If you have been following along, you know that I had the opportunity to spend a wonderful day at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute yesterday at an art retreat. I, along with about 8 other nature artists, spent time together catching up and creating some new artwork. We had a fantastic introductory class in etching with PCCI’s first artist-in-residence, Doet Boersma. Read about it in my previous post.
After our etching class and a tasty lunch, we all spent the afternoon hiking the many trails at PCCI, sketching and painting whatever caught our attention. After such a long winter, it was a pleasure to have temperatures in the 60s and lots of sun! The woods are just starting to bud and spring plants are beginning to bloom.
I decided to hike one of the easier trails so I had plenty of time for drawing as I spotted wildflowers or other interesting subjects.
Three of us headed down toward the boardwalk behind the visitor‘s center, passing many, pretty little spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) along the trail. These delicate, pink-striped flowers are among the first to pop up through the leaf litter each spring.
As we headed onto the boardwalk, I spotted a few blooming marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris). I missed the chance to sketch them last time I was here, so I set my gear down and decided to do a little drawing.
Marsh marigold sketches are in graphite at the top of the page. Another plant that we saw everywhere was skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). They have some really interesting shapes and colors, so I had to stop and capture those, too. I ended up doing graphite and added colored pencil on top. Not the best combo, since it gets muddy and smears. But I wanted to add some color to indicate the deep maroon next to the light yellow-green in the same plant.
In the swampy area near the rest of the skunk cabbage, I did a quick sketch of a tree with bright green moss growing by the roots. I chose to use gray toned paper for this one.
I made my way up the blue trail to the Maple and Beech forest next. This is one of my favorite spots and one I visited before. The beech trees look so beautiful and delicate, especially the smaller ones, with their papery white leaves rustling in the breeze.
Along this whole area, the forest floor is covered in leaf litter and other winter debris, but up throughout all of those leaves, sometimes growing right through them, are the spring wildflowers. I saw trout lily (Erythronium americanum) leaves everywhere, but only one blossom so far. My guess is that in the next week or two, that area will be bright with the curling stems and yellow blossoms.
I also spotted more spring beauties and some clumps of light purple flowers that are slightly bigger than spring beauties. They also have a wonderful, hairy white stem. I believe these are hepatica.
I found one with its three-lobed leaves intact and did some sketching on the same toned gray paper as the tree I did earlier.
After I finished this study, I simply enjoyed walking the rest of the trail, looking for more flowers and listening to the birds singing.
My last interesting find was right at the edge of the trail as it came out of the maple and beech forest into the prairie section. It was sunny on the path and I had my walking stick with me, as usual. I was studying the left side of the trail for wildflowers and heard a rustling off to my right. I stopped and saw a thick snake, about 14 inches long, with light tan and brown markings.
It blended in perfectly with the surrounding leaf litter. It has stopped and was waiting for me to move on. Can you see it in the photo above? Its head is toward the top of the photo, right in between the sideways “V”-shaped tree branches and has two black patches on either side.
I took my camera out and captured a few photos before moving on. It flared its head out as it waited for me to leave, reminding me of a cobra. I thought it might be the elusive Massasauga rattlesnake, Michigan’s only venomous snake.
However, further research when I returned home revealed this to actually be an eastern hog-nosed snake. It is often mistaken for the Massasauga rattlesnake. Those dark head markings really clarified it for me – in any photos you see, the Massasauga has more of a striped appearance. Also, I read that the hog-nosed snake tends to flare its head when disturbed. Either way, a rare and beautiful sighting!
We finished the day by gathering in Doet’s studio again to pick up our etching prints that we created earlier in the day and exchange business cards and contact information. I am so glad to have had the chance to visit PCCI and my artist friends, even if just for one day. I look forward to returning again!