Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Six Artists Six Prairies Project!

It's the time of year when so many of us are preoccupied with preparations for those special days we share with family and friends.  The past couple of years I've taken time out to walk in the prairies with those close to my heart.  We enjoy the quiet togetherness, sharing thoughts or none, exclaiming when a bird suddenly jumps out of the bushes and smiling at their calls and song.  This year the prairies seem particularly beautiful and the Sandhill Cranes are still flying overhead, calling as they circle.  It's a great time to be in nature, appreciating that we still have these pristine places to enjoy in peace.  We are so grateful for our conservation partners! The artists of the Six Artists Six Pairies Project wish each of you the happiest of holidays and the joy of wonder and wander! 

Mary Jane Volkmann for SASP

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tuscawilla Prairie

Charles Dickinson 

Linda and Mary Jane

Here's a photo of one of my paintings and the set up.  The light on the dried grasses was amazing.  Especially in contrast to the grey and lavender background.  

Last Tuesday four of us met at Tuscawilla Prairie to paint.  Above are some photos of artists at work.  It was a great day.  The weather was partly cloudy but that only served to intensify the colors in the prairie when the sun peaked through the clouds.  We were painting on some high ground next to the prairie.  At one point it started to rain and as I turned around I noticed a young couple checking out the crazy people painting.  Surprisingly, I realized I knew one of them.  The guy in the couple was a good friend of my son who is a senior at the University of Florida. I turn around and said “hi Calvin, what are you doing here?”  And he looks at me just as surprised and says “what are you doing here?” Calvin is also a senior at the University of Florida and he is from Tallahassee.  I had a good time catching up with him.   He was just on an adventure with his girlfriend checking out the small town of Micanopy.    It’s a small world.   Plein air painting is amazing.  There is always a story.

Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Prairie Sketch

Spent another day sketching Paynes Prairie through the trees a few weeks ago. I had such a great day. The prairies reflect so many colors and set the mood for painting and trying to capture that moment with a quick sketch.

Charles Dickinson

A Day at Tuscawilla Prairie

Charles Dickinson Hard at Work

Mary Jane Volkmann With a Lovely Painting in Progress

Linda Blondheim Enjoys the Prairie View

Steve Andrews, Mary JaneVolkmann and Charles Dickinson Take a Break

We had a nice adventure on Tuscawilla Prairie today thanks to the Alachua Conservation Trust who graciously provides us with the Prairie Creek Lodge and the Tuscawilla Cabin, both with spectacular views. We are making an effort to get out on Tuesdays when time permits. Scott Hiestand is out of state traveling for awhile, so cannot join us regularly but keeps up with the goings on, checking in and posting his paintings to the blog.  Mary Jane and I took a tour around the praire in the car early in the morning through narrow paths which have been mowed. That was a wonderful treat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Socked In

"Socked In"

At last my favorite time of year! There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting in a thick fog while painting. The colors are muted and soft and the landscape just becomes flat patterns. Its amazing the calm that fog can provide.

Scott Hiestand

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Fall Look at Tuscawilla Prairie

Notes From the Prairie

Today Mary Jane Volkmann and I took a quick look at fall on the Tuscawilla Prairie. It is spectacular right now with layers on layers of texture and color. The trees in the distance look smoky blue and make a fantastic backdrop for the many subtle grays, greens, rusts, and wheats showing in the plants. It is a feast for the eyes and we can't wait to get back there soon to paint again. 

Save the date for our next event at Prairie Creek Lodge with the Alachua Conservation Trust on February 25, 2012.

Linda Blondheim

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fun at the Fall Round Up

CTF Fall Round Up was perfect!!

