Saturday, June 28, 2008

Denali Tundra II - Final

I received a good critique from Jane in the WcW group, who suggested glazing a rose color over the back two land masses as they seemed a bit "raw" with the colors of green I mixed. So, I did that and now this is done. I like the way it toned that area down. All of those extra sets of eyes are so important to me. I did this one in three long sessions and after one looks at a painting for that long you stop "seeing" things that you need to see for self-critique.

When we were in Alaska it was too early for much of the foliage to have started budding out and there were no flowers. I was going to use my imagination to paint a Spring in Alaska scene so one of the other Watercolor Workshop members, who had been in these same places last year in June, sent some photos to show what the wildflowers looked like. It was so nice to see those and I was able to more accurately represent Spring in Alaska.

The reviews are good on this one!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Aubrey's intelligence

I can't believe this, three entries into my blog in one day! But, I have to share this with those of you who read my book to Aubrey. Patrick, Christine and Aubrey were flying in to Dallas Fort Worth Airport today and Patrick asked Aubrey, "do you know where we are?". Since she had read my book about the "big planes at the airport" she said "Alaska?". Isn't that just priceless? I am sure that shows a high degree of retention and intelligence to relate airports, big planes and such to Alaska for my granddaughter! Life is good.

Denali Tundra II - Final WIP

This is still on the board, pending comment and critique. My goal was to not be anemic in my color choices and have more dramatic value shifts. I will be cleaning up the upper cloud edges on that right side that I lost when I darkened the sky there.

The image size of this is 17 x 26 and it was painted on 140-lb Arches paper.

The Newest Art Community - Blogdom!

After receiving a helpful critique/comment on my June 15 submission of the Zuke Blossom painting, I am struck by the value of the artist community that has blossomed through Blogdom. Due to my longtime membership in the online critique group Watercolor Workshop, when various members decided to venture into the world of online art blogs I had to try it for myself. I have so enjoyed having my own blog and felt like it improves my art to put it out there for the world to see, even though I may not feel I did everything right it is there in all honesty for us to see, goofs and all. I can go back and see what my thoughts were on that painting last year, see what I said I would like to improve and check on myself to see if I did make the necessary changes to improve that particular skill a year later.

This morning I received a comment on the June 15 submission, Zuke Blossom. It was from another artist, Nicholas Simmons ( ). Since I don't know him, I checked out his blog and found he has shown his watercolor paintings worldwide and is a gifted artist, conducts workshops, and has a wonderful grasp of watercolor. In reading some of his blog entries, I also looked at his links sidebar and saw the name of Sandy Maudlin, whose blog I read daily. So, that is probably where he came to my blog; through hers as I have been corresponding with her through her blog, gleaning information about painting on Yupo paper, about which she is so well-versed! I am struck by the circular nature of the art community in Blogdom, what an asset to our creative journeys. It does seem very much a community to hear from people you do not know, probably will never have the opportunity to meet and yet care enough to comment on your work. What giving natures artists have!

Another interesting aspect to this is that I subscribe to Watercolor Artist magazine and had just read the article in the August 2008 issue exploring framing and matting of watercolors. Nicholas contributed his thoughts to this article and he was published in the magazine. Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Denali Tundra - Following critique

Following critique by the WcW group, it was suggested that the water appeared to be tilting down toward the left so I followed the suggestions of Gina and Janet and made a few changes to lessen that tilt. Better? I think so...valid critiques are just invaluable when our eyes don't see those things!

Denali Tundra

This was my first attempt at painting an Alaska landscape. Since there were no cactus or desert plants to be found there, I had little experience of how to paint this, but it was sure fun trying. The landscapes there were so interesting, with the cool glacial colors of the mountains and the warm tundra grasses and trees.
I took photos along the way of doing this painting, and if you would be interested in seeing the WIPs, please go to to see them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ernie Goes to Alaska

As some of you know, I have been creating a storybook for our granddaughter, Aubrey, telling how Ernie (of Sesame Street Fame) went to Alaska with us and had his photo taken at many of the interesting places we visited. I have sent the bound book to her, she has not received it yet, and I am hoping she enjoys it as much as I enjoyed creating it for her. This was my first baby step into the world of book publishing and was quite a project to attempt.

If you would be interested in seeing how this turned out, please click on the following link to see the pdf version of the book.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Zuke Blossom

This was a project painting for this month with the Watercolor Workshop group. It was a great photo to work with. We have two projects each month, one is to paint from a specified theme using your own photo and another is to have everyone paint from the same photo. This was June's project for painting from the same photo.

