Monday, April 17, 2017

Art Show!




What a thrill (and how energizing!) to be asked to exhibit my art. I've worked hard to put together an assortment of my super-squigglized pen & inks drawings, hand colored with watercolor. All originals and prints will be for sale, and signed copies of my book, Middlewood Journal - Drawing Inspiration from Nature, will be available. Below is the basic info. You are all invited to come, and bring your friends! Can't wait to see you all.




What:  Nature Art Exhibit by Helen Correll
Where: Summit Hills Retirement Community
            110 Summit Hills Drive
            Spartanburg, SC  29307
When:  Opening Tuesday, April 25, 4 - 6:30
Duration:  The show will hang for one month 







Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dog Hobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana)





This drawing was done in mid-January (so a little late) but I love January, and on this day I had my two 13 year old students with me so I thought it would be fun to share. 

The weather turned warm that Wednesday, so even though January days are short, at least it wasn't cold,  and we decided to head down to the river to draw. 

The first thing we came to is a plant that grows so thickly along the edge that the early settlers gave it the nickname "Dog Hobble" due to the fact that while out hunting bears, their dogs always got caught up in this plant and the chase would end. It grows on the steepest banks, and sports leathery evergreen leaves.  Its neighbors are Mountain Laurel (here) and Rhododendron (mountains).  There is also a coastal species.

We played a little (and one of us climbed trees) and then settled down to draw a while. Before we left the temperature dropped below my comfort zone (kids don't care!) and a slight breeze kicked up.  Next time I will take an extra layer.  I mean, what was I thinking? It was mid January!     

Stay tuned for an update photo of the Dog Hobble flowers!









Thursday, March 30, 2017

Winter Leaves of Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor)




Happiness is living in woods that are full of Cranefly Orchids!  Of course, the flower stalks in summer are so thin, and the tiny pale flowers so difficult to spot, it's hard to remember they are growing all around you. The leaves don't come out until winter, when you must look for the pointy green leaves poking out of the deep fall leaf litter. You won't see the beautiful color of the back of the leaves because it doesn't show. (Be sure to flip a leaf to see it!) In short, no matter how many plants are growing in the woods, most people (me included!) usually walk right past them year round.

Still, both phases of the Cranefly Orchid are beautiful and worth the effort to find them.  Last week I decided to draw this nice patch of plants (each plant is one leaf, with one flower stalk to follow) that I found. It was in a tricky spot on a steep hill, with a wild grapevine growing through. The tendrils of the grapevine had pulled down last summer's seed pods. I thought it a lovely "still life," so I settled down to work in the afternoon sun. Chilly air swirled in the woods, so the sun on my back felt heavenly. Daisy and Dukie sat nearby, protecting me. Ha! They were mostly waiting for me to remember the dog treats in my pocket. We stayed for about an hour, with me getting this sketch right, and the pups getting an occasional treat for good behavior.

Back in the studio I worked to find the right color to put on the upturned edges of the wrinkled leaves (I saw one little lip, and took artistic license to add more). In the woods they look as purple as can be, but by actually cutting a leaf to bring in, I saw that neither the reddish purple nor the blueish purple were correct. In the end a mixture of the top purple and burnt umber gave me a decent color match. (bottom color)

Any time now, as our planet moves a bit more around the sun and gives us true spring, the Cranefly Orchid leaves will start to wither, and flower stalks will think about shooting skyward. As for me, I plan to tag the spot where these leaves are so I'll know where to find the summer flowers.


 Work in progress


Stalk 15" to 18"  each flower the size of your pinkie fingernail.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ebony Spleenwort & Nescafe Jar






Last month I spent an hour or so at an old homesite in the woods just above Lawson's Fork, where over the years humans have left their stuff. A quick glance would take in the old chimney, the basement hole, and maybe the pipes or the barn's angular tin roof resting on the ground, but a lot of what is there is being eaten by the forest, sinking into the rich black soil of the spot.  Bricks covered in moss are everywhere, as well as old rusty springs, remains of an old truck, and glass bottles and jars.  I found pieces of an old turquoise mug that had broken years ago, and a little Nescafe' jar with its lid.  That one came back to the studio to hold pencils or paintbrushes, but other jars have become greenhouses and are full of moss, grass, or the small fern called Ebony Spleenwort.

Remember when "tin cans" had to be opened with the pointy side of a "church key" opener?  There were a lot of those punched, rusty cans around, although difficult to pick out from the leaf litter. But take your time and you start seeing other things.  Once I found an old automobile horn (the kind that was outside the window and had a bulb at the end to squeeze for a honk), and down in the earth, a bottle that had once held some yucky "black draught" medicine. Tiny bits of the history of Spartanburg County.



