Painting Botanicals in Wellfleet

What a great weekend we just had! The weather was picture perfect, all sorts of flowers and trees were in bloom and the stage was set for a great weekend long Mass Audubon Field School. I was teaching “A Brush with Botanicals” and was joined by 6 students who turned out to be willing, brave and ¬†quick learners, too!

We started off with a bit of a chat about the history of botanical painting in watercolor and then went to work on some color mixing and various brushstrokes that would come in handy for this kind of painting. Many of the students were beginners but it was a different kind of painting even for those with more experience with watercolors.

After a morning of painting exercises everyone was ready to paint a flower. We set up in the shade outdoors. It may have been May but it was pretty hot in the sun already!

016Everyone was very quiet as they worked. They were concentrating hard!

018Plants wilt quickly out of water but the students were quick to use cracks in the table, their painting water and sheets of white paper as backgrounds.

014On Sunday the weather was still fine and we headed out to paint irises we had spied out in a field the day before…

001The irises proved to be more of a challenge than some originally thought they would be but they worked hard on getting the petals right. Irises are poetic and fun to look at but tough to paint.

002We ended up bringing some irises indoors to paint and then spent the afternoon going out onto the sanctuary to find branches, flowers and plants to draw and paint. I think even the students were pleased and surprised at how well their attempts worked out.

019I am always humbled by my beginning drawing and painting students because those first attempts are often awkward and far from what they hope for or imagine. And yet, they persevere. They are eager and willing to learn. They listen, they watch, they absorb as much as they can. And frankly, it seems to me it is very brave to draw or paint in public in a class and share work that shows signs of struggle but for all these students their work also showed signs of triumph. I was honored to be in their presence. It was a great weekend.

I will be doing another Field School “Sketching in Nature for Scaredy Cats” in Wellfleet in August.







Spadefoot toadlets!

Spadefoot toads spend most of their time underground and are rarely seen by the average person so getting a peek at these tadpoles and little toadlets is a real treat.

Early each spring the toads leave their underground spots to head toward vernal pools in the dunes like these at Sandy Neck in West Barnstable. They will even lay their eggs in what are barely big puddles, hoping that the water will hang around long enough for their young to survive.

The eggs are laid in water and can be found in gelatinous globs like the one seen below. The eggs are the little dark spots.

Ian Ives of Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Sanctuary is involved in a program that is headstarting some of these rare and endangered toads to hopefully give them a better chance of overall survival here on the Cape. To do this he has raised some tadpoles that are now healthy and happy toadlets, and yes, that is a word. Our larger frogs grow quite a bit bigger before metamophosizing into adult frogs but our toads, including American, Fowler’s and Spadefoot, all leave the water while still quite small, and are called toadlets. Wood frogs, which are dependent on vernal pools also change quickly from tadpole to frog and are called froglets. That’s your handy tidbit of amphibian trivia for the day.

These tadpoles are about an inch long. If you look closely at the top one you will see it’s tiny back legs beginning to form.

These little guys have arms and legs but still have quite a bit of tail to be absorbed before they are ready to hop out of the water.

Here is a little spadefoot toadlet that has just been out of the water for a few weeks. It is living in an aquarium for the moment and is being fed lots of tiny insects.

This picture isn’t great but it does show the little holes the toadlets dig and you can see one of the toads emerging in the top center part of the photo.

Most people would never see these tiny guys so personally I think it is pretty cool that we can see them like this, thanks to Mass Audubon and Ian Ives.