pool, finding caterpillars in our meadow, and exploring in our pine grove. All the groups have been enjoying creating art with their groups and our fantastic art educator Lindsey Caputo. Here are a few highlights from the week.

 

Highlight #1: Visit from a Great Horned Owl

On Tuesday, all the campers looked closely, with some sketching, at a Great Horned Owl brought over from Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Perry Ellis, a teacher naturalist from Trailside, provided a fantastic program teaching all the campers about how owls see  the world. It was a wonderful experience for all.

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Highlight #2: Finding salamanders, frogs, and other wildlife at our vernal pool

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Highlight #3: Learning about dragonflies

Campers in our field biology, nature journaling, and watercolor painting group learned about different species of dragonflies and learned how to collect them and handle them safely. Check out these amazing pictures of campers with dragonflies.

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Highlight #4: Having fun and making friends

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Highlight #5: Creating Art

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Highlight #6: Watercolor painting and sketching by the brook

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Highlight #7: Visit from a Barn Owl

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Wild at Art Summer Camp – Highlights from Week 1

The first week of our 2017 summer camp season is off and running to a fantastic start. During the first week, the campers are learning about the ways birds and other animals fly, swim, and move. Here are a few of the highlights:

Highlight #1: Seeing larval salamanders and wood frog tadpoles at the vernal pool

Highlight #2: Creating Amazing Art with Lindsey Caputo (Art Educator)

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Highlight #3: Making Animal Themed Hats

Highlight #4: Hiking to the pine forest to see our “eagle’s nest”

 

SMALL MIRACLES, part 2: Lost in the Weeds

January 29, 2017

Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary, Wenham

Back in the studio, I spread out the winter stems I collected along the entrance drive at Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary.  I arrange the stems on a big sheet of Arches hot-pressed watercolor paper, moving them around and trying out various arrangements until I have a nicely balanced composition.   You might notice that the pepperbush in the center arches outward to the left and right, while the two outermost stems curve gently inward, bracketing and containing the stems in the center.

Seeds of Promise, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 21″ x 22.5″

I have a pretty good idea what the various species are.  I’ve got goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, an aster, sweet pepperbush and meadowsweet.   Only one of the specimens has me puzzled: a tall, narrow spire with densely packed cylindrical seed capsules.   I check my Newcomb’s and realize – of course! – it’s purple loosestrife.  This is one species I’m sure the Audubon Society would have NO objection to my collecting!  In fact, I had read on the visitor’s kiosk that the Society had successfully introduced a beetle into the wet meadow to control the spread of this invasive, non-native plant.

the drawing phase (purple loosetrife)…

After settling on an arrangement, I make a careful drawing of each specimen with a 2B pencil, working from the specimen itself.  I call this approach “indoor field sketching”, since even though I’m not outside, I am working directly from life.  I’m aiming for an accurate botanical portrait of each species, so draw carefully and slowly using a modified contour drawing technique.

detail: goldenrod and pepperbush

It’s amazing how much you can learn about botanical structure by working directly from specimens like this.  For example, I noticed how the twigs of the pepperbush branched smoothly off the main stem without any obvious scars or marks at the junctions.  Doing some research, I read that the new woody growth of pepperbush is forked or branched, and the side twigs do not always originate from a bud, as in most woody shrubs.

painting in progress…

I work from left to right in both the drawing and painting stages, so as to minimize smudging (I’m right-handed).   I strive for accuracy but also a light touch, and I mix the subtle grays and browns with care, slightly emphasizing the color shifts.  The attraction of this painting is really in the details, so here are some more close-ups:

calico aster

Queen Anne’s lace and pepperbush

meadowsweet

This is the largest watercolor that I’ve painted for the residency so far, at 21” x 22 ½”.

Seeds of Promise, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 21″ x 22.5″

I’ve probably spent more hours on this watercolor than any of the others, too.  The painting and drawing took more than four full days of work.  The original watercolor is currently on display at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

Take Control of your Digital Photos: Adobe Lightroom Workshop with Shawn Carey

Do you have thousands of digital photos and are having trouble organizing them? Do you need help on how to process a digital photo for output to e-mail or web? The Museum of American Bird Art is thrilled to host a workshop with wildlife photographer Shawn Carey of Migration Productions for Adobe Lightroom workshop on Saturday October 14, 2017 from 9 to 4 pm. Click here to learn more or register. 

In this all-day workshop, you will learn how to manage your digital photos and files in a way that makes sense, is easy to learn, plus learn many time saving shortcuts. This is an all day workshop that is broken up in three instructional units:

Section 1:

  • Understanding Lightroom and how it works, organize your photos/files.
  • Library Module
  • Importing files, rating and editing or culling images.
  • Proper backup of files and catalog

Section 2:

  • Keywords and Keyword list, the proper way to apply Keywords
  • Understanding collections and why there are useful.