Thanks so much to Conservation Trust for Florida for hosting and featuring the Six Artists Six Prairies at their wonderful event on November 6,2011. Thanks to Hans and Deborah Tansler for providing their fantastic FARM for the event. The food was outstanding, the music wonderful and there was a huge turn out. I ran into many old friends and made new ones there. Six Artists Six Prairies was represented by Mary jane Volkmann, Charles Dickinson and myself. We arrived early in the afternoon and painted until the light was gone. Sales were made which will benefit the organization and the artists. It was a great experience for all and CTF did a fantastic job!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

CTF Fall Round Up

Mark Your Calendar
Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hans and Debbie Tanzler's Cypress Grove Farm
Waldo, Alachua County, Florida
See horse and carriage demonstrations, kid friendly activities, hayrides with a horse and carriage. Painters from "6 Artists, 6 Prairies" will be creating art live at this event.
Invitations will be mailed to members and partners soon! To receive yours, and support land conservation, Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Support the event and appear in the program. Shhhh!  There will be a silent auction to benefit the CTF.Need directions? Get Directions Here and meet some event sponsors.
takeawaygourmetThank you so much to Darleen Randall and Take Away Gourmet for donating the catering for the Fall Round UP! Please show your support by patronizing her business. Visit

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finished Painting

This is the finished painting with the old railroad bridge and Paynes Prairie in the background.
Charles Dickinson

Painting the Prairies

While painting the railroad bridge on the edge of Paynes Prairie, writer David and photographer Kim Stringer stopped by after shooting photos of the prairie wildlife and then photographed this wildlife! I had such a great day painting! The prairie has so much to offer.
Charles Dickinson

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Color on the Prairie

Sometimes it's fun to push the color on a painting, particularly in the fall when all of the possibilities on my palette are available. The landscape comes alive with rusts, purples, reds oranges and wheat colors added to the Florida greens that grow year round. Lots of fun mixing these delicious colors even though they are exaggerated.

Linda Blondheim

Monday, October 10, 2011

Speaking about "The Edge"

The prairies fascinate me with their broad spectrum of vegetation and wildlife. I really enjoy all aspects of the prairie including the landscape that lies on the border. This was painted at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and looks out over the prairie through the dense brush and branches of this beautiful old tree. I found this old tree intriquing and the view beyond this tree into the prairie just as intriquing!

Charles Dickinson

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!

“Last Child in the Woods” author Richard Louv struck such a chord with the staff and board of ACT that we brought him to Gainesville in 2006 to be the keynote speaker for our Conservation Stewards Banquet. He spoke to over a thousand people that week as we carried him around to any group who would listen, and his message forever changed the mission of Alachua Conservation Trust. His book is a compelling investigation into the implications of raising a generation of children without any meaningful connection or comfort with the outdoors. Mr. Louv is returning five years later to Gainesville with a new message in his book, “The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and The End of Nature Deficit Disorder.” Supported by ground-breaking research, anecdotal evidence, and compelling personal stories, Louv identifies seven basic concepts that can help us reshape our lives. By tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more
sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds. Louv makes a convincing case that we are entering the most creative period in history, that in fact the twenty-first century will be the era of human restoration in the natural world. This encouraging and influential work offers renewed optimism while challenging us to rethink the way we live.

Richard Louv will be speaking and reading at Prairie Creek Lodge on Saturday, October 8th in an evening that includes a social hour and dinner. Florida Defenders of the Environment and Santa Fe College are cosponsoring his visit with ACT – please come for an interesting and inspiring evening, but we do require reservations at: or (352) 378-8465.

~ From the Alachua Conservation Trust, whose latest Gazetteer full of interesting news has just been published!

Friday, September 30, 2011

From the Alachua Conservation Trust Newsletter

Six Artists – Six Prairies
It can be said that inspiration is the life’s blood of our species; without it, we would not have evolved to our current state nor grown together into the varied and unique societies that exist today.
Many things inspire us as individuals – our relationships with one another, our connection to the earth, the balance of nature and the beauty that is all around us. We at Alachua Conservation Trust are always seeking ways to inspire those within our community to a higher love of nature, and are equally pleased to join with others who endeavor to do the same. That is why we are partnering with Six Artists – Six Prairies in 2011-2012 in its efforts to inspire the community both to appreciate all things artistic, as well as the unparalleled natural beauty and diversity of our local prairies.
Six Artists – Six Prairies itself is a consortium of six professional artists who, over a twelve-month period, have commenced to paint and educate about Fish Prairie, Hopkins Prairie, Kanapaha Prairie, Ledwith Prairie, Paynes Prairie and Tuscawilla Prairie. In addition, they are using their blogspot,, to promote the mission of ACT, and are planning to hold a paint-out event at ACT’s Prairie Creek Lodge on February 25, 2012 (details forthcoming). While the artists themselves – Linda Blondheim, Steve Andrews, Charles Dickinson, Scott Hiestand, Jackie Schindehette and Mary Jane Volkmann – will be selling their works at this event and throughout the year-long program, they are also donating 30% of their proceeds from painting sales to ACT and two other recipient conservation organizations.
Please support ACT and Six Artists – Six Prairies by visiting their blogspot, viewing their incredible prairie-inspired works/writings, and by attending their paint-out events at Prairie Creek Lodge and throughout the area.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On a prairie tour with Hutch

