Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chicken Run

"Chicken Run"
24" x 30"

   Having painting in and around Paynes Prairie a number of time, I was taken by the amount of small farms, houses and even business that line the prairie rim. I wondered how much of a problem the local wildlife has caused for these residence. Rats, mice, racoons, snakes, fox and even coyotes, I'm sure must rely on a home or business garbage cans.
   We all know the importance of not feeding wildlife, but having a chicken coop makes for a tempting meal for the Florida Red Fox. "Chicken Run" is my latest acrylic painting for Six Artist Six Prairies.

Scott Hiestand

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting out in the Prairie

Fish Prairie Outskirts 16 x 20

I’m Steve Andrews and I’m thrilled to be involved in this project. I’m a “full-blooded Floridian”, which is rare these days. I was born in Orlando. Both of my parents were born in Orlando. I grew up in Titusville and now live in Tallahassee. So I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Florida environment. I’ve been a professional painter for more than fifteen years. I concentrate on Florida landscapes, and one of my continuing themes is capturing the vanishing landscape of Florida.
So this project is right up my alley. Six artists creating paintings of six Florida prairies in North Central Florida with an added benefit of supporting conversation efforts related to those prairies. "Prairies in Florida?" You ask. If you've driven I-75 you've seen Payne's Prairie just south of Gainesville. The Interstate and Highway 441 cut right through the middle of the prairie. It looks like a giant swamp or a drained lake or something but if you get out in the prairie you will see that every square inch of it is teaming with life.
A good place to check out is the elevated walkway on Highway 441 that leads out about a hundred yards into the middle of Payne’s Prairie. It’s definitely worth a detour if you’re traveling on I-75 and you get a chance to stop. If you’re headed south on I-75 take exit 382 (Williston Road) and head east. At the first intersection turn right on SW 34th St. and take it until it dead ends into Highway 441. Turn right (south) on 441 and observation walkway is in the middle of the prairie. To complete the detour just head south on 441 to CR 234 and turn right. Interstate 75 is only a couple of minutes away. If you’re heading north just reverse these directions. Last weekend I made this detour while heading back to Tallahassee. Unfortunately I arrived at the same time that this thunderstorm arrived. Fortunately, I stayed around a while and got great photos so you will probably be seeing this storm cloud again.

If you’re like me you’ve driven across this prairie countless times and wondered what the heck was going on. Take a minute to check it out.
Thanks for looking.

Steve Andrews

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mary Jane Volkmann's paintings at the Florida Museum of Natural History

Over the course of this project the six of us will be sharing with you news about other shows in which our paintings are featured as well as art events in which we have been invited to participate. This will give you an opportunity to see the variety of subjects we paint and give you a taste of the activities in the lives of artists!  Next week will be the last opportunity for you to see the "Barrier Islands ~ Creations of Tide and Time" show I am in at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  This show was held over until August 7.  It will be moving to other venues down the line, but if you are in Gainesville and have not yet seen it you still have a few days.  Many of the paintings I have hanging there are paintings I did on location.  The larger ones were completed in the studio.  Enjoy!

Mary Jane Volkmann

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Solski Trail-Fish Prairie

Solski Trail on Fish Prairie
at Fair Oaks

I'll be spending a week in February with fellow prairie painter Mary Jane Volkmann painting Fish Prairie from Fair Oaks. I love this trail and will enjoy the winter landscape  instead of April when I usually spend a week there. Little is known about Fish Prairie but the trail story is here on this link about Fair Oaks and Sebastian Solski, who made the trail that I enjoy so much. Thanks Sebastian and thanks Rick Knellinger, our sponsor, who allows us to paint there for the project whenever we like.

Linda Blondheim

Friday, July 22, 2011

Prairie Sky

Prairie Sky

Prairies offer us the vistas that are hard to find in Florida. Florida, thank goodness is a tree state. Lots of green canopies everywhere. The dry prairies offer us a different view and a chance to study clouds. I like to think that clouds are our version of mountains in Florida. We have spectacular clouds!!

Linda Blondheim

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Does anyone know anyone who would help us with prairie access?