Section 3:

  • Develop a Module
  • Develop and output for e-mail and web.

Shawn Carey’s Background

Shawn’s photos have been published in the Boston Globe, New York Times, Mass Audubon Sanctuary magazine, Science magazine, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary magazine and many others over the last 20 years. He has been presenting programs and teaching workshops for camera clubs, birding organizations and at birding events since 1994. (Mass Audubon, Maine Audubon, ABA, Manomet, HMANA, Eastern Mass Hawk Watch, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and many local bird and camera clubs). In 1997 he started teaching bird photography workshops (Fundamentals of Bird Photography) for the Mass Audubon and teaches for Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay’s Summer Field School on Cape Cod.

Shawn is a member of:

Mass. Audubon (Advisory Council)
Mass Audubon Museum of American Bird Art, Canton, MA (Advisory Board)
Eastern Mass Hawk Watch (Past President and current Vice President)
Nuttall Ornithological Club (Past Advisory Board)
Goldenrod Foundation (Advisory Board)
Brookline Bird Club (Past council member 7 years)
South Shore Bird Club
South Shore Camera Club
American Birding Assoc.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Shawn P. Carey
Migration Productions
cell # 617-799-9984
scarey@avfx.com
www.MigrationProductions.com

Reduction Linocuts with Sherrie York

It’s April, No Foolin. Copyright: Sherrie York

We are extremely excited to be hosting  a workshop on Reduction Linocuts, by Sherrie York, an incredible nature artist and teacher. She also has a fantastic blog called Brush and Baren. Learn more about the workshop and sign up today!

Workshop Overview

Linocuts, or linoleum block prints, can be dynamic, quirky, graphic images when printed in a single color, but they become even more striking with the addition of multiple colors. To learn more about the workshop or sign up today, click here. 

Reduction printing allows the artist to create a multicolor image through successive cutting, inking, and printing of a single block. 

Perhaps the best thing about linocuts is that they can be created with the simplest of tools at your kitchen table, entirely by hand. Workshop participants will take home a small edition of reduction prints and the knowledge and experience to create their own new works at home.

 In this 2-day workshop you will learn:

• How to design an image for reduction printing

• How to transfer your design to the linoleum block

• Block cutting techniques

• Tips for effective inking

• Registration methods (how to line up each color so it prints in the right place!)

• Hand-printing techniques

We’ll also talk about papers, inks, tools, and the wide variety of applications for relief printmaking.

Watching and Waiting. Copyright Sherrie York

Tools and materials will be provided for use at the workshop. Join us! To learn more or sign up today, click here. 

Show Time!

Museum of American Bird Art, Canton    May 2017

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that the posts have slowed down abit.  There’s a reason for this.  With the opening of my residency exhibition at the Museum of American Bird Art scheduled for May 21, 2017, I’ve had to put the sanctuary visits aside and spend all of my time on show preparations.

IN A NATURAL STATE: Barry Van Dusen Paints the Nature of Mass Audubon, presents more than 60 original watercolors from the residency project.  On exhibit are watercolors of birds, landscapes, flowers, mammals, fish, insects and more, inspired by my visits to 54 Mass Audubon properties across the state.  The paintings are accompanied by narrative labels that chronicle my experiences and adventures over the course of the two-year project.

Gary Clayton (President of Mass Audubon), Amy Montague (Director of the Museum of American Bird Art) and Barry Van Dusen (Artist)

In the mezzanine, visitors can see a display of my sketchbooks and field kit, and a chronological slideshow on the large mezzanine monitor includes ALL of my residency paintings up to the present time (more than 150!), along with related sketches and photographs.

The installation would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of the Museum staff: Amy Montague, Sean Kent, Owen Cunningham, Sarah McClellan, and volunteer Julianne Mehegan.  Their dedication and professionalism continues to fill me with awe!

 

Museum staff Owen Cunningham and Sean Kent talk over details of the installation

There’s plenty of time to take in the exhibition, which will be on display throughout the summer, closing on September 17, 2017.  I hope those of you who have not yet seen the exhibit (or the Museum), will pay a visit!

Getting back to the residency project – I still have a few Mass Audubon properties to visit this summer, so stay tuned for future blog posts from Endicott (Wenham), Blue Hills Trailside Museum (Milton), Felix Neck (Edgartown), Lime Kiln Farm (Sheffield)  and Richardson Brook (Tolland).  With my sanctuary visits coming to an end, I’m feeling a reluctance to finish.  It’s been a wonderful experience exploring the Nature of Mass Audubon!

A Note to Collectors

A selection of my original watercolors has been purchased by the Massachusetts Audubon Society for the Museum’s permanent collection, but many of the originals are available for sale to private individuals.  When you visit the Museum, ask for a price list at the front desk.  Also, feel free to contact me to check on availability of any of the paintings you see on the Taking Flight blog, or on the slideshow in the Museum’s mezzanine.  Write me at vandusen@dslextreme.com.