Now, on to painting the theme project painting....painting fruits and veggies of the season.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tidal Marsh

I blogged this painting as a work-in-progress before we left on our Alaska adventure and finally "finished" it yesterday. It felt so good to be holding a paint brush again after more than a month. I could have done some different things with the foreground such as adding more detail and colors here and there, but I am glad the water turned out as well as it did since that was my original inspiration to do this painting - getting better at painting water scenes. I like the tree line, also, but the foreground kinda leaves me feeling blah. Next time maybe?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tom and Susan on last day of tours

Here we are on our last day of touring through Alaska. Mt. McKinley is in the background, as usual mostly behind clouds.

I have added some of the Alaska photos I took to a slideshow here: if you would like to see them. If you prefer to see them one by one, just click back to my photos on the upper left corner of the slideshow screen.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Conclusion of Blog entries from Alaska

This will be it, folks, for my blog entries from Alaska. I will organize all the other hundreds (okay, thousands!) of photos and put them on Flickr for you to see. When that gets done, I will put the link here for you to follow if you are interested in seeing more of our Alaska experience. Entering these in the blog this afternoon was a reminder of how wonderful the cruise was and how I don't want to remember our Alaska experience only while associating it with the rotten way it all ended for us. It truly was a dream trip of a lifetime.

May 22 - McKinley Lodge and Wagon Ride

Since we had such a busy two weeks, on this last day of touring we decided it would be best to take a calm wagon ride. There wasn't a lot of excitement but we did see some nice scenery from above the McKinley Lodge and it was something different to do. These horses were huge!
Tom says he is showing Ernie a reindeer, but I think it is the other way around and the reindeer thinks that Ernie is a carrot! The cowboy and cowgirls were really swell about holding Ernie for good photos, even hooking him up for a ride on the horse.
One of the cowgirls showing off a set of moose antlers, they were enormous. They are shed each year, so this is just one year's growth!
This cowboy gave the demo for the obligatory gold panning when one is in Alaska. I have two cards now with the gold flecks I found, won't pay for the trip but it was fun to do, anyway.

May 21 - Denali to Talkeetna

This Mama and yearling trio was just wandering along the street in Denali National Park as we were leaving and going to the train depot. We rode the train from Denali to Talkeetna on this day. Talkeetna was the Alaska town where they shot the on-location shots for "Northern Exposure", the television show.
This is the car we rode to Talkeetna in. It was a very pleasant ride, seeing all the beautiful scenery and drinking a pleasant Bloody Mary! Doesn't get much better than that.
These last two photos were some of what we saw from the train observation car. Forgive the rainbow effect but I had my polarizing filter on the camera and the shots were made through tinted windows and I didn't notice the rainbow effect until home. But, the views make up for it?

May 20 - Denali Tundra Tour, Part II

Yet another shot of this wild and beautiful region.
This grizzly bear had two yearling cubs with her way up the mountainside. I borrow my husband's camera again and managed to get some shots, but none which included the three of them together. While this looks so close to us, it was very far away, which is fine when it comes to grizzlies...the more distance the better!
This was a Great Horned Owl nest which our guide had been watching for awhile. What a shot! Between the birds and the foliage they were living in, I was thrilled. There was another white little puff ball in the nest but that chick was not visible.
This is a Ptarmigan, it is the state bird of Alaska. In the winter time they change to all white for camouflage and in the spring develop more of the browns for the same reason. They are numerous throughout Denali, we saw lots of them.

May 20 - Denali Tundra Tour, Part I

Today we spent six hours in a tour bus, seeing the Denali Tundra area. Our driver/guide was such a wonderful guide, he had a Master's degree in Wildlife Biology and drives a Denali bus through the summer months and does research during the winter months. What a resource for information! He also was great at spotting wildlife where we would have not even known to look, so it was a great experience. Here I am starting with another Arctic Ground Squirrel. Can't resist these cuties. This one posed, showing his better side, for about five minutes.
This was a drama shot in the wild, through a digital zoom camera that was zoomed to a telephoto length. I borrowed my husband's camera since it has a better zoom. This scene played out halfway up a mountain and was incredible to see. This bald eagle had swooped down and got its prey, then this magpie kept jumping in and trying to get some of the food. Either it was a very patient and tolerant eagle or a very stupid magpie! What a thing to see!
This Dall's sheep photo was shot with my weaker zoom camera. To the naked eye and through the lens it looked more like a patch of unmelted snow that "resembled" a sheep but I took the photo anyway and thought I could figure it out later. Well, as you can see it took a credible photo of a real sheep! There were many of these way up the mountainsides in Denali.
A shot of the beautiful and wild Denali tundra. I just marveled at the beauty of this place.