Greenhouse



Lightbulb



Front grill of old truck



Old tin cans with Cranefly Orchid leaf

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beachy things



This journal page, once finished, was a gift to a friend. Unfortunately, I gave it to her before I remembered it needed to be scanned.  Ah, well.  Here it is, almost finished... no labels yet.

I drew most of it here, in this shack (photo below) that used to be about 30 ft. back in the dunes before Hurricane Matthew came to visit.  Now it is literally oceanfront.  So close that some of high tide came right over the floor.  It was glorious sitting on the bench in the shade for several hours surrounded by water, the only person on the beach. It felt like I was the only person in the world.  The ocean was fairly calm, reflecting sun pennies galore.






Black Tupelo Leaves



Yes, I still keep my journal!  Here is a page I did in October while out with my two 12-year-old students. One of them climbed like a monkey up the small Black Tupelo tree and shook a branch, sending bright orange and red leaves raining down on our heads.  They are such cute guys, and very imaginative.

In the photo below, one boy is drawing, the other is looking up the as-seen-on-TV pocket chair that he says we all need.  Hoping Santa will bring them!



Monday, May 2, 2016

Journaling at the Beach



For your summer journaling inspiration I decided to post some of my old beach journal pages.  Most of them were drawn out on the sand within hearing range of the waves. (All but the shrimp head.)  

It's easy!  Take a journal and pen to the beach, gather some goodies, sit down, draw. In hot sun you might want to settle under an umbrella, but in the morning and evening you can go anywhere.  I enjoy wandering away from people and sitting near the dunes.  

You may not have time to finish outside, if not you can finish up and add a bit of watercolor back at home.  

Try it! You'll like it. 


               
















Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tulip Poplar Bloom



Yesterday I spent some time sitting beside our little man-made garden pond, trying to locate our five new goldfish that  have been in hiding for over a week.  It was peaceful, but not the quiet kind of peace. Cardinals sang and called and squabbled (two males), squirrels chased each other in the treetops, the wind blew every now and then, rattling leaves, and a small airplane passed overhead.

By far the best sound was the horse-whinny call of a Screech Owl out at the haha.  I remember the first time I heard this sound. What the heck was that??? It took me a while to figure it out.  Go HERE, to the Cornell site, to hear the sound. Click the first example.

The flower I drew had fallen out of a nearby Tulip Poplar and was on the ground at my feet. I'm not sure who might have clipped the flower, but I assume a careless squirrel ran past and broke it.

I've added a couple photos of a bloom growing on a low branch to give you an idea of their beauty when they are in full bloom. It's rare to get to see one on eye level.

Tulip Poplars are very common... go outside and look for one!

Helen





 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ground Beetle, Painted Lady, Oats, & various grasses



An April afternoon and sunset on Jay's Hill...it doesn't get any better.

My friend Dee and I walked around the hill on the path my husband keeps mowed for me and admired the yellow ragwort, crimson clover, toadflax, and spotted cat's ear blooming everywhere. Gnats bothered us a little, but once we sat down with our faces into the breeze, the gnats were pushed behind us (a great tidbit to know if you ever find yourself in gnat country). The sound of wind in the trees and birdsong kept us company as we drew. Occasionally we'd get up and wander about to find something else for our journal page. Dee drew some of the flowers, while I decided to draw some of the interesting grasses and insects.  Yes, even the gnats.

We stayed a couple hours and enjoyed the peace of the place and getting lost in observing and drawing.

Keeping a nature journal is so joyful!  My wish for every one of my readers is that you can find time to try it yourself.  Everyone's journal is different, and each journal is personal.  It takes no expensive equipment and offers rewards on many health levels - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  If you want some help getting started, email me. I offer workshops and classes.

Even if you don't journal, I hope you go outside and feel the breezes!

Helen





Friday, April 22, 2016

Southern Ragwort & Toadflax




Spring is progressing slowly around here. Just when you think the heat is here for good, Mother Nature sends a blast of rain followed by cool dry air, and azure skies with puffy cotton ball clouds rushing overhead.  

Today I sat to draw with a good friend and student under the Tulip Poplar at the top of Jay's Hill.  It was in the mid-70's and the wind blew steadily which kept the gnats at bay. I don't use the word perfect, but let me say it couldn't have been any more wonderful.  The ragwort is just beginning to bloom, and soon the hill will be completely yellow. Pale lavender Toadflax can't compete, but I have always loved this dainty flower.  Growing up, I used to pick handfuls for my mother.

