Mountain Monday…and a mountain of a turtle

 

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Taken from Bierstadt Trail in May 2010 in Rocky Mountain National Park. The sun was positively brilliant. It was a perfect day for hiking…so where does a mountain of a turtle come in?  Today while walking my dog in Wisconsin, I came upon a young girl watching over a very large snapping turtle. I was told a nearby neighbor had found the animal in his yard, then promptly dumped it out of a wheelbarrow onto a service road in the area, as he is not fond of animals.  The girl and her mom had become concerned and called the WI Humane Society Wildlife Rehab Center about what to do.

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This time of year, female turtles leave the water for dry land to dig and bury eggs, which is what this snapper was up to. Nothing needs to be done for them…except letting them do their thing. But it is kind to take them off the road if you see one, as many are hit and killed making their way across roads. Do be careful, however, if it is a snapper, as they can be quick and are certainly capable of taking off fingers. Do not move them far away at all from where you found them, as they have their territory and will be lost, if they are moved to a completely new area.  They will not be interested in eating, as the kind mom and daughter thought here, providing her with greens and apple. The female turtle will be focused on her mission.

She was a beautiful creature –  her skin complex with bumps and lines, and a tail that resembled a dragon’s. And she was big. Not a mountain but at least 14 inches in length. Given her size, she has been living on this earth for awhile. I hope she is around for many years to come.

Zoo Theater Mural (and a Raccoon Story) – Milwaukee County Zoo

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My painting went big last week – 26 feet long by 12 feet high big!  I was commissioned to add clouds and grasses to the new Zoo Society’s Kohl’s Wild Theatre stage at the Milwaukee County Zoo. It was a bit strange not to include animals but the stage will be filled with birds of prey flying and actors teaching conservation through enthusiastic productions each summer day. My mural is thus meant to be a simple, complementary backdrop.

This was the stage prior to painting:

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The first step was chalking in white the grasses, then beginning the process of layering greens.

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Below is a detail of the grasses in process. Outdoor house paint was my media, sturdy enough to last through weather conditions of all types. Painting outside was not always conducive. Temperatures ranged from quite cool (40 degrees F) to warm (close to 80 a couple times). In both cases, the paint became thick, making blending challenging.

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Despite the physical and technical demands, the zoo served as a very special studio. Lions roared and elephants trumpeted from time to time. One evening included a drama. I could hear a type of screeching. At first, I thought it was a bird, perhaps an owl who had caught prey. The cry was insistent and heart wrenching. I walked to the hippo enclosure, just outside the theater, where the call was originating. A baby raccoon had fallen into it. Mom and her other young looked down at the panicking little creature. Thankfully, the hippos were inside for the night, as the zoo was closed. The baby tried climbing up the rocky walls but slipped down again and again. I thought I was going to have to call zoo staff to get him out. I prayed persistently that God would help him up. Finally, after much running back and forth, on a third attempt, he made it to the top. Mom greeted him then groomed his head. What happened next was most unexpected. Mom and the young one turned to look at me. Then the rest of the family gathered around her to stare. It was a perfect circle of bandit faces. I wish I would have had my camera.

It’s hard to say what is going on in animal’s minds, if not impossible, but they were aware of my presence and appeared to acknowledge it. I told them to be careful and said a thank you prayer to God it ended well. Quietly, the family turned and disappeared into the darkness. That was not the type of experience an artist has in the studio, which is why it is good to get outside and paint.

 

Birds and Octopi Sketching

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Out and about teaching students at the zoo last week, I had time in between to get in some quick sketches of my own. The octopus and birds captured my fancy most. I had no idea a hooded pitta bird even existed so a wonderfully colorful personal discovery.

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The octopus looked positively peaceful sleeping. Her tentacles moved about slowly from time to time. What does she dream about I thought?

 

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The two images on the right are birds from the Milwaukee County Zoo, while those on the left were done out at local parks. I wish the bluebird had been around much longer to draw more detail. It was the first time I had seen an Eastern bluebird so a momentous birdwatching event for me captured in very humble terms.

All images are my own so please do not reproduce and copy without my consent. The creative respect is appreciated.

Kristin