Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lessons from a Birch Tree

"I've kicked the habit,
Shed my skin;
This is the new stuff."         - Peter Gabriel

I was teaching a field sketching workshop last week on the banks of the Perquimans River in Hertford, North Carolina when I was exposed to the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. To some this tree is nothing special since it grows all along the waterways. But there was something about it that mesmerized me. I had grown up with white birch trees in New England, spending hours peeling the bark off in big white, chalky sheets for arts and crafts projects. But these trees, River Birches, were new to me.

I was struck by the colors of the bark and exposed trunk first of all as well as the immense amount of bark vibrating in the dappled light, twisting and curling off in huge sheets from the trunk. The beauty of these trees stayed with me for days, so much so that I decided to do a finished painting of them from my sketches.

I think I was meant to make the acquaintance of these birch trees at just this point in my life. For I too am finding I am shedding my skin, creating new stuff. People who love my whimsical work might feel they are being left out on a limb, but artists MUST grow and experiment, and the land that surrounds me has begun speaking to me, yelling in fact to be sure its voice is heard. I cannot ignore my yearning any longer. I want to share the secrets that are being shown to me. I can do that by taking more people out into the field to experience for themselves the magic awaiting their sketchbooks. I am even working on Yupo, a challenging new support for my paintings, and I like a challenge. Now this doesn't mean I won't ever do another whimsical animal painting again or an air angel. I love my birds after all. But I have so much more to communicate with my work. More that I want to share. More stories I want to convey.

Experts say that birches shed their bark in order to grow. They also believe it's their way of shedding "hangers-on" and ridding themselves of bacteria and unwanted insects. Sometimes we need to do the same thing; shed ourselves of the hangers-on that try to keep us from growing because it's comfortable for them and what they are used to. That means they don't have to grow or change either. Other hangers-on include people that exude negativity, perhaps not intentionally but it becomes draining on those around them. I have had to release some of these people from my life too in order to grow like the river birch.

I hope you will enjoy my new endeavors as I grow and shed my skin.
For this is the new stuff.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Burn Baby Burn

I think I've mentioned that I just cannot drive by the Alligator River Refuge without pulling in for awhile to wander the gravel roads, watching birds, bear, and whatever else may be about on a lovely spring afternoon.

So after teaching another class on field sketching in Hertford, I pulled into the refuge to see billows of smoke rising up from the horizon behind the fields. I did a couple of sketches and watched for awhile, puzzling as to where the fire was.

Upon pulling back onto the road home, I found the source; a control burn of the marsh. Driving by it was awe inspiring; a curtain of wavering air and flame. Controlled burns are common here, and after doing the sketches I decided to do a finished painting from them back in the studio.

The Burn

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Foiled by Rain

spring trees at the pond
I am so used to getting outdoors everyday to walk and sketch that it's a real heartbreaker when I wake up to the sound of raindrops.

I had planned to venture down to Coquina Beach today to beachcomb for an upcoming class I'm teaching on drawing beach finds. I certainly have a large enough collection that I don't really need to go out to look for more shells, mermaid purses or driftwood. But I can't resist. Who knows what could have washed ashore over the last day or two. And with the season fast approaching, I need to make the most of these days that aren't filled with visitors.

So I decided to reserve Monday for the beach. I still spent my day at the beach painting, only it was from my sketches from my sketchbook. I am quite pleased with this one of East Bonnett St. dunes from a sketch I did a couple of days ago. And I didn't get any sand in the house!

Both of these paintings were done with watercolor on Yupo.

Dunes   Copyright E.M. Corsa 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Over the River and Through the ... Swamp

Nothing is nearby.

My island is two hours away from everything. No Barnes and Noble here to squander an hour or two browsing through racks of books, no Target or Pier One to purchase those necessary things you don't really need, and no museums to haunt for inspiration. The lack of these things keep my island charming, but sometimes you just need a fix of traffic, people, and clothing without starfish or dolphins on it. 

This week I had the pleasure of conducting a workshop on Drawing Birds in the lovely town of Hertford - over two hours away. Four or five bridges, (I lost count) and mile after mile of swampland later, I finally reached my destination and was greeted by 10 of the most talented women ever. Their 20 hands produced some incredible art that day.

Drawing birds is hard work. Getting the proportions correct, the posture, eyes, beaks and bills, etc. It took a bit of time but soon everyone got the hang of how to accomplish what they were after. Nothing makes me happier than to see people realize how gifted they truly are. 

One student told me she could look at the first drawing we did and see how much she progressed in three short hours. That made my heart swell as did the fact that two students are coming back for the field sketching workshop in two weeks and two others are joining me at the bird park workshop in April.

If I'm going to drive two hours for a reward, I think I found the best one in Hertford, and I can't wait to go back in a couple of weeks. 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Jockey's Ridge, one more time

As I say over and over again, nothing is as fresh as my first sketches done on location. You can see why I say that by scrolling down to the original sketch of this dune posted a little while ago.

But the value of those sketches is this. Not only do they bring back the memory of that gorgeous day, working in a light breeze as the dune changed colors, but these sketches allow me to go back and work from them. No, I do not like this as much as the sketch. It's too "finished," too careful. But it will be turned into a concertina book, and I think when it's extended out on a table or mantle, it will still have that aura of the dune about it. And perhaps it will still carry a memory or two of a visit to Jockey's Ridge for whoever purchases it.

the finished book

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Merry Mermaid

As I pulled out a stack of mail from my post office box, hope ran high. Maybe there would be something really cool among the advertisements for pizza and car tires and the usual clutch of bills. Perhaps there would be a real letter or even, just maybe, a check!

As a child I loved to get mail as most kids do. I was happy to be handed all the occupant mail and when a birthday rolled around, I was thrilled to receive a stack of cards wishing me much joy and many happy returns.

Now as children, we've all gotten notes from the Tooth Fairy and perhaps a letter from the big guy himself, Santa. But what about a letter from a mermaid at that beach where you vacationed. You swore you saw her once, playing in the waves just offshore.

So I have partnered with The Merry Mermaid who resides right here in the waters surrounding my island to bring a little birthday wish to a child. She and her friends have joined up to host a seaside birthday party. Check out the letters in my Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/EMCorsaArtShop