Day 27& 28/31 #WorldWatercolorMonthThe meadows are filled with life, birds, bees, butterflies, and rabbits of course! They’re everywhere, enjoying the fruits and flowers and seeds of the land around them.
I’m spending more time these days seeing, really seeing not just looking, so I can learn the nuances of the subjects before I begin to sketch. For me the best way to see something has always been to sketch it, with whatever tool at hand. I started with the wildflowers, I now know more about the native plants around me here than I ever did before. This year I’ve just managed the few that are currently in bloom, and more are on the way. But then I’ve gotten distracted by the butterflies. It started with the Tiger Swallowtails in mid-June early July and now the Sulfurs, and soon there’ll be Monarchs, dozens and dozens of them fluttering about among the wildflowers.
The Tiger Swallowtails and the yellow Sulfurs sketches below are from the meadows. The Black Swallowtails have been fluttering about in my garden. Last summer there were four in my backyard and I had hoped they’d be back again. I’ve already spotted five this year! That’s a good sign.
One Grand ole’ Tree – Day 26/31 #WorldWatercolorMonth
When I go walking in the meadows, its easy to loose track of time, the early morning mist, the dewdrops still clinging to the leaves and blades of grass, the gentle crunch of the footpath, the sweet birdsongs that fill the air, and of course the changing colors of the season that envelop you! During summer, in places you could be completely dwarfed by the wildflower brush.
I’ve walked these routes enough to know my mile markers, and when I get to two miles on my route, before entering the meadows, I pass by this giant tree with a trunk and lower branches of such character. The photo and sketch do not do it justice, but I’ve been facinated by it and have wanted to sketch it for quite some time now. Here are a few of my first attempts. I’m certain I’ll be doing more in the days to come.
Day 25/31- #WorldWatercolorMonth
Yesterday was gardening day. It was the perfect day, cool (by summer standards), slightly breezy and partly cloudy, and the day after a summer shower! So perfect! Lots of pruning, dead heading, and light weeding.
‘Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade’ said Rudyard Kipling and he was right! But in between the work I did take time out in the Shade – to sketch. I’m rarely in my garden without my sketchbook or pad so I’m never caught off guard when something catches my fancy.
I had some hostas I planted years ago. Interestingly the deer don’t seem to want to eat them and the hummingbirds love them. They have large pale purple flowers and the hummers are always at them, dawn to dusk. So, today was the day for sketching hostas. It was a lovely time, the birds were singing and some were busy scratching for food, the day was cool and sketching was peaceful. ‘How lovely is the silence of growing things’ – unknown.
I spent quite some time studying the dark shadows between the leaves and flowers. Heres one sketch thats all about shadows, while the other two sketches are more about the flowers. The photo doesn’t due justice to the depth of the shadows, but I thought I’d post it anyway.
End of my Walk – Day 24/31 – #WorldWatercolorMonth
Here’s just one of a multitude of these giant pots lining the walkway to the garden path at Longwood. The lovely bluish-green cupric oxide patina like color is just one aspect of its beauty. The size, the vibrant color hues and shadows on them in sun and shade, and the ever changing contents of the pots keep me coming back for more sketching. While sketchwalking, as I walk toward these they also signal the end of my walk!
Early last spring, I saw a little wren at my bird feeder pecking away with all his might. About an hour later I noticed squirrels having a feast on the ground and the bird feeder was empty. I proceeded to take it down to fill it up again when I noticed a bunch of twigs inside, which I promptly cleared out and refilled with sunflower seeds. Later that afternoon, the same spectacle, there he was again pecking and spilling out the seeds. It then hit me, this little wren had just found himself some prime real estate and was not about to give it up. So, I gave in!
A few weeks later I was rewarded to the sound of five hungry chicks screeching inside the bird feeder. The wren had succeed in building his nest, finding a mate and successfully raising a brood! I never got to see the fledglings leave the nest though, as I was traveling most of the summer.
This year spring’s arrival brought back the wren, and his sweet song filled the air. And then it went silent. Sure enough there were six eggs in the nest and a few weeks later six little chicks. I was away a few days and I missed the fledglings again! Not to disappoint, the wrens have had a second brood of five eggs this year and with a camera setup I did get to take a few pictures without disturbing them. This past Sunday I got to steal a few minutes in between their feeding times to sketch them. And boy are these fellows hungry all the time!
They are quite a sight with their big bald heads and wide open mouths! Here’s my rendition of Baldies with Big Mouths!
Day22/31 – #WorldWatercolrMonth
Watching Tiger Swallowtails is exhilarating, following them is exhausting and sketching them live is simply a feat in itself. Saturday afternoon I got a chance to find out. The Monardas are in bloom everywhere on the Meadows and the Swallowtails skirted from bloom to bloom, crossing paths and disappearing into the bushes then re emerging completely elsewhere. It took patience and perseverance and a Saturday afternoon in the sun, but here they are captured in quick brush strokes, my very own Swallowtails!
Oh and have you ever seen the dance of the Swallowtail, it’s quite a sight to watch. When two of them meet at the same bloom they start dancing. What looks like a dance is just two butterflies competing for the nectar on that choice flower and are battling it out till the winner returns and the loser flutters off in search of sweeter grounds.
Day 21/31 – # WorldWatercolorMonth
As the days roll deeper into summer the dalias are blooming at Longwood, and oh so many colors, shades, shapes and species. Here are just a few…
Sketching at the National Museum of Natural History- Day 20/31 – #WorldWatercolorMonth
A trip to D.C. always entails a quick stop at a museum or two on the way back, and this time I had an hour to spare and decided that a visit to the Reef tank at the National Museum of Natural History was where I’d spend it. I’d forgotten it was summer and that the summer campers would be out there and of course the Natural History museum is top on the list. Not surprisingly getting up close to the aquarium wasn’t possible, for as when one wave of yellow kiddie tee shirts left, along came another group in green and then another in blue and so on…It simply was amusing to watch the kids arrive like a swarm of bees, park themselves in front of the tank, squeal and point and chatter on about Nemo and Dory, and then just as sudden as they arrived, they quickly moved on to the next exhibit.
it was impossible to stand close without blocking the kids, so I found a spot across from the aquarium and tried sketching the exotic salt water fish. They darted about so quickly it was hard to stay focused on any one of them. My only recourse was to skip about the page from fish to fish filling in details as the swam by. Of course this means the paint dried in between strokes! Oh well, I’ll get to do this again soon.
The last of the few poppies swaying in the wind as I walked by, turned my head, but it was the numerous seed pods that stood sentinel over them that really caught my eye! As the poppies dropped over from their own weight, the seed pods stood upright, ready for the next generation to take over!
Im still awaiting the arrival of the Monarchs, the Swallowtails, the Orange Sulfurs, Cabbage Whites, and the list goes on and on… Each year we see more species of butterflies on the Meadows Gardens at Longwood. As the meadow matures and the wildflowers multiply and spread, the wildlife here has abundantly exploded! And along with the butterflies and bees, so have the birds and other wildlife. You are more likely to spot several species of bird without even looking for them. Or hear the bull frog in the pond below, and occasionally if it’s real quiet you’ll spot the Great Blue motionless on the Hour Glass lake patiently awaiting his supper to arrive. The songbirds serenade you as you walk along on the winding pathways and quite oblivious to your presence. A walk in the meadows is no longer just a walk, it’s a passage through time. Although it might appear to the novice that these meadows just magically stay alive there’s a silent crew of gardeners and specialists that tend to it to keep it healthy and going strong! A big shout out to these great people hard at work who make our lives just a little bit richer.