This morning we went to Prairie Creek Lodge to meet with “Hutch” (Robert Hutchinson), the Executive Director of the Alachua Conservation Trust.  He took us on a tour of the properties surrounding Prairie Creek lodge, along the way explaining the ecology, the response of the land to hydrology as well as their monitoring and observations about the recovery of the land from its past use for grazing.  Hutch showed us different wildflowers and berries, osprey and eagles' nests and so generously answered our many questions!  Driving through thick and tall bushes, we followed along and then crossed over Prairie Creek,  learning about cypress trees and the distinct signs of prairie rims.  We walked along the creek for a ways looking at the amazing array of cypress knees.  At one point we came upon a little pool of water in which Hutch pointed out a rather large gator just under the surface.... We learned many interesting things about the different types of prairie habitats and plants. We also saw the Green burial cemetery, which is in a beautiful and peaceful setting. The headstones have been so tastefully fashioned from tree trunks, cypress knees, and other natural materials. We are looking forward to observing and painting this beautiful land in different seasons.  We came away with such an appreciation of the work being done by the Alachua Conservation Trust to purchase and preserve tracts of land for future generations.  We hope that our prairie project will help spread the word about the importance of supporting our conservation partners.  Thanks again, Hutch!
Mary Jane Volkmann and Linda Blondheim

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Edge

The Edge 18 x 24

Payne’s Prairie is a big space.   At least visually the defining edge at Payne’s Prairie is the tree line.  Though it seems that the tree line keeps advancing, I am sure that the grasses fight and advance in the opposite direction in a less obvious way.  Whether it’s elevation, wetness, soil or something else that makes a difference, those visual areas of conflict over space make interesting paintings.  In the prairie the palms and oaks set their boundaries and send out brothers and sisters to make new colonies on any high ground.  In the background the far edge is a bit of cobalt blue and titanium white with touch of naples yellow and a speck of alizarin crimson fading into the distance.  A war for space in such a peaceful place?

Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Road to Hopkins Prairie

The Road to Hopkins Prairie  11 x 14

Yeah I know it’s about prairies.  But you have to get to them.  And the area around Hopkins Prairie deserves a painting as well.  The Ocala National Forest is bisected by long straight roads that run mostly north-south and east-west.  Get up early in the morning and head east from Ocala you will get the privilege of seeing the real thing.  I guarantee its worth the trip and the early morning hours.

Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews

Friday, September 16, 2011

Prairie Riot

Walking in the prairies at different times of  the year I am always delighted to observe how nature changes her drapery.  From exposed branches and the tangled design of grasses to the riot of color as the buds burst into bloom, each season brings both its subtle and bold changes, never ceasing to point out to me something I haven't seen before! This painting is from a spot I often visit along the La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie.

Mary Jane Volkmann

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hopkins Prairie / The Hike

Storm Clouds Hopkins Prairie  16 x 20

I have written about the isolated quality of Hopkins Prairie in my posts.  The day after the alligator picture I went back to Hopkins Prairie with Jackie Schindehette.  We had our cameras and hiking shoes and started from the campground on a trail that appeared to skirt the prairie from the aerial photos on Google Earth.   We started at about 4:30 in the afternoon with the idea of getting some nice photos in the fading afternoon light.  Unfortunately nature was just getting heated up about that time and the thunderclouds started rising and approaching in the direction of our car.  This painting was done from a photo looking west across the prairie into another rising thundercloud.   The trail was great.  It is part of the Florida Trail and was nicely maintained and marked.  Have any of you hiked this part of the Florida Trail?

Doesn't that look like a trail that needs to be walked?

Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews

Monday, September 12, 2011


24x18 inches
acrylic on canvas

I have a great love for trees and particularly for pines. I often see tall pines that rim prairies. This time of year there is an abundance of wildflowers and of Goldenrod. Pines are a challenging painting subject. Their tall, graceful statures and interesting canopies are beautiful. I really love their bark and color. When I was a child there was a tall pine in the school yard and we all spent much recess time carving our names and symbols into its bark.

Linda Blondheim

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why Care About Prairies?

Tuscawilla Prairie

Why Care About Prairies?
  1. The prairie ecosystem, unique to North America, is an important part of our natural heritage
  2. Only 1% of the original prairie land remains -- 99% of prairies are gone
  3. Because so little of their native habitat remains, many prairie plants and animal are very rare, endangered or extinct
  4. There is still lots to learn about the prairie ecosystem and how it is impacted by natural processes
  5. The prairie is home to many kinds of beautiful flowers and hardy grasses; some prairie species may have important uses for science
  6. Millions and millions of bison used to roam the prairie; they are America's largest land mammal
Linda Blondheim

Thanks for following along on the journey with us.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hopkins Prairie (Part Three) Signs

Signs.  Here are some from the visit to Hopkins Prairie.  The first was rather intimidating.  I mean you are supposed to know all the rules and you have just passed a gate with a lock and you are not sure if you are even supposed to be there.  Hmmmm?

 Then the next sign was about bears.   What does bears are active mean?  Are they playing cards?  Socializing with the campers?  

Then a different kind of sign.  When I first saw it after just seeing the bear activity sign I thought it was one of those active bears.  Actually I think it is a deer print where the back hoof has landed on part of the front hoof print.   There is also sign of a turkey hanging around probably also looking for trouble.

Then the fourth.  Here we have a bobcat, a turkey and a homo sapien sporting a Nike.  Either that or one of the active bears is wearing a nike sneaker.  (If you have more expertise in this area let me know if I’m wrong about any of these signs.)

Go visit and see some signs.

Steve Andrews

Monday, September 5, 2011

Shady Spot

"Shady Spot"

   I have always liked palm trees, but to this day I struggle when I have to paint them. I do like the long, leafless branches of the trunk where interesting negative space can be obtained and its a great place for light to pop through in a dark, shadow environment. Over-all they still remain a challenge for me.
   At last September is here and I'm sure that soon the weather will change, making plein air painting more comfortable. Fall is my favorite time of year in Florida. The colors can't compare to the north, but if you know where to look, they are every bit as beautiful.

Scott Hiestand

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sundog over the Prairie

Living where I do in Florida, my view of the skies is rather limited by the surrounding trees.  When I walk through the overhanging oaks, pines and bushes at the edge of the prairies and emerge into their vast open spaces, it almost feels like a theater curtain parts in front of me, teasing my imagination in wonder at what lies beyond the vast expanse of sky in all directions.  The open view pushes my thoughts from the close up to the distant.  I like to look at the change of color in each part of the sky, to watch the birds winging their flight above and to see the clouds skirting by as they do their dance from the wispy to the billowing, becoming small in the perspective of distance. As I was walking in Paynes Prairie late one afternoon, watching the shadow of jet trails on the thin veil of clouds I turned and saw this beautiful sun dog!  Below my photo I have cut and pasted what I learned about them from Wikipedia.

"Sundogs are made commonly of plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds or, during very cold weather, by ice crystals called diamond dust drifting in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them with a minimum deflection of 22°. If the crystals are randomly oriented, a complete ring around the sun is seen — a halo. But often, as the crystals sink through the air they become vertically aligned, so sunlight is refracted horizontally — in this case, sundogs are seen.
As the sun rises higher, the rays passing through the crystals are increasingly skewed from the horizontal plane. Their angle of deviation increases and the sundogs move further from the sun. However, they always stay at the same elevation as the sun.
Sundogs are red-colored at the side nearest the sun. Farther out the colors grade through oranges to blue. However, the colors overlap considerably and so are muted, never pure or saturated. The colors of the sundog finally merge into the white of the parhelic circle (if the latter is visible)." ~ Wikipedia

Mary Jane Volkmann

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ponds Turn Into Prairies

8x10 inches
acrylic on birch panel

This dry pond on the Fair Oaks Estate has become a miniature prairie over the last couple of years. It used to be full of lily pads and water birds. Now it is a dry prairie. It is really a lot more interesting to paint as a prairie than it was as a pond. There are endless colors and textures in the grasses, and dips here and there. It is one of my favorite painting subjects. It is rimmed by cypress trees and grand old oak trees. I often see hawks and cattle egrets, shopping for dinner.

