Stairway to Heaven Hike, Vernon NJ

Art, Hike of the Week, hiking, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure, plants, watercolor
Sunny Mud Path

Sunny Mud Path, Vernon NJ

The Stairway to Heaven hike in Vernon showcases some of the most beautiful parts of northern New Jersey. But what did I choose to paint from this hike? A puddle of mud! I’m sorry, but beautiful vistas don’t always scream “paint me”. I found beauty in this mud puddle for these reasons – simplicity, reflection, composition, and color. The view from a mountain top can make for an excellent painting, but I’m craving a certain something else these days – something sort of interesting, though difficult to pinpoint.

Simplicity

I like a good architectural challenge once in a while – buildings in truthful perspective, arranged with charm. This time, I”ll take a couple of cedar trees and a muddy path, please. The freedom to paint a simple landscape promotes a sense of joy and relief, as if a tremendous weight has been lifted.

Reflection

I’ve broken a painting rule – the reflection of a subject in water should be darker than the actual subject. Not in this painting. But that’s the way it is – there is a thin layer of water covering the muddy path, making the reflection of the tree appear lighter because the sun shining on the mud under the water is bright.

Composition

There’s no mountain in the background, but artistic liberties must be taken to make things a bit more interesting. Even without the mountain, the composition of this scene made me stop walking. I saw the potential for wonderful depth  – the muddy path and lighting draws the viewer further into the painting.

Color

This scene is located at the base of Waywayanda Mountain. The habit is mostly field with numerous red cedar pioneering the area. Whether the trees were planted here, I do not know. I found the color contract tremendous. Red-ish green cedar trees (hence the name Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana) against a straw-yellow field, with a cobalt-blue bright sky (some of that in the reflection).

That’s what hooked me then, not sure what will hook me next 🙂

 

Memories from Past Wanderings

Art, hiking, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

Let there be light- w/c 10×14”

The photo I worked from to help guide this painting was taken a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what made me go back in time; maybe the light effect, maybe the time of year. I wanted to show the light coming in from the background to light up the river with enough contrast with dark areas of the river, to keep it interesting. Things may seem just gray and brown this time of year, but I think the lighting in the winter is tremendous – like a lamp with a dimmer adjustment, yet positioned at a certain angle to still create dramatic effects.

A Painting in Memory of the 600-Year-Old Great White Oak

Art, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

It was the tree that the town of Basking Ridge, NJ grew and developed around. Further back, the story goes that George Washington talked strategy underneath this tree. And now a few months ago, with great sorrow, we said goodbye to the 600-year-old giant. The tree was taken down at the site of the old church and cemetery. But, the oak’s lineage lives on! One of its acorns has now grown into a 25 foot tall descendant and it was planted at the site of the old tree. Below is a painting to remember this giant oak and all the joy it has brought to locals and visitors alike.

Watercolor on Arches Rough Paper

Original 14″ x 20″

Great White Oak, Basking Ridge, NJ

Original paintings and prints available on our Etsy Shop!

 

Busy Day at Norvin Green

Hike of the Week, Life Balance, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

waterfall

This weekend, we decided to venture out into Norvin Green State Forest, located in Ringwood, NJ near the Wanaque Reservoir. It was our first time hiking this area; it is funny to think that we’ve never been here having lived in northern NJ all these years. A symphony of chirping Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) erupted as we jumped out of the Jeep to pull on our hiking boots. It was a gray day and it felt chilly, yet humid, with a gentle breeze. As we walked toward the trailhead, the place had a sort of eerie vibe to it – maybe it was due to the random stuff strewn about the grounds or old buildings, like the one marked “Nature House” that was guarded off by caution tape. “Surely, there must be a squatter or two in there”, I thought.

The eerie silence was soon shattered – acoustics ensued just a few yards up the trail as a group of young individuals paraded around with music whining from one of their smartphones. A bit further away, people in other groups shouted over one another in languages we did not understand. We did not spend much time at the overlook areas for these reasons, but it is nice to see people excited for early spring and get outside. We were surprised that no one else was around when we reached Chikahoki Falls (South Norvin Green State Forest) – this called for a special activity – it was time to chomp down on a big Crispin apple! We sat across from the falls, enjoying the apple and some tasty pumpkin bread that my momma whipped up the night before – now that’s livin’.

Finally, a quick plant report: Pitch pine in higher elevation areas and various hardwoods like American Beech and Oak in other areas. Many more to unveil later once flowers and leaves emerge. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is quite abundant in the shrub layer in this section of the NJ highlands. May is typically when K. latifolia blooms, but we have yet to time it right. Another thing to look forward to and be thankful for!

 

The Duke

Life Balance, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

We are on a roll with parks, lately. If we were down in South Jersey we’d be on a Park-roll egg n cheese? Terrible, I know, but I just couldn’t resist.

Duke Island Park (located in Bridgewater, NJ) is another park that is near and dear to our hearts. The Duke is the perfect getaway when a lunch-time stroll through the lovely office-building parking lot just isn’t enough. It is quite urban; more urban than Natirar, with a different cast of characters. For instance, Natirar’s parking lots are filled with Mercedes and BMWs, while Duke’s lots are adorned with pickup trucks and various vehicles made in the 1990s with missing hubcaps. At Natirar, it is difficult to get a word out of folks, unless you pet their dog. In contrast, the other day at the Duke; a man wearing a Superman T-shirt approached me, wild-eyed, and warned that there is a buck in heat around the corner. A couple hundred yards away, a woman in a heavy sweatshirt rode her bike and rang her bike bell repeatedly, but there was no one near her. I love this park!

But, even in this urban setting, nature abounds! The Raritan River flows through the Duke as it does through Natirar Park. The river section of the park attracts waterfowl, raptors, song birds, and it is a great stop-over joint for other migrants. I remember doing a Citizen Scientist Bird Count for NJ Audubon; truly a great learning experience, despite the one time I almost didn’t make it to the bathroom. An urban setting does have its disadvantages: bathrooms are specific indoor locations. If I were to drop-trou while doing the bird count I may have ended up in Somerset County Jail.

We are lucky to have this place to enjoy and it is great to see people make use of it. Wanderings to the Duke have never let me down – a heck of a place to clear the mind, get a good laugh, hear birds sing, and surprisingly – watch for wildflowers. Spring is just around the corner and I am excited to see early bloomers like the Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) pop up here as it has in other years.