Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Imperial Greenery

charcoal pencil
I'm blinded and enchanted by all the color green that I see. Where was it four months ago? Where does it hide: all folded, origami-like within the seeds in the soil and as packets of genetic information in the woody integument of so many bare and clattering branches? But here we are, inheritors of a vast green world that simply takes over everything. Every substrate is vulnerable.

This is a study of the tip of the island below the dam. It's mostly weeds and poison ivy. I wouldn't recommend exploring there when the water gets low enough to cross over. No sir. Not unless you're too young to know better then I applaud your imagination and adventurous spirit!

As I drew this greenery I would sneak a look over at the dam and occasionally spy a fish trying to leap up over the dam. Talk about adventurous! It's the same spirit that flows through all this lush growth!


Saturday, May 26, 2012


I drew this sheet of robins while having coffee at Peet's this morning. A blank piece of paper, a black litho crayon and a red pencil equal robins. The place was crowded with weekend cyclists and Wellesley's finest catching up with each other. A few cranks and academic types like me, rounded out the throng. Perhaps we're all just robins playing mind games with each other and the worms just under the grass.

But, getting back to that blank piece of paper: I draw all the time. I've made it into a compulsion, an addiction of sorts. It makes me feel happy and at peace if I've put in an honest effort. That's all that matters. A shark has to keep moving they say. So, have I learned how to draw robins? Did I pass the test? My daughter who is 15 and is wise in the ways of the world says that Jackson Pollack just doesn't work for her because it looks so easy. "I could do that" she says. She actually has (sort of) in a fit of decorative creativity.

OK, so I'll just throw this out there (it's completely speculation) Pollack's work is Art because he was acquainted with drawing and representation. He knew there was always something more to the game. Once you become facile and draw a lot (compulsively even), the process of drawing and evaluating your drawings tugs you down the rabbit hole of why and why not. It leads to abstraction. It leads to taking some sort of stand. The artist tries to put himself into the work and leave it there as a testimony to the particular uniqueness of witnessing to his own existence as flawed or lopsided it may be.

I drew this image on the walk home: a lone cormorant drying out and occasionally preening its feathers. I was there. The bird was there. The lake was there. It was all real. I didn't imagine it. And now, I can draw these birds from memory (and have). This drawing is some combination of the real bird and the imagined  bird then! Observation and Imagination. Gathering Data and Analyzing Information. Practicing and Performing. Indistinguishable!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Hungry Heron

This Great Blue Heron was feeding just below the dam. Imagine, his ears are filled with the white noise of the cascade and it has to tip its head this way and that to see the fish in the river. While one eye peers into the swirling water the other is glaring skyward --here he's saw a few people just above at the railing at the top of the retaining wall and has craned his neck to get a better look.

Sometimes he gets spooked and swoops over to the small island in the middle of the river below the dam. But this time he was agitated and returned quickly to hunting. Soon he had a small bluegill in his beak. This fish was a manageable size that was soon on its way, still wiggling, down his long throat. Then it was time to retreat to the island for digestion and drying out.

On the island, the Great Blue Heron flares out its wings to dry and warm up and imitates a statue of a heron. 
several studies of the heron
(graphite, conté pencil)

quick studies of the heron
(graphite, conté pencil)

Great Blue Heron, South Natick, MA May 23, 2012
(charcoal, conté pencil)

Here's a quick sketch of the Great Blue Heron using the water
and the natural buoyancy of the fish to position it in his mouth.
I came to the dam today and the heron was back at work. Maybe this will be his summer hunting ground.

When I approached, he flew over to the safety of the island but was soon prowling the currents in the middle of the river. A mother and her young child observed from the railing. After they left to look for frogs and turtles, the heron caught a truly large fish; a bass or trout that must have been 12-14 inches long. Somehow, it managed to position the fish just so and in one long protracted gulp, swallowed it. It looked a little stunned as gravity allowed breakfast to slide down to the harsh chemical factory that is a heron's stomach.

Because of some driftwood lodged at the top of the dam this Spring, an eddy has formed at the base of the dam. Fish congregate here before attempting to scale the dam. If the heron doesn't eat them all, a few will discover the fish ladder (in the background) and spawn further upstream.
(charcoal, conté pencil)

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Prince of a Frog


Mother's Day Bullfrog
May 13, 2012
conté pencil
Early Sunday morning: The South Natick Dam has been quiet so far this spring. I've seen a few pairs of mallards; they visit and then move on. The fishermen and fishing families are out so I guess there are fish in the river. The Great Blue herons have no predictable hunting pattern yet as far as I can tell. But the trees are all leafed out and small birds are making their nests and the place is rather noisy with all their flitting and chasing. The yellow irises are blooming along the retaining wall above the dam. And that is where I spied this patient bullfrog yesterday morning. This being Massachusetts, perhaps he waited, in vain, for me to kiss him and thus be transformed. Sorry Monsieur Frog, one miraculous transformation is all you get!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One Fish, Two Fish

Spawning Bass, Leach Brook, Natick, MA

I own waterfront property! Well, I do when there's water flowing and this year, there has been enough flow lately can accommodates several spawning Large Mouth Bass (I'm not positive that's what kind of fish these are). I have to do a bit more research to determine the species but they are big and brown and very conspicuous in the shallow water where Leach Brook flows under the lane. The fish are a mottled brown color and are approximately 12-18 inches long. They thrash around in the shallow stream and then rest sometimes side by side with another fish.

The local kids are fascinated by them. The small bridge over the brook is kid-magnet and all the cars have to slow down as the children muck around or drop sticks on one side of the road and race over to see them emerge from the culvert on the other side. And then, voilà! there's this big prehistoric blimp of a fish lumbering along. It's all very exciting.

The fishermen are out by the South Natick Dam and Pleasant Street too. It's a real pecking order: there will be a hatch of some flying gnats, then the purist fly fishermen emerge like baseball players from an Iowa cornfield. Then the bait casters come down to the park early on their way to work or on a Sunday afternoon. Their families picnic while the anglers ply the waters. After all this there are the inevitable styrofoam bait containers, used tissues, malt liquor cans and the occasional young brown trout that wasn't released from the hook soon enough. Sad.
Brown Trout, South Natick Dam, MA

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