Monday, December 19, 2011

My high point of 2011 was at sea level

Kayaking the smooth waters of Harriman Fiord

My Forest Ranger friends were kind enough to bring me some of the photos they had taken of me during my residency in Prince William Sound, so I've added them to my slideshow (here and at right). 

Painting through a head net is the lesser of two evils at View Point
Not sure I've looked this happy in a long time!

Since my families gather at my house for Christmas, it's a fun kind of chaos, but I have to admit I'll be happy when the holiday season is over, decorations are cleared and I can test out my latest studio insulating efforts with some good hours at the easel.

Until then, wishing my readers Happy Holidays, and lots of paint in 2012!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Visitors from the great white north

Tim and Barbara Lydon in Harriman Fiord
What a treat it was to get a visit this week from the two Forest Rangers, Barbara and Tim Lydon, who had let me tag along with them in Prince William Sound last August on my Alaska artist residency.  As luck would have it, Tim and Barbara have family in my area and so could swing by my home and studio during their holiday visit—though I must say it was a little disorientating to see them sitting in my living room instead of on the rocky shores of the fiords. 

Me at View Point, on the shore of Harriman Fiord

It was great to see them and couldn't have come at a better time. Just talking with them brought back my Alaska impressions, which have been sadly buried under cares and worries of day to day life. But the experience is still there, pure and protected, like the blue glow deep in the glacial ice, just waiting for me to get some real studio time in to interpret it on canvas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Insulating myself

You can only insulate yourself so much against the slings and arrows of this life, but I've spent the last few weeks insulating my studio against the cold weather, which, though it's been strangely warm for November, will arrive one of these days.  This year, in addition to mounting insulation panels on the garage door I'm going to try dividing my studio in half using this sheet of heavy plastic. My theory is that it will hold the warm air on the painting-side of my studio. 

If so, I just might be able to paint all winter. 

In theory, anyway. 

Family has taken a lot of my energy lately, both good and sad. So as little time as I thought I had to paint before....well, it's less now. But hopefully things will settle into a new routine and I'll get back to my selfish self-centered life soon - can't wait!

I have managed to get some painting in though, both on my animal series and Alaska paintings. I was also asked to take on a high-school intern who wants to learn oil painting. At first I thought great! She can help me get some things done in the studio. Then I realized that any oil-painting-type-tasks I needed to do were those I wanted to do myself.  I have more blank canvases than I can fill right now, so stretching canvas is out, as is grinding paints and painting in backgrounds and angels, traditional duties of studio assistants. What I could really use is someone to help me with promoting my work, but that's not what she wants to learn. (Anyone who knows of any agent-types, I'm all ears).

She came by last week though, and I think it's going to be fun. She's talented, hardworking and smart and makes me think about how I began as a painter myself, since she's about the same age as I was when I first worked in oils (17). I'm going to teach her how to set up her palette and begin a painting, and give her some pigment samples to research. It's nice to see that there are young artists who want to learn some of the timeless techniques like oils, without approaching it "ironically".  I just might end up liking this teaching thing...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saving the Bay

The Rip, oil/canvas, 30"x40"    Artists for Save the Bay 2011

I guess if I've been blogging so long that bloggable items can become yearly events I can afford to be lazy and repeat a 2010 entry, with just some updating for 2011. Because, after all, this Save the Bay entry was a classic...

Every year Save the Bay holds an art exhibit of work inspired by Narragansett Bay. And every year I go in search for all the waterfront paintings I've done over the summer.  Since I live on a peninsula surrounded by saltmarshes, jetties and coves filled with swans, egrets and ducks and gorgeous sunsets there are endless subjects to paint and where the heck are all those paintings I did? Oh yeah, the same place my time to paint was—hard to find.  But I love being in the show and this year I did manage to submit two one pieces and have them it accepted. 
Unfortunately for us wine&cheese freeloaders, the reception is also a fundraiser for Save the Bay and tickets to the opening are $25. a pop. I found that out last two years ago when I blithely headed to STB headquarters with friends in tow. Only after seeing the ticket booth at the door did I realize that the crowd was decidedly better dressed than the motley artists who usually gather around the cheese trays (by which I mean us). But it IS an excellent cause, so if $25. is in your budget, you can enjoy an evening of drinks, good munchies and some very engaging paintings. Not to mention a great night-time view down the bay through the expansive windows and a rare sight — people with their checkbooks out, buying art!