Yesterday we went on a prairie exploration to try and find places from which we could paint or at least photograph some of the prairies closest to us: Tuscawilla, Ledwith and Kanapaha.  Armed with Google Earth on a cell phone navigator, we went down every road we could find.  I had a step ladder in the back of the car so we would be able to see over vegetation if need be.  We found some wonderful views of Tuscawilla Prairie, but what we were not counting on was the vast extent of private property, private roads with locked gates, fencing and tall vegetation blocking so many potential viewpoints of the prairies. Our appreciation of the work that is being done by conservation organizations and the park service to preserve our natural places and allow the public a chance to explore and be part of them was most certainly reinforced, and we came away with an even greater longing to discover and paint the fascination of these places hidden!  We made a delightful new friend during our explorations.  She found us while we were peeking over fences and was able to thrill us with stories of the bird life, vistas and stars at night at a prairie near her home.  So now we ask you: do you know anyone who might help us with prairie access?  We are artists.  We don't want to intrude.  We simply want to capture on canvas the amazing world in which we live.  We will so appreciate any help you can give us.  Thank you in advance!

Mary Jane Volkmann and Linda Blondheim

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prairies and Snakes

Certainly one thing I share with other plein air painters is the occasional encounter with snakes.  One day when I was painting along a canal a weed whacker came up the waterway and as it was chopping the invasive water plants, it spewed them into the air along with chopped bits of snakes which landed a bit too close to me for my comfort. Some of them were still wiggling as they rained down and landed!  As I stood and watched I saw hundreds of delighted birds appear seemingly out of nowhere to swoop down and treat themselves to an unexpected feast.  On another occasion at Paynes Prairie State Park, I happened to look over the bridge and saw a tangle of snakes (see photo).  There were people on the bridge exclaiming "look at the moccasins!" and someone was actually throwing little things at them. When I checked with the park ranger, I was told that they were green water snakes mating, not moccasins.  I read on switcheroozoo that "The Florida green water snake is a common, harmless snake that can be found in weedy marshes and grasses around ponds and along canals, sometimes basking in the vegetation. If threatened or harassed, the green water snake may bite and emit an unpleasant smell. These snakes are active primarily in the daytime, but can also be found feeding on minnows or small fish in the early evenings. Florida green water snakes are excellent swimmers and can dive from logs or tree limbs into the water. They bear their young alive and can have litters as large as 100!"  In researching them further I found an article from the Florida Scientist stating that "U.S. Highway 441 at Paynes Prairie appears to have one of the highest levels of snake road mortality ever reported" and that this same snake was one of the most commonly killed.  Aside from painting, I am using the Six Artists Six Prairies project to learn as much as I can about our prairies and their inhabitants and to share interesting tidbits I find.

Mary Jane Volkmann

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tuscawilla Trees

5x7 inches

I've always been fascinated by portals or windows in nature which lead from space to space. Tuscawilla Prairie is rimmed by these gorgeous trees, which give me a peek out into the prairie. Fish Prairie is like that too and they both challenge me.

Linda Blondheim

Thursday, July 14, 2011


 20" x 24" Acrylic
  In my opinion, Little Blue Herons are the most beautiful of the heron family. They can be easily found on any of North Florida's prairies and seem to be sociable enough to get to get some good photographs. I once watched a heron use pieces of bread to catch minnows. The heron would take small pieces of the bread, walk it to the waters edge, and drop it in. As the minnows would gather about the bread, the heron would pick them off. Interesting how birds will use tools.

Scott Hiestand

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Storm Clouds

18x24 inches
oil on stretched canvas

I have painted at the Florida prairies for years. Once I was painting along early in the morning at Paynes Prairie State Park, on a bridge that spans the edge of the lake. I heard someone approaching on the bridge. Often visitors stop quietly to watch me paint. I wanted to finish one spot on the painting before greeting the visitor. It took a few moments. I put my brush down to turn to my visitor with a smile. I stared into the face of a doe who was about 2 feet from me, watching intently. It was a thrill I must say. We watched each other for at least 30 seconds before she turned with a flick of her tail and took off running off the bridge into the bushes. One of the joys of my job are the encounters I have with birds and animals in the wild. Though I have had close encounters with alligators and snakes, most of my visitors are harmless and wonderful to observe.