 

Small Miracles, Part 1: Kid’s Stuff

January 29, 2017

Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary, Wenham

These days, Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary is best known as home of the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Preschool.  The school operates out of the historic estate house once owned by the renowned Endicott family (John Endicott was the first colonial Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony).  The sanctuary, which lies within earshot of Rte 128, is small at just 43 acres, and the half mile of trails can easily be explored in a half day or so.

Upon arrival, I pass through a small but attractive cattail marsh on either side of the entrance drive.  I make a mental note of this, and after parking and studying the visitor’s kiosk, I decide to walk back down the driveway to this marsh.  The cattails are in various stages of going to seed.  Some are nearly falling apart, with gauzy fragments waving in the light breeze.  Others are largely intact, with only small patches turned to cottony fluff.

Sketchbook study of Cattail, pencil and watercolor, 8.5″ x 5″

A small movement catches my eye, and I watch a chickadee working over one of the riper heads, tearing away clumps of fiber.   Several times, the bird drops a wad of fluff, then dives down to retrieve it from the base of the plants.  I’m not sure what the chickadees are after, but later I go on-line and find references to Chickadees gleaning both seeds and insect larvae from cattails.

Chickadees and Cattails, watercolor on Arches rough, 10.25″ x 14.25″

Near the entrance to the Ellice Endicott Trail, I pause where a patch of common polypody is growing atop a large boulder.  I can’t resist turning the fronds over to examine the regularly spaced dots loaded with spores on the undersides.

They remind me of a type of penny candy that we coveted as kids:  colored candy dots arranged in rows on a paper ribbon.   I wonder if you can still buy the stuff, and if the kids in the nature preschool would know what I’m talking about!

The trail passes by a play area where “toys” made from natural materials are spread out on a bench next to a hut built from sticks.

There’s also what looks like a large sieve or sifter, with separate compartments and a cover.  I’m not sure what the kids do with this contraption, but I bet it’s FUN!

I pass through a mixed forest of mature white pine and red oak, interspersed with hemlocks and beeches.  The young beech trees in the understory hang onto their leaves all through the winter.  The pale, papery leaves are curled into tight coils and hang in orderly rows from the delicate twigs.  I decide to do a drawing of a particularly attractive branch, then take out my watercolors and add some soft washes of tan.

Beech Leaf Ballet, watercolor on Lana hot press, 8.5″ x 12″

The dorsal surfaces of the leaves are richer in color, and lend an orange glow to the inside of the coiled leaves.  They remind me of ballet slippers – all up on their toes in a delicate dance – so I decide to title the painting Beech Leaf Ballet.

The trail descends into a moist and mossy hemlock gorge, skirts a swampy stream lined with sphagnum, and then leads to a spur trail offering a vantage into the wet meadow.  There’s a rich variety of wetland plants here: maleberry and winterberry, sweet pepperbush and arching sprays of rushes out in the middle.

Before I leave, I again walk down to the cattail marsh – this time to collect some of the interesting “weeds” growing along the driveway.  Visitors are discouraged from collecting natural materials at any of the Mass Audubon properties, so I discretely gather only a few stems, making sure to avoid any rare or unusual species.  I’ll bring these back to the studio to paint in a warmer, more controlled environment (stay tuned for Part 2: Lost in the Weeds).

 

Confessions of a Fish-Watcher

Eagle Lake, Holden (revisited)

I spent my childhood in the Sebago Lakes region of southern Maine.  In summer, my brothers and I spent nearly all of our time IN or ON the water: boating, swimming, snorkeling, fishing – and fish-watching.  Some of my earliest memories are of times spent gazing into watery depths, spying on various piscine forms.

Sketches made at the Sandwich,MA state fish hatchery, May 2012, pencil, 9″ x 12″

In November, we’d go on special fish-watching expeditions to the old fish hatchery on the Jordan River, where we could watch spawning landlocked salmon up the river from Sebago Lake.  More often, we’d simply lurk around the dock at my grandparents place on Panther Pond, watching the bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and an occasional largemouth bass defend their nests in the weedy shallows.

One behavior I find especially attractive is the way pumpkinseeds and bluegills wave their aqua blue fins as they guard their nest sites.  If an intruder draws too near, they give chase, then return to the nest and resume waving those fins.  I’ve come to think of them as “Fan Dancers”.

Fan Dancer II (Pumpkinseed), watercolor on Arches cold-press, 8″ x 11″

I watched this same behavior when I visited Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Holden, Massachusetts back in May, 2015.  I took some digital photos at that time and made a few quick sketches, but with the press of other subjects, never got around to doing anything more with them.  Winter in the studio is a good time to revisit these “lost opportunities”, and the watercolors you see here are the result.

Fan Dancer I (Pumpkinseed), watercolor on Arches cold-press, 8″ x 11″