May 19 - Copper River to Denali

This was our first glimpse of Mt. McKinley, or Dinali as the natives call it. It is rarely seen since it is usually enshrouded by the clouds, but we saw the bottom and top so we were fortunate today. We saw it closer when at Denali Nat'l Park the next day.
This is a little of what we saw on the Denali Highway on our way to Denali from Copper River. The term Highway is loosely associated with this gravel road, but it wasn't a bad trip....long, but not bad. Our driver was from Alaska and she offered to stop whenever anyone saw any wildlife and we could take photos. It broke up the long ride and I got some good shots. We saw bald eagles, trumpeter swans, arctic ground squirrels, herds of migrating caribou, moose, ptarmigans, and lots of small game.
A bald eagle just sitting on a ridge across the way. I was able to use the digital zoom to get this photo, no telephoto needed. Just think about how large this must have been, though, to be this noticeable from that distance.
It is time for the Trumpeter swans to migrate back for nesting here. There were quite a few of them swimming where the ice had melted on these rivers/streams.
This was an Arctic Ground Squirrel. We saw quite a few of them and they always just pop up and pose so nicely! It is as if to say "what's up"! Another critter we saw a lot of were the snowshoe bunnies, but since we have soooo many bunnies here in Arizona I didn't get very many photos of them, no big deal?

May 18 - Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound was just one of the unforgettable experiences on this cruise tour, but I think it ranks up there near or at the top as far as I am concerned. It was stunningly beautiful, colder than I have ever experienced before and just a truly unforgettable experience. It is probably also where I caught the cold/sinus infection that has plagued me ever since, but even with that it was worth it! What a place to see. Here I am holding a piece of glacial, hundreds of years old, ice that they captured off the cruise boat in a net. It was incredible to me to be doing that.
This is a rogue iceberg that among many that were floating away from the glacier at the end of PWS. The colors of these were just hypnotic, I could barely stand to look away from them. Just magical.
This was a sea lion haul-out rock. There were hundreds of them there! There was a rock away from the shore a bit from where the bull sea lion was protecting his harem and was he annoyed with us for being on his part of the planet! He was just roaring and barking away, even though we were not all that close. I don't see how the sea lions were able to sleep without falling off the face of this rock, but they all were managing to do that.
Some of the icebergs had resident sea otters. Regretfully, I did not catch any otters on their backs in the water, they were so cute. We were told they often give birth and nurse their young on these icebergs. This was a large one.

On the way back to Copper River from Valdez, this moose was on the highway and in no hurry to get out of our way, so the bus stopped and waited for it to move on. It was a large male and was the first good look at a moose while in Alaska. We saw quite a few more while there.

May 17 - Whittier to Valdez to Copper River

This was our last view of the Diamond Princess, our home for the past week. We were somewhat sad to leave her, everything about the cruise portion of the tour was wonderful....the food, the amenities, the service, everything! But, it was time to disembark the ship and board the catamaran which would take us to Valdez. Valdez is in Prince William Sound and was destroyed in the 1963 earthquake, or the subsequent Tsunami was what took out the town. They rebuilt further away from the Sound and it was an interesting little town. Valdez is the northernmost deep water harbor that does not freeze on the continent, so it is the portal for the oil exports.

Prince William Sound is magnificent. We saw it only by cruising through it on the disembarkation day from the ship on our way to Valdez. We did, however, book a Prince William Sound Cruise for the following day which was to be devoted to the Sound totally. I LOVED the photos I got that day, which will follow here. I will only add a few to the blog and will hope you will visit my Flickr site when I can get that organized and finished since it will hold many more photos that I can have here.

We boarded a tour bus and headed from Valdez to Copper River, about a two-hour leisurely tour of the areas between these two places. We stopped at a rest stop, which had obviously had a recent heavy snow, and I took the photo of this one bathroom. We were all relieved to see they had shoveled out one set of rest rooms so we could use the facilities! This was an incredible sight, in some places the depth of the snow was deeper than I was high. we aren't in Arizona anymore, Dorothy!