I get to go free this year since I have work in the show (I can't make the opening this year, it's my last glass casting class, unfortunately on both counts), but everyone can visit (minus wine&cheese and entry fee) from Nov. 18-Dec. 27, Mon. to Fri. 8:30 – 4:30 at the Save the Bay center. 
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 17, 2011
5:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Save The Bay Center, Providence  Directions.
$25 includes drinks and hors d'oeuvres
Purchase tickets now.
The exhibit runs November 17 - December 27 and showcases Bay-themed painting, photography, sculpture and jewelry from artists across Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 50% of the proceeds benefit Save The Bay programs. More info.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On exhibit

Supermoon, 20x24, oil/canvas, 2011
I'm dropping off this painting tonight for its first foray out into the big, big world as part of the exhibition
VICINITY: RISD Rhode Island Alumni Group exhibition
November 10 to December 15, 2011
The opening reception is Thursday, Nov. 10th, 7pm at 42 Rice Street Providence (directions)

I'm looking forward to seeing the venue,  Keeseh Studios, when I drop the painting off. From what I can gather on their website it seems to be like a Steelyard for the woodworking set. Here's their mission statement:
Keeseh Studio is a woodworking facility that serves as a resource for Rhode Island’s creative community. The communal woodshop provides machinery, tools and workspace for local artists and designers to rent using a membership system. As such, they have access to a wealth of capabilities and resources as well as the company of artists with whom to share ideas and gain critique. Keeseh also offers woodworking classes and services. The Studio welcomes a wide range of people — from those who have no experience and are looking to learn, to professionals wishing to engage with like-minded individuals.
Our mission is to:
-encourage the growth of woodworking as a design and craft.
-make woodworking accessible to everyone.
-educate and develop skills that will allow creative individuals to express themselves and their ideas through woodworking.
-connect local artists and designers in order to promote the exchange of information and knowledge.
-support the growth of Providence’s creative community.

Alas, I won't be able to attend the opening, since I'll be in my glass casting class at the aforementioned Steelyard (a Keeseh Studios for metal heads). Rats.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Growing up by looking back

I know it's been a long time since I posted to this blog, but since my last post my whole perspective on life has shifted. My dad's good heart finally gave out and he passed on to the next level last week. I am very thankful to have known and learned from him for 81 years, and to have spent so much time with him in the last few months. I'm also thankful that he went peacefully without pain, in his sleep, with my sister sleeping on the couch in his room, and more family in the house. He did not die alone, and his spirit did not entirely leave this earth, because it lives on in us. Safe travels Dad.

Now I have to make the transition from being reabsorbed into family and memories, to looking forward. I have managed to do some art work in the last few months, but not much. One more painting from my creature series completed (below)...

...and some experiments in glass-casting from my glass-casting class at the Steelyard. I've had the idea to layer transparency/glass onto some of my paintings for a long time, but never knew how to get or make the glass I envisioned, so I made do with using polyester casting resin, embedding natural objects into resin to frame this series and casting slabs of resin to layer over this series. But plastic is plastic, and I worried about yellowing, so I was happy to find the class at the Steelyard, which opened in 2001 as a way for artists to work with heavy duty industrial materials, like steel, glass and iron.

I have an idea about casting some iceberg/glacier like slabs to use with my Alaska paintings. How? I'm not sure yet, which is sort of why I took the class, just to see what I can do with the idea.

These are some of my first experiments in casting a 3 dimensional object. I chose some shells, used clay to fill in any undercuts and covered them with plaster to make a mold. After the plaster dried I carefully pried out the shell and filled it with little pillow shaped nuggets of glass and put the mold in the kiln, for a days' long firing and cooling. They came out even better than I had hoped!

