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!

Renwick: No Spectators: the Art of Burning Man

I enjoyed a bus trip yesterday to the National Gallery in Washington D.C., with a couple of side trips. My favorite was to the Renwick Gallery, near the White House, which has up an exhibit of sculptures from the Burning Man festival held each August in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Absolutely phenomenal. It will be up until January 2019. Put it on your schedule!!

Memorial Quilt – Gloves and Handkerchiefs

In April of 2016 my mother passed away, and two weeks later her next younger sister followed her. Last fall my cousin called and asked me if I would make a quilt from her mother’s gloves and handkerchiefs. Any size, any time. I was very fond of my Aunt, and my cousin, so I said, “sure!”, thinking it would be wall size and not take very long.

I thought about it for six months. Did some searches. Thought some more. Then started laying the gloves and handkerchiefs out in different patterns. You see above what I came up with! Thanks to inspiration from Susan Lenz’s Handed Down wall hanging, and design assistance from my husband. It’s 52″ x 65″ – almost twin size, and it took much longer than I had anticipated, but I’m very happy with it!

This is what I did: Layered a backing, batting, and sheet then placed the handkerchiefs on the sheet. Basted it all together and quilted. Transferred photos to fabric using T-shirt transfer material. Laid out the gloves and photos and pinned them down. Made two test pieces to decide on how to attach the gloves and photos.  Fused the photos, and hand stitched the gloves and tatting around each photo. Bound the quilt.

What I’d do differently if I ever do this again: Not use upholstery grade fabric for the backing – it was way too thick and precluded machine stitching the gloves and lace. Make it smaller, max of 24″x24″.

It was an interesting project, and I think my cousin will love it!