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Colors of the West: Free online workshop with painter Molly Hashimoto

October 19th, 2017 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

“Putting a brush in the hands of new artists, young and old, heightens their awareness of the power and beauty of nature.” – Molly Hashimoto

Join North Cascades Institute and The Mountaineers Books October 24, at 7pm for the next Mountaineers Books Web Series event with Molly Hashimoto, author of the new book Colors of the West: An Artist’s Guide to Nature’s Palette. Molly is an award-winning artist and art teacher. In her book, Molly explains techniques for creating successful watercolor paintings en plein air, a French term meaning literally “in the open air.”

In this presentation, Molly will:

Discuss outdoor paint palettes and how to “see” color depending on time of day, season, atmosphere, and more
Offer tips to improve your nature painting skills or begin this as a fun new hobby—whether you regularly go into the backcountry or just want to sketch and paint the natural beauty in a park down the street
Steeped in the natural world, Molly has sketched in the outdoors and worked as a plein air artist and teacher for more than 20 years. In that time she has filled more than 40 sketchbooks with landscapes, vignettes, studies of flora and fauna, and natural history notes—all created while visiting some of the West’s most stunning landscapes.

Click here to register >>

You can attend from any web-connected computer or device. Register even if you can’t attend the evening and we will email you a recording of the webinar to listen to whenever it’s convenient!

30 Year Anniversary: A Look Back at 2016

December 31st, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

As today marks the last day of 2016, what better place than Chattermarks to look back at the memories and highlights of the year here at the North Cascades Institute. I have only recently joined as a contributor to the blog and many of the posts this past year were submitted by guests, naturalists, C15 graduate students and Ben Kusserow – our previous blog editor who left intimidatingly large shoes to fill! Before I started the graduate residency program, I frequently came to Chattermarks to get a better idea as to what my life would be like in the upper Skagit and the work being done by the Institute. The first hand narratives, naturalist tidbits, and expertise of all these contributors painted a rich picture, helping to prepare me for this year of living in the North Cascades. I hope you’ve found their contributions as helpful and informative as I did. Enjoy this look back at 2016!

Mountain School

One last group photo before these 5th graders head back to Bellingham after three days of Mountain School.

In my mind there isn’t a program at NCI that can compete with the energy and enthusiasm of Mountain School. Hundreds of students from all over the state participate in the program during fall and spring, spending three to five days exploring the trails and learning about mountain ecosystems through interdisciplinary activities.

  • We always hope that when the students leave, they are taking with them positive and lasting memories. This year, instructors shared some of the letters they received from students in the post, “Dear Mountain School,” affirming our hopes.
  • In October, we were all excited to see Mountain School in the cover story of National Geographic. The article highlighted the importance of getting young people and people of color into our National Parks.

 

Naturalist Notes

Photo courtesy of Ben Kusserow, from his natural history project on bats in the North Cascades National Park.

2016 was full of educational opportunities here on Chattermarks. If you feel like your naturalist skills could use a brush up or you just want to learn something new, look no further. This year seemed to have a little bit of everything, from fungi to fire lookouts.

» Continue reading 30 Year Anniversary: A Look Back at 2016

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VOCALIZE: A Natural and Cultural History Project

June 20th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Emily Ford, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

“VOCALIZE” attempts to share the Natural and Cultural History of the Loon through multiple ways of knowing. This project blends Indigenous Education and Scientific Study through the following list of topics, in order to create an ecological and social learning platform for all: Etymology, Art, History, Biography, Archeology, Astronomy, Taxonomy, Phylogeny, Poetry, Geology, Mapping, Natural History, Anthropology, Biology, American Literature, Conservation Studies, Storytelling, Indigenous Education and Pedagogy, and Place-Based Learning.

The multidisciplinary nature of Natural History allows both cultural and scientific knowing to be shared and valued. The Common Loon (Gavia immer), is not only the focus in this project, but also provides a lens to investigate Environmental and Social Justice, especially as it pertains to North America’s Native First Peoples. The Loon’s hauntingly visceral “call of the wild” has spoken to humans throughout the centuries, and offers a vessel for silenced cultural perspectives to come to light.

Within the project booklet, you will learn about the appearance, habits, and vocalizations of the charismatic Common Loon. Dive beneath the water, and you will also experience the emotions, voices, stories, and values held by the Loon. As we observe and interpret the Loon’s being, we must also recognize the human context of engaging with nature. “VOCALIZE” serves as an example and call to action for all readers to be open minded, aware, and inclusive of diverse human experience and beliefs.
It demonstrates the importance of listening to and valuing every voice, including the voice of the Earth, as we come to realize our interrelations.

