This month, I’m offering a new class: Field Journaling. While nature journals often reflect the inclinations of the journalist in response to the natural world (by incorporating poems, quotes, art, etc.), Field Journals narrow the focus to more of the qualitative and quantitative observations in an orderly way that invites additional inquiry. By noting patterns and connections, journalists can explore, ask great questions and devise ways to answer those questions. Whether you are a science major, citizen scientist, serious birder or curious person, Field Journaling is a time-honored way to hone your observation skills and record your personal discoveries.
In this class, we will jump right into the fun of exploration and notation. For inspiration, we will also look at some notable Field Journals that have been left by past biologists, archeologists and explorers in a variety of fields, as well as the methods they employed.
If you are interested in taking the class, here is the information for the first time it is being offered:
Field Journaling Workshop Instructor, Kelli Hertzler Wednesday March 30, 1:00 – 3:00 pm Frances Plecker Education Center & EJC Arboretum in Harrisonburg, VA
Autumn is such a great time to nature journal! Everything is changing, color is exploding and the long winter is looming just ahead. What a great time to soak in the last warm rays of the season by taking a walk with a few art supplies!
Today, I was able to do that at a trail I haunt frequently because it is so close to home. The clouds broke while I was driving there and the weather could not have been more perfect. The drive in was golden from all the hickory trees growing in the forest near the entrance. Once a the parking area, though, I saw only brown. At first. Then, like when your eyes adjust to the dark, my eyes adjusted to the colors all around me. Sure, there were some hickories, but also yellow poplars, red oaks, maples that could show red, yellow or green – even all three colors on a single leaf. There was plenty of green around, too. Pines up high and a variety of grasses, vines, ferns and shrubs down low.
Last weekend, I had a wonderful and rare opportunity to go camping with several women from my church. We took kayaks and lots of amazing food. The last morning we were there, it rained continually. We sat under the canopy with a hot breakfast and great conversation. I didn’t find much time for journaling, but I did manage this page. I really like including a small landscape on my journal pages to put my observations in the correct habitat and location. The birds were seen while kayaking and I didn’t take my journal on the water, so I had to draw the birds from memory.
I will be teaching a Nature Journaling class coming up next week (November 6, 2019) at the JMU arboretum. Come join the fun!
It still takes my breath away. For more than twenty years, I have had the pleasure of living in view of the Shenandoah National Park. The peaks and ridges dominate my view to the southeast.
The Blue Ridge is the name of this chain mountains that stretch northeast to southwest through the length of Virginia. Granted, blue is the color it appears most often. But I have seen those mountains be every color of the rainbow and then some. Verdant green on rare summer days when the humidity drops. Chartreuse creeping up from the foothills in the spring. Subtle red, blazing orange and even golden in the setting sun of autumn. Shades of magenta when the summer sunrise sideswipes it from the east. Violet as the morning sun comes up from behind in the colder months. Brown and grey in the doldrums of winter, or suddenly snow-covered in dazzling white with every tree defined in wet black. And blue. Deep cobalt in the heat of summer when the air is thick – deepest in the hollows. Dark, brooding blue as the heavy thunderclouds dump untold tons of rain onto her slopes. Thin periwinkle blue fading more with each distant ridge into the sky on a cold, overcast day. Royal blue, watery blue, steel blue.
The light can flatten or sculpt the hills. Back-lighting in the early morning or scant light on a overcast day creates the illusion that the hills are cut out of paper or air-brushed onto a wall. But their volume is revealed in strong evening sunlight. Shadows offer contrast in value and color. Orange on the light side, purple on the dark. Or green on the light side, blue on the dark.
Weather patterns add another dimension. Small, puffy clouds can leave a mottled shadow pattern on the undulating surface. We might have clear skies above our valley, but on the other side of the park a storm rages with thunderheads dwarfing the tallest peaks. Fog can blanket the base or clouds might obscure the peaks. Sometimes a low blanket of clouds rolls over the whole range, creeping over the ridges and sinking into the lowest parts.
It goes on and on like this. My twenty years of observation are a drop in the bucket to the millennia that God has been creating new works of art here on a constant basis. The ever changing kaleidoscope defies any one description. Thus, a series of paintings to explore the many moods of the mountains.
The view I have is directly into Big Run Portal and just to the south, Madison Run. Rocky Mount, Rocky Mountain, Rocky Top, Brown Mountain, Austin Mountain, Furnace Mountain and Treyfoot Mountain are a few that can be seen frequently in this series. I’ve hiked in these areas, but it is still hard to identify the peaks without a topo map. And some days I am sure a new hill has sprouted up that I’ve never noticed before.
