Taking to the Ice

In the summer my front yard is a huge body of water, a playground for boats, swimmers and fishermen.

In the winter that water gets a hard shell of ice and becomes an entirely different playground, a brand new piece of “land” where we can walk, skate, and even drive snowmobiles and pickup trucks. Fishermen set up their shanties, forming cozy little villages.

As children we skated here with our mom and dog Lumpy.

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When I illustrated my 1st book in 1983 I remembered times spent skating with my dog.

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Cardinals in February from A Year of Birds by Ashley Wolff

During this Christmas break we got some lovely light snow and my sister and I set out to make this our new front yard.

We walked across the lake, following coyote tracks, and noticing where a bird landed, leaving wing and tail marks in the snow.

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We made snow angels ,

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built a buxom snow maiden,

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did donuts,

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drank cocktails,

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and lost our balance!

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Happy New Year.

Keep the wine handy.

We’re going to need it!

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In the Canyon

In honor of the National Park Services” 100th Birthday, I celebrate one of the jewels in the crown.

Read this and then like Page Through the Parks on Facebook to be entered in the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Welcome to Grand Canyon, Arizona

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It is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”

It’s about 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, Its walls contain rock layers that reveal a timeline of Earth’s history.

To make the illustrations for  In The Canyon as good they could be, I had to explore the Grand Canyon. I took my  intrepid sister, a wildlife veterinarian, for company and and in we went!

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Dr. Peregrine Wolff  and a friendly  Big Horn Sheep-commonly found In the Grand Canyon.

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Approaching Castle Crag on the South Kaibab Trail.

from RIM to RIVER…

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Joking around at Ooh Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail.

and back!

The main character of In the Canyon, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, speaks in the 1st person voice. She begins her narration like this:

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“Here’s a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”

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I always enjoy working with a model and I found a lovely girl in San Francisco named Willa.

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I spent a few hours with Willa taking pictures, and then used those to draw from while illustrating the book.

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She gazes at the reader from the jacket, inviting you to join her In the Canyon.

As soon as you dip below the rim of the canyon you enter a vast, deep bowl that has no direct route to the bottom. The trails are constantly zig zagging down the steep walls. Occasionally you can spy the river, way down deep.

My sister Peri, seen from a few switchbacks above, with many more to go. The Colorado river, bright green, is crossed by 2 bridges. One is visible here.

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If it is a cool spring morning on the rim, it is full, hot summer at river level. Along the way are blooming cacti and yucca, birds, lizards and curious squirrels.

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I can’t get enough shots of the blossoming Beavertails.

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a finished linoleum block and gouache illustration.

“Here’s a footstep, dusty red, another one and more ahead.”

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To do this rim to river to rim hike one must be very fit and prepared for a lot of heat and exertion.

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Some people choose to travel by mule. Mules are chosen from Tennessee and Missouri. They are used for pack supplies to Phantom Ranch and pack mail out of the canyon and later promoted to trail mules.

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I used a photo of a family, gathered under an overhang, as inspiration for this illustration.sliceofshadeGCweb
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“Now here’s a tiny slice of shade, a yummy lunch, some lemonade. And a lizard, still as sand, his head all speckled, body tan.”

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Finally, we’re at river level, where the deep shade around Phantom Ranch is most welcoming. Time to recharge and load up on water and salty snacks for the hike back out. Peri and I made it back to the rim by nightfall, a 16 mile roundtrip.

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But the child in In the Canyon is luckier. She gets to spend the night, camping by the river.

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“Here’s the dark and here’s the shine, and here’s the moon—it’s like it’s mine. To tuck inside me way down deep, Grand and wild, mine to keep.”

I’ll come back to the Canyon someday, no doubt with enough overconfidence to descend to the bottom and back in one day as I did with Peri.

After all, I have what it takes: “a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”

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Fishing through the ice

Once the lake “ices in,”a whole new world emerges.

Acres of new real estate, previously accessible only by boat, become available for exploration on foot.

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Fisherman, cell phone photo

Fishing is the winter sport of choice. Whole towns spring up, populated by fun loving, hard drinking fisher-people.

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Fishing village, gouache on brown paper

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Give up the booty, gouache on brown paper

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Four fishing shanties, gouache on brown paper

Up on top there is the bait, and the fish who take it.

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bait fish, cell phone photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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land locked salmon, gouache on brown paper

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Pike and lake salmon carcasses, fillets removed, cell phone photo

But I became fascinated with what was going on UNDER all that ice.

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What’s down below,  gouache on paper

My personal goal for this winter is to walk across my lake and to drink an Irish Coffee in a pub on the other side If this happens I’ll let you know!

If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.

Life with Dogs (Short Side Trip to the southwest)


I am traveling in Colorado and Utah this week, hiking in some of the great western National Parks.

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Today I climbed down to the Cliff Palace, a cluster of dwellings of at least 150 rooms built below the rim of the mesa in a rock alcove. These structures were built of hand-shaped sandstone blocks, cemented together with mud. They were built between 1200 and 1270 AD in Mesa Verde, CO. The last time I was here was 24 years ago, in the spring of 1990. I was 5 months pregnant with my 2nd child.
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As usual,  Pumpkin acted as my alter ego, grinding corn with a stone on a Metate with her baby strapped to a cradleboard nearby.
The scenery and architecture of the south west bowled me over and when I got home I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I revised the setting for the book I was working on: A Garden Alphabet by Isabel Wilner. The gardener, who looks an awful lot like Pumpkin lives in an adobe house with a kitchen hung with strings of drying chilis called ristras.
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And after a hard day in their desert garden, the gardener and her friend the frog relax in the shade.

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Pumpkin time

My first dog was a free puppy from a dairy farm.

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She was the last pup in the litter.

I picked her up, cuddled her and immediately called her Pumpkin.

Pumpkin was an affectionate name in my family, a term of endearment like Sweetie or Honey.  I took her home and we became an inseparable pair.

One of the first adventures we had together was driving from Vermont to California and back in a small Ford pick-up with my boyfriend, and our old, family dog, a German Shepherd named Thumper.pumpkin&ThumperPumpkin came to every class at art school, she was my model and muse and, when I got my first job after college. She came to work with me. When I started dating the reporter, she gave him the seal of approval.

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Her name didn’t fit a black and white border collie, but she ALWAYS looked good with the real gourds!pumpkinstackHalloweenMask

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It is hard, this time of year, not to see her in the Pumpkin Patch.

A Home Made Entirely of Paper

Walking in the woods I found the destroyed nest of a Paper Wasp colony.

waspnest:webAccording to Wikipedia:  “wasps gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material.”

Cool!

You can see the gray and brown mixing beautifully here.

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The nest is swathed in these sheets and blankets of paper to protect the cells inside. The cells are for brood rearing. They are perfect hexagons, just big enough for the queen to back into and lay an egg.  This post from Hilton Pond Center explains that part beautifully.

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I tried to insert a finger into one, but they were all too thick, including my pinkie.

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Wasps build these nests in protected areas such as under the eaves of houses or in trees. I suspect this one was destroyed by humans and tossed into the woods as trash, but I prefer to think it fell from this pine during a windstorm.

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