Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oak Edge

   Over the weekend my wife (Linda) and I took a road trip to find two of the six prairies that I will be painting, Hopkins Prairie and Putnam Prairie. There is nothing like being on the road headed to a plein air painting spot. Armed this weekend with only our cameras, we were on a research trip to gathers photos for studio paintings. Our first stop was Hopkins Prairie and while I was impressed with the landscape, it was not what I would call a large prairie. As it turned out, good things come in small packages.

   After taking a bunch of photos from on side of the prairie, we moved to the other side to where the camp grounds were located. This was a beauitful area with large oak stands at the edge of the prairie. After taking more photos, we decided to move on to Putnam Prairie. We never found Putnam Prairie! We stopped at this small park outside Melrose where there was a map of the area and on the map was Putnam Prairie but we could never find any signs stating "Entering Putnam Prairie". For all we know we could have been standing in the middle of the prairie... but no signs.

   All in all we had a great time and I did produce a small 6 x 9 inch acrylic painting ("Oak Edge") of the oak trees about the camp grounds of Hopkins Prarire. More road trips will take place soon.

Scott Hiestand

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Choosing a Painting Spot

I have learned to look very carefully before setting up near wet areas to paint.  I've shared this story with some of you before, but one day when I was out painting alone and deep in concentration I noticed out of the corner of my eye that something in the landscape had changed.  I turned to look and saw that one of these guys had crawled out of the brush at the edge of the water and was approaching me to check me out...  I was sitting with all my paints spread around me.  Not having any experience with these things I had to think quickly and remembered that somewhere I had heard that if you make yourself bigger than something it can help.  (Right or wrong?).  So I jumped up and roared as loudly as I could in the deepest voice I could muster, throwing my arms up in the air at the same time in a threatening manner.  True as Bob, the gator flipped and went running away into the water!  I was a bit shaken, so I decided to finish the painting in my studio...

Mary Jane Volkmann

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Clearing the mind and sharpening the senses...

Painting in nature gives me the quietude I need to clear the clutter from my head so I can immerse myself in the incredible world around me, appreciating the fascinating diversity of flora, fauna, colors and design.  As I settle in, I become aware of the smell of the grass and the pine needles baking in the sand.  My ears start tuning in to the music of nature: the call of the birds, the rustle of a critter in the bushes, the cicadas and grunts of alligators. As I focus in on the subject I am painting I become keenly aware of changes around me. I keep a camera handy to record the unexpected and the beautiful. I remember a precious moment of one hot day in particular.  I had my easel up against a bush to try and catch a bit of the shade when suddenly a little bird landed on a twig which was caught on the top corner of my easel.  Knowing the bird would never stand still for me to reach for my camera, I caught my breath and held my brush in mid-air so I could memorize the moment.  I identified it later as a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a bird I had never seen before!  Obviously it flew away, so I cannot share a picture with you, but here is another one I took in Paynes Prairie.  Is this bird enjoying life, or what!?!

Mary Jane Volkmann

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prairie Wetlands

This morning I enjoyed working on this little painting from a reference photo. Each Saturday I paint out in front of my gallery. Today was a special treat because musician Linda Pottberg joined me to entertain visitors to Paddiwhack Gallery in Gainesville, Florida. While I painted the prairie wetlands, she sang folk songs about old Florida and times past. It was a delight and I hope she will join me often. We are lucky to live in north Florida where culture, music and art are readily available.

Linda Blondheim

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Prairie Dusk

Sunsets fascinate everyone, including artists. The prairie provides a nice subject to do a panoramic format sunset painting. Sometimes we are afforded the opportunity to do sunsets on location. The secret is to set up your easel a couple of hours early and block in the basic painting. Then when the beautiful color comes, you are ready to put it in very fast. You only have about fifteen minutes to finish the painting with that glorious light.

