Tag Archives: Barry Van Dusen

BOOK LAUNCH VIDEO with Barry Van Dusen, Julie Zickefoose, David Sibley and Lars Jonsson

Over four and a half years, internationally recognized nature artist Barry Van Dusen visited all of Mass Audubon’s 61 wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers and museums, creating drawings and paintings at each location.  The new book, Finding Sanctuary, celebrates the richness, beauty and ecological diversity of Massachusetts and the Mass Audubon sanctuary system and provides fascinating insights into his artistic process. 

Enjoy the recorded virtual book launch featuring an interview between Barry Van Dusen and acclaimed artist and author Julie Zickefoose, a video greeting from Swedish bird artist and author, Lars Jonsson and bird artist and author, David Sibley, and a lively question and answer segment with Barry Van Dusen.

Finding Sanctuary: An Artist Explores the Nature of Mass Audubon
Virtual Book Launch, Recorded on June 24, 2020

Celebration of Finding Sanctuary with author and artist Barry Van Dusen: Virtual Book Launch

Join internationally recognized nature artist Barry Van Dusen and Amy Montague, Director of the Museum of American Bird Art, for a virtual gathering to celebrate Barry’s new book:  Finding Sanctuary: An Artist Explores the Nature of Mass Audubon.  This lively online celebration will feature an interview of Barry by author and artist Julie Zickefoose, live discussion and viewing of Barry’s work, and time for audience participation. The book launch will be on June 24 at 7 pm.

Sign up for the virtual book launch by clicking here.

Finding Sanctuary: An Artist Explores the Nature of Mass Audubon 

Over four and a half years, internationally recognized nature artist Barry Van Dusen visited all of Mass Audubon’s 61 wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers and museums, creating drawings and paintings at each location.  This beautiful book celebrates the richness, beauty and ecological diversity of Massachusetts and the Mass Audubon sanctuary system and provides fascinating insights into his artistic process. 

After you register you’ll receive an email invitation with a link and information on how to join the gathering.

Nature in a Minute: Trailing Arbutus at North Hill Marsh, Duxbury

One of the first Mass Audubon sanctuaries  to reopen is North Hill Marsh in Duxbury.  A four mile trail circles the pond, with shorter options available. Print the map from the Mass Audubon web page and take it with you.  https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/north-hill-marsh

 There is an observation platform near the start of the trail system.   Look for Osprey flying over the pond or perched on a branch over the water.  The day artist-in-residence  Barry Van Dusen visited this sanctuary it was raining.  He was still able to sketch the Osprey, though representing the rain in the final drawing was a challenge. (See p. 74  Finding Sanctuary, Barry’s book about all the Mass Audubon sanctuaries.)

But the real treasure at North Hill Marsh is the Trailing Arbutus.  This low-growing evergreen plant has small white flowers in early spring.  An earlier name for this plant was Plymouth Mayflower.  This name is based on the idea that the plant announced spring for the winter weary Pilgrims at Plymouth colony .  Trailing arbutus became the State Flower of Massachusetts in 1918.

The Latin name Epigaea repens aptly describes the plant Epigaea comes from the Greek word “upon the earth”, referring to the oval evergreen leaves that hug the ground.  Repens means trailing, noting the interconnecting root system of the plant.

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of Osprey at North Hill Marsh

Julianne Mehegan at Arches NP

Our guest blogger, Julianne Mehegan, is a wonderful friend of MABA, a birder and a naturalist.

Nature in a Minute: Bald Eagle Nesting in a Cactus

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Photo Arizona Department of Game and Fish  April 16, 2020

Wildlife biologists in Arizona have searched for bald eagles nesting in saguaro cacti for decades.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department announced they finally have a photo to prove eagles will nest in these large, branched cacti.

Bald Eagle Nesting at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary by Barry Van Dusen

Enjoy Barry Van Dusen’s post when he visited Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton on March 22, 2016 and painted a Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle in Norton Massachusetts – February 2020. Photo by Sean Kent

Nature in a Minute with a Great Blue Heron

Many Miles by Mary Oliver

The feet of the heron,
under those bamboo stems,
hold the blue body,
the great beak above the shallows
of the pond.
Who could guess
their patience?
Sometimes the toes
shake, like worms.
What fish
could resist?

