Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Swallow Hollow" Iroqouis Wildlife Refuge 8-12-08

What a day I had at the Swallow Hollow nature trail, part of the Iroqouis Wildlife Preserve. The above photo was just one of the many beautiful scenes I saw that day; the trail follows the water in a nice loop, sometimes going through woods, mostly near the marsh or some natural looking water canals. Much of the trail is a boardwalk to keep you up from the very wet ground, especially after such a rainy summer!

This is a picture of my new sketchbook cover, it's a sketchbook that I designed and made myself with a long format. I thought it'd be fun to put some pictures of my paintings on the cover, to show people I meet some of my work. I can add or take pages from the sketchbook as I want to.

This is the first page of my sketchbook from my day out. I stopped at a nice area in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area, Elizabeth Hilldurger Estate project. I was so happy to see two Great Egrets (or in my old Peterson guide American Egret) flying around. The one roosted in a tree far away, I tried to do some little sketches by looking through my binoculars.
The watercolor of the water scene I did using my little watercolor 'altoids' field kit and just a water-brush. It's pretty simple looking but I did it quickly while standing up.

This is me pausing to sketch along the boardwalk. You can see I have my art kit bag on my waist and a backpack with other supplies on my back. Almost all of what I draw, I draw while I'm standing and looking at things.
Along the way on my walks I usually meet some nice people who are curious about what I'm doing. I met a couple walking their dogs, Papillions...Pudgie is the puppy furiously digging the hole in the back...Max is the one gazing up at his owner. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get to keep me company in the house? I've seen them before and thought about it. Their owner told me Papillion means butterfly in french....well at least it's their names meaning, I guess because of how they look with their ears perked.

Next is another page from my sketchbook, click it to see it closer. I met a little Leopard frog along the way and did quick little sketches of him, then painted it at home using metallic watercolor paints. He really had a metallic look to his skin, so beautiful! At the end of this post you'll see a little video clip of him!

I saw many Harvestman spiders in the woods and did a sketch of one on a dying milkweed leaf. I also took photos so when I got home I was able to paint it with watercolors. I took step by step photos of the painting, perhaps I'll get to post it separately later.
I did some reading about Harvestmen Spiders, which are only distantly related to spiders, they are not venomous, lack fangs and do not bite. They use their legs to walk, breath, smell and capture prey! There are 5,000 species, about 235 known in North America, most are drab brown or grey, but a few are rusty red, mottled spots or have a stripe down their back. Now that I know that, I know I was lucky to see a rusty red one, and the one I painted had a mottled kind of dark stripe on it. One more interesting detail to keep my eyes open for while hiking! I hope you take a closer look next time you meet one.

This next page shows a light pencil sketch I did of the path, I also took some photos so later I could color it in. I haven't gotten that far yet! The mushrooms at the bottom of the page I went specifically to Swallow Hollow to try to find again and paint, I saw them there just a week before. I could use some help indentifying them if anyone has expertise in this area?? I have become fascinated with mushrooms and fungi...when you walk in the woods, just take a close look at the ground or on trees or dead logs, you'll be surprised at what you might discover! I've seen gorgeous yellow or orange mushrooms that I didn't expect. The picture of the orange mushroom I could use help identifying too.

I set up my stool in the woods and I painted this study from life. It was difficult because the lighting kept changing, first direct, raking light, then very dark shadows. As I painted a Harvestmen Spider crawled across my sketchbook, pausing over my painting to 'taste' the wet paint! Before I could get my camera, he crawled off down my leg....he being a spider that he was I helped him hurry off me! I don't mind them too much, but don't want them lingering. At least I can say, knowing they are harmless helps me not to react like Little Miss Muffet! Remember her story?

This is the last page from my outing...while I was in the field I sketched the tiny mushrooms in pencil...kneeling in the pine needles to gain a closer look. They're done at life size. Then while walking later I went over the lines with a sepia colored Micron Permanent ink pen. Later at home I printed out the photos I took of them and added the watercolor. I have found that when I do something in graphite pencil in the field, I get disappointed at how it will smear or fade with all the use the sketchbook gets, so I like to use my micron pens a lot to draw.

The while fungus is fascinating...they are hard to might just step right past them, but you have to be aware of everything and look everywhere when you walk. These are also drawn at life size, aproximately 2" tall and coming up like delicate white filaments from the forest floor. A mystery to me, if anyone can tell us please do.

The butterfly was a type I saw all day, following me it seemed, to see what I was doing in their woods? I sketched it in the field on a leaf, but later painted it from a photo. Can anyone help me with identifying it?

I added a short video clip of my meeting with the Leopard Frog along a sunny path, check it out!


camulus said...

Looks like all the Harvestmen Spiders were out that day, which could be the reason why the Leopard frog was on the path. A case of the predators becoming the prey ha!ha!!.

I find Frogs quite mysterious creatures, you hardly ever seen any except at breeding time in a pond and then when there is a rain storm dozens are hopping about the roads, which is when many of them get squashed.

Sometimes I will find one in a dry area a long way from water, and call me silly but I then pick them up and carry them to the nearest pond or even puddle, so their skins don't dry up. I reckon that the damp place they were holed out in has dried up and that they were looking for water, to take the risk of drying out in the sun or being eaten.

That Leopard frog is lovely!!

Mary McAndrew said...

Hi Camulus,
thanks for your comments, yes the Harvestmen spiders were coming out with the Harvest time! Today I went walking and was happy to see many Leopard frogs hopping away from the path. I got some nice pictures to draw from, how gorgeous the green is!
You said "The Fungi look like Candle Snuff Fungus", in an added comment to me, which fungus picture that I put up do you mean? The big brown one?

Mary McAndrew said...

By the way, it's nice to have your comments all the way from England...we've had a very wet summer here in Buffalo, how was it there?

camulus said...

How is the weather been in England you ask Mary?
Well let me put it this way, there are some extremely happy frogs over here!! It has rained almost every day for the past two weeks, in fact we have hardly had any Summer at all. Hoping that the Fall/Autumn will be a lot better:)

The fungi I was referring to was the long white filament looking fungus. It is called "Candle Snuff" in England but might have another name in North America or could be different variety.

Mary McAndrew said...

Hi Camulus,
I hope it's not too rainy when I come over to England, I'll give new meaning to the word, Watercolor!
I am waiting to hear back from the botanical group of artists I know, maybe someone there will know what kind of fungi it is. It was really delicate, kind of exciting once you take notice of it growing up through the woodland forest floor. But then small things like that excite me in nature.

Gufobardo said...

ciao from Italy and from my garden...full of mushrooms! I love your watercolors, I love your 'eye', the details, can I follow your blog? ciao, Stef

Mary McAndrew said...

Hi Gufobardo! Way over in Italy! Thanks for the complement and glad to have you here! I love studying mushrooms too, it's hard to identify them yet, but I just love to find them and photograph them, paint etc. I saw pics of your garden, lovely!
sign up in the right hand column with your email in the'll send you an email when I update.
all the best!

Vel said...

I haven't been to Swallow Hollow in probably 25 years (since high school) and as I was googling it to see if it was still open so I can take my family I came upon your blog. Thanks for this wonderful entry. Your sketches and paintings and photos are spectacular! :)

Mary McAndrew said...

Thank you Vel,I'm so glad you found my blog and my writing was helpful and entertaining. I love Swallow Hollow and I keep thinking I should take a break and go spend a day there again; it's so peaceful and pretty.
This blog is my 'old' blog...all new posts are on my new website, I really hope you check it out: then click blog at the top.