Don Bright’s Daylilies

Yesterday I responded to Art for the Journey’s call for a paint-out at a ‘secret day lily garden’ not far from where I live. I’m always up for watercolor in plein air, and who can resist a ‘secret’ garden?! I was amazed at the beautiful acres of day lilies and waterlilies in a park like setting. Our host, Don Bright, was very gracious, and full of interesting stories.

In researching the web when I got home, I learned that Bright, influenced by the bounteous floral displays of Holland, started planting his 10 acres in 1993 and now has 750,000 or so day lilies, which this week are approaching their peak bloom for the season – no wonder they are so impressive! I took lots of photos, did some sketching, and composed several haiku, which you’ll find below. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this hidden treasure – grab it with both hands!

Watching lilies wave
Waiting for the paint to dry
In Don Bright’s gardens

Daylilies in bloom
Beneath tall trees row by row
Yellow, orange and mauve

Munching on triscuits
By the dragon fly batteau
With water lilies

Caressed by the breeze
Sketching by a sunk batteau
In a summer pond

Dragon flies flitting
Thru summer water lillies
With bullfrog chorus



Virginia Blue Ridge Rail Trail

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One more hiking story! Chesterfield County does hikes all thru the year, on Thursdays and Saturdays. On January 1st I sign up for a few in the Spring when bugs aren’t quite out and wildflowers are in bloom. This is the last one I signed up for this year, and it was another excellent hike: the Blue Ridge Rail Trail. Originally the rail bed for the Blue Ridge Railway short line, it was converted to a trail between 2003 and 2010 and provides seven miles of recreation for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.

The trail head where we started is 1.7 miles along and provided parking for cars, basic facilities, and a gazebo. We hiked 2 1/2 miles or so, then returned along the same path, accompanied all the way by the Piney River! The weather was comfortable, but as summer warms the river would be great for paddling or floating. The trail is not wide, mostly forested, with occasional views of farmland (and one abandoned truck!). We crossed several bridges, including a trail-sized covered one over Naked Creek. There were a few wild flowers as you can see in the slide show. It was good to see wild roses and blackberries blooming next to each other so I could see the differences up close. Our naturalist at first thought there were also black raspberries, but showed us the plants had ridged stems which meant more blackberries. (note to self: come back in July for berries!)

We took a break at a lovely rock outcropping in the Piney, then walked a bit further to a bridge over the confluence of the Piney and Tye Rivers. If we had continued another mile or so, we would have reached the turn around at end of the trail, but we turned around at the bridge and enjoyed cool forest breezes, butterflies and the peaceful river back to the van. On the way home, we stopped in the small Virginia town of Colleen for ice cream!

If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area and interested in joining Chesterfield County for any of their hikes, check out the Chesterfield Parks and Recreation website.

Hiking the Chessie Trail


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Another hike with Chesterfield County! This time we drove a couple of hours to Buena Vista, Virginia to hike on the Chessie Trail. This is a seven-mile, year-round public access walking trail between Lexington and Buena Vista, located along the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad right of way. It was developed and is maintained by Virginia Military Institute, better known around here as VMI. Typically we’re on state park or refuge area property, so this was a little different. More specifically, part of the trail was thru a privately owned cow pasture, with the cautions that apply to that terrain!

It was a lovely day and wildflowers were blooming in profusion. We parked a ways from the actual trailhead and followed a connecting path along the Maury River to the opening gate, lined all the way with abundantly flowering dame rocket, scatterings of flea bane, and bright orange poppies. Once on the trail, the Maury on our right and sheer rock towering on our left, we hadn’t gone very far when we reached the pasture. It was full of buttercups with lovely views across the field and river, where geese were bathing with their goslings.

As we approached the next gate into woodland, we finally saw the herd under the trees cooling in the water! The trail became a fire road with butterflies flitting thru the trees and more wild flowers in the under story. We hiked about two miles then returned along the same paths. We were blessed with beautiful fluffy clouds and pleasant temperatures, with cooling breezes from time to time off the river.  It was a grand day, with a perfect ending – rolled ice cream!

Scent of wild roses
Wafts over the Chessie trail
On cool Maury breeze.

Yellow swallowtails
Flitting around buttercups –
Chessie trail springtime.

Hiking as Inspiration

This is a follow-up to my last post on Hiking the Rapidan and Staunton Rivers. One of the others on the hike asked what do I do with all the photos I take on our hikes: here’re some of their uses! The first two sketches were done on the hike, with water colors added in the studio. The third nature sketch I did from a photo you can see in the earlier post. The fourth and fifth water color sketches were also done in the studio from photos and are studies for larger works still in process.

