Friday, March 30, 2012

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

           Photo by Tom Persing

To me, "cutleaf" is descriptive of its leaves. "Wort" is an Old English word meaning "plant" so that part of the name is also obvious. "Tooth" is not so obvious. I have never dug up a toothwort but all the sources I have looked at assure me that there is a toothlike appearance to its segmented rhizome. My two oldest wildflower fieldguides identify it as "Dentaria laciniata". This is its former scientific name. The old Genus, "Dentaria" refers to those toothlike segments on the rhizome.

Paracelsus, a Swiss physician and alchemist who lived from 1491 to 1541, developed a philosophy called "The Doctrine of Signatures". Its premise was that plant shapes and colors were signs that these plants would cure diseases and problems suggested by the appearance of the plants. Thus, because the rhizome of the toothwort resembles teeth, it is useful for curing problems of the teeth. Jakob Bohme, a German mystic who lived from 1575 to 1624, suggested that God marked objects such as plants with a "signature" to suggest their purposes for man. The Doctrine of Signatures continued to be a popular belief for centuries, especially among herbalista.

There is no scientific evidence that the uses of plants are determined by their appearances.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Meant to Do My Work Today

The first line of this poem by Richard Le Gallienne has been running around in my mind ever since this beautiful early spring arrived. Click on the picture to enlarge it and read the poem more easily.

I have been painting although I have no painting ready to discuss on this blog. On Thursday, I painted "en plein air" for the first time this spring. A friend and I met at Hobart Urban Nature Reserve. The day was HOT (81 degrees Farenheit)and the sun was bright. On Saturday, two friends and I painted at Andy's Garden, a large plant nursery in Troy. We sat around a display of Bleeding hearts, painted and talked.   Again, I don't have the painting to the point where I want to share it.

When I haven't been painting with friends, I have been walking with Tom at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary and Charleston Falls. Yesterday, Tom and I spent about an hour on Redbud Trail watching the downy white Great Horned Owlet in the hole in a tree growing in the ravine below the trail. The best Tom was able to get with his Canon EOS was the owlet peeking at him with one eye. The day was cold and windy but sunny.

And here is the owl a bit closer.
For some reason, blogger kept turning the digital photo in the computer sideways even after I had turned it so I resorted to printing a photo, scanning it in and showing it to you via this method. That probably accounts for the poor quality.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 19, 2012...a walk at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary

Tom and I decided it was long past time to make our first visit of the year to Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary. We wondered if we would find any Harbinger-of-Spring since the Purple Cress was already blooming at Charleston Falls. We were in luck. We found a few Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) although we had missed the height of its season. This is a photo from last year.
One of the special plants growing at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary is Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). If a twig is scratched, it releases a lovely spicy fragrance. The flowers which have no petals are tiny, hard for me to photograph with my little camera so I was pleased Tom was with me to take this photo of the tiny blossoms with his Canon. The bushes were in full bloom so there was a yellow haze about eye level throughout the woods.
And here are more plants that we found. We found both waterleafs...Virginia (Hydrophyllum virginanum)
And...Appendaged (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum)
We found lots of Purple Cress (Cardamine douglassii). This must be the perfect year for that plant.
We found the first Hepatica that we have seen. Most of the Hepatica that I see in this area is round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana). We have had reports that it has been blooming at Brukner Nature Center for over a week.
This is one of my favorite photos that Tom took. It is even possible to see the veins in the white petals of this Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).
And we found three surprises. All are in the photo below that I took.
The Dutchmen's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) was a surprise because it wasn't blooming and it is blooming at Charleston Falls. That could be partly because the Charleston Falls patch is in a sunnier location.

The ragged "umbrella" leaf is Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). I think of it as one of the later spring flowers. On Nature Awareness hikes I always tell the children it is called Mayapple because it blooms in early May and has little green "apples" on it before May is over. There were lots of Mayapples with their leaves unfurled, not just this one. And below the Mayapple  is a Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata). It usually blooms when the Large-flowered Trillium blooms. Here is a close look at a Wild Blue Phlox plant.
I am fascinated by wildflowers for multiple reasons. Many of them have unique life cycles and interesting adaptations. In addition, they often have legends associated with them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring...What a Difference a Day Makes

Saturday morning was foggy and a little overcast when Jeanne and I started off down the trail at Charleston Falls. The bush honeysuckle leaves were popping out. This is not a happy thing. Bush honeysuckle is an alien species which crowds out the native plants. The park staff is constantly eradicating it by a variety of methods. In our part of Ohio, keeping the honeysuckle in check seems to be the best we can do. But as we approached the falls, we saw other leaves.
The Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) is the earliest native tree to open its leaves in the Miami Valley woods. Lots of the buds were not yet open. if you enlarge the photo below you can see the large whitish leaf scars that last year' leaves left when they fell.
Just beyond the falls and beyond the creek which feeds it, I was amazed by this sight. Usually, I see other wildflowers before I see Purple Cress (Cardamine douglassii).
As we walked on Redbud Valley Trail above the falls, we found leaves of Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and also Bloodroot buds(Sanguinaria canadensis).
At the bottom of the trail we found a few leaves of Dutchmen's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). By the time we had climbed up out of the ravine, the sun was out and the fog had condensed on the spiders' webs.

The walk was a lovely one, even though we saw only a few flowers. We knew spring was on its way.

The next morning, Stephen and I discovered that spring had truly sprung. Stephen spotted the first sign.
Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica). Once Stephen found the first couple, we found them everywhere we looked. But the next flower we found was more amazing. Jeanne and I looked for Dutchmen's Breeches but all we found were a few leaves. This is what Stephen and I found.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Portrait and Figure Studio, March 15, 2012

Here is the model for the session at Troy-Hayner Cultural Center. And below is my interpretation...

