Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, USA. His longest poem Leaves of Grass was written in a time span of over 30 years of his life. He avoided the term "blades of grass" due to his non-violence stance as a Quaker. Hempstead Plains is an ecological reserve that conserves a small part of the grasslands that once covered most of Long Island. I chose this location as the inspiration of Whitman's masterpiece as it is the closest to his birthplace and it gave me a sense of the prairie grasses that he would have encountered on walks he described in biographical sketches. The palette I used is varied due to the blooms and subtle hues among the wisps of grass.
Snyder's Mt. Tam
Mt. Tam was part of Gary Snyder’s life due to his residence in a cabin on the slopes. I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a period of 10 years and I am a native to California. The flora and fauna is not new to my eyes. However, the most astonishing tactile experience was the bark of the Redwood tree. It was spongy and softer than an oak tree bark. I had been accustomed to the redwood chips of dry bark used for landscaping around gardens. It really changed my way of understanding the redwood giant. The Muir Woods is magical, and touching the trunks of these elegant masters of the coastal flora was a new piece of information for my perception to add to my tactile memories. Rattlesnakes are also not a new fauna for me. Snakes in general are part of the life in California, but this encounter was a large group at a water spring and so I painted it from a visual perception. There were no tactile contact cues for this fauna. The Banana Slug was more easily approachable and provided me with a wonderful inspirational palette amongst the leaves. The delicate touch of the ferns and red blazing trunks of the Madrone in the deep mist was a gift on the first visit for both poetical and palette sensations. The lasting impression of the tactile walk was the robust pink found in a blossoming flower on the side of a meadow that I may have missed if I hadn’t been attracted to get up close to touch it. However, during the visual walk the foggy misty meadows of deep yellows impressed me due to their overall visual effect.
Wordsworth Mt. Helvellyn
The walks in Helvellyn were chosen to challenge