I've missed this blog, so have some pent-up posting in my system...I'll be back soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The ubiquitous Steve Jobs tribute

I know this is all over the place right now, but I just listened and it's pretty good. Kind of a little push to me to be less cautious, but of course I'm stealthilly watching it in a cubicle. What a wimp.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Dad

This is a photo of my dad when he was going to RISD back in the early 50s. He was an illustration major, and it was there that he met my mom, a painting major. They were a handsome couple, smoking their cigarettes and  hanging out in the Bluebird Cafe (now the RISD store). Sixty years and seven children later my dad's life is winding down.

At 81, my dad went into the hospital for the first time in his life with a rapid heartbeat. He was home and recovering when I left for Alaska, but by the time I returned he was noticeably weaker.  Now, surrounded by his college sweetheart and his seven children he seems to be slipping away from us. Impressions of my Alaska residency are tucked in the back of my brain for later, right now it's all about Dad.

While my parents never pushed us to be artists, all of us inherited some artistic talent. When we were little my mother's hands were too full of diapers and dinners to hold the paintbrush, but my dad supplemented his paycheck as a jewelry designer with freelance at home. I loved to sit at his drawing table and abuse his pristine drawing and inking supplies. When I was in my early teens I unearthed their old boxes of oil paints, pried the caps off and did my first painting (which I still have), a jar of marbles on a red velvet background. When I went to RISD in the late 70s it didn't seem nearly as cool as the little black and white photos and yearbooks from the 50s had suggested. And it was no longer affordable for the average joe, so I left before I got too badly into debt. After all, I had learned how to be financially responsible from my dad.

Here's what else I learned:
Be polite. Don't complain. Be patient. Work hard. Don't gossip. Keep your dignity.
I learned how to use tools. And when you need to build something, how to sit down with paper and pencil and sketch it out. How to innovate and be resourceful. And how to just generally figure things out.

I can't say all those lessons have stuck, but I'm a lot like him in many ways. There is only one way in which I resemble him that I wish I didn't. He was a cautious man who never put himself first. But who could blame him? His father had left his family of 3 boys to struggle when he was a teen, now he was responsible for feeding and sheltering 8 dependents. There wasn't a lot of room to take risks in order to realize his own dreams.

I have no such responsibilities but am just as cautious. My father never expresses regret, but I'm afraid I will, if I continue to play it safe.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricanes and other turmoil

I've come to the conclusion that the more you have to talk/blog about, the less you can actually do it. I'm dying to process my Alaska trip in photos, journals and most importantly, paint (Oh yes, I remember paint), but it's been a crazy trip since I arrived back at Logan Airport at 10am Sunday morning after a 13 hour overnight flight, with 2 running for the gate plane changes.

Before I left for Alaska my 81 year old dad had spent his first ever few days in the hospital with a rapid heartbeat. He did not take to it well and left with medication to regulate his heart but much weaker than when he went in.  I was ready to cancel my trip, but he seemed to be recovering gradually at home and all seemed under control.

So I went, and it was incredible. I will post about it soon I hope.

I got back on Sunday, tried to catch up on sleep, booted up my computer to check my email. Watched it sputter and die. Then right back to work Monday morning, with a coworker on vacation so an unusually heavy workload. Lunch was at the Apple genius bar sending my laptop in for repair. After work I headed to my folks and found my dad ok, but thinner and weaker than when I left, on Hospice care and determined to refuse any more tests or hospitalizations. And so the week was a blur of working and visiting the folks, helping put my dad to bed, calling siblings and doctors. I barely unpacked, so was looking forward to the weekend which I though would give me time to breath.

Enter Irene.

Say what you will about her, it's nice that she decided to arrive on Sunday, to give me Saturday to batten down the hatches. My husband was working so couldn't help with hurricane prep on Saturday, but I was actually looking forward to puttering around my house for a full day at home, which I haven't had for 3 weeks. But an early morning call Saturday had me ready to grab my keys and head back to my folks. My mom was panicking about my dad and I told her I'd be there and that the hurricane was just going to have to wait. Luckily though, the situation was resolved and thanks to my sister I didn't have to go this time.

Now I have to make the decision whether to leave again in two weeks for my residency in the Petrified National Forest. I guess time will tell.

