The Completed Quest

 

Paints in the Parks’ final event for 2019 took place on a beautiful Saturday in October at Mounds State Park near Anderson, Indiana. Known for its prehistoric earthworks and the Bronnenberg House built by one of the area’s first European settlers, the park also offers plenty of trails, beautiful views of the White River and an excellent Nature Center where our last painting activity and art show were offered in the spacious community room.

Twenty-five paintings either finished on site as plein air or touched up in the studio were on display along with a brief description of each state park, the date visited and a photo of the scene that was painted. A flyer from every park was also provided with maps of the trails. The art exhibit encompassed all four years of Indiana’s  Arts in the Parks grant projects beginning in 2016 to celebrate the state’s bicentennial anniversary and the state parks’ centennial anniversary.

Visitors were also encouraged to try out the water brushes and other watercolor supplies provided to create art in the park one more time. Sixty participants created their own artwork on small watercolor blocks to take home as souvenirs of their visit. It was great to see old friends and participants from previous park visits as well as new faces stop by to join the painting activity and check out the artwork.

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better finale to our four-year Arts in the Parks grant project and our quest to paint in all the marvelous state parks in Indiana. Paints in the Parks thanks the staff at Mounds and the entire Indiana Department of Natural Resources for their support over the years. This project was made possible by funding from the Indiana Arts Commission and the state of Indiana. And special thanks to all the new friends and artists we’ve met over the years. May all of you continue to create art in nature.

While this is the conclusion to our four-year project with the Indiana Arts in Parks program, Paints in the Parks will continue with our mission to creatively connect folks of all ages and experience to nature through art. We’ve recently moved and look forward to painting (and encouraging others) in the many parks and wildlife reserves in the rolling hills of southern Indiana, also home to a rich history in the traditions of arts, crafts and plein air painting.

We wish our readers a happy 2020 and hope that you will continue to follow us in our artistic adventures on this website and our Facebook page Paints in the Parks!

Bucolic Brown County

Paints in the Parks’ last park visit to complete our 4-year project (before the art exhibit in October) took place on a busy Saturday during Labor Day weekend in Brown County State Park. Established in 1929 as the largest park in the state, Brown County is located in the rolling hills of southern Indiana near the university town of Bloomington. During the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps restored the cleared slopes of the park with plantings of black locust, black walnut and other trees to help stop erosion while building many of the existing buildings, shelters, roads and lookout tower.

Brown County is famous for its vistas that overlook miles of wooded hills, especially during peak foliage season in the fall.  That is where I set up in the morning across from Weed Patch Hill to capture still-green leaves on the last day of August. The overcast day brought a hint of autumn chill on the breeze as I worked with my oil paints and talked to visitors who stopped by on foot or by car on this busy holiday weekend. With its 70 miles of bridle trails, 20 miles of hiking trails and 27 miles of mountain biking paths, this park has plenty to keep you busy. You can also stay at their large campground, rustic cabins or the Abe Martin Lodge after your busy day of activities.

After finishing my  8″ x 10″  oil painting (I’m getting faster after four years!) in good time, we headed down the road to the Nature Center where a nature fair was underway full of informative exhibits and fun activities for the whole family. We were lucky enough to set up our painting activity next to the DNR table with a display of butterflies and milkweed seeds to plant. Its proximity also offered excellent subject matter to paint in addition to the wildflower garden nearby still in full bloom.

We had a tremendous turnout that day with 66 children and grownups participating in our painting activity, rivaling the attendance at O’Bannon Woods State Park on a Labor Day weekend two years ago. You could find artists everywhere including the Nature Center’s outdoor benches by the overlook, the porch floor and in the gravel path! Even a brief rain shower couldn’t deter visitors from trying out the water brushes and art supplies. We were really happy with our Art in the Park program’s outreach on the final park visit, and the smiles on visitors’ faces made the ambitious schedule and 23 painting activities all worthwhile.

In the afternoon I spent a couple of relaxing hours at the Hesitation Point overlook working with a pastel on Ampersand board. The gritty texture grabs the chalk pastels nicely for more intense colors in the waning daylight. Many stopped by to talk about my painting and show me their artwork. It was a delightful and fitting way to wrap up my Arts in the Parks visits.

But we aren’t finished yet! Stay tuned for highlights from Paints in the Parks’ art exhibit and painting activity held in October at Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana. Until then, happy creating in whatever way you enjoy.