Linda Blondheim

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hopkins Prairie (Part Two) Local Color

Hopkins Prairie (Part Two)

More adventures from Hopkins Prairie.   I wrote in the last post about the isolated beauty of this prairie.  Ocala National Forest is a big place.  It is just west of Lake George which is the second biggest lake in Florida.  That means there is a big area with few people.  So there are no cell towers and no cell phone coverage.    I spent the morning taking photos and painting and decided I would head to civilization and call my office for messages.  The closest civilization was Salt Springs which is about ten miles from the prairie.  Salt Springs is pretty isolated as Florida cities go.  You know you are out there when you have to ask the convenience store clerk where you can get cell phone coverage and he says:  “ . . . down the road take a left at the fork and at the top the hill behind the billboard right across from the moose lodge people stop there and usually get a couple of bars.”  I left the convenience store and looked to my left and there was a big alligator hanging from a pole with a bunch of people standing around.  Now I’m a big fan of the show “Swamp People” so I had to stop.  I guess I should provide the following disclaimer at this point:  [The opinions expressed in this post are solely the opinions of the poster.  They do not reflect the opinions of any other artists, sponsors, advertisers or other individuals or groups associated with this blog.]  Now I’m a conservationist.  I’m an environmentalist.  I support these causes.  But I also grew up in Florida during a time when the alligator was an endangered species, and, in my personal opinion, they are not endangered anymore.  At least in Florida they aren’t.  So I, in my personal opinion, am not against licensed hunting of alligators.  This gator was ‘harvested’ with the appropriate tag based on a application made by the hunters.  In my photo with the gator you will notice that there is a tag in the tail.  Is this appropriate hunting?  I’d be interested in people’s opinions.   Sure I understand the moral questions.  But don’t talk to me about that unless you’re a vegan.  (I’m a vegetarian by the way, but not for any of those reasons).  Well anyway, I thought this would make an interesting adventure to write about.  You see stuff like this when you get in the outdoors.  And these gators look really big when you’re watching them from the comfort of your couch.  They are a whole bunch bigger up close.   Besides, as a Seminole what’s so bad about one less gator? : )

Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hopkins Prairie (Part One)

Oak Hammock 5 x 7

          I was down at Lake Weir last week which is just south of Ocala, so I decided to take a painting trip to nearby Hopkins Prairie.  If you check the google earth map on the left side of this blog you will see that Hopkins Prairie is located in the middle of the Ocala National Forest.  On google earth finding Hopkins Prairie looks relatively easy.  The national forest is cut into squares by long north-south and east-west roads. Just get on State Road 40 and go over two and up two and over a half and there should be a big neon sign with an arrow.  No, it’s not that easy.    First of all the numbers on the roads don’t seem to match the ones on google earth.  Then my GPS tells me I’m not on a road, and when there is a road it has different name than used by google earth or the forest service.  So bottom line I got to drive an extra 15 miles through beautiful dirt roads and see about a dozen wild turkeys, six deer and one bear. (It looked like a bear, but it was a long way down the road so I’m not positive).

          Hopkins Prairie is a beautiful peaceful place.  It is very isolated. I saw only three people the whole day and I’ll have to admit I was kind of spooked.  Maybe it was that almost bear sighting, or the constant muted thump, thump, thump of the gun firing range that you can hear even though it was almost five miles away.  (It must have been the wind because I didn’t hear it the next day.  But, how many people shoot how many guns, how many times?  Seriously, either it was that firing range or there is a war going on in the forest.)    

          The isolation was creepy.  I kept thinking about two movies.  One was “Deliverance”.  (Was that a banjo I just heard?).  The other was the scene in Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman is looking for the box at the rock fence under the giant elm tree.   It’s really quiet except every time the wind blows or the bugs start making noise he stops and looks in every direction.  That was me.  (No bear is sneaking up on me!)

