Sunday, May 8, 2011

Festival of the Invasives, Japanese Knotweed (oil on canvas, 5 x 7 in.)

6 May finds me sitting by the north west wall of my little red "Pipers House" in Bishops Mills, where the  candy-pink banded spring shoots of Japanese Knotweed are exploding through the moss-covered knobs that are the junctions of taproots and rhizomes.

The Rhubarb got away from me this spring without being painted as emerging shoots. Now I'm waiting impatiently for Asparagus, which is still sleeping underground -  but the Knotweed is showing itself instead, poking up pinkly in festive-looking, thumb-thick shoots about the dry, thin-walled tubes of last year's stems.

The Japanese Knotweed has been here long before we moved into Bishops Mills in 1978. When we had Goats it was their favorite food, diverting them from raiding the garden, but in recent years the patches have expanded.  Since he put up our Knotweed page, Fred has had lots of inquiries about control, so this year we're going to try to suppress this vigorous invasive alien at our place once and for all!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mudpuppy Mussel (watercolour, approx. 3 x 4 in.) SOLD

The last of my watercolours of fresh water mussels for this contract with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the one closest to our hearts, because its host is the Mudpuppy. Kemptville Creek, where we do Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills would be a paradise indeed if this species occurred here. It The range gets into Ontario at the extreme south west of the province. 

The recovery plan for this species advises increasing the population of Mudpuppies as hosts for the larval glochidia, and an astute aquarist at Waterloo University is designing artificial dens for trial deployment as Mudpuppy nest sites in the Sydenham River where this species occurs, but Mudpuppies are less abundant than they are in Oxford Mills.

These are some of the notes I made in the process of painting the Mudpuppy Mussel:  I have lightened and re-drawn the edges of the shapes that I see in and through the inner valve, and then softened them with my kneaded eraser. The shell is quite thin, and presents an additional problem from those where there is only reflected light to show. As I apply the peachy glow of light that is transmitted through the upper part of the shell, I worry about how bright it is, and how much it overwhelms the actual colour and surface detail of the nacre. In the Epioblasmas and a little in the earlier species I showed as much translucency as I saw, and realized that it can be used as an indicator of shell thinness. 

This is the thinnest shell of them all, but I am afraid that the transmitted light is too bright!  I lay my pencil against the top edge of the shell to cut out the back lighting. Now the shell's inner surface is shaded at the top, and it is all a silky greyish purple, with very little peachy colour visible in the colour of the nacre, mostly on the right hand side. Then I move the pencil a little over a centimetre away and anchor it with the kneaded eraser. That cuts out the light that shines from the window onto the upcurved backside of the shell, and the only light that is transmitted through the shell now is reflected light from the cardboard substrate. I decide to go with that. I can see both the warmth of light through the shell and the colour and surface detail of the nacre.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eden Mills Roots (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

15 April found us in Eden Mills, Ontario, walking the new shoreline of the Eramosa River upstream of the old dam, which no longer holds back its full height of water.  Since I painted "Cedar By the Spillway" on 9 April last year, much of the water has gone underground through a series of cracks in the limestone bedrock, that are locally called "sinkholes".

Only the tips of these ancient drowned Cedar stumps were showing above the surface of the water last year. They were probably cut when the land was cleared long ago.  I like the sinuous shapes, and how the blue sky reflects on the shaded surfaces of the ghostly wood.

Walking here where the water used to be, I step carefully over what initially look like old water-swept rags, but which are beginning to send up tight yellow Coltsfoot blooms from the raggy corners that appear to be stuck in cracks among the flat rocks, the clotted, darkened scraps and remnants of last years broad leaves swept in a downstream direction by spring freshets.  I took several photos of these, enjoying the contrasting yellow flower buds, water-smoothed stones, and crusty rags of last years leaf, but decided to paint the old stumps instead, looking upstream away from the now dry spillway and the village of Eden Mills.