Water Shrew Habitat (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

6 July finds me alone for most of the day to paint a little waterfall on a tributary to Canada Brook in the Caledonia Gorge PNA, New Brunswick.  On a rainy day last week Don took a photo of this creek with torrents of water rushing over the mossy rocks, but now the water is quietly trickling under most of the rocks, and only falling noisily in a few places like this.  I have chosen the larger of two falls side by side. The splash and wet moss from the smaller can be seen at bottom right. This is near the location of the Bio-blitz's only Water Shrew. They are not vulnerable to the kinds of traps that mammalogists set, so no one knows how rare or common they may be. Fred and I have caught them occasionally all across the country in minnow traps set for salamanders.

A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly courses across my scene and lands on a Hobblebush just above my head. There must be birds about too, but I can't hear their songs over the rushing of water. Choosing a spot has been difficult, partly because I'm not sure where the sun and shadows will be
- so first I had to plan my composition structurally rather than tonally, and then did a pencil sketch in my journal to block in the tones when the sun dapples were just right.  Then I drew lightly in pencil on my canvas. Finally confident of what my painting should look like nearly an hour later, I begin putting paint to canvas.

12:00 I have just finished photographing an orange Arion slug, about 4.5 cm long, crawling about through the moss in the splash zone. In my painting it is visible a little to the left of the waterfall. It crawled from moss-tip to moss-tip, but I couldn't see any evidence of grazing. Some of its time is spent down among the bases of the moss, where they attach to the rock, but I can't see what it's doing down there.

12:30 checked the slug again and it was 3 cm from the waterfall. It was crawling over a delicate new shoot from the growing tip of a moss stem, and in order to see if it had eaten it, I pushed the slug aside and ... whoops! It tumbled into the torrent.  Another dispersal event, though nothing new for this population.

16:00 packing up to head upstream toward the forest track, away from water noise into quieter woods where I'll be able to hear if anyone is calling me....


  1. Very nice! But I can't be sure of seeing the slug. Is it that little thing smack-dab in the center of the painting? Or is it the larger orange slug shape up close to the top of the painting, above (but "a little to the left") of the waterfall?

  2. That yellow-orange leaf on the mossy rock above and to the left of the waterfall does look rather like a contracted slug, doesn't it? The slug itself is much smaller, and as you say, "smack-dab in the center" - well, very slightly to the left of the exact centre. The front end of the slug is curved downward.


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