It’s been a while since my last post, summer got busy and focus on sharing my art was lost. Now that autumn (and even some snow!) has arrived, I’m working on getting that focus back. Art Safari is still having their Thursday sessions, this week was fungi. Mushrooms are delicious and a healthy diet addition. Also, they’re very fun to study and draw!
Here are 2 pages of small sketches in a new Stillman and Birn alpha sketchbook. I started adding a background to a couple, but stopped, as I’m not sure they look better with or without. What do you think? With or without backgrounds?
Art toolkit palette and Stillman and Birn sketchbook
On a recent ride in New Jersey, there is often a “committee” of turkey vultures in the same location. As they like to eat carrion (dead animals), it’s appropriate that the location is a cemetery!
I looked around for some interesting information about them and found these facts: – Agroup of Turkey Vultures feeding is called a “Wake”. – Agroup of Turkey Vultures flying is called “Kettles”. – A group of Turkeys Vultures resting is called a “Committee.” – Turkey Vultures have unusual ways to cool themselves off – they will poop on their feet to cool themselves off. The droppings provide a chemical coating that acts as a cooler. Found this info here: https://learnbirdwatching.com/facts-about-turkey-vultures/
Of course, I “had” to sketch these flying birds (they’re related to storks, not birds of prey) to share them in this unique location! They were all on the ground until we got closer, then they started getting on top of the tombstones. Thanked them for the great poses! 😉
It’s been a bit since I last posted, you may be wondering what has been keeping me so busy. Well, I’ve been taking advantage of my location and enjoying music, hiking and kayaking. Milford had a music festival last weekend, and the band called “Merchants of Groove” were a big hit. The audience had a (sort of) Frank Zappa look-alike, and we all tapped our feet to the great beats.
The trombonist stepped away from the stage to serenade passing motorists and walked through the audience. On a recent sunny day, a neighbor joined me for a nearly 7 mile hike that went from Raymondskill Falls to Milford Knob. We sat and sketched the view, but decided next time we’d return with small seats to avoid snakes. While we’re not afraid of them, we did see 2 black rat snakes on the trail, one was 3’ long. It’s possible this one that looked curly was in fact full of eggs! Here’s my sketch result of the day, made on site, color added later.
Finally, kayaking under a full moon was most enjoyable! At least, until a bat swooped a little too close! 😮 A marvelous night 🎶 (⬅️click link to see a short video)
The hike in the south portion of Stokes State Forest in NJ was so enjoyable, I went back to explore the north side. The Appalachian Trail continues through this part, and there’s a fire tower to find. So I started on Stony Brook trail, then to the AT and fire tower, and returned via the Tower Trail.
Up at the fire tower, I was lucky to meet up with a nice family and their three dogs, which were also super friendly, so I was able to get my puppy fix. They chose to go up the fire tower, I still have some fear of heights, so I ‘may’ go back and try it, when I’m alone. Mainly because I’ve been seeing funny posts about “Do things that scare your family and friends”! 😉
I also sat and did a quick urban sketch of the view of Stony Lake:
Sketched from the fire tower site
I also did a few sketches at home – of the fire tower, stepping stones over a creek and some dwarf ginseng. The starlike shape was fascinating, and online was this description of its flowers – “…dull white umbels rising from a whorl of three compound leaves”.
Fire tower, creek crossing and dwarf ginseng
Looks like I’ll be heading back to Stokes soon! There’s lots more trails to explore, especially the one named “Gigi Lane”! (That’s me!)
Alltrails is a great app that I use to find hikes that fit me. Looking at a 30 minute or less travel time led me to New Jersey. So this week I went to Stokes State Forest to try out the Red Maple and Steffens trails. About halfway you can add extra distance and go to the Ladder Trail, which leads to the Appalachian Trail and a scenic overlook from the Kittatinny Ridge. I decided to save that for another day.
I wasn’t disappointed with this hike – a bit wilder with a much less traveled path, and only one other person seen on it. And that person was on a bicycle, which was quite a surprise.
The weather was warm, but too windy to stop and try a sketch, so these were done later at home. Fallen trees did not block the trail, instead there were some to climb over and some to go under. A white fluffy deer tail was all I spotted as it bounded away, same with the back end of a large turkey who did not like me so close. I saw lots of eastern skunk cabbage, which added nice pops of green along wet areas.
Shortly after starting I stopped – to rest, of course, but also to really appreciate my surroundings and give thanks for being able to enjoy the fresh air, nature and solitude that replenish my spirit. Grateful!
As I get more and more settled in, and as the weather improves, I’m looking for local hikes that aren’t too long or too difficult. Dingmans Falls fit that description – a short 1.4 mile out-and-back trail if you leave from the center, which is not yet open for the season, so it becomes about 3.6 miles total from the parking area. The road to the center is paved, and the trail to the falls is mostly a wood walkway, handicap accessible.
Dingmans Falls Center
At the falls, you can climb the steep wooden steps to the top of the falls, the second largest falls in Pennsylvania. (I did not go to the very top this time!)
I returned a few days later to sit and sketch Silver Thread Falls, located along the trail to Dingmans Falls. They are just lovely, like a narrow ribbon of flowing water, punctuated by the fallen trees across it. I thought they were deserving of a sketch, although not too pleased with the result, here it is.
Getting to know a new area can be daunting. Where do you start? First, I got my driver license, next got my car registered, and then started to explore local hikes. In March, my first trail was at Raymondskill, tried the Cliff trail and saw the falls. (That was where I found the gnarly tree in my last post!)
As I meet and chat with locals, I’ll ask, “where do you suggest I go to hike and where can I find local art?” They recommended Grey Towers, a historic site that was once the summer estate of the Pinchot family. This became my second hike, although I’d call it more of a walk. It has interesting architecture, with a long, steep paved drive to get up to the house and grounds. There are a variety of tours available (after it opens in May) of the buildings, forest trees and cemetery.
Only the crocus were out the day I went:
Grey Towers mansion and crocus
The Bait Box was built in the 1920s as a playhouse. Loved the setting, so I sat and sketched, while visiting children ran about.
Moving to a completely new area and a home with half the closet space can take up a lot of mental (and physical!) energy. It’s now one month since moving in, and I am truly enjoying the space and views. I’ve even found a local hike to get me outside, at least when it’s not a blizzard or freezing out. The nearby Cliff Trail is easy and scenic. Here’s a gnarly tree overlooking the Delaware River, sketched from my photo. The view of the lake brings a calm mind, then excitement, when you realize a bald Eagle is within camera view! Here’s a few snapshots grabbed before he took off…. Hope you’re enjoying my new home adventures and discoveries!
It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, I know, but with good reason – it is time for me to move to a new location. Between the search, the paperwork, the prep before actually moving, AND a new grandbaby, it’s been quite busy, as you can imagine. I really wanted to have fun sketching the new views but free time has been scarce. So here is the view from my little lake house in NE PA:
And here is an aerial view of my house with the nearby beach:
All this excitement has not left time for sketching, but hoping to change that very soon! Meanwhile, my 2022 calendar consists of sketches from 2021.