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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Snow!

As a Vermont Girl, I know my snow.

I’ve been figuring out ways to draw and paint snow, in all its shapes and forms, my entire life.

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There are lots of kinds of snow.

The 1st snows of autumn, that slowly cover the still-green grass, frost bitten plants, and leaf strewn ground.

December snows, that slowly fill up the woods~until we trudge through it to find a perfect Christmas tree,

Or February snow, deep and light enough to race a sled through,

Or use as a smooth, white, picnic blanket for the birds.

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A Year of Birds

I’ve painted snow as the natural habitat for Polar Bears,

And gray wolves.

And painted it in totally unexpected places, like a usually sunny day in Jamaica!

I’ve sat in my car and drawn a snowy scene from life.

And I ended my new book, Baby Bear Counts One, with 10, big snowflakes, falling slowly enough for a surprised bear cub to count them.

But turn the page and watch as the snow picks up, swirling in curtains across the mouth of the den,

And finally, the flakes are falling so fast that there are…

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Baby Bear Counts One

 

Too many to count!

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A Thanksgiving Visit to Plimoth Plantation with Goody O’Grumpity

In 1993 my imagination was living in Plimoth Plantation.

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I was illustrating a a poem by Carol Ryrie Brink. She is best known for her novel Caddie Woodlawn, which won the Newbery Medal in 1936. She also wrote a short, melodic poem called Goody O’Grumpity and I illustrated it as a picture book.

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The communal beehive oven was at the center of the village and Goody bakes her “cake” among the nicely burned down coals.

I thought the strong, black lines of my linoleum cuts paired with the rich, autumnal watercolor, would compliment the linear quality of the mostly wooden and thatch built village of Plimoth Plantation. My neighbor, Marty, posed as Goody, in a homemade costume. Brennan and Rowan made appearances and so did a lovely Border Collie.

You can spot Rowan, then only 3, as the little curly head peeking over the fence and pointing. Boys and girls wore long dresses and caps until the boys were older and switched to breeches.

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“And throughout the land went such a smell, of citron and spice~ no words can tell

How cinnamon bark and lemon rind, and round, brown nutmegs grated fine

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A wonderful haunting perfume wove, together with allspice, ginger and clove,oven

When Goody but opened the door of her stove.”

recipeIf you want to try to make Goody’s cake, really a sweet bread, here is Plimoth Plantation’s own recipe, reprinted in the book.

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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.

Full Circle with Baby Bear Counts One: Gobble, gobble, gobble

When I was young I used to find a thicket of these in my neighborhood, sit in the shadow of the vines, and eat grapes.

These are tiny and tart, but the intense grape taste makes them delectable.

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We called them “Fox Grapes,” According to Wikipedia:  There is ample evidence that the labrusca was growing wild in North America centuries before the Europeans discovered the continent.

If a wild grape is growing, a turkey is going to find it.

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turkeymaleAnd bears will follow…

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Surprise!
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Full Circle with Baby Bear Counts One: Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

Every September, the cow corn is harvested. This is not sweet “People Corn.” It is pure carbohydrate and is usually chopped and made into silage to feed to the dairy cows throughout the winter.

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Occasionally the harvester leaves a patch, meant to represent the quality of the whole harvest for insurance purposes, and a few stalks are left standing to feed the wildlife instead of the cows.

corn:webThe ears of corn looks pretty tough.

We aren’t going to eat them with butter anytime soon.

But the crows, and the deer, and the bears love them.

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The crisp edges and black lines of the linocut really lend themselves to cornfields and crows.

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And watercolor adds the autumnal burnish.

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