To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Costa Rica Sketch Journal ~ July 9, 2008

The Day of the Sloth. This was a "slothful" day. It started off with a hike with Dan'l down the trail used by Gerardo to take rappelers to the waterfalls. Most people don't hike this trail because it's pretty steep coming back up ~ the rappelers only go down it. But I'd gotten a taste of it in February on my last visit, and I wanted to see where it went.

Watching carefully for snakes (just as one would watch for rattlesnakes in the desert), we moseyed down the switchbacks to the lovely stream at the bottom of the ravine, which is on the south side of the ridge our cabina is built on. At the bottom I sat down to sketch a vine winding its way up a tree while Dan explored along the stream.

Dim light filtered down greenly, and I was glad I had my little sitter pad because the ground was spongey wet. I had a pretty nice likeness of the vine by the time Dan splashed back up the stream. He had hoped to return with me back up the path and trot down to the beach for a nice soak in the tidepools, but I persuaded him to return without me because I had spied a wonderful buttressed tree I wanted to draw. Sitting on a log in the middle of the stream (on my sitter pad, for sure!) I spent the next forty-five minutes drawing the sinewy, sinuous, sensual roots.

Then, at a very leisurely pace, I wandered up the steep trail. I hardly registered how steep it was because I was going so slowly, photographing mushrooms, leaves, seeds, and putting my hand down right next to ..... a beautiful sloth skull! My jaw dropped. What's the likelihood of finding a sloth skull right beside the trail, at waist level, perfectly preserved with all its teeth, completely bare as though someone had scientifically prepared it for display?! It was gorgeous! (Confession: I have been a skull collector since I was a little girl ~ by high school I had more than 60 skulls in my bedroom-museum.)

Carefully packing a plastic bag around it (I keep plastic tote bags in the bottom of my carrybag so that if I set the carrybag down on a wet surface only the plastic bags will get wet, not my sketchbook edge), I tucked it into my bag to take back to the lodge and identify, and continued up the trail past a huge monkey ladder vine, and around the next switchback (in case you don't hike in steep places, a switchback is where a climbing trail "switches back" on itself to continue to another level). There, directly above where I'd found the skull, on the downhill side of the trail, was the rest of the sloth skeleton, nearly invisible as it consisted of tan bones scattered among tan leaves and sticks. The skull being smooth and cylindrical, had rolled down to the next level spot. Squatting down, I poked at them a bit to see what I could see and discovered a claw, nearly three inches long. I tucked that into my bag, too.

I sat quietly on a log awhile, further up the trail, to watch a mixed flock of birds chatter through all around me, totally ignoring me. They were foraging, and I watched a black-hooded antshrike (identified later) feed SOME kind of huge spidery thing to its companion. I looked around me at the log, at the leaf litter, at the sprawling vines and foliage, wondering what I was missing from my human viewpoint. Lots, apparently!

That afternoon, relaxing with Dan'l on our terrazo, I went up to check out the swimming pool for a possible dip and discovered .....well, read about it on the journal page here. It was very exciting! And here's a photo I took through the lens of the spotting scope Gerardo set up for us to look through. I sketched the journal page from a photo that he took, closer to the pair, with my camera.

Like I said, it was a slothful day.


Yesterday I said I'd try to include a scan of the painting I'm doing for the cover of The Southern Swamp Explorer. I've included it here.

By way of explanation: nothing is finished yet. While I have added color to many areas, I will probably go back and add/change/darken/lighten colors to get the effects I want.

In the alligator area, I've done quite a bit on the mama gator, and I'm now working on the vegetation mass which has sheltered the eggs. The vegetation is old, rotting, and will be darker, but at the moment I am coloring it. On the right I have applied the watercolor pencil, while on the left some of it has been watered already. It's not dark enough, but this underlayment of color will make the darkening look realistic.

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