Groovy Links of the Month: Outdoor and nature sites

This month’s Groovy Links are blogs and websites dedicated to outdoor adventures and being in nature, whether it’s hiking, gardening, painting—or flying!

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta got started Saturday morning bright and early with a spectacular launch of colorful vessels. We enjoyed seeing details of the balloons on tv, then going to our kitchen window and looking at the tiny dots on the horizon through our binoculars. That’s right, we could see the balloons flying from 50 miles away! Sunday we got a chance to go see the evening Balloon Glow, when all the balloons return from their afternoon flights. The festival runs through October 13 this year.

Beauty in the Backcountry is the blog and website of Canadian hiker and Ecco Ambassador Morgan Kwan. Morgan writes about her backpacking adventures (most recently to Macchu Picchu) and gives tips to beginning and intermediate outdoorswomen about hiking, packing, and looking groomed and staying comfortable while on the trail.

Gail Eichelberger writes the blog, Clay and Limestone. She has planted her garden with native wildflowers and plants that attract native pollinating insects and animals. Her blog focuses on the special challenges and joys of wildflower gardening in middle Tennessee. She hosts the monthly Wildflower Wednesday link party, which allows garden bloggers from all over to virtually visit some beautiful gardens and see gorgeous wildflowers from different parts of the US and the world.

Artist and illustrator Debby Kaspari’s blog, Drawing the Motmot, features her sketches and paintings of wildlife and nature. Her specialties include birds and animals of the tropics.

Christine Novak Kane is an artist and hiker in the Chicago, IL area who writes the blog Let’s Paint Nature. She offers lots and lots of tips and tutorials on plein air painting! Great stuff for artists who want to learn more about working outside on location.

Pam Johnson Brickell lives and paints in South Carolina’s Low Country. She shares the luscious watercolor pages of her sketchbook on her blog, South Carolina Low Country Nature Journaling and Art. Besides the tips, tutorials and inspirations offered on her site, Brickell leads workshops and classes on nature journaling and calligraphy.


Fields of gold and some groovy links

Yellow and purple wildflowers in early September, New Mexico.

Late summer wildflowers. I love these early morning walks!

Rather than select one, single Groovy Link of the Month, I thought a list of some interesting links might be fun instead.


The Colours of Reality, a major retrospective of the botanical artist and blues musician, Rory McEwen at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Rory McEwen was a true Renaissance Man, a type rarely seen in today’s world of narrow specialization. Born and raised in Scotland, he was introduced to the art of botanical painting by his family’s governess, and learned more from Wilfrid Blunt, his art teacher at boarding school. As a young man, he traveled to the US and popularized the music of the famous blues guitarist Leadbelly by performing 12-string blues on the Ed Sullivan Show and on the BBC in the UK. He turned from music to painting exclusively in 1964.

For contemporary botanical artists, his influence matches only that of Margaret Mee, although the two differed in their approach to botanical art. Mee was the classic explorer-scientist, traveling into the Amazon alone or with a guide to paint and gather plant specimens for further study in her São Paulo studio. McEwen, on the other hand, chose to paint individual leaves, petals and plants as individual beings, with their own unique life history and personality, rather than the generic standard of identification normally seen in botanical illustration until that time. Today’s botanical artists seek to create work that uses modernist compostional techniques and unusual subject matter as a direct result of his groundbreaking work that featured decay, scars and a singular moment in time, rather than the illustrative view of a plant detailing its entire reproductive life cycle.

Botanical artist Martin J. Allen writes an appreciative essay on the exhibit. Inky Leaves blog by artist JR Shepherd, offers several links and reviews of the exhibit.

The exhibit closes on September 22, so if you’re in London during the next 10 days, try to get a look in!

My favorite Brazilian artist, Beatriz Milhazes, is holding her first major retrospective in her home town of Rio de Janeiro at the Paço Imperial (unfortunately, the center’s own website is still under construction.) Entitled Meu Bem (My Dear), the exhibit runs until October 27. I first encountered her work in London, in an installation at the Gloucester Road Tube station and fell in love with her cheerfully rigorous geometric abstractions. Despite her international success in the last 20 years, Milhazes continues to live and work in the historic Jardim Botânico bairro of Rio de Janeiro.

Cool jobs:

The exhibit artists who create the awesomely naturalistic exhibits at the Bronx Zoo.

Biocreativity blog interviews scientific illustrator Emily M. Eng.

Botanical and biological news:

The Indian Botanists’ Journal blog describes air-cloning the Neomalarckia caramba (Roxb.) That spherical blossom looks like a 1950’s George Nelson chandelier! Fab-a-licious.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes the medieval history of the flower we now know as the carnation.

A 1-millimeter long water beetle was discovered on the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University in Manila, the Philippines. Beyond the excitement aroused by the fact that a new species has been discovered in the world’s most densely populated city, the interesting point is that the university campus grounds consist of reclaimed waterways and second-generation forest growth, the type of natural environments often thought of as too degraded to host significant amounts of species or permanent habitats for them.


Headlines and deadlines

A tiny white wildflower on a rocky hiking trail.

Spring is here! The first wildflower of 2013, spotted on the trail while walking with Nevis.

Some fun and interesting news you can use:

My friend Artl8dy has begun offering workshops in mixed media and art journaling. Contact Sharon Hendry Designs through Facebook, or @artl8dy on Twitter for more details.

Val Webb of the Illustrated Garden has a new schedule of classes, both online and real world. The most exciting workshop is Botanical Drawing: Splinter Hill Bog and Beyond, held April 25-27 at the Mobile Botanical Gardens in Mobile, Alabama. This is a great opportunity to see exotic pitcher plants, orchids and other unusual wildflowers in their native habitat while improving your observational drawing skills. Bill Finch, noted conservationist and executive director of the Botanical Gardens, will lead the tour and instruct participants in botany.

Daniel Atha, of the New York Botanical Gardens, has an interesting blog post about herbaria in today’s botany.

The anatomy of sight: An interesting article on tetrachromats, people with four types of cone cells in their eyes. These individuals can often see many more separate hues of color than those of us average folks with only three cone cells.

The New Indian Express reports that at least 168 plants are threatened with extinction in the Eastern Ghat Mountains of the Indian state of Andra Pradesh. Deforestation and mining are destroying the forest habitat of these plants, many of which are used in traditional Indian medicines.

Maria Coryell-Martin is an expeditionary artist specializing in polar regions. She and scientist Kristin Laidre are currently documenting the Arctic narwhals.


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