Something leguminous

Last week our local plein aire group met at a house with a view of the beach meadows, Icy Passage, and Pleasant Island. I usually try to do some landscape sketching during these outings because that’s a subject I otherwise avoid, but that day I was just more interested in the close-up world.

Kantákw—Nootka lupine—caught my attention first. They’re abundant out in the uplift meadows: big billowing masses of leaves, topped at this time of year with a second flush of purple/blue/white blossoms, and freckled with seed pods drying and browning as they mature. Nearby, beach pea plants sprawl among the mosses and climb ryegrass stems; their pods too are heading toward ripeness. I decided to spend some time observing and comparing these two fabaceous neighbors.

Lingít plant names are from Tlingit Dictionary, edited by X’unei Lance Twitchell. Gunalchéesh for this wonderful resource.

Colorful commission

Last year I was commissioned to create a piece of art as a gift. The recipient is a passionate gardener, forager, and cook, so the request was for something inspired by vintage vegetable and fruit crates and salmon can labels.

Because the recipient has diverse skills and products, I packed the image with a variety of wild and domestic “produce.” And of course there had to be a sense of the setting! So all that abundance frames a view of Mt. Crillon across the meadows of Wunachích t’aakhéen (the Salmon River).

The base layer is Derwent Inktense colored pencils. These go on water soluble, then dry to permanent, so they create a solid foundation of color that won’t be muddied by water media on top. Above that I used water-soluble pastels (Neoclor), then some colored Micron pens to make outlines crisp and bright.

The biggest challenge was the lettering! I’ve always used the computer to add text. But because this was going to be framed art, I had to add it by hand. I used Procreate to do a rough layout of the arcs of the letters, then transferred the shapes onto tracing paper, worked out the shapes and sizes of the letters, and transferred the final outlines to the artwork.

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.

Mural project

A group of local artists just wrapped up a 35-foot-wide mural in the entryway of the new Gustavus Community Center. The mural is designed to recognize the hundreds of donors who funded and helped build the Center, so it includes the symbols for all of the donor levels: strawberry, shooting star, fireweed, spruce, Mt. Fairweather (Tsalxaan) and sandhill crane. The concept was drafted by local artist Jess Mulligan, and the rest of us worked with her to get it on the wall. I’ve never painted anything this big… it was quite a learning experience!

Just one slice of the mural….

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.

Gustavus willow

Hocker-gustavus-willow-sketchI just got back from a great two weeks in Gustavus, where I was working with students and teachers at the school.The school is wonderful; there are just over 50 students, grades K-12.  And Gustavus is a fascinating place: a broad, flat landscape, formed by outwash from the Glacier Bay glaciers over many centuries. The combination of flat land, lush meadows and wetlands, wandering rivers, and pine/spruce/cottonwood forest are an unusual mix in Southeast Alaska.I saw swans and herons, listened to a wolf moan under the stars, and got thrilled (even a little over-thrilled) by moose.

I'll post a series of Gustavus sketches next, starting with an iconic plant: willow.