           Fact is I love this isolated exposure to nature.  It is one of my favorite parts of plein air painting.  I did three paintings.  The one above is a little 5 x 7 sketch, just looking at colors and values.  I also got some great reference material AND I spent most of the day outside the range of cell towers so I could only think about painting.  That’s a good thing.  So, if you need some time away from your cell phone plan a trip to Hopkins Prairie.  And bring a better map than mine. 

           This is part one of Hopkins Prairie.  There is more adventure to come involving alligators and wild game tracking.  Stay tuned and thanks for looking. 

Steve Andrews

Monday, August 22, 2011

Paynes Prairie State Park

12x16 inches
acrylic on panel
palette knife

There is an area inside the state park that I really love to paint. It is between the entrance and Puggy Road. It is full of weeds, tall grasses, and palms scattered among the giant oaks. In the fall and winter, the colors turn to blues, rusts, wheats, and olives. That's my favorite painting spot in the park.

Linda Blondheim

Angeline, Thanks so much for writing and I'm glad you like the blog. That was a fun workshops and I'm so glad I was able to be a positive influence for you in painting.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gaining momentum...

This has been an exciting week of making plans with one of our new sponsors and one of our conservation partners.  We are busy finalizing opportunities for the public to meet us, to see and buy our paintings in support of conservation and art, and to get to know our conservation partners, what they do and how we can all support their efforts to preserve our natural world for future generations. 

Early in the week I met with our newest sponsor, Gainesville Wild Birds Unlimited. In case you don't know them, Bubba (that's him in the photo) and Ingrid opened Wild Birds Unlimited in Gainesville a couple of years ago.  It has become a haven for bird and nature lovers seeking everything from creature comforts and food for our birds to guidebooks to natural bugspray ~ a must for those of us who paint outdoors!  Bubba is also the chair of the field trip committee for the Alachua Audubon Society.  They have planned 30 field trips this season! Some of the trips are through the very prairies we are painting.  The schedule will be published this week and can be found at

Today I drove out to Prairie Creek Lodge to meet with Hutch and Lesa of Alachua Conservation Trust. It was a beautiful drive under the billowing clouds which kept the temperature manageable and gave me a glimmer of hope that cooler weather is on the way. The lodge itself was a hive of enthusiastic activity punctuated by the ringing of the telephone and the happy smiles of those at work on various projects. Soon the weather will have cooled enough for us to really get out into the prairies to explore and paint on location. Hutch told me that the normally wet prairies are so dry at the moment that in places the cypress knees are totally exposed and so tall. Perhaps it has been the very hot and dry weather, but there seems to be a noticeable absense of the plants which usually give the prairies their unique colors at this time of year. Once we have them finalized, we will share with you news of the plans which Six Artists Six Prairies and the Alachua Conservation Trust are making.

Watch for news about November and February....

Mary Jane Volkmann

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Prairie Pines

12x9 inches
acrylic on panel

Pine Flatwoods and Dry Prairies are part of the Upland Ecosystem. Prior to the advent of air conditioning, Florida was an unbearable place for people to live. The things that sustained Florida before tourism were turpentine harvesting, logging and other industries that depended on these upland ecosystems. Nearly half of the land area in Florida is pine flatwoods - generally flat, low lying land with poorly drained soil. In fact, the term "flatwoods" arose from the noticeable lack of topographic relief in the lands of this habitat. One of the most famous prairies in Florida is Paynes Prairie, a state reserve just south of Gainesville, Florida.- From

I've always loved to paint pine trees and they often rim a prairie like Hopkins Prairie near Ocala.

Linda Blondheim

Friday, August 12, 2011

Paynes Prairie in the Morning Mist

Early one morning I drove into Paynes Prairie to have a look around to see what had changed in the landscape.  I often do this.  It's part of finding peace, solitude and inspiration.  As I rounded one of the first corners, the sun was rising through a thick veil of mist, casting pearls of light on the dew covered flowering grasses which had sprung up after a fire the year before.  It was so beautiful!  There was design everywhere I looked.  I got out of my car and just stood there, trying to take it all in.  Those of you who know me know my passion for detail and how the intricacies of nature leave me rather breathless with excitement.  Now that it's too hot for me to paint outdoors, I decided to challenge myself to paint this scene in acrylics, working from some photographs I took that day.