So the studio has been dark and silent, and now filled with lawn furniture and trash barrels and anything else from the yard that could become a projectile in a hurricane.

Oh, for the days when sleeping on the rainy rocky coast, paddling 5 miles, lugging gear and lifting my kayak to the roof a boat was the hardest thing I had to do. Let's hope Hurricane Irene blows some better winds my way!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back east, online, and catching up!

Me at the dock in Whittier, AK, waiting to board the Dora Keen and begin my Prince William Sound adventure.
Things have been kind of crazy since I got back from my 13-hour overnight flight from Alaska, but I just picked up my repaired laptop and am in the process of editing my photos and journal. Hopefully if circumstances beyond my control (and there are a few of those in play) cooperate, I'll be posting more soon!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Returning to the White Spot, just for the halibut

Ever since I stumbled onto this place on my entry into Anchorage I've been craving their Halibut sandwich.

I even blogged about it, but blogpress mangled it. Anyway, I'm back, anxiously waiting for a repeat of this.

Now lest you think I came to the Anch just for the coffee shops and greasy spoons, hear's a pic from the Alaska zoo. Remind me to tell you about rescuing my dropped eyeglasses from the grizzly enclosure.

Here's my sandwich -- signing

Location:W 10th Ave,Anchorage,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back in Anchorage

First stop, Side St coffee, the cool little coffee shop I discovered on my first pass through. Actually, it's my second stop, the first was a tiny falafel shop that Carl, Forest Service electrician and generally funny and friendly guy, suggested we stop at for lunch. Carl gave me a ride from Girdwood where I spent the night in the bunkhouse after returning from my adventure in Harriman Fyord and a fun night at Table 5 pub with the aforementioned Carl and Forest Rangers.

So where are all the breath taking photos from kayaking through icebergs? They're on my other camera and no way to upload them till I get home.

So this is kind of a test of iPhone blogging again and is not to suggest I spent all of my Alaskan adventure in a coffee shop!

Location:K St,Anchorage,United States

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


My digs in Girdwood. I have another post written but blogpress won't let me upload it, so maybe I'll have better luck with this one.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blogpress testing

Still having trouble with blogpress but will offer up these cute baby sled dogs if it will be kind enough to post for me.

And if it does I may try another post before we head for the wilderness and out of cell phone range tomorrow.

Location:Alyeska Hwy,,United States

Monday, August 8, 2011


Seeing this polar bear trapped behind glass in the airport wasn't the thing that made me feel I was really in Alaska. After all, we have live ones in our Providence zoo. It was waking up on a gray morning and looking out the big picture window of my room in City Garden B&B and seeing seagulls wandering aimlessly in the park opposite--and realizing that they were Alaskan seagulls. Look the same though.

Of course it was very strange to go to sleep last night with the sun coming in that same window at 10:30 pm, which made it a little hard to fall asleep even though it was 2:30 am as far as my body knew, and I had been flying for more than 12 hours. The last bit was amazing though as I caught a glimpse of Denali rising above the clouds in the distance and the clouds broke long enough to catch sight of a massive glacier pouring through surrealistically gorgeous mountains. This photo is from my iPhone taking a picture from my camera display but it gives ann idea. I'll swap it out later. Mobile technology can only do so much!

And sometimes the simply stubby pencil is more dependable.

Well after a very congenial breakfast with my fellow translate it's off to the cultural center and Anchorage Museum. I hear I'm going to pass a reindeer on the way.

Location:W 10th Ave,Anchorage,United States

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Countdown to Alaska

Looks like the government didn't shut down after all, but at this point it might have been a relief to put it out of its misery. It insists on limping on, however, so rangers will be paid, parks will be open, and I'm still packing for my National Forest Artist Residency in Prince William Sound. I'm also practicing blogging from my iPhone, but am already cheating by editing it on my laptop. In theory I should be able to take photos from my iPhone, write my blog on that tiny little keyboard and post through BlogPress. It actually seemed to work for as long as I could stand working that way, and a download of a Photoshop Lite app solve the photo rotation problem, so I'm good to go. I just need a wifi or verizon connection. That should be no problem in Anchorage, but out in "the field" is another story. So if I suddenly go silent just assume I'm having wild adventures, following grizzly tracks and swimming with killer whales, far, far from civilization. Or 60 miles south of Anchorage. Same thing.