For example, I examine the word “vocalize,” often used to describe the loon’s various calls. In English, “Vocalize” means to articulate, or to sing vowel sounds, and comes from the root ‘call out’, or ‘cry.’ I pair this with the many Ojibwe definitions, in order to value their language and roots of their words. This serves as an example of how language is a form of power, and it is important to present more than just one perspective. I also use this word to reiterate the layered metaphors of indigenous oppression throughout the project. A loon’s call in the night comes out of the silence, and echoes with a wounded mournfulness, yet stands strong in people’s memory of wilderness and beauty. Paired with these concepts, I also include scientific studies of the four loon calls and their adaptive uses for communication.

Similarly, I investigate the bird’s many names. Loon’s scientific name is Gavia immer, from Scandinavian roots. In Ojibwe, “Loon” and “brave” are the same word: “Maang.” I then share the creation story of the loon, from astronomy, to Indigenous creation stories, to evolution and archeology.  

My poetry is scattered throughout the booklet to reinforce the subject topics and include my own reflections and voice. This poem follows the investigation of our naming of the loon and its vocalizations, as well as a discussion of layered metaphors about the power and oppression of language use. Accompanying the poem is art by Ojibwe artist Jackson Beardy who fought as an activist, educator, and artist, for the rights of Canada’s First Peoples and the revitalization of woodland cultures.

» Continue reading VOCALIZE: A Natural and Cultural History Project

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Winter Musing in an Alpine Refuge: Creative residency January 18-30, 2016

May 30th, 2016 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

By Véronique Robigou – Artist, Geologist, and Natural Science Illustrator.

At the start of the year, I was very fortunate to join the legion of artists, naturalists, and scientists who before me have benefited from the North Cascades’ Institute Creative Residency Program. A retreat as artist-in-residence in the remote, alpine setting of the North Cascades Learning Center! An escape from my city routine with all the comfort of a chalet in the forest, the support of the center staff, and the intellectual stimulation of interacting with graduate students that study environmental education at the center. What an ideal way to start the year!

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In winter, the Diablo lake landscape is not as colorful as alpine peaks and meadows blooming in Spring nor as glorious as the golden forests of the Fall but… the dark gray skies, the perfectly still surface of the lake, and the snowy trails are conducive to quiet and creative reflection – a luxury that I rarely have time for in my daily life.  I relished long, silent walks through the forests, and along the lakeshore, and many hikes up the snow-covered, mountain trails. The seemingly, dormant nature was amazingly vibrant with mosses and mushrooms thriving in the constant rain. And plants, bushes and trees were nurturing intricate, delicate buds. Buds that my eye had never quite noticed in the same way before. As I explored the area for the first time, I discovered nature in a season during which I usually don’t sketch in “plein air”. Hiking silently through towering Douglas firs, Sitka alders, and Ponderosa pines gave me an opportunity to muse and dream up new projects. Immersed in the subdued colors of winter, my sketches were infused not only by my observations in the natural world but also by the pitter-patter of rain, the raucous call of a solitary raven or the occasional rock fall on the mountain slope. Sounds became elements of my visual musings. Sounds became colors.

NCI-VR3

When the rain would not take a break, I found refuge in the cozy center’s library to read and do research. Focusing on local, topographic maps, reports about the construction of the hydroelectric dams on the Skagit River, history of the Diablo lake region and natural history guides of the area, I unearthed fascinating ingredients that will feed new artworks. Over the next few months, all this new information, my observations and my impressions will gradually coalesce into new ideas to express with colors on paper and reflecting my time at NCI.

My discussions with the talented staff and students at the center have been some of the brightest moments of my stay. Sharing meals, life experiences and stories, art and science insights, and teaching strategies enriched my reflective time with energy from a youthful and dedicated group of people that enthusiastically share their passion for the environment. The atmosphere that they create and nurture at the center is a priceless addition to any creative endeavor. I also spent time facilitating an “Art of Map” workshop for the graduate students who literally transformed a gloomy, rainy day into “Liquid Sunshine”. Read more at

http://www.oceanetterrastudio.com/blog/liquid-sunshine.

As much as I thrive in the intensity of traveling afar, I may have found that a local, creative haven at the North Cascades Learning Center. How thrilling to have access to this refuge just a few hours from my studio! I look forward to future explorations at and around the center in all seasons.

Véronique is an artist, natural science illustrator, geologist, and educator at Ocean et Terra Studio in Seattle, WA. Learn more at www.oceanetterrastudio.com

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Véronique Robigou: Artistic Mapper in Residence

February 18th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Véronique Robigou participated in the North Cascades Institute’s Creative Residence Program this winter, joining the tradition of poets, naturalists, dancers and researchers who have participated in the past.

