Into the Woods

When the going gets tough, the sensitive go into the woods…

and stoop down, look closely, listen to birds and the wind and pretend there isn’t a madman in the white house/a refugee crisis/global weirding/or white supremacist trolls…

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I’ll see you there…

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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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Indian Pipes

The Indian Pipe, also known as the Ghost Plant or the Corpse Plant, pops up the woods in the late summer.

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They are eye catching in their pale rosiness.  They lack any chlorophyll and are essentially parasitic.

Most importantly, they are fun to draw and paint.

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They were the star of one summer’s Cottage Cards.

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The Joy of Beaches in Winter

Christmas at the beach-a California tradition.

Big storms sweep in from the west and huge tides bring in piles of tangled kelp and other beach debris.

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The impossibly tangled piles buzz with Kelp Flies.

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The Kelp’s gas bladders keep the long stem or stipes, floating upright in the water.

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Northern California beaches are not known for shells but there are dense mussel beds and those shells are easy to find.  This sketch includes a scrap of Abalone shell, fish spine bones and crab claws.

I love collecting this sort of beach debris for my Beach Portraits.

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And then there are the Harbor Seals, who haul themselves up to nap on the sunny rocks.

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And sometimes there are the husbands, who nap anywhere they like.

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In Praise of the “Artist’s Fungus”

There is a particular type of shelf fungus growing around here in the woods that I call an Artist’s Fungus, also known as  Ganoderma applanatum, the artist’s conk. Artists have been drawing on these for many years.  I found some contemporary examples by Corey Corcoran that are weirdly cool:

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This is an ephemeral medium-if you don’t etch them quickly they harden and are no longer workable.

artist'sFungus-lakedunmore:webSome have better contrast than others. This early one of a loon has faded into a uniform tan, but the design is still visible.

loonfungus:webThe white underside of the fungus turns dark when it is disturbed. A sharp object like a nail, jack knife, or exacto knife can be used to etch.

fungus-mushrooms:webThe side of a blade can create shadows, but lettering is hard for me.

fishfungus:websome work better than others. Here the invasive weed Eurasian Milfoil‘s feathery textures work better than the gliding fish.

My favorite is my newest, a cat face and a tiny mouse on 2 separate fungi.

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Full Circle with Baby Bear Counts One: Part 3

There is not a tree I hate.

There are quite a few I am neutral about and many I really admire and look up to.

There are a handful I love.

I love oaks.

I grew up with the deciduous Eastern white and red oaks and came to love Yosemite’s Black Oaks, and California Live Oaks too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut my favorite oak, a very old oak, is growing in a park with other oaks in Corvallis, Oregon. It is my model for the tree in this spread.S&Rwalking:web

OregonoakHer branches reached out horizontally, twisting and swathed in mosses and lichen.BBSB10-11floppedShe first appeared in Baby Bear Sees Blue, when the cub sees green.Now she is back in Baby Bear counts one, full of ripe acorns that are filling the coffers of two rambunctious squirrels.BBCO6-7.1webI started my thinking with a close up view.

BBCO6-7Then pulled the focus out and assumed a lower point of view.

dummy.6-7webThen I decided to pull out completely to show the ground beneath them AND the spreading oak.

dummy6-7.2webIf you look carefully you’ll see sign of a retreating squirrel.

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Country Girl

You can take the girl out of the country, and I have been gone for close to 33 years now, but my heart still lives there, and my eye always lives right next door.

I can’t pass a dewy meadow without admiring the night deposit, no matter how impatient the dog or urgent the need to exercise. dewweb grass:webAnd I can’t help wishing I had one of these diamond-paved bracelets… spider:web!or this ballooning spider’s web, which made me kind of dizzy.

swallowtail:webI can hold as still as a thirsty Swallowtail,

lavendergrasses:webAnd I will always believe dew-dripping grasses are the freshest, prettiest flowers in the world.sunburst:web