Strange Weather in January

Art, Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure

Weather is strange in the mid-Atlantic region these days. December felt like a very warm October and today little Mine Brook filled into a raging river thanks to a long period of rain. Being outdoors in the rain can be fun too, but I decided to make progress on a new watercolor landscape instead (teaser shown above). The painting is a reminder that seasonably cold days are ahead!

A few hours later, I felt the urge to get outside – a.s.a.p.! It drizzled on steadily, but rays of sunlight were beginning to peak through the heavy gray blue purple clouds. I needed to run so that I may drink delicious craft beer later. When I hit the road the sun started to overpower the clouds, but the rain kept falling in the now luminous afternoon.

The sun was now behind me as I ran up the hill. I was at the perfect place at the perfect time – in the presence of a meteorological phenomenon. The Hokus Pokus know as reflection, refraction, and dispersion gave birth to an amazing double-rainbow! It was the most vivid rainbow I had ever seen and I ran around grinning up at the sky, of course.

The rain had finally stopped. The air smelled of great sweetness with a hint of clean cotton, grassy freshness, wet earth, and smoke from wood, burning somewhere not far away. It was heaven on earth, but the sun was now sinking below the trees in the distance. It would soon be over and I started to run toward home.

A dozen Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) circled up above, searching the landscape. A half a dozen more of them were all perched in one tree. Edward Abbey wrote that vultures are philosophical birds, though he was referring to the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). Abbey’s vulture thinks: “where there is life, there is death”. I think: what a day to be alive!

Natirar Upstairs

Art, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

Thought I’d share another one from the Natirar. This scene can be found in what I call the “upstairs” section of the park. Not too far from the entrance is a path that takes you over the Raritan river and up toward an open grassy area, where this big gray barn resides. It has been a “good” winter, so this area is almost entirely covered in snow and ice. Only a few random twigs and grasses emerge from underneath, and sway back and forth in the cold evening air. I have seen wild turkey in the area, so I thought that they might like to wander around the big barn once in a while in search of a meal. Who knows what else goes on when we are not around…

Snow Melt

Art, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

One morning before work I went out to Natirar Park to do a site assessment for my ecology class. I puttered around in the frozen field for a while and then I made my way down to the Raritan River to jot down a few more notes. A great blue heron patiently waited on the partially frozen section of the river and it probably wondered why I showed up and when I would go away. I know that’s what I’d be thinking if I were a great blue heron. I got what I needed for class and high-tailed it out of there before I completely lost feeling in my fingers. I rolled up to the stop sign and I noticed a bright red barn across the street. I thought it looked interesting so I snapped a quick photo before making a left turn out of the park. The following weekend I tried to recreate the scene on paper, minus that awful street running through the middle. I took out the street and put in a field where the snow had almost melted away. I didn’t like the way the first attempt came out so I tried it again. Here are the results.

Its like one of those electronic games you play at the bar trying to figure out the difference between the 2 pictures….

Attempt #1

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Attempt #2

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Mine Brook in the Other Direction

Art, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

In a previous post, I have included a painting of mine brook, late in the day, facing north. The image above is a quick watercolor sketch in the other direction. I was looking down from the 2nd floor apartment building and I only had about half an hour before the light would change. The daylight was so intense and it really lit up the big yellow house and the two red cars as well as the hill in the back of the house. A nice little picture, but I had covered up too much of the white snow to create the effect I was ultimately shooting for. In watercolor, once you cover up the white paper, you can never get it back. Applying white paint just doesn’t look right. This might be another one that deserves a 2nd attempt in the future.

Suburban Snow

Art, Life Balance, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

Some say that the suburbs are boring. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t been bored since I was a teenager. But, I do think that the suburbs are annoying. You can’t even enjoy a quiet walk. Frantic people in their Mercedes and BMWs speed up and down quiet streets in a rush to worship their television, or maybe they’re on an important journey to the mall. But, I think beauty exists everywhere; even in the suburbs. After a good snow suburbia or any other place transforms into a beautiful new landscape. Trees, houses, and roads are blanketed in this magnificent cold, fresh, white powder, and you can’t help but feel a sense of mystery and wonder. I don’t mean to sound like Aladdin going on a magic carpet ride, but the feeling is coincidentally similar.

I am thankful for a few good recent snow storms in my neighborhood, which inspired this painting. The house on the right seems to be a “second home”; the light is never on, and there is hardly any sign of life other than an occasional pileated woodpecker in that big old oak tree. On one night in July this year, this place was rockin with about 40 strong, and that was the only time I have ever seen a human soul here. I could be totally off the mark of course, as this might be the residence of Count Dracula. No, perhaps it’s Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Oh, I guess I’ll never know.

The photograph above of Spiderman’s Aunt’s place left a bit of room for painting imagination….

At Home On Mine Brook

Art, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

Mine Brook (above) is a brook that runs parallel (for a while) with the street I live on (today), and flows into the North Branch of the Raritan River. Attempting to re-create a place that is local is always more special than doing a scene that I have traveled to once (or twice), especially, if I don’t consider that landscape “home”. For instance, looking at a painting of a desert may not resonate with me the way it would with a resident of a desert landscape. I’m accustomed to hardwood trees like oak, maple, and hickory; rivers, streams, and slight rocky elevations (Piedmont); fields, swamps, and marshes in the lowlands. These types of landscape characteristics have engrained themselves in me as signs of home. This is not to say that people can’t find a new home in a new landscape. The painting of Mine Brook is embellished, of course, as it is the artist’s responsibility. In reality, the brook is more like a tiny trickle, which gives the impression that it will dry up by next morning. Yet, it continues to trickle on and after a good rain the brook comes alive with a strong steady flow once again…