Linda Blondheim

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Observing in the prairies

Today I was looking back at the pictures I have taken during my walks and painting sessions in Paynes Prairie over the years and changing seasons, remembering how much I have seen and observed, often just by standing still and looking. I came across this lucky shot. Note the guy in the middle with the fish in his mouth! Well, I assume it's a guy... can anyone enlighten me? Ah, so much still to learn!

Mary Jane Volkmann

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prairie Bull

Paynes Prairie, one of the very few place in Florida where a hint of the wild west can be found. Buffalo and wild horses can be seen grazing throught the park area.

Scott Hiestand

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pickeril Weed Tuscawilla Prairie

Pickerelweed is a perennial plant that can grow up to 3 1/2 feet tall. Leaves are shiny green, heart-to-lance shaped(up to 7 inches long) singly attached to a long petiole which grow in a rosette from the roots. Each stem can produce a terminal flower spike 3 to 4 inches long. The numerous tubular flowers on the spike are violet-blue in color. Each flower lasts only one day. Pickerelweed reproduces from seeds and rhizomes.

Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. Ducks will consume the seeds of pickerelweed while muskrats and nutria will consume the rhizomes and base.

Linda Blondheim

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Prairie Weeds

My friend Kay lives on the rim of Tuscawilla Prairie. Lucky me, she sends me reference photos of the prairie at various times when the seasons change.  I love this view with the colorful weeds and lily pads sprouting up everywhere.  Whenever I travel by this prairie, I see the black and white Oreo cows grazing, adding to my delightful view.

Linda Blondheim

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Welcome Friends of Paynes Prairie to the Six Artist Six Prairies project

I am happy to work with Friends of Paynes Prairie who have partnered with us for the Six Artists Six Prairies project.

From their website:

"Paynes Prairie is a natural feature that is biologically, geologically, and historically unique. The Prairie's relationship to people past, present, and future is an important one. That is why we are FRIENDS.
We support the mission, programs and goals of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park through fund raising, outreach, education, and volunteerism."

I look forward to working together to bring awareness to Florida prairies and Florida artists.

Charles Dickinson

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Edge of Tuscawilla Prairie

I've been going through the prairie paintings I've done since living in Gainesville.  They bring back so many memories of discovery.  One morning before the sun had completely emerged from behind the clouds a friend and I went to paint along the roadside at the edge of Tuscawilla Prairie.  The subtle colors and swaying small pines above the palmettos drew my attention, so I quickly painted this impression of the scene.

Mary Jane Volkmann

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hopkins Prairie

Hopkins Prairie

The northern part of the Ocala National Forest nurtures upland habitats of rolling sandhills topped with longleaf pines and oaks. Wiregrass thrives, carpeting the forest floor in a misty haze that turns to lilac in winter. Surface water is found only in scattered flatwoods ponds north of Kerr Island. The trail circles Hopkins Prairie, a significant natural feature rich with wildflowers and wildlife, at the south end of this segment.-  From Florida Trail Association
This is a new prairie for me. I'm enjoying researching it and painting it from reference images.
Linda Blondheim

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prairie Afternoon
 Acrylic  16 x 20

I try to capture the great Florida clouds formations in this painting. Dry conductions and lack of rain add to the arid landscape that can only be found on a Florida prairie.

Scott Hiestand

Welcome to North Florida Land Trust our Conservation Partner

We are honored to partner with North Florida Land Trust.

The North Florida Land Trust conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for the future of Northeast Florida in seven counties by:
  • Developing long term land protection strategies
  • Promoting private and public funding for land conservation
  • Acquiring land and conservation easements
  • Stewardship including the restoration of conservation properties
  • Promoting a sense of place and a land ethic through activities, education and outreach.

Our protected lands are located throughout northeast Florida. From historic meadows and tidal wetlands to leafy woodlands and inland wetlands, we are stewards of all North Florida's representative habitats. Some of these properties are small or need prior permission from our Executive Director to access them. We rely on visitors and neighbors to be our eyes and ears on Land Trust properties as well as to report bird and wildlife sightings. We want you to care for our properties as much as we do.