The weather is looking a bit chilly up Whittier way, which is where we launch from, not to mention rainy. But I was warned that it is the rainy season so I'm just going to assume it will be misty and mysterious, which may be another way of saying wet, cold and miserable, but sounds a lot better. Then if the sun breaks through it will be a bonus, and the sun will have plenty of time to peek out, since it won't go down till about 10:30. 

Unfortunately I can't be totally excited about going, since life has a way of throwing curve balls and I don't always remember to duck. My dear father had a bit of a health setback last week and I'm going to feel nervous about going so far from the family. Not that I don't have dozens of wonderful loving and responsible siblings, but I still feel guilty leaving. He's doing better everyday though and has lots of support so I know he will be in good hands. I'll just bombard him with postcards and regale him with Alaska lore when I get back. I hear Alaska is loaded with lore.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glacier speed

This is an Alaskan glacier painting by Stephen McGowen, master painter of North Dartmouth. Thanks to his generosity it is in a place of honor in my hall. He gave it to me to bring me luck with my Alaskan residency applications, and it seems like it did the trick! I'm posting it in the hopes that its power can keep the government from defaulting, resulting in the padlocking all our national parks and canceling my residency on Prince William Sound. (The downside to posting it is I've now raised the bar for glacier paintings awfully high.)

But until I get to the state of Alaska I'm going to be in the state of denial and continue to prepare for my adventure, which is only 2 weeks away. Yes it is, the government will NOT shut down.

Last weekend I spent another 5 hours practicing paddling and testing my waterproof camera case in the Great Swamp in Kingston. So far so good. I managed to keep my camera dry, and get out and over a beaver dam with no mishaps other than almost putting my hand on a 2ft. water snake (they bite, but not venomously, the little wimps) who swam away like the Loch Ness monster, giving me the evil snake eyes.

I practiced paddling as fast as I could (or as I like to call it, keeping-up-with -forest-ranger-speed) navigating up winding swampy rivers, paddling sideways and backwards, and pretending I didn't really have to use a bathroom for the last 4 hours of the trip. Wonder where the bathrooms are on Prince William Sound?

I'm really liking kayaking though, and feel silly that I didn't try it 20 years ago. I just might have to think about getting one of my own next year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Paddling practice

Last weekend I spent a perfect summer day with friend Mary Grady in the sprawling but shallow waters of the Narrow River, logging another 5 hours in the cockpit of a kayak in preparation for my Prince William Sound Residency.   I just might be beginning to get the hang of this.  Which is good since I'm leaving for Anchorage in 19 days. Or so I hope. It occurred to me last week that if the government should shut down due to all the political game playing going on in Washington, the national parks and forests will most likely shut down too. I am trying not to think about it, since everyone says they are just bluffing, but it is nagging at me.

But it's full paddle ahead unless I hear differently. Next destination, The Great Swamp!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gearing up

Above, a row of colorful sea-kayaks on a perfect July day at the Kayak Center in Wickford. Sure they look innocent enough, even rather pretty. But in the hands of instructors Ken and Becca they are apt to flip completely over, leaving you hanging upside down, still attached by your spray skirt. Thankfully the waters of Wickford Cove are shallow and warm, and the instructors, aside from their teasing, have a great way of talking you through exactly what you need to get back to the surface and back into your kayak. Not that it wasn't still a bit scary, but I figured if I chickened out in the serenity of the cove, how was I going to brave the frigid waters of Prince William Sound when the whale surfaces from underneath me? So I held my breath and said "go", managed to unhook my spray skirt and was up before I knew it. I even managed to "rescue" a classmate. I learned some better paddling technique too, and apart from a teeny bit of terror, had a really good time. 

Then, to complete my Alaskan poser persona, I've acquired THE footwear of the true Alaskan, Xtra Tuff boots. I figure these will be on my feet for 7 days at least, kayaking, hiking, running from bears...they are very cool.