We drew in peace, with a bit of chitchat and a steady breeze in our faces.  Sweet Daisy sat at her usual respectful distance in front of my friend.  Her radar ear twitched occasionally when a gnat buzzed her, otherwise she gazed out at the hill.  She didn't move.

Duke... well Duke is in training.  He's bad about nudging your elbow over and over to get you to pet him (once never satisfies) and likes to get in your face to remind you he is there and needing love.  Once he stepped his muddy paw on one of my student's journal page. As you can imagine, he disturbs the peace of journaling. The good news is we are making great progress!  Today he was on leash for a short while, and when I let him off he sat quietly nearby and was a very good boy!   

Question to my readers... do any of you keep a nature journal?  Just wondering.  Let me know! 

Happy Spring to all!

Helen



 Dukie's leash is attached to an old kudzu vine at the base of the poplar.



Daisy and the beautiful clouds.
















Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ragwort, Dandelion, Honeysuckle, Catbrier, and Violet Leaves





Today I hiked with my classes and drew various leaves that are growing around Middlewood.  The Ragwort that grows all over Jay's Hill is just starting to bud, soon the hilltop will be covered in yellow!. The violets are in bloom other places, but not where I plucked this leaf to draw.  The dandelions along the path to my studio don't get enough sun to bloom, and even though the honeysuckle doesn't bloom until May, I loved the beautiful red stem.

I hate to admit that I cannot identify the grass.  It grows everywhere but I've never identified it, and even though I have tried, I won't be able to until I get a better grass field guide. I'm determined to find it, so stay tuned!

Anyway, all these leaves have interesting shapes and textures, and so I decided to draw them.  The day was overcast, cool, and almost gnat-free, which is wonderful!

I sure hope everyone is enjoying Spring.  If you haven't been outside lately, today is a good day to go on a walk!  

Helen

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Climbing Vetch (Vicia augustifolia)







After hiking around and following deer paths through the woods, we were chased away by gnats.  Yes, tee-tiny little black gnats.  There is nothing in nature more irritating than having gnats swarm around your face, their favorite place, naturally. They love to get into your eyes and ears, and did I mention that they bite?  The trick is to get to a place where the breeze (if you're lucky enough to have one) is blowing into your face.  If there isn't a breeze, you may as well go back home.

There was a breeze today, so off we went to higher ground which in Middlewood is the top of Jay's Hill where my favorite Tulip Poplar grows.  I've been watching this tree grow for 25 years.  Daisy loves the tree and the delightful shade it provides. Even on days that I don't consider hot, if we are on the hill Daisy can be found in the shade keeping an eye on the whole hilltop.  Maybe it's the herding instinct, and she is keeping an eye out for the wolves that might come get her sheep, me!  

On the way up the hill I stopped to pick this little vine, one of the Vetches.  It is in the legume family, which you would know if you looked at the tiny flowers.  They are "pea-like" flowers.  This is always your first clue that it's a legume.



An unknown vine I just found growing at the edge of the woods.



The view from under the Tulip Poplar.





Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wild Grape Vine, Eyed Click Beetle, Sixth Graders




This entry was drawn yesterday during my class with two sixth grade boys.  They are such fun, and both seem eager to draw... except on beautiful sunny day just before spring break!  They were hilariously hyper yesterday, but still I taught them a few important things, such as how to identify our Official State Wildflower, Carolina Jessamine, and how to identify a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (we saw them everywhere!) and their main host plant, Tulip Poplars.  We also found an Eyed Click Beetle, which look scary because of their huge false eyes. We all held him to feel his CLICK!

After a lot of playing around, we sat at the edge of the woods to draw a wild grape vine and any other little thing we might see nearby.  Rufous-sided Towhees and Cardinals and Crows made appearances while we drew.

Here are a few sketches from the boys.


 Wild Grape Vine


 Close up of DNA of a gnat. Ha!


Wild Grapevine


Daisy helping to carry home one of our sitting rugs. For the record, I didn't realize how completely miserable she was until I looked closely at this photo. Poor old girl. She carried it pretty far (for her). I won't let it happen again. 


Heading back

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mysteries of Migration




















The article above can be found in this month's issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.  Every month the magazine includes a four-page section called "Wild Notebook" which is written for families with children, and for teachers to print and hand out in their classrooms.  I've been writing and illustrating for Wild Notebook for many years, and continue to feel thankful for the opportunity to share with children my love for and fascination with all aspects of our natural world.

The Hummingbird paper sculpture project is by Anne Runyon, one of the most creative and brilliant artists I know! She designs a new project for each article.

Enjoy!

Helen