Thousands of acres of land and natural habitat in North Florida are being lost every year to development. Only through conservation efforts at every level will we have success in retaining this area's natural beauty: clean water and air; a healthy ecosystem; and our quality of life.

NFLT relies on support from community members with a strong land conservation ethic to provide financial support that makes our work possible. NFLT is a regional land trust that spans seven counties: Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

Our Mission

The Mission of the North Florida Land Trust is to preserve and protect open space in Northeast Florida. Preservation of open space benefits our community by adding to quality of life values for the residents of our community, preserving precious natural habitats and the rural character of Northeast Florida for future generations.


Founded in 1999, The North Florida Land Trust has over eleven years experience conserving and protecting lands in North Florida. In all, 130 acres are owned by the North Florida land Trust and over 500 acres are protected by conservation easements. North Florida Land Trust has protected more than 1,100 acres of beautiful, productive and environmentally significant land in and around Northeast Florida.
The North Florida Land Trust is a local, non-governmental, non-profit organization funded largely by membership contributions. The Land Trust works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, nonprofit partners, and foundations. The North Florida Land Trust is a member of the Florida Alliance of Land Trusts and subscribes to the Standards and Practices of the national Land Trust Alliance.

Best Standards and Practices

Through the adoption of and adherence to the Land Trust Alliance's Best Standards and Practices, our organization has reached a high level of professionalism. This is essential for the responsible operation of a Land Trust and ensures that a land trust operates legally, ethically and in the public interest. It also establishes a sound program of land transactions and stewardship.


The North Florida Land Trust is governed by a highly involved Board of Directors and is enthusiastically supported by over 500 members. The day-to day operations of the Land Trust are overseen by Bonnie Barnes, our Executive Director.

I am delighted to partner with North Florida Land Trust for our Six Artists Six Prairies project.

Scott Hiestand

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Prairie Sunset

Prairie Sunset
Prairies go through wet and dry seasons and can change dramatically with the ebb and flow of waterways. There is nothing like a sunset thrown in to enhance their beauty.

La Chua Trail leads to Alachua Sink and the center of the prairie marsh and wetlands. Abundant wildlife including alligators and migratory sandhill cranes. Platform at trail’s end provides panoramic views. 3 miles round-trip.
Directions: Take SE 15th Street past Boulware Springs Park. Before road takes a hard turn to the left look for the brown park signs on a spur road to the right - Camp Ranch Rd. -
From Friends of Paynes Prairie

Linda Blondheim

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Prairie Tapestry

I often think of prairies as rich tapestries of color and texture. This is a palette knife painting. Florida is not much of a vista state with all of the trees and lush plants, but our prairies offer us an opportunity to see far in the distance and to imagine what is there.

Linda Blondheim

Friday, June 3, 2011

Introducing Alachua Conservation Trust, one of our partners!

We are proud to introduce Alachua Conservation Trust as one of our project partners.  Their mission is "to protect the natural, historic, scenic and recreational resources in and around Alachua County, Florida."  The Alachua Conservation Trust is a local, non-profit land trust that "works with landowners to protect our great places" and "protects land through purchase, donation, and conservation easements.  Since its incorporation in 1988, ACT has facilitated approximately 14,000 acres of public land purchases and private conservation easements." Be sure to visit their website to join us in celebrating the accomplishments of their diligence and hard work in "preserving the special environmental and historical treasures of Alachua County and surrounding areas". We look forward to sharing our painting adventures with them!  ~quotes from

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paynes Prairie Winter View

I've always been a winter painter. Fall and winter in Florida are my favorite seasons. Paynes Prairie is full of color in the winter. Smoky blues, rusts and mauves join the wheat colored grasses and evergreens, creating a rich tapestry of atmospheres and color in the landscape. The texture of the prairie is enhanced by these varieties of color. The prairie is ever changing between wet and dry years. Every time I go, I see a new scene.

Linda Blondheim