A “Snow White” Spring Super Bloom … Albuquerque Foothills

April 2023

Oh my goodness! What a brilliant Spring Super Bloom is on display mere steps east of Albuquerque. 

Alas, I found myself lamenting for months over the long and snowy wet winter we just climbed out of here in the East Mountains of central New Mexico. It seemed the back-to-back snowstorms since last November were never ending; snow shoveling every morning became the norm. But I know better than to whine. An abundance of winter moisture always results in a spectacular abundance of spring flowers.  And this Spring has proven that true.

Scrambled Eggs

The last two months we’ve seen a mad splash of sunshine yellow from the blooming of a native winter annual called Golden Corydalis, aka Scrambled Eggs (Corydalis aurea). This member of the poppy family quickly converted the dusty hillsides from brown to a glowing yellow as the many-flowered stalks of this plant seemed to shoot up over last season’s dried grasses. Scrambled Eggs was the plant I thought would be our Spring super bloomer.  

But, oh no!

During a full two weeks of being distracted by the glow of all that yellow, all around our feet, 1,000s and 1,000s of blue-gray-green rosettes began to grow. I noticed these rosettes (the very same mystery rosettes I described in my January journal), were rapidly expanding outward to make room for flower stalks heavily laden with little rosy orange buds. And then one day one of those buds unfurled into a brilliantly white 4-petaled flower.  In the center of that flower were 8 lemon-yellow pollen-heavy anthers surrounding a 4-fingered lemon-yellow stigma, ripe for pollination. Of course …… now I knew with certainty ….. the flower blooming atop the pretty winter rosettes is the White-stemmed Evening Primrose (Oenothera albicaulis)!

One of my January posts included this page where I illustrated a mystery rosette (top center) that seemed to be everywhere.

Also known as Whitest Evening Primrose, it wasn’t long until more flowers began to appear. “But, wow, was it possible that all those 1,000s and 1,000s of rosettes would each produce a bouquet of flowers?” Hiking these foothills every day paid of.  As the excitement of possibility steadily unfolded, hundreds of thousands of large 2-4” white flowers unfurled each evening about sunset to greet potential overnight pollinators, and to welcome hikers the following morning. 

My journal page illustrating the abundance of white-stemmed evening primrose
A vista of white
white-stemmed evening primrose

In about a week since I noticed that first open flower, this native Evening Primrose was carpeting the hillsides in white as brilliant and sparkly as newly fallen snow. The ground became “Snow White” with flowers, out-performing the still profusely-blooming Scrambled Eggs. 

white-stemmed evening primrose
white-stemmed evening primrose

And the show won’t end any time soon …. there are still an unbelievable number of White-stemmed Evening Primrose buds awaiting their turn to enter the play from stage right! Now that’s what I call a true Spring Super Bloomer.

A detailed page of my dissection of white-stemmed evening primrose

What marvelous transformations have or are happening outside your world this Spring? 

Urban Sketching … Out and About In and Around Albuquerque

Late February to mid-April

Fascinated by the work that so many urban sketchers turn out, and further inspired by a few Sketchbook Revival 2023 sessions, it’s no wonder I wanted to try my hand at Urban Sketching. Joining the Albuquerque Urban Sketchers, my first outing was to a very iconic New Mexico shop called Jackalope. In some ways, this was a great place for lots of newbies (we didn’t have to brave the still freezing February temps), but then again it was very challenging. So many things to choose from! Here’s a few of my sketches. Because there were so many interesting trinkets, I decided to spend no more than 15 minutes on each, including some quick watercoloring.

This one was sketched from a life sized sculpture of a roadrunner. Meep! Meep!
This was sketched from a very typical Santa Fe-style painted wood cabinet. To me this style always looks like the furniture was hooked up to the hitch of a pick-up truck and drug down a dirt road at breakneck speeds! Luckily the very large rooster clay pot wasn’t hurt in the process.
Someone captured a photo of me working on my frog trivet sketch. You can see my dilemma deciding what to sketch! Stacks of trivets, all different, to choose from!
This was one of my attempts to urban sketch “solo.” I found a bit of early spring buds while waiting for Roy to finish up a doctor appointment.

All of that was really fun, but not as easy as some urban sketchers make it seem. So I began practicing and searching on-line for a bit of sage advice.

On Saturday (April 15th) the Urban Sketchers met again, this time at Old Town Farm, downtown Albuquerque. With the chance of sketching some rusted farm equipment and broken down barns, I wanted in on this event. And besides, the breezy day was supposed to be warm … ideal for a bit of plein air sketching! Well, on a Saturday, this place was buzzing with visitors, ranging from bikers and hikers; people sitting and enjoying a morning coffee and carrot cake; several teams playing something like bochi ball; venders; puppies for adoption. This definitely broke my fear of public sketching while giving me an opportunity to improve on my people sketching skills. Here’s what I found to draw in a few hours.