Shining Waters at Shakamak

Paints in the Parks spent one of the most gorgeous days of the summer at Shakamak State Park in August. Created in the late 1920s from land donated by three Indiana Counties south of Terre Haute, Shakamak owes its name to the Native Americans who aided Tecumseh in his famous efforts against the U.S. and offers three manmade lakes totaling more than 400 acres. Recreational opportunities found at the park include fishing, boating, camping and hiking as well as swimming at the impressive aquatic center serving the needs of the farming community for miles around.

I spent the morning painting what I called “the dock to nowhere” on Lake Shakamak which is a remnant from diving towers that were used for swimming competitions and Olympic trials by celebrities such as Esther Williams and Johnny Weismuller. All that’s left now is an enigmatic section of dock that underscored my plein air scene. While enjoying a pleasant spot in the shade cast by a nearby grove of trees, I visited with early-rising campers who stopped by during their morning walks to check out what I was doing.

For the afternoon I moved to the spacious brick and timber pool shelter, one of many structures built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. I set up my painting activity on tables overlooking the busy aquatic center, and spent the rest of the day having some great conversations with families who stopped in to try out the water brushes and other art supplies. Many were taking a break from swimming to cool off in the shelter in their swim suits, appropriate attire for watercolors!

While Shakamak is off the beaten path, we highly recommend a trip to this beautiful park with its aquatic history and gleaming lakes. The park’s aquatic center, modern campground, family cabins, abundant wildlife and miles of trails are definitely worth a trip to the west central side of the state.

Land of Lincoln

In July Paints in the Parks made the long car trip to Lincoln State Park in the southernmost part of Indiana where young Abe Lincoln spent part of his youth. Established in 1932 as a memorial to the 16th president’s mother, the 2,026 acres of this state park are also home to Lincoln’s sister Sarah’s gravesite, the Lincoln amphitheater, and a bicentennial plaza with markers illustrating various milestones of Abe’s life in Indiana.

I set up my easel for the morning at the edge of Lake Lincoln to paint the log cabin boat rental that was formerly a ranger cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, who also planted most of the trees and created many trails in the park during the Great Depression. My location was near the extensive electric campground, so I received plenty of visitors while I painted the cabin and blooming waterlilies with my water-mixable oils.

After a busy morning and a good start on the painting, I spent the rest of a beautiful summer day at the park’s new porch overlooking the park’s swimming beach, where I offered my hands-on painting activity to swimmers and picnickers on their way to the beach, the restrooms or the convenient camp store inside the beach house. All afternoon, fellow artists grabbed their paints and water brushes to create artwork under the shade of table umbrellas placed around the deck with a cool breeze and a great view of the beach — definitely one of the nicest settings I’ve experienced for the painting activity!

I was even able to continue work on my painting of the log cabin from a different angle on the deck and wrap up a very pleasant day at a beautiful state park that bears our 16th president’s name. During this trip, we also took advantage of a free visit to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial across the road from the state park entrance, which includes a stunning Art Deco memorial building and visitor’s center, the living 1820s historical farm, a bronze casting of the Lincoln’s cabin and Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s gravesite.

It was truly an honor to paint and walk the grounds where Abe lived and worked from age seven to twenty-one. I highly recommend visits to both these parks–you won’t be disappointed!

Scenic Salamonie

 

In June, Paints in the Parks traveled to the rich countryside of north-central Indiana to paint at Salamonie Lake State Park, a property which includes 40 ponds, abundant marshes and a 2,665-acre lake that is part of a trio of Upper Wabash reservoirs that have saved millions of dollars in flood damages downstream. Leased and managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the reservoirs’ water levels and dams are regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

While Salamonie Lake and its surrounding properties offer boating, swimming and fishing opportunities as well as a modern campground with gorgeous views of the lake, the state’s recent historic rainfall put the reservoir’s primary purpose to good use.  By holding back the amount of water released from the dam, the reservoir’s water levels were quite high when we visited, thankfully preventing the towns and cities nearby from suffering the catastrophic flooding that used to occur before this system was built.

Even though the wet weather continued on the day of our program, I spent the morning in a shelter overlooking the park’s wildlife management pond that was located above the lake’s flood levels.  True to its name, the pond and surrounding habitat were full of birds and judging by the folks who came with their bait and poles, fish too! As a gentle rain fell, folks took cover in the shelter and watched me paint the pond and picturesque dead trees that stood like sentries amid the marsh grass. Regular visitors told me about the history of the local area and the many activities sponsored by the park and its recreational areas.