Many years ago when I was still an eager young photographer, I was told “never stop taking pictures. Even if you don’t use them right away, you’ll have them for later inspiration.” At that time it never occurred to me that I might at some point use photos as reference for other art. As I moved into textiles, then watercolor, images captured years ago on film, and more recently on electronic media, retain their vibrancy and value.

Here’s an example of photo-influenced multi-generational inspiration. In 1953 my father was in Japan for a year with the Marines and took many slides as he traveled around the country. He mailed them home to us where we youngsters alternately endured and were fascinated by regular extended slide shows. In later he years gave talks in our school classes. In 2008 he scanned those slides and did a presentation for his retirement community. In 2011, he shared the scanned slides with me. I combined them with his notes and thru the wonders of the internet produced a book, at this point a period piece!

So, I always take lots of photos, use them, and/or save them. Who knows?!

Rapidan and Staunton Rivers Hike

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Hiking flooded trails
Accompanied by butterflies
Along the Rapidan

Spring in Virginia – my favorite time to hike with Chesterfield County. Our naturalist loads up the van and drives us all over the state – anywhere within a two hour radius, which covers from the mountains to the coast, for weekly hikes! This past week we ventured northwest of Richmond to the confluence of the Staunton and Rapidan rivers in the Shenandoah National Park. I was eager to see what wildflowers were blooming – last year at this time we saw lots of white and pink trilliums. Many were still flowering, joined by bluets, violets, false solomon’s seal, and many others. I learned several new ones:

Bellwort – the yellow bell shaped flowers hid under nodding stems, almost invisible, on six to eight inch high plants.

Wild anemone – white flowers in a thicket of  leaves.

One-flower cancer root – a strange name for a strange plant! My first glimpse of the delicate white to pink flowers was against the lower edge of a rock. Their stems appeared to be growing from green leaves. But when I looked closer, I was reminded of Indian Pipes, or ghost plant, which have no chlorophyll. And the flower stems were growing out from under the rock. Our naturalist told me they’re parasitic on the roots of other plants!

The trail was flooded in several places as a result of the large amount of rain we’re received this year. From moss growing in the streams, it looked like water had been flowing on the trails for a while. It was easy to get around the damp areas without getting muddy feet, and it was good to see the abundance of moisture.

Outdoors in Spring – pleasant temperatures, woods in bloom, and minimal bugs! Always a pleasure. And an ice cream stop on the way home! I took lots of photos (a small percentage of which you can see in the slide show), sketched a few nature journal entries, and composed the opening and closing haiku:

flit flit butterfly
thru the fern and trillium
flit flit flit away

Developing a Painting

The Bon Air Artists Annual Show is coming up this weekend! I’m one of the exhibiting artists, so I’ve been working these past few months on getting work together. I’d originally laid out the one shown above back in August, hoping to have it done for the Unitarian Gallery show in September. But I couldn’t get up the nerve to paint it – I was scared of the wires.

In February I gritted my teeth, and started. I was still worried about the telephone wires, which is what attracted me to this image in the first place, along with the reflection in the cobblestones. But how bad could it be? If it didn’t turn out, I have enough other work by then for the show.

I made good progress, as you can see from the progressive images above, up until time to do the wires. So I let it set for awhile, and took it to the Bon Air Artists critique in early March. By that time I’d penciled in the lines. Suggestions I received where: leave as is; use a pen; use a twig. I thought on it some more and decided I wanted to paint the lines, but was unsure of how even I could make them. Finally I pulled a thin bead of water with a small rigger brush, then touched the water with a water soluble pen. Ink shot in both directions! This is cool! So I kept going. I’m pleased with how it came out!

Hope you like it. If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia are, please join us for the show this Sunday – admission is free. See you there.

Erie Bags for Trip to Ireland

My sister and I are going to Ireland the end of this Summer! I’m so excited! The challenge for our June postcard swap was ‘perchance to dream’ and I wanted to do Dreaming of Ireland based on sketches I did the end of last year. My first thought was a thatched cottage, but the more I thought about it the more complex it seemed to be. Perhaps a celtic cross? I tried sketching one and carving a stamp last October and had difficulty with the symmetry. This time I used a ruler and came closer; then scanned it in and adjusted with Powerpoint. Much better. Now I had a pattern and the postcard followed easily.

Maybe another attempt at a stamp? Yes! That worked well, so I moved on to copies of small celtic circle patterns – also acceptable. I’d been thinking of making several small lined bags to take with me on the trip to have on hand for simple gifts and the stamps were a good place to start. I did some discharge and acrylic printing with them on fabric, as I’d done in June of 2011 for the Stinkbug postcards (see blog post from that period, photo above, and youtube video of the process).  From the fabric prints and silk scraps I made lined bags using the pattern in my January 26, 2018 blog post.  All done!