The striped object on her lap is a purse. I worked two half hour sessions on this and decided to stop because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. During the second half hour, I had begun working on getting more definition but I know I want to do even more definition.

Since I haven't come to the studio session for some time, I painted on Fredrix Watercolor Canvas which makes adjustments very easy. The strokes I wasn't happy with I could wipe out with water. However, when I go back and repaint, the underlying layer lifts if there is too much water on my brush. Adjustments become an issue of "erasing" and then repainting.

Back home, I checked proportions. The legs from knee to ankle are a bit too short. The hand compared to the size of the face was close to "right". The foot could have been a bit larger. I wasn't particularly pleased with the face. The proportions aren't too bad but the expression isn't close enough to that of the model.

People come in all sizes and shapes as you know. The rule of thumb is that people are 7 1/2 heads high (or sometimes 8 heads high for adult males).   Common errors in drawing people are drawing the head too large and drawing the hands and feet too small.  People vary a lot in actual proportions so the 7 1/2 heads or 8 heads is only an approximation, a starting point.  Also, proportions from birth to adulthood vary with age as well as with the individual.  Every person  is unique.

A good book for learning proportions is Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. Even though the original copyright date is 1963, it is still available from And, it is inexpensive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Using Salt on Watercolors

I just finished teaching Adult Watercolor for the Absolute Beginner, six weeks long, two hours each week. At the last session, I showed them what would happen if they sprinkled salt on wet watercolor.
This is a technique that watercolor artists often use to get the effect of falling snow, or a starry sky or flowers in a grassy meadow. It could be used in many other ways as well. The effect that is achieved depends on how wet the watercolor is and the type of paper being used. If you decide to try this on a painting, check out the technique first on a scrap of paper of the same type you intend to paint on and note the wetness of the paper. Here is a section of the mostly yellow example where the paper was very wet.
The bit of green in the corner was a bit drier and would make a nice field sprinkled with lots of white flowers. I had some unidentified paper at home which I experimented with yesterday. I am not sure it was watercolor paper. It might have been a cheap brand. Whatever it was, it soaked up the water quickly. This is the result.
This small dark bit looks like the rough scales of a reptile or maybe the rough bark of a tree.
I like the way the texture varies in the watercolor strokes in this portion.
A few years ago I played around with salt and made a dozen or more abstracts using salt. From them I extracted bits and pieces to create this fantasy landscape.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nesting Great Horned Owls

I heard by way of the county parks grapevine that the great horned owls were nesting again in the dead tree where they have nested a number of years. I can't remember how many. I do remember that they weren't in this hollow last year. The professional photographers are back to watching the site with their big cameras and clicking away happily. At the moment an adult is sitting on eggs and staring at the photographers who are staring at it. I took the above shot with my FinePix JZ300 Fujifilm camera. I zoomed in as much as possible before taking the photo. Not too impressive. I went home and put the photo into our computer and enlarged the sitting owl.
Not too shabby. I took the picture in the afternoon. There were no professional photographers there so I was able to stand in the ideal location. However the sun was shining almost directly at me. I stood partly behind a small tree to protect the camera view a bit.

Tom is hoping to get out to the site and use his Canon to take some shots. We think he can get there by a circling around on another trail. The most direct trail is rock strewn.  It is impossible for him to drive his scooter on it. But as some of you know from personal experience, a few rocks aren't going to stop Tom from his goal.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blithe Spirit at the Troy Civic Theatre

Sunday afternoon I went to the Troy Civic Theatre's production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the first time I have seen Blithe Spirit since I was a sophomore in college where the theater majors put on the play. All I could remember was that I had laughed a lot at the shenanigans that resulted when a man's former wife came back and haunted him and his present wife. Because the second wife could not see or hear the spirit of the first wife, the poor husband was between a rock and a hard place, no matter what he said to either wife.
All of the actors did well at their roles. As always, Tina Hayes as Elvira, the first wife, now dead, made good use of her mobile face. She doesn't have to say a word to express her opinions and feelings. Krissy Barker, as Charles' present wife, was a good contrast in character. Betty Scission, as Madame Arcati, managed to be serious and funny at the same time. I have seen Betty in other roles. This one was entirely different from any of the others. Caleb Mcgill, as the husband, was seriously distraught by the whole situation. Some of the roles were a bit of a challenge such as Jackie Chamberlin's part as Violet Bradman. I know she is really nothing like Violet. The marceled waves in her hair were a wonder. The theater is lucky to have Barry Van Kirk, a professional hair stylist and make-up expert, as one of their volunteers. Below is the list of the Production Crew. You will note that the actors aren't prima donnas. They do whatever is needed to create an interesting play. If you live in the Troy area, I hope you plan to go to Blithe Spirit this coming weekend. You will laugh and laughter is good for our souls.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Birds Are Returning

Yesterday was a beautiful day for the last day of February. The sun shone and the temperature reached 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoon. We drove up to Lake St. Mary's, a lake dug out when the canals were put in. That's a story for another day.

Birds are beginning to migrate north through our area. We saw a few American coots, Hooded Mergansers, Lesser scaups, Ruddy ducks, and Gadwalls.  We were hoping to see a Common loon.  The only time we are lucky enough to see them is early in the spring and then only for a short time.

Tom took his favorite field guide.


Tom likes this page when we are identifying sparrows.

And I took my favorite field guide.

I like the easy guide to the various types of birds inside the front and back covers.

We had two other books in the van as well.

This one is great because it eliminates all birds except the ones we can expect to find.

The Sibley Guide to Birds is a little larger than a standard guide, too large to carry easily in a pocket but it has detailed desciptions which are a great help when we are in a quandary about what we are seeing.

We haven't given up on seeing a Common Loon this spring so we'll be going out birding again shortly.