Mary Jane Volkmann

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paynes Prairie Muck Fire

   My wife and I traveled to Paynes Prairie over this past weekend. The weather has been just too hot to sit and paint, so once again we were armed with our cameras. Our first stop was the visitors center where we gathered up all the information about the area. Our second stop proved to be very interesting. From the observation tower we saw a muck fire in progress. It had been started the day before by lighting and according to the Ranger had burned about one hundred and fifty acres.
   The sharp contrast of the deep green trees in the foreground against the ever changing colors of the smoke in the background, was something to behold. The studio painting "Paynes Praire Muck Fire" came from my research that day.

Scott Hiestand

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Face to Face with a Green Anole in Paynes Prairie

Anyone who sees me get out of my car with all the gear I take with me to paint might chuckle because I like to anticipate all the things I might need while I'm out there.  I've pared it down quite a bit over the years, but I always have certain essentials with me such as my camera, my binoculars and my Audubon Field Guide.  These days my smartphone serves as a camera and has field guides!  While I paint I sometimes see something I will down my painting tools to photograph.  One day in Paynes Prairie I observed this little lizard.  I didn't see her at first because she was lying straight in the middle of one of the palm fronds, green as could be.  We eyed each other for awhile, then she slowly turned to the side and cautiously started stepping across the fronds, changing colors as she moved.  I read that she is a Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis), a member of the Iguanid family. The Smithsonian's National Zoological Park online guide gives some fascinating facts: "Green anoles have adhesive lamellae on their foot-pads for crawling along walls, much like geckos. Able to change color, the green anole can be anywhere from bright green to browns and grays. One thought is that the green coloration is related to dominance. Their color varies depending on their mood, temperature, humidity and health. They are often referred to as the American chameleon, although they are unrelated to chameleons. ...Males are distinguishable from females because males have a pink dewlap, a flap of skin that hangs in an arc below their neck. This dewlap is used for attracting females and in territorial displays...Green anoles have a stereotyped set of behaviors. Male anoles perform rituals of dominance and territoriality. They show their dominance by bobbing their heads, usually through pushup-like movements. They also flare their dewlap. When threatened by another male, the opponents begin with head bobbing and flaring. Then they extend their throat (different than dewlap) to enlarge their body profile, they turn lateral to their opponent, showing the side profile of their body. They also erect crests along the back, and form an eyespot. These performances are intended to intimidate the other anole. The loser of the confrontation performs submissive head bobbing and retreats to a different territory."  Oh, and they eat spiders, too.  I wish she'd stay next to me and feast on the insects that like to feast on me....

Mary Jane Volkmann

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Poetry Review

Storm at Payne's Prairie 6 x 14

This is a thunderstorm over Gainesville and Payne’s Prairie. You probably recognize the image from a previous post. I took a photograph a couple of weeks ago at the elevated walkway on Highway 441. Painting it, and thinking about prairies, reminded me of my favorite book of poetry. Yes, I own a book of poetry. I wonder what percentage of the population owns an actual book of poetry? Is it more than, or less than the percentage that owns original art?
Anyway, if you don’t own a book of poetry, and you’re also interested in art, I recommend “The Art of Drowning” by Billy Collins. First of all, it will look good on your bookshelf. I don’t know how many people have pulled it out from between other books and asked “what is this?” Secondly, it’s a great read. The guy can do amazing things with words. There are also a number of poems with references to artists, paintings, sculptures and even the process of making art. In the poem “Medium” for example, he compares writing a poem to the process of painting.
. . .
I want to write with the least control,
one finger on the steering wheel,
to write like a watercolorist
whose brush persuades the liquids
to stay above the pull of gravity.
. . .

And my favorite poem in the book, and the reason this post is being written on this blog, and has anything to do with this painting, is the poem entitled “Horizon”


You can use the brush of a Japanese monk
or a pencil stub from a race track.

As long as you draw the line a third
the way up from the bottom of the page,

the effect is the same: the world suddenly
divided into its elemental realms.

A moment ago there was only a piece of paper.
Now there is earth and sky, sky and sea.

You were sitting alone in a small room.
Now you are walking in the heat of a vast desert

or standing on the ledge of a winter beach
watching the light on the water, light in the air.

When you are out on a big prairie you have this same feeling of space. I only wish I could do with my paint, half the justice Mr. Collins does with his words. So go buy this book and let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, how about buying some original art. : )
Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews