My first stop of the day was the observation deck on Trail 2 overlooking wetlands where the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers connect. Since there was plenty of space on a level surface, I used a folding table at its highest height setting to spread out my art supplies.
With only a brief break for a rain shower, I was able to get a good start on a great view of the marsh area and Harrison Creek, which was very active after all the recent rains
After lunch, I set up another painting demonstration under the shade shelter at the Native American village with the help of naturalists Shannon and Justin, who also tried out the water brushes and watercolor supplies.
The naturalists also provided freshly mashed berries from pokeweed to use as paint. Indigenous peoples used poke berries as a dye, especially for clothing. I loved the color and consistency, and really enjoyed painting with it.
I began a pastel of the Granary at the Indian Village protected from the harsh sun by an effective layer of pine branches on the roof of the shade shelter.
One of our first visitors was a ground squirrel attracted to a basket of hazelnuts used as an exhibit. Villagers would sit under the shade shelter in the heat of the day to shell nuts and grind corn.
A family with two young artists stop by under the shade shelter to paint with watercolors and poke berry juice.
More artists trying out the water brushes and watercolor pencils.
A first for Paints in the Parks, Prophetstown’s main painting activity took place in the evening at the popular campground next to the shower building. Interpretive naturalist Angie Manuel began by giving a brief introduction and background to the Arts in Parks and Historic Sites program.
Showing several eager young artists how to use the art supplies.
Angie brought an inspirational assortment of natural objects and artifacts to use for painting subjects, while providing information and fascinating facts about them as we painted.
A full lineup of picnic tables provided the perfect space to paint outside.
Participants could select some of Angie’s nature treasures like this dragonfly and praying mantis (with egg cases) to bring to their tables for closer inspection while they painted.
Everyone had a chance to try out different art supplies and techniques.
Even the youngest artists can handle the water brushes with a little help from the grownups
My visit to Indiana’s newest state park this month challenged me to try out alternative equipment in new locations that differed from my typical schedule. Prophetstown’s unique blend of prairie, wetland and woods honors the memory of important Native American history while providing the perfect setting for painting and interaction. As if that wasn’t enough, this new state park also features several picnic areas, bike trails, an aquatic center, extensive campground and a 1920s small-scale working farm.
Established in 2004, the park sits at the edge of what was originally a tallgrass prairie, with areas of open oak woodlands. Glaciers passed across the park at least three times, creating the landscape that I was lucky to paint during my visit. My morning painting demonstration was located at an observation deck overlooking the wetlands and floodplain where the Tippecanoe River meets the Wabash. Harrison Creek flows close to the platform from a pond and fen created by those same glaciers, and was running high that morning from all the recent rains.
For the first time since I began painting in the parks I arrived without the tripod that attaches to my paintbox, reenforcing the need for a packing list (that I have already written upon return). Luckily, I was able to use my 4-foot folding table set to its highest height, and could spread out the paintbrushes, paint palette and my water container on a stable surface. When I had to pack up and retreat to the car for a brief rain shower, I was able to leave the table set up since it was waterproof. I returned to continue work on the oil painting I’d started while talking to nine visitors and observed many shorebirds and waterfowl, including great blue herons and kingfishers.
After lunch, I set up another painting demonstration under the shade shelter at the Native American Village located in the restored prairie near the visitors center. The collection of structures that includes a medicine lodge, council house and chief’s cabin replicates a settlement established by Tecumseh, who was Shawnee, and his brother Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) in 1808 to stop the European westward settlement.
Forced from his homelands in Ohio, Tecumseh formed an alliance with the Ojibwe, Delaware, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Wea, Wyandot, Winnebago, Fox, Sac, Creek and Menominee, hoping to repel the advance of European settlement. They congregated at Prophetstown, and heard The Prophet speak. While Tecumseh was away recruiting more support, The Prophet decided to strike first in the early morning hours of Nov. 7, 1811, where he engaged William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory, and his 1,200 troops in the Battle of Tippecanoe that lasted two hours. Defeated, the villagers retreated to Wildcat Creek while Harrison’s men burned Prophetstown to the ground.
Pine branches layering the roof of the shelter provided marvelous shade while I began a pastel of the granary and talked to 13 visitors that hot afternoon. Two children and two adults tried out my watercolor brushes, paints, pencils and crayons along with two members of the DNR staff. The naturalists also provided pokeweed berry juice that was used as a dye by the indigenous people, and became an excellent paint for my painting activity. I was amazed by its color and consistency, and thoroughly appreciated how the poke berries blended in perfectly with the watercolor paints.
After an early dinner at a local restaurant in the town of Battle Ground and a tour of the battlefield along Burnett’s Creek where The Prophet’s warriors met Harrison’s troops, I returned to Prophetstown for an evening painting program at the campground next to the shower house. The head interpretive naturalist, Angie Manuel, not only introduced me as part of Indiana’s Arts in the Parks and Historic Sites with a brief background of the grant program, but she brought lots of natural objects and artifacts found on the park grounds for participants to paint.
We had a great turnout with 30 campers showing up for the presentation, and 26 kids and adults participating in the painting activity. All told, I engaged with nearly 50 people throughout the day at Prophetstown, and learned so much myself about the history of the park and the culture of the Native Americans who maintained the prairie landscape for hunting and gathering. And if you visit this beautiful park, be sure to stop by the stone circle located in the northeast corner of the park near the observation deck and basketball court, which includes a number of stones bearing plaques representing the known Native American tribes that lived at Prophetstown.