After a productive morning the gentle rain turned into a steady downpour, so we relocated to the lobby of the world-class Upper Wabash Interpretive Center which contains a fine collection of interactive reservoir exhibits, cultural and natural history,  wildlife viewing and a children’s room, not to mention tempting merchandise. Just around the corner of the building you’ll also find the Salamonie Raptor Center housing live birds of prey and an extensive garden full of flowers, herbs and vegetables.

Despite the deluge outside, damp but dedicated campers and park guests arrived to participate in my hands-on art activity, with plenty of room to spread out and create their masterpieces in the center’s well-equipped meeting room complete with a sink and paper towels which we don’t usually have access to outside. The naturalist even displayed an owl for inspiration. We had a good turnout despite the weather, and there was still time to check out the live animal exhibits and the interactive model of the water management system before we left.

I highly recommend a visit to Salamonie Lake and its surrounding properties to appreciate the beauty, history and environmental importance of the Upper Wabash reservoirs as well as the recreational opportunities provided. The welcome and hospitality we received from staff and local volunteers warmed our hearts even without the sunshine that day.

The Fourth and Final Paints in the Parks Schedule


Here’s the fourth and final schedule for Paints in the Parks as part of Indiana’s Arts in the Parks. You still have six more chances to visit fabulous state parks and create some art with us! This year finishes in October with an art exhibit of 25 paintings created during my four-year journey through all of Indiana’s state parks.

2019 Paints in the Parks Schedule:
Versailles State Park — 5/18/19
Salamonie Lake State Park — 6/15/19
Lincoln State Park — 7/6/19
Shakamak State Park — 8/3/19
Brown County State Park — 8/31/19
Mounds State Park (Art Exhibit & Reception) — 10/19/19

Hope to see you out in the parks.

Art and Bison Over at Ouabache

In September, Paints in the Parks traveled to Ouabache (pronounced O-ba-chee) State Park near Fort Wayne, Indiana, to help the park celebrate National Public Lands Day and the re-opening of their fire tower. Once home to the Miami tribe who lived along the banks of the Wabash River, the park was also once known as the “Greatest Wildlife Laboratory in the United States” with a game preserve program that raised pheasants, quail, raccoons and rabbits. Nowadays, one of the park’s main attractions is the bison exhibit with a healthy herd that is accessible to the public.

The area that includes the park was rapidly settled in the mid-1800s and cleared of its mature timber for farming to the point that the land became severely eroded. After being acquired and operated as the Wells County State Forest and Game Preserve in the early 1930s, the area was eventually restored with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration, programs that constructed buildings and shelters, planted a nursery and developed the game preserve. When the game-raising program was phased out, the park was renamed Ouabache and designated as a state recreation area in 1962, officially becoming a state park in 1983. As well as 25-acre Kunkel Lake, the fire tower and the bison exhibit,  Ouabache offers a modern campground, tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas, playing fields and an asphalt bike trail that follows the Wabash River along the southern edge of the park.

After some very hot weather during the week, temperatures suddenly plunged on the day of our visit and I found myself having to acclimate quickly while bundled up in many layers as I painted on a beach by the lake in a stiff morning breeze. While no one was boating or fishing that morning, a few painters came down to watch me capture the little island close to the beach house. I had some great conversations about my set up, the kind of subject I choose and how I build the painting (after a rough outline with pencil or paint, I usually start with the sky).

After a couple hours of conversation and painting, I moved on to a prime spot next to the bison exhibit, where I spent the rest of the day offering my hands-on painting activity across the road from the remodeled fire tower that had just reopened that morning. All day long, visitors could scale the tower and take in the amazing 360-degree view. There was even a quiz game that the park staff sponsored in the afternoon that involved climbing the fire tower steps.

While I was hoping that at least a few of the bison would wander close enough for me to crank out a quick pastel sketch, the buffalo had other ideas. A few young males did camp out for most of the day in a corner of the enclosure farther down the path, close enough to pose for visitors’ photos while they snoozed. I managed to run down and take enough photos for a sketch at home. Needless to say, there were lots of bison that showed up in the watercolors that day, with the living subjects within view in the distance.

Despite the unseasonable cold, we interacted with 90 visitors and had 50 artists participate in the painting activity! Another very successful Paints in the Parks event with the continued support of the park staff, the Indiana DNR and the Indiana Arts Commission through the Arts in the Parks and Historic Sites grant program. I couldn’t keep spreading the create art outside message without their support and the willingness of countless park visitors to paint in the parks with me.