Spring buds, day 1

Drizzly and cold here lately but the plants know spring’s coming. I brought branches of three shrubs inside, to watch their little packages of potential unfold. Today’s day 1.

As usual, willows are among the first to start to open. But the serviceberry is also surprisingly bold. Both have early leaves and flowers that are protected by furry coats, so the risk is probably a little less for them than for, say, a spruce. Cottonwood’s buds are packed with aromatic sap, which gives the enclosed leaves some protection, but I haven’t seen any sign that they’re taking the chance yet.

Sunrise season

Our house faces pretty much due East. At this latitude, that means the sun rises too far south in the winter to shine in our windows. I miss it! But these days the sunrise point is slightly further north— and its arc is a little higher—every day. The growing light is a wonderful thing.

Meanwhile, we’re enjoying peripheral sunrises. I especially love the time just before the sun comes up, when the cool snow highlights contrast with the warm cloud glow. This is a digital sketch from yesterday.

Video lessons

One project I’m planning for this upcoming fall is creating educational videos to encourage homeschool students to do place-based science drawing. I’ll be posting the videos on Vimeo and linking them to this blog.

Here’s one I created last spring for local elementary students: Comparing two tree species

And here’s the finished sketch page:

kh-duk-and-sheiyi

If you’re a teacher and are interested in learning more about my project… or if you have ideas or requests for a particular subject… please contact me!

Looking forward

It’s springish here in coastal Alaska, which means a shifting soundscape. Varied thrushes are singing steadily now, and juncos and wrens have stepping up their song output. Our nesting raven neighbors chat with each other and holler mysterious epithets at us.

Some of the sounds I’m most looking forward to haven’t quite arrived. For example, we won’t likely hear the calls of sandhill cranes for another couple of weeks. But I did finish a painting I started last fall, in anticipation of that thrill.

crane small

Harbor morning

van's-sailboat-sketch-hocker-1

Weeks of clear skies and no rain have left us all a bit disoriented. It just doesn’t feel right to have so much sunshine here. And the river is so low that the returning coho are crowded into just a few pools by the dozen, jostling each other and (I assume) eagerly awaiting the taste of fresh rainwater so they can push further upriver.

But it does make for good drawing weather. My friend Carole and I went sketching at the harbor yesterday morning, and it was idyllic.

On the fringe of the world

hocker-george-island-anchorage

The last night of our Sea Wolf adventure was spent on the fringe of the world, a tiny island outboard of Elfin Cove that stands sentinel at the edge of the open Pacific. Its forest is all charm: small spruce and hemlock, an understory of windswept, deer-nipped grass, patches of deer-shredded blueberry bushes, and deer-bitten skunk cabbages. A gravel trail meanders from a beach of granite pebbles to a headland capped by a WWII cannon, still pointing oceanward but drooping down as if tired of watching. I could have spent days there, and am already trying to figure out ways to get back. This painting was started at sunset, the light fading fast, and finished the next morning.

The bear on the beach

hocker-bear-viewing-sketch-kh

Just returned from a phenomenal expedition with Sea Wolf adventures, a small-ship cruise company with extensive experience and expertise on Glacier Bay and the Northwest Coast. We spent so much time hiking and kayaking (interspersed with eating outstanding food) that I didn’t get to do too much sketching, but this page records one of my favorite wildlife viewing moments of the trip.