I love both painting and being outside, so painting en plein air should be right up my alley, right? It’s actually a bit of a stretch. I tend to do an enormous amount of planning before beginning a watercolor. The spontaneity of plein air with oil paint is a refreshing change of pace.
Another liberating factor to this adventure is that I’ve decided results don’t matter. (Much like nature journaling: the process is more important than the final result.) My goal is to become reacquainted with oil painting and if a few successful paintings happen by accident, that’s okay, too. (I ended up being pretty happy with most!)
Today, I found myself with unscheduled hours to myself after dropping my daughter off in a beautiful mountainous area near the Virginia/West Virginia border. I had many astounding mountain views to choose from on the drive back, but this one won out due to the subject matter, a great parking spot and a safe location to put up my easel off of the road. Chimney Rock is a striking geological formation and was well lit in the autumn sun. (A man that stopped by to chat informed me that it is the most photographed location in Rockingham County.)
The two photos above show the beginning of the painting session and the end (about two hours later). Shifting values and shadows are part of the plein air challenge. I included just a portion of the VFW building to the right because it helps to show scale and locals know the VFW is there! It seemed a lie to leave it out, although I did omit several structures.
My plein air education so far has included workshops with Stephen Dougherty at Rockfish Gap Community Center and Kevin Adams at Shenandoah National Park. Here are a few other attempts:
Big thanks to my mom! She loaned to me the red easel that appears in all of these photos. She also gave me cartons of canvases, countless tubes of paint, brushes and mediums. And encouragement. Thanks, Mom!
I treated myself to the BIG set of Prismacolor colored pencils – 150 colors! And some toned paper. Here is the result:
This is graphite, colored pencil and white charcoal pencil on gray toned paper. I love working on a toned ground and pulling highlights out of it, pushing the shadows back. That’s something I can’t do with transparent watercolor. The brilliant color I was able to get with colored pencil was a happy surprise.
The subject is from a hike with my children the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Knowing that hunters were out and about on the public land we – without our blaze orange – explored the stream bed right along the road. These stately rocks were on the hill above.
With 100 yards of the scene just described, this little hemlock is tucked in snugly between an oak and limestone boulders.
It’s amazing how many colors can be seen within gray rocks.
Both pieces are 11″ x 14″ matted, and are in 16″ x 20″ oak frames.
These are a few new watercolors currently hanging at the Rockfish Valley Community Center (until early September). They are all on the smallish side and priced between $90 – 125. Framed size is 14″ x 14″ for all except Sunset on Massanutten, framed at 16″ x 20″.
Sunset on Massanutten Watercolor Sold.
Sunrise over the Mountain. Watercolor Sold.
Mossy Forest III Watercolor Sold.
Spring Ascending the Mountain Watercolor Sold.
Spring in a Field Watercolor Available.
Mourning Dove Watercolor Sold.
To purchase, contact me directly or leave a check with Sara or Cathy at RVCC.
In August, I’ll be a featured artist at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nellysford, VA along with Amy Shawley, another Virginia artist from the flatter part of the state. It’s a huge exhibit space – a gymnasium – so I’ll be bringing almost everything that’s in a frame.
The reception is from 3:30 – 5:00 on Saturday, August 12. But I’ll be hanging the pieces on August 4. You are all invited! FYI, on the same beautiful country road as the center are several wineries, breweries and a distillery. It would make a great road trip (perhaps with a designated driver).
I’ve rejoined the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society. This is such a great group for beginners and professionals alike. I belonged years ago, but having small children in my life made that too difficult! Now, that season has passed and I’m enjoying the group again. One of the perks of being a Signature Member with the group is hanging pieces in its many exhibits around Harrisonburg.
My work is now on display at the Hardesty-Higgins House gift shop in downtown Harrisonburg. For this quarter, I have three pieces hanging there among others by Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society members. Other galleries at which the SVWS is currently displaying include: Taste of Thai restaurant (I have one piece there), Oasis gallery (I had two pieces for last quarter, but nothing this rotation), and a member show at VMRC (I did not enter this time due to other time commitments). I am slowly getting involved again and hope to take advantage of all of these opportunities soon! I’m definitely enjoying the companionship of painters again.
Other news: I recently contracted to share a two-person show next year at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nellysford, Virginia. More about that as it gets closer!