Linda Blondheim

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Solski Trail on Fish Prairie

24x24 inches
acrylic on stretched canvas

This is a wonderful trail that skirts the rim of Fish Prairie from Fair Oaks in Evinston, FL. Fair Oaks is my very favorite place in the world. I have been painting there for about four years now. I am blessed to have free range of the 160 acres with my friend Rick's golf cart. I load up my back pack with my paint box and tripod, and in the cool season, my bulldog Henry. We check out the pastures, watching the birds and occasional deer. There is a lovely picnic table dedicated to Sebastian Solski, who worked so hard to make the trail, at the trail head. I like to stop there and paint often. This painting was done from a reference photo I took a few weeks ago on the prairie rim. Henry likes to snooze while I paint. I turn on my Pandora radio and listen to Puccini. It's heaven!!

Linda Blondheim

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Prairie Tom

"Prarire Tom"
 acrylic, 16" x 20"

   Florida is a great place to observe birds. Turkeys are one of my favorites. I live just a stones throw outside Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach and our neighborhood is lucky enough to have deer and wild turkey walking about the streets. The males in our neighborhood, during mating season, will protect their females at all cost. I have seen folks riding their bicycles down the street, minding their own business, and from out of nowhere, a tom turkey will give chase! Turkeys are often in my driveway pecking at their own reflection in my truck bumper.

Scott Hiestand

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prairie Hyacinths

Prairie Hyacinths

I love these plants. Sometimes they are as thick as a carpet on the prairies here in north Florida. They range in colors from pinkish lavender to blue. I like the blue ones the best. I remember picking them in bouquets and dragging them wet and dripping into my mother's house when I was a kid. They would quickly turn slimy. I'm sure my mother was appalled with that gift but she always acted like she was thrilled to have them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Accessing These Beautiful Prairies

One of the increasing challenges we have as landscape painters is accessing pristine land, as so much of it is privately owned and fenced or difficult to reach through the overgrown vegetation.  During this project you will hear us asking around for help in getting to vantage points where we can paint and photograph these beautiful  prairies.  We so appreciate the offers of help from our conservation partners, friends and the public!  This past weekend friends took me to the farm of a kind, retired professor.  His property abuts Kanapaha Prairie. After walking under majestic overhanging oaks and dangling vines we reached the fence line.  How thrilling to stand there gazing at the panorama that opened before my eyes!  That part of the prairie is being grazed by cattle and is also home to countless birds. I made some new friends along the way, as you can see from these photos!  (I also learned that perhaps I should not have worn a green shirt around the goats...)
~ Mary Jane Volkmann

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Welcome to Conservation Trust for Florida

We are proud to partner with

 CTF works with private landowners on a voluntary basis to help them address their concerns and provide viable land conservation options which allow families to maintain their farm or ranch business and protect the rural and natural character of the land, as well. Many landowners feel pressured to sell their land due to encroaching urban sprawl, rising land prices, and taxes. Since 1999, CTF has successfully protected approximately 9,100 of rural landscapes through publicly funded land conservation programs and privately donated conservation easements. In cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection / Office of Greenways and Trails CTF initiated the Camp Blanding to Osceola National Forest Ecological Greenway. This greenway is part of a documented Florida black bear wildlife corridor that connects the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest Greenway (O2O).

I will be the Six Artists Six Prairies representative to Conservation Trust for Florida for the duration of this project.

Linda Blondheim

Saturday, July 2, 2011

After the Storm

After the Storm
Paynes Prairie

This is a palette knife painting. One of the things I am most interested in as a painter is light and atmosphere or what artsy people call aerial perspective. I have studied both of these for many years and continue to. The prairies offer the vistas which make aerial perspective very apparent to the viewer. I find the gradual shift of colors from warm close to me, to cool in the distance, very interesting and beautiful.

Linda Blondheim