OK, so I've been a little obsessed with planning for this Alaskan adventure. I've put so much thought into making sure I have the right gear for the environment that I have to remind myself to pack some art supplies too. Whatever I do pack will have to be small. How will I capture the immense landscape on a 5x7 "Write-in-the-Rain" sketch pad? Hmmmm

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Un-Rejected! Alaska here I come!

I've been wanting to write this post for a week, but I've almost been afraid to talk about it, because it's just such an amazing turn of events and rather daunting. But remember how I've been applying for years to get an artist residency in Denali National Park in Alaska and came tantalizingly close but ultimately was rejected? And remember how I discovered a new one this year in the Ford's Terror Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest near Juneau and was rejected from that one as well? You don't? Well what luck, there's links! But seriously, a few weeks after getting a rejection letter from Tongass, while on the Bioblitz, I got a phone call from the ranger in charge of the program saying she had transferred to Prince William Sound (just south of Anchorage) and wanted to start up another program there, and ASKED ME TO BE THEIR FIRST ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE! 
This residency is similar to the Tongass program  but will start out in Girdwood, AK (above) in August, where I and a Ranger from the National Forest Service will gear up for a 7-day tour of Prince William Sound, traveling by sea kayak and camping next to glaciers. The list of gear they sent me goes to 2-pages and includes wool sweaters, Xtratuf boots, waterproof pants, jacket, gloves and camera case. Did I mention it was kind of daunting? Did I mention I've only been in a kayak (and not the sea kind) a couple of times? Did I mention that I've only been camping twice in recent memory, and both times in the congenial society of the Bioblitz? Did I mention I just had knee surgery? Well, I certainly didn't bring any of that up in my application! But at least I'm grateful I've been hitting the gym pretty regular-like since January (one of those rare resolutions that stuck), and I'm going to take a sea-kayak lesson soon, and they do say "Extensive backcountry/kayaking experience is not necessary for this residency, just capability". I do think I will be capable of doing anything they tell me to, as long as they have the expertise, and you don't find much better expertise than the National Forest Service Rangers! I'll find out more about it when the ranger who will be in charge of me gets back from "the field" next week. I'll need to spend a few days in Anchorage too, so if anyone has recommendations on cheap but decent hotels I could use some!

In all my residencies I've really enjoyed interacting with the rangers and have respected their knowledge of the environments they work in and their efforts to preserve it, dealing with so many issues that the public isn't even aware of most of the time, but this is the first time I will actually spent the entire residency working so closely with them. I can't believe what a great opportunity this is!

Oh yeah, and I'm going to do some art too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back from Bioblitz 2011

Dateline June 10-11, Scituate, RI
I'm happy to report that the Rhode Island Natural History Survey Bioblitz 2011 Art Team  (or, as we affectionately call it - RINHSB2011AT) was a huge success. Thanks go out to Katy Dika from the RISD Nature Lab for bringing fabulous microscopes and art supplies for our fans to use. Young students Central Falls High School were inspired by watching artists Francis Topping and Katie Bertsche, natural science illustrators, and sat down with colored pencils to produce some impressive work themselves in the dry shelter of the tent. That's right, we woke up to the sound of rain hitting the tent again this year, but didn't, as they say, dampen the enthusiasm.
Students from Central Falls High School

We had a great and diverse group of about a dozen official Bioblitz artists, the aforementioned natural science illustrators, painters, printmakers, photographers and textile artists.The interaction with the naturalists was fantastic (they are so happy to share their extensive knowledge, and many naturalists are not too shabby in the art department themselves).

The first day was dry and gave all the opportunity to spread out, join teams and explore. Since I'm still in rehab for my sore knee, I headed a short distance to draw in the silent pine grove I had explored earlier. It was silent no longer though, the sounds of discovery rang out through the woods on every side. I started a pastel drawing of lichen (ashamed to say I don't know the species or genus) covered tree and was once again humbled in the face of nature.

The woods grew darker as the rainy front came in so I headed over to Science Central where they were serving a great al fresco meal. Specimens were trickling in: bugs were being pinned, buckets held little slimy things, feathers and mosses were arranged like still lives on the tables.

