Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wildflowers, Carnivorous Plants and Wild Edibles in Baxter State Park

A Mystery Wildflower

There are some wild things growing in Maine's Baxter State Park. This looks like a nice bog, right?
My son knelt down and pointed out two species of carnivorous plants. Yikes!

1. the Pitcher Plant traps and drowns insects.

2. Sundew is sinisterly sticky. 

We decided to stay on the viewing platform.

In the woods, we foraged for bunchberry from the dogwood family.
My son described the taste as plum/tomato.
He'd learned plant ID from 
Chewonki Wilderness Trips.

I didn't need his help identifying laurel, which grows all over Maine.

Neither one of us could ID this common wildflower,
featured in the opening shot. 
It lined all the roads.
It's too tall for common dandelion 
and the leaves don't look right for cat's ear.
(Thanks, Gail, for identifying the Kirgia and for hosting.)

It thrived on woodland paths in mid July. Any idea what it is?

More about our Baxter trip here:

Visit Wildflower Wednesday hosted at Clay and Limestone
This is my first time.

Reminder: Friday 9/28 is the 10X10 Art Show in Brunswick, Maine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10X10 Art Show in Brunswick, Maine

Friday September 28th is the fifth anniversary of the 10X10 Art Exhibit and Sale. My two watercolors are among the 325 works by local artists. This benefit will fund an artist-in-residence program in Brunswick elementary schools. There will be a silent auction too, including works by Bowdoin College professors, Mark Wethli and John Bisbee. Local restaurants have donated hors d'oeuvres. Come join us!

Rising Tide at Lookout Point

Lookout Point in Harpswell is one of my favorite places to paint.  
At low tide this miniature island connects to land, 
but at high tide the trees nearly drown.  
As the tide rises, seaweed floats like long hair.  
A reflection of trees develops on water, undulating in the current.  
My initial sketch was submerged in water and in paint.

Lighthouse Islands at Popham Beach

It was a challenge to fit a long, flat beach into a square.  
I searched for vertical elements offshore.  
wanted to include all three islands 
but settled for the two with lighthouses.  
As I painted, a curious seagull kept me company, 
insinuating himself upon the page.  
I love Popham in September for the clear blue skies 
and the space to find 
As the days get shorter and colder, 
this painting will recall the feel of warm sand 
under bare feet.

10X10 Art Show
Next door venues on Pleasant Street, Brunswick, Maine 04011
Friday September 28, 2012 from 5-8 pm
(non-auction art is $200, including 10-inch-square frame) 

Public Preview:
Thursday 9/27 5-8pm & Friday 9/28 12-3pm
Or click for Online Preview

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Painting on Location

This is my art studio.

September is my favorite time of year to paint. My kids are back at school so the afternoons are mine. The air is both cooler and clearer, making colors more intense, shadows longer. Potts Point in Harpswell is empty other than lobstermen. There are fewer biting insects too. 

After checking the weather radar and the tide chart, I drive a few miles to the coast. It's quite precarious balancing a camp chair on slippery rocks. I fear I've lost a brush or two to the tide. 

Watercolor, however, does a better job than photography at capturing the sea and islands. A photograph flattens the landscape and bows the horizon. Colors on a bright day become washed out. The human eye knows how to compensate. What is captured on paper is not just a shutter stop instant, but an entire afternoon. It's a dynamic experience rather than a frozen moment. 

The problem is often too much movement. The wind blows. The tide rises. Watercolors like to flow too. I tape my paper to a board to keep it stable. First I pencil a loose sketch. Then I save the whites and the bright buoys with masking fluid. I wash in the sea and sponge the sky before working in the details with a drier brush and more intense pigment. 

The most challenging part of autumnal paintings is keeping the reds from blending into brown with the greens. Those seasonal hues will come last of all, along with the deepening shadows. The original underpainting is only a memory.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Back in June, I posted a list of good summer books, including just released Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which I had only just started. From the first page, I was gripped by the unusual premise and entranced with the whimsical voice. A captured British spy is writing a confession for her Gestapo interrogators. This World War II Scheherazade spins a convoluted tale to postpone her death sentence. She tells the happy story of how she met her pilot, another 18-year-old girl, and the events that led to their crash landing in occupied France.

Author Elizabeth Wein, a pilot herself, has clearly done her research into how women were involved in the war effort. She uses small details, like the advent of ballpoint pens, to make history seem real, but it's her idiosyncratic characters that bring the pages to life. Even the Nazis are well developed with the line between good and evil somewhat blurred. I can't think of another war book that has young women as protagonists, and not romantic interests of the soldiers. Code Name Verity allows the girls to lead the action and to form a close wartime bond, while still maintaining historical accuracy. The somewhat epistolary writing style matches the time period too.

The spy narrator was one of the best characters I've ever encountered. Her plucky spirit reminded me a bit of Juliet from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Society, but this story, despite being written for teens, was darker. Although the descriptions weren't graphic, the details of the spy's confinement and the cries of her fellow prisoners haunted my dreams. Still, I spent more time laughing than crying as the protagonist had a most British sense of humor: stiff upper lip with ironic, self-deprecating asides.

Most of the narrative avoided the grim realities of war and instead focused on how two girls from opposite ends of society, one upper class Scottish and the other working class English, became best friends. There's a hint of romantic attachment, but it's not spelled out. Their close friendship followed the tradition of Anne of Green Gables and her bussom body, Diana. It's a welcome change from more recent clique books to have a teen novel centered on a positive female friendship.

Don't let the young adult label put you off; Code Name Verity is perhaps better suited for adult readers due to the dark subject matter. My husband loved it too and found the battle scenes realistically chaotic. It would be too scary for our sensitive 15-year-old daughter, but I recommended it to her best friend, who reads mostly adult fiction. It's exciting to find innovative, literary work with strong female characters for teen readers.

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@Barrie Summy