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Digital Frankenstein

Castle Frankenstein from the main road (digital, 10x8 in., 2011)

Die Burg Frankenstein von der Hauptstraße. This is number 9 in my series: It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.




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What about Alaska Travel Posters?

I love old travel posters. I am reworking some of my Alaska watercolors in an updated travel poster motif. They are paintings I did during my days working on cruise ships. It’s been a fun project. Give me another day or two.

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What’s with the purple tree?

Looking East from my attic window, over the rooftops of Hochspeyer to the edge of the state forest beyond. Hochspeyer is surrounded by the northern end of the Naturpark Pfälzer Wald (Nature Park Rhineland-Palatinate Forest). I do not have a clue about the purple tree. A nice couple lives across the street and I will ask them about their tree as soon as I speak German a little better.

State forest to the east (digital, 10x7.5in.)
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I’m back … with Frankenstein!

I’m finally back in the drawing and painting mode.

Saturday was a beautiful day so I hiked to Frankenstein Castle. It’s an easy, but all uphill walk to the castle (burg in German). It’s worth the walk. There are not many 12th century castles one can walk around, on, and into without a guide or admission. There are two trailheads, but I have only explored one so far, the main one by the church in the center of town (see my photo in the previous post). The painting is the view you see as the main trail comes upon the castle.

First view of Castle Frankenstein from the trail (watercolor & pen, 7x5in.)

To get there if you are in the area:  There is a small parking lot on the main road (hauptstrasse) through the town of Frankenstein. It’s by the church at the base of the castle hill. It’s easy to miss if you drive into town from Kaiserslautern. If you reach the end of the town, just turn around, drive back, and you will see it.  There is limited street parking across the street, too. Parking is free. Do not drive under the train tracks. It’s a dead end and parking there is for residents only.

The trail more or less begins at the parking lot. You walk on the road under the train tracks and continue straight ahead. Walk between the big church, on the right, and the little church and cemetary, on the left. There is a small arrow-shaped sign on the foundation wall on the right that says “Zum burg” (to castle). The big church has a small, cool cemetary above the trail/road. There are a few old and very weathered gravemarkers and a memorial monument to the Frankenstein men who died in World War I. There were quite a few names considering that Frankenstein is a very small town, even today. There is a goat farm behind the big church. It’s fence comes close to the trail in a few places, and it’s electric!

Once you get past the cemetary on the left, the road ends and the castle trail turns left. There is a sign at the turn that says “Bitte nicht füttern die Ziegen” (Please do not feed the goats).  For the next 200meters there are signs, in German, in front of most of the trees and shrubs, The signs give the common name, latin name, and a brief description of the plant. It’s a nice touch. There is also a large sign that shows a map of the trail. The trail is wide, clear, and easily followed. I walked slowly, stopped, and still made it to the castle in about 10 minutes.

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Clouds, pigs, and mountains that look like camels.

Iconic Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s the highest peak in the Phoenix Mountain range. It’s also proof that people, even the early settlers to this land, cannot resist the temptation to give names to familiar shapes. Clouds look like puppies, bears and pigs and mountains look like cathedrals, bells, and camels.

Camelback Mountain, oil on panel, 8x10 inches.



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A winter view of Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak, 2608 feet (795 meters), second highest peak in the Phoenix Mountains. Its name honors Lori Ann Piestewa, the first Native American woman in U.S. history to die in combat while serving with the military (Iraq, 2003).

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Refreshed by a dirt road

Going nuts with work. Grab sketch gear. Grab water. Drive to end of earth.

Okay, maybe not THE end, but close enough. I found a dirt road that was suitable only for my jeep:  Rocks, very narrow in places with occasional steep drop offs to one side of the jeep or the other. Cool. It’s been too long since my jeep and I have enjoyed the solitude of a remote trail. There were not any recent tire tracks from other vehicles. Nice. It was scenic, but not dramatically pretty. The road is used by the Forest Service to fight fires and by the power company to service large power transmission towers. There were also signs of bird hunting (spent shotgun shells). Still, it was quiet and off the beaten path. My jeep thanked me for getting it off pavement. I drew its portrait, then drove home, refreshed.

FYI:  That’s Superstition Mountains and Weaver’s Needle in the distance.

Happy Trails

My jeep along Fire Road 285 north of Phoenix (watercolor, 7x5in, 2011)
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Surrounded by coyotes

I have spent lots of days and nights (easily 200+) in the desert around this mountain when I worked as an undergraduate field assistant at the University of Arizona Mammal Museum. It is Ragged Top, at the northern end of the Silverbell Mountains, northwest of Tucson, Arizona. The desert here is very lush, with just about every plant and animal species in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

I assisted graduate students with live-trapping and measuring and then releasing wild desert mice to study their populations. On cold nights the mice would get torpid if they spent too much time above ground in a trap (torpid: a state of suspended/sluggish physical activity, like hibernation). We would carry them in our pockets until they warmed up, then put them back near where they came from. I could tell they were coming back to life when I felt them moving around in my shirt and pants pockets!

200+ traps were spread out in the square shape, which made about a 5 mile walk. I remember checking the traps one very dark night, alone. At one point I heard noises around me. My heart started beating a bit faster.  Then I heard a hushed “yip”, a sharp, high pitched bark. I was surrounded by coyotes. An unsettling, but not frightening situation once I realized they were coyotes; mountain lions live here, too. They became quiet. The “yip” probably came from an inexperienced youngster. I could hear them running around on both sides of me. They moved when I walked, and stopped when I stopped. I could only catch an occasional glimpse. They stayed just beyond the reach of my headlamp. How many? I didn’t know. At least 3 or 4 for sure. They were with me for a good distance. I think they were hoping that I would drop a mouse. Just in case, I carefully put each mouse near a hole. Oh, and then there were snakes …