A Great Blue Heron answers the dinner bell

Great Blue Heron, April 2, 2020, Norton Reservoir, Norton, Massachusetts

Although the iron grey sky hung low and the drizzle damped the muddy spring earth, I’ve been trying to spend time in communing with nature each day and enjoying the restorative power of simply being outdoors. Especially for those who can’t make it outside during our days of shared isolation, I’m always searching for the spectacular in the ordinary and not so ordinary that surrounds us everyday to bring you some wonderful glimpses of the natural world through my photography. As I was driving around the Norton Reservoir looking for Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, Bald Eagles, and other ducks, I spotted a faint flash of bright white in some cattails and reeds along the pond’s edge. I was delighted to see a Great Blue Heron and really excited when I realized it was enjoying a meal, mostly likely a sunfish – either a Pumpkinseed or Bluegill. I hope you enjoy these photographs of this amazing natural history moment.

Great Blue Herons will eat almost anything – from fish, small mammals, frogs, and more. Because herons and other birds lack teeth, they can’t chew and swallow their prey whole.

Will the Fish Fit?

It Fits!

Swallowing it Whole! Look at the Neck…

Where is my next meal???

Landscape of the Norton Reservoir with two Common Mergansers in the Distance

Thank you so much for reading our Nature in a Minute photo essay. We hope you are doing well in these challenging and uncertain times. Also, we have linked to a wonderful post by Barry Van Dusen, our former artist-in-residence at MABA, about his wonderful visit to a Heron Rookery at the Rocky Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Groton.

Barry Van Dusen visits a Heron Rookery at the Rocky Hills Wildlife Sanctuary during his artist-in-residence at MABA

Enjoy this wonderful post from Barry Van Dusen about his visit to the Great Blue Heron Rookery at Mass Audubon’s Rocky Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bird and Nature Drawing Resources for Young Artists

Secretary Bird, Noah Chan (Age 8)

The Museum might be closed, but we’re still accepting submissions for Taking Flight, our youth bird art exhibition. Not sure where to get started with drawing birds? We’ve got you covered!

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 will be accepted until June 15, 2020. Click here for more information.

Sandpiper, Maris Van Vlack (Age 16)

Getting Started With Nature Drawing

Advice for Young Bird Artists from Barry Van Dusen

Barry Van Dusen at Felix Neck, Martha’s Vineyard (Photograph by Sean Murtha)

As part of our annual Taking Flight youth bird art exhibition, Barry Van Dusen – an international acclaimed wildlife artist and a former artist in residence at MABA – has a wonderful blog post offer advice on how to get started for budding young artists.

Advice and guidance for artists from John Muir Laws

John Muir Laws has written several books on nature drawing. Here’s his introduction to drawing birds, from his blog. This is a great place to learn about drawing realistic, detailed birds.

Let’s Draw Birds with John Muir Laws

How to Draw a Bird with Oil Pastels for Kids

It’s springtime, so we’re always on the lookout for bluebirds. Here’s a video that’ll show you how to draw one with oil pastels.

How to Draw Birds for Beginners with Watercolors

Itching to pick up a paintbrush? This video has some beginner-friendly ideas for how to get started painting simple birds with watercolors.

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

FINISH LINE, part 1: first day on the Vineyard

August 22, 2017

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown

During the record-breaking winter of 2014/15, Amy Montague and I hatched a plan for a special kind of Artist Residency, during which I would travel around Massachusetts to visit and work at Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries.  The contract we agreed upon specified that I visit at least 45 sanctuaries, but in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to visit all 57 public properties.  What I didn’t know was how long it would take.  We settled on a two-year timeframe, wrapping up with an exhibition at the Museum of American Bird Art in Spring/Summer 2017. By the time my show opened in May 2017, I had worked at 52 sanctuaries, leaving five properties yet to visit.  There was no reason to stop, now!

Flash forward to the morning of August 22, 2017.  I’ve been  stuck in traffic for over an hour on the Bourne Rotary, waiting to make my way across the Bourne Bridge and then on to the Martha’s Vineyard Ferry at Woods Hole.  I thought I had left myself plenty of time to make the ferry, but unbeknownst to me, an accident on the Sagamore Bridge earlier that morning had redirected all traffic over the Bourne – resulting in this horrendous traffic snarl on a Tuesday morning!

As it happens, I did make the ferry that morning – arriving last in line and just in time to get on the boat.

My final sanctuary visit, to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, was underway!

The first thing that caught my eye as I arrived at the Felix Neck parking area, was a large, strangely proportioned birdhouse mounted on poles.