As described by the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators Northwest, Véronique is an “artist, scientific illustrator, geologist and educator.” She launched the Ocean et Terra Studio in 2011 to “create visual stories of the world around us.” Trained as a geologist she has worked on scientific crews illustrating undersea vents far, far beneath the surface. She now mostly uses her gifts to educate students about how to capture the essence of nature in their own work.

Véronique discussing the Sea Vents she illustrated.

Vent

Véronique’s illustration of the Godzilla Vent. Note the submersable that she drew from located on the left hand side of the illustration. Retrieved from marine-geo.org

» Continue reading Véronique Robigou: Artistic Mapper in Residence

Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) hunting in winter snowfall. Ontario, Canada.

Favorite Nature Art & Photo Books of 2015

December 18th, 2015 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

I’m fortunate to get to review books for various regional publications, most often in the Cascadia Weekly. I get the privilege and pleasure of being sent many books throughout the year, usually on “nature topics,” both fiction and nonfiction, as well as poetry, art, photography and conservation issues. Here at the end of 2015, I’ve selected some of my favorite coffee table-style books that present the natural world in all of its glory!  — CM

TheLivingBird_PRINT

The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature
Photography by Gerrit Vyn (Mountaineers Books)

This handsome volume brings to life the work of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a venerable institute that has been researching – and communicating to the public – the complex lives of birds since 1915. Leading chroniclers of the natural world contribute essays, including Barbara Kingsolver, Jared Diamond, Lyanda Lynn Haupt and Scott Weidensaul, but the real star of these pages is photographer Gerrit Vyn. His crisp images of nesting Snow Owls, dancing Greater Prairie-Chickens, migrating Sandhill Cranes, flocking Trumpeter Swans and beachcombing Sanderlings share as intimate a portrait of bird life as has ever been produced. (Top photo of Great Grey Owl by Vyn)


Grizzly 

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Grizzly: The Bears of Greater Yellowstone
Thomas D. Mangelsen (Rizzoli)

Photographer Thomas Mangelson is renowned for his stunning photographs of the world’s wildlife and exotic locales, but for Grizzly, he focuses his lens in on a family of bears in his own backyard: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This veritable Eden is rich with elk, moose, antelope, bison and other creatures, but the return of brown bears (and gray wolves too) is a recent phenomenon. Beginning in 2006, Mangelsen began creating a “visual journal” of the life and times of Grizzly #399, a matriarch of the Ursus arctos horribilis clans of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Because she inhabits the frontcountry around Grand Teton National Park, she was relatively visible and attracted a legion of admirers. Grizzly intimately chronicles her life and times raising three cubs, hunting elk, playing in wildflower meadows, swimming the Snake River and doing a delicate dance amongst her humans fan club. This large-format book is empathetic and moving tribute to the more-than-human world.


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Pacific Valley

California’s Wild Edge: The Coast in Poetry, Prints and History
Tom Killian with Gary Snyder (Heyday Press)

Writer and woodcut artist Tom Killian conducts a multi-level exploration of California’s Pacific Coast through art, poetry, Native American stories, records of early explorers and varied contributions from writer, bioregional philosopher and Zen Buddhist Gary Snyder. Killian’s 80 stunning, colorful woodblock prints, influenced by the 19th-century Japanese technique of ukiyo-ë, say the most about these places with the fewest words. San Francisco Bay, Pt. Reyes, Bolinas Ridge, Monterey Bay, Pt. Sur, Tomales Bay and other scenic waypoints along the ragged California coast are exquisitely rendered. His carvings blend the accuracy of natural history with the impressionistic imagination of an artist. Striking a fine balance between romantic and representational, his artwork shares what a   landscape viewed through the lens of respect and love looks like.


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Soul of Wilderness: Mountain Journeys in Western BC and Alaska
John Baldwin & Linda Bily (Harbour Publishing)

» Continue reading Favorite Nature Art & Photo Books of 2015

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Kristin Musgnug: Artist in Residence

December 4th, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

By Kristin Musgnug

I am a landscape painter whose goal is to make paintings of the kind of places that don’t usually show up in landscape paintings – places that are not conventionally beautiful. While I thoroughly enjoyed the extraordinary beauty of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center’s surroundings, it was a particular challenge to find places that evoked other responses.

My project while at theEnvironmental Learning Center involved close up painting of the forest floor, particularly in the lush undergrowth of old, wild forests. This project’s emphasis on intact, mostly un-interfered-with location represents a bit of a departure for me. For years my work has investigated the relations between humans and the natural world by painting in places where the results of this interaction were visible. Much of my work has been generated by considering such questions as: how our attitudes towards nature affect our actions towards it, how and why we shape the environment, and how we in turn are shaped by it. To do this I have often focused on landscapes shaped by a particular type of land use, such as campgrounds, parks, gardens, logged forests, parking lots and miniature golf courses.

» Continue reading Kristin Musgnug: Artist in Residence