This was a pretty cool old barn, and still in fine shape. Looks like I could use lots of practice sketching old buildings! But I did meet several delightful women also trying their hand at barn sketching!
When I realized my barn sketch was going wonky, all I had to do was turn around and find this action scene! There were 2 teams of bowlers playing Pétanque (like bocci ball) in the dirt behind the barn, Here’s my quick sketch trying to capture their action and conversation. This was very fun. Afterwards I walked over to show them what I had done. The team leader was very excited about the sketch and asked if he could take a photo to use it as the team banner on their Facebook page! Of course I said, “Absolutely!”
Hard to resist drawing an old truck. Although not a rusty heap, this beautifully restored 1939 Ford V8 was just begging to be sketched. I had a little fun with the character of this truck, and never intended to make it a perfect replica. But this really suits my style. Have I found my happy style?

Hope you enjoyed my urban sketching efforts! Look for more posts in the future.

Sketchbook Revival 2023 … What a Wild and Colorful 13-Day Ride

March 20 – April 1st

For the last 6 years, I’ve participated in an annual, 2-week long sketching/mixed media event, Sketchbook Revival, founded and hosted by a talented sketchbook artist, Karen Abend. Every Spring, Karen brings together a cast of creative artists for a mega on-line teaching marathon, where each day, 2 1-hour sessions are shared with hundreds of participants. These sessions cover topics like basic mark-making, collage, caricature creation, drafting and perspective, composition, urban sketching, flowers, mammals and birds, portraits, map making, story telling, and on and on! This year a session in textiles was even included. Techniques were taught in using a wide-variety materials, such as watercolor, gouache, markers, pencil and pen, colored pencil, and many forms of mixed-media.

The whole fun event is designed to stretch your creative comfort zone by trying new things and experiencing new approaches to art making. And as incredible as it sounds, all you need to participate is your time and whatever materials you have on hand. Otherwise, it’s totally free! Wowza!

If this sounds irresistibly intriguing, and you just gotta-wanna participate next year, I’ll include a link below to find out more. Meanwhile, check out the photos of my Sketchbook Revival 2023 creations, filling up my handmade sketchbook (oh yeah, the pre-work session includes instructions on how to make your own sketchbook). I never expect to create works of art during the event; many of my pages are just plain awful. But no matter the result, I always made it fun! Enjoy!

Opening Session pages ….. the Charley Harper-ish birds at the bottom were my filler
The page on the left …. Definitely right up my artistic alley. The one on the left was a great approach to using random prompts to make art. A keeper technique for me.
Day 2 was “Blob” day. Always silly fun. Never know what may happen.
These 2 pages took on a life of their own. I followed the instructors until I didn’t! Perfectly allowable. Still interesting results.
I love experimenting with portraits and learning new ways to make them look real. Did I do that? The easier session with Tamara was a more comfortable fit for me. I liked my drawing, but the coloring was colorfully abstract ….. something really different for me. Sweet fox tho!
Another approach to kick-start your artistic slump ….. and then the collage. Collage is never easy for me, or intuitive. The experiment in paper gluing was challenging for me.
Ok ….. this must’ve been my finger painting day! Hahaha! Don’t think much came from the first session, so I took another approach with Session 2 and added one of my favorite McFarlane poems. Magpies are so clever!
This was a session deserving more attention in some of my future blog posts. Sketch Noting is great fun, but turning the sketch notes into a roadmap? Brilliant.
Really enjoyed the fun of this collage effort! And loved the urban sketchinglessons from Roisin Cure (and signed up for some of her follow-up classes which were outstanding)
Wow! The more I play with urban sketching, the more in love I become. And Toni Burt’s approach really worked for me, especially when it comes to story telling! Stay tuned for more urban sketching in my journals! Session 2 on neurographic art was a bit too “out there” for me, so I skipped it (also allowable, as there are no rules to Sketchbook Revival). Then Session 1 the following day ….. another collage. Oh well!
Another Roisin tutorial on succulents. I enjoyed her tips on creating convincing rosettes. And painting motifs was fun ….. mine took a Charley Harper twisted chicken turn. Couldn’t help myself.
A little toilet paper roll stencil work on the left (weird) and some colorful abstract landscapes (otherworldly in a few cases, huh?)
Oh wow! Textiles! Didn’t think this would resonate with me, but something clicked and after watching the session twice, I found myself deeply immersed in the practice of making Wabi Sabi fabric scrolls. A fascinating art form that’s intended to be imperfect, subtle and intimate while expressing both simplicity and impermanence. I don’t think my art expresses any of those things. But this approach to calming art making really drew me in. Hmmmm!
Here’s my rolled up Wabi Sabi scroll
And here’s my Wabi Sabi scroll all un rolled. I don’t know what meaning this has for me. Worth pondering?
And the last day! Another year of Sketchbook Revival concluded and added to my past 5 years of sketchbook creations.
Oh, just couldn’t resist another of Roisin’s tutorials. I’m rather found of this one ….. Cheers!

So if you’ve made it this far, and want to learn more about future Sketchbook Revival events, follow the link below:


ask for Karen ….. tell her I sent you!