May 16 - College Fjord

We cruised through College Fjord on this day. The water was, indeed, that blue. We were so relieved to see this under clear skies. It would not have had the same impact with cloudy, foggy skies so we felt fortunate. There were more tidal glaciers, all named after colleges (Yale, Harvards, etc.) than the day before in Glacier Bay. This was a beautiful day, our last full day at sea before disembarking in Whittier, Alaska.

May 15 - Glacier Bay

This is a short clip of a minor glacier calving. It sounded like it was going to be huge, but by the time I got the camera over to that portion of the glacier it was just a few crumbles. I will add a still shot that shows the amazing color of the ice. If it had not been so frigid out on our balcony I would have stayed out there looking at that color all day. This was our day to cruise through Glacier Bay. It had fewer glaciers than the name implies, but they were beautiful. Tomorrow would be the cruise through College Fjord, which I enjoyed even more. Photos to follow!

May 14 - Skagway

This is the famed Yukon Suspension Bridge out of Skagway, Alaska. Tom chose to not cross over this and he took my photo doing it. It was a very wobbly feeling going so high over the river below, but Ernie and I did it together so we were fine. The problem was that once we made it to the other side it started snowing! None of these people is me, I will find the photos from his camera later. For those who don't know, I took along an Ernie (Sesame Street) doll and took his photo looking at all the sites we saw while in Alaska. He rode in my fanny pack for two weeks and saw many wonders at all the places we visited. Now that I am home, I will write a storybook for my granddaughter called "Ernie Goes to Alaska" and use the photos. So, Ernie had no choice but to accompany me, through the snow, across this bridge. He kept on smiling, though!

This is a lake in the Yukon region. It had this magical turquoise color and had most of the ice melted off it. It was beautiful!

Once back on the tour bus, we started heading down the mountain, and where on the way up there were beautiful mountain passes, all we could see was on the way down was snow, white out conditions. It was a scary trip down, but we all made it safely. Our tour bus driver looked to be about 14 years old, so it was a tense trip back, but he managed to get us back to the ship. He was a college student, but they sure do look young these days! For these two Arizona wimps, it was an experience to remember, though not want to repeat.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

May 13 - Juneau

We took a photo safari on land and sea while in Juneau. Here is a Humpback Whale arching out of the water a bit. This was taken with a telephoto lens so, while it looks very close to our boat, it was a distance from animals were hurt in this exercise.
Here we have a bouy that has been overtaken by these sea lions. They were barking at us loudly, although they were farther away than this looks. Their coats were just gleaming in the bit of sunshine that peeked through the clouds. Little ones would try to slide up on the bouy and the bigger ones would push them off again, but they kept trying to get up there!
This is that same Humpback, only a prized tail shot. I got better with catching these as I tried more of them. You have to set the camera on sports mode or whatever lets you take rapid-fire shots.
This is the famed Mendenhall Glacier. This site almost made me cry it was so breathtakingly beautiful. I couldn't quite believe I was actually there, seeing it in person. This is truly Alaska now!
This is Mendenhall Lake, formed by the melting glacier and snow runoff. The water was perfectly smooth and showed off the blue reflections. The darker the blue color, the fresher the iceberg is from cracking away from the glacier. Cool, huh?

May 12 - Ketchikan

We arrived at Ketchikan on Monday, boy was it cold! Here is Tom, on our way to buy him an Alaska hat to keep his ears warm. There was a very interesting, and surprisingly reasonable trading post right on the pier that had much better warm hats than we had seen in Arizona (duh).

We then toured through the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary. Of course, having a name like that it had to live up to it so we tried out our new raincoats from Cabela's right away. Everything was dripping in lichen and moss. They rescue and try to rehab wildlife and had some reindeer there and this bald eagle. It was huge and won't be able to be released due to damage to one wing. It was so regal-looking. I enjoyed getting such a close-up of this magnificent bird.

For our first taste of how cold Alaska really is in early May, it was indeed cold to these two Arizona wimps.
One interesting sideline to our visit to this rainforest sanctuary was that we have a friend here in Arizona who runs a wildlife rescue foundation. We knew she was going to Alaska to do some of the same work for the summer, but she didn't say where she would be. We walked in to the gift shop and there was Geni! How many thousands of miles away from Arizona were we and we met up with a friendly face we knew! It was a big surprise for all three of us. She has a manager who runs her sancutary when she is gone and she was working there for the summer, what a change for her!