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