Barn Owl nest box

The structure had been used by Barn Owls for many seasons, but has had no owls in residence for the past three years.  Barns Owls are at the northern edge of their range in Massachusetts, and in recent decades, Martha’s Vineyard has been the most reliable breeding locality for these birds (nine pairs nested on the Island in 1985).  Unfortunately, they are vulnerable to severe winters with heavy snow cover (such as the winter of 2014/15).  One can only hope that they will re-colonize the island in the near future.

The Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is a roughly 200 acre neck of land surrounded on three sides by the protected waters of Sengekontacket Pond.  The Pond itself is separated from the ocean by a narrow barrier beach comprising the Joseph Sylvia State Beach (more on that to come).   Ocean waters pass in and out of Sengekontacket Pond beneath a bridge on the state beach known locally as “The Jaws Bridge”, since it figured prominently in some scenes from the movie JAWS!

sketchbook studies of Great Egrets, pencil, 9″ x 12″

Sharks were far from my mind, however, when I set out on the Marsh Trail to explore the sanctuary.   A green heron skulked along the edge of the waterfowl pond, but flushed when I took out my sketchbook.  Further out on the marsh, some Great Egrets were more cooperative, and I spent some time mapping out the odd angles formed by those impossibly long necks.

Along the Marsh Trail, pitch pine forests border the marsh, with an understory of huckleberry.  Where the forest gives way to the open marsh , “high tide bush” (marsh elder) forms tall, billowy shrubs.  I like the way the waters of the marsh form a bright, level ribbon beyond the pine trunks and branches, and get to work on a watercolor.

I use a small sheet of Arches 300 lb cold-press that is just right for painting the roughly textured pitch pines.  There’s a gracefulness to the curving sweep of some of the branches, but there’s awkwardness, too, in the chaotic angles and weird undulations of the trunks.  I find this intriguing – the graceful and the ungainly mixed together.

Pitch Pines at Felix Neck, watercolor on Arches rough, 9″ x 10″

From a spur trail that leads out to the shore, I have a view of Sarson’s Island across the water.  It’s labeled as a “bird nesting colony” on my trail map, so I scan it slowly with my scope.  I see mostly cormorants and gulls, but mixed in are oystercatchers, plovers, turnstones, dowitchers, willets and peeps.   A small flock of Black Skimmers flies past the island and I follow them out over the waters of Sengekontacket Pond.

I try some sketching of the Oystercatchers on Sarson’s Island, but they are too far away for meaningful drawing, so I instead take a landscape approach.  Four cormorants are perched on a rather odd structure consisting of a cable hanging between two sturdy posts.  Later, I learn from director Suzan Bellincampi that the posts and cable were originally erected to encourage egrets to nest, though we couldn’t quite figure out how this rig might have worked!

Here’s the watercolor after the first layer of washes:

Sarson’s Island, stage one

Working at a distance through a telescope has the effect of reducing contrast and softening colors, due to the intervening atmosphere.  I hope to retain this effect in my painting, and keep the tones close and subdued.

Sarson’s Island, watercolor on Fabriano cold-press, 9″ x 11″

Note that there are three species depicted in this watercolor: double-crested cormorant, black-bellied plover and great black-backed gull.  One of my champions, John Busby of Scotland, often did scenes like this with multiple species, and I was thinking of him as I worked on this painting.  One tricky aspect here is keeping the various species in proper scale to one another.

I continue along the shore on the Marsh Trail, pausing to draw some bayberry twigs heavy with those waxy, silvery gray berries.   The thick, shiny leaves curl at the edges, and have other slight undulations that catch the light – making them challenging to draw and paint.

Bayberry Studies, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 10.25″ x 13.75″

Further along the shore, I finally get a close look at an Oystercatcher – a single bird with a crippled (right) leg, which dangles uselessly as it hops along the shore.  The bird is well-known to sanctuary staff, who have been observing it for weeks.  Its plumage is unkempt, probably due to the difficulty of preening while balancing on one leg, but otherwise the bird seems to be getting along.

The views along the shore are alluring, with their lush green tufts of marsh grass interspersed with bright little sand beaches – all surrounded by the sparkling waters of Sengekontacket Pond.  I start a watercolor near the terminus of the Shad Trail, looking up into the protected waters of Majors Cove (I’m now on the westernmost shore of Felix Neck).

Majors Cove, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 12.25″

I paint until the light starts to fade, then head back to the car.

note: my visit to Martha’s Vineyard has been broken into three  parts – one for each day I spent on the inland.  Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3…

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).