Saturday, March 24, 2007

french broad crossing

This weekend we are visiting our friend Lee in North Carolina, a little much-needed time in the mountains. We crossed over the French Broad River at dusk tonight on our way here, and paused to take in the view. Most often when we travel here, we seem to get to the mountains after dark, but we were fortunate to witness the golden hour in the midst of still-bare mountainsides and winding streams. Looking forward to a beautiful next few days. As always when I am camping or in a remote area, I may not be able to post each day, but will post the pieces as soon as possible.

Friday, March 23, 2007

on the path

I found this image in a group of photos we recently had developed from Derek's old 35mm camera. Apparently the film had been in the camera since it was replaced by my digital SLR two years ago, so it was a roll full of little surprises. Neither of us could recall the location of this image, though, even though it was by far the most intriguing one in the stack. I loved the dramatic light and the way the path led into the distance.

water tower

I ended up in a part of town this afternoon where I would normally not step out of my car. I had to step out of my car today, however, to have some repairs done. While I waited outside in the sunshine, I realized that I hadn't really experienced the urban, industrial neighborhood on foot before, and it felt strangely comfortable. I liked the concrete, the textures, watching people coming and going. I spotted this old water tower a few blocks away and thought it would be a good thing to paint today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

pencil cactus

Today was the first official day of spring, and it completely lived up to its reputation. All this sunshine put me in the mood for plant shopping, even though technically our last frost here is not until April 15th. After a few good frost-prevention tips from my garden guru at Gardens of Babylon in the Farmers' Market, I carefully selected my first flat of the season: an odd collection of snapdragons, sweet basil, hens-and-chicks, sedum, and two very cool cacti. One of my prized finds is a thornless prickly pear rumored to reach five feet in three years (assuming my black thumb doesn't kill it first), and the other is the subject of today's painting: a pencil cactus, reaching out with spindly "arms" for the light that promises only to grow brighter and hotter as spring comes to stay.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

raccoon skull study

Today I introduced the study of the human skeleton to my portfolio class. The students loved it, especially since Watkins is blessed with a real human skeleton for their life drawing studio. Of course, this is a somewhat rare thing to find (most biology study skeletons are plastic), and to a class full of teenagers, a real human skeleton is a pretty cool thing. I have to confess that it was a pretty cool thing to me, too! I have a fondness for collecting skeletons and skulls, something only my closest friends know about me. It began when I studied with Chris Misencik-Bunn back in high school--she is an amazing artist and her husband is a game warden with an incredible collection of confiscated taxidermy (from poachers and those who possessed the specimens illegally). Thus began my "natural history museum." Since then, with the help of my dear father, I have collected all sorts of skulls, bones, and various other natural treasures. It started out for the benefit of my students' drawings, but it really is more because I like to have these things around. This is a raccoon skull that my father found and cleaned for me, and in the spirit of studying bones (and my current lack of human specimens), I decided to paint it today.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Today I began teaching a portfolio class for teens at Watkins College of Art and Design here in Nashville. It was quite enjoyable working with that age group again (it has been several years since I have had the opportunity). We were doing projects focused on still life drawing, and I found it a little difficult to watch over their shoulders instead of joining in. I brought many "props," most of which included natural objects like skulls, flowers, etc. The most enticing was a jar of dead butterflies I collected last year in a friend's greenhouse, trapped inside (already dead, alas). I think this was a black swallowtail whose "swallowtails" have broken off...please correct me if I'm wrong.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

hidden lake

Today was a perfect early spring day, so we took the opportunity to explore some new territory in the Harpeth River State Park Complex at a natural area called Hidden Lakes. After hearing plenty of rumors about the beauty of this hideaway, we finally explored it for ourselves wih some friends this afternoon. It certainly lived up to its reputation... beginning with a bluebird trail, the path winds past a dry streambed, through old overgrown farmland along the Harpeth River floodplain. It splits to traverse a beautiful cliff overlooking the first of the hidden lakes, and the lower trail leads to an even more beautiful lake surrounded by limestone cliffs and cedar. It all made for the perfect afternoon, and much anticipation for summer to arrive.