After dinner I gave a talk and slideshow to the artists and other interested folks on the Artist In Residence Program in the National Parks and my experiences with it. (I have great news about a new residency for my next blog post!!)  I posted the photos from the slideshow on Flikr and you can see them here without all my gabbing.

Then it was on to more exploration. As darkness fell we were treated to an incredible display of fireflies in all directions. I headed off through a long field with flashing lights dancing over the grass to find the bat team. I could dimly make out a rim of trees on the horizon so headed that way. Someone must have heard my footsteps because a flashlight shone out for a second. I headed towards it. As I got closer I heard voices so I called out "Are you the Bat People?" Sure enough, I had found them. We sat on fallen logs chatting while waiting to check the traps, which looked like volley-ball nets, but deeper and finer. Bats can sense the nets with their radar but often are careless or on the chase so do get caught. But not tonight. We brought in the traps and headed back with a detour to see the Moth People, who had much better luck with their spotlit white sheets.

By this time my knee was achy so I headed for the tent but before I could settle in I heard of a chance to join an owl walk. Too bad the owls didn't hear the invite, although our ipod was hooting in their lingo. Owls were heard earlier though, so we know they were in the area.

Kathy Hodge gives a presentation on the National Park Artist in Residence Program. Photo/Mary Grady

We finally turned in, falling asleep to the voices of the untiring naturalists still bringing specimens back to Science Central, which is where I spent the the next day resting my knee. But that's not to say I missed anything, there were all sorts of fascinating things to look at through the microscopes, things that we pass every time we are in any area with a minimal amount of nature.  Bees that shimmered like Christmas trees, lichen and moss like fairy tale worlds. In the other tent moths were being pinned in neat rows, crawfish and salamanders trying to crawl out of trays, and beetles and spiders were lining up for inspection. A student was carefully guarding a little white footed mouse huddling in the corner of a live trap, waiting for the Mammal Guy to come in from the field to document it before setting it free.

Fiber artist Ann Lilley works with children in making prints from natural textures. Photo/Mary Grady.

Frances Topping works from specimens. Photo/Mary Grady.
Meanwhile, the art team was painting and printing the pastoral view from the tent and from gathered specimens, and all were learning from each other till the whistle went off at 3pm to signal the end of Bioblitz 2011. Even though I ended up with soaked camping equipment, sleep deprivation, an aching knee, no artwork to speak of, and what looked like the remnants of a turkey massacre in the back of my truck I had only one thought. Wait'll next year!

RINHS Facebook page

Bioblitz Art Team Facebook Page

My photos from Bioblitz

Mary Grady's (Art Team Leader Emeritus) photos 

Mary Grady's story on ECO RI

A video of the event from

Bioblitz 2010 on Block Island 

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Funny, in my two weeks of unexpected time off work with my knee surgery I somehow didn't have the urge to blog much. Was it the lack of coffee shop sitting? The possibility of doing things in three dimensions? Maybe, but I think the real reason was that I didn't find the need to toss out my little messages-in-a-bottle from my upholstered island of a cubicle. I was rowing my own humble boat, bad knee and all... Now I'm back, all too soon, and am scribbling another message by the light of buzzing fluorescents. 

The horseshoe crabs have finished their debauch, leaving the casualties belly up on the shore. I brought a recently expired one back to my house, but not before putting it in the water for a bit and pulling on its legs to make sure it was really dead. I set it up on a low table in my backyard (a dead horseshoe crab is not something that you want indoors) and started a drawing of it. A storm was coming up so I left it to finish the next day but when I went out to finish it, it was gone. After a short search I found it under a bush, legs eaten off. According to google, both raccoons and fox eat horseshoe crabs, and we have both. My husband was kind enough to fetch another one for me, but the drawing never really amounted to much. Hopefully the studying of HC anatomy will help when one inevitably appears in a painting.

It was only at the end of my leave that I could stand for a decent amount of time, but I did manage to finish this painting. It's called Supermoon. Tomorrow I'm off for my second Bioblitz, this time I'm in charge of the art team. Should be interesting (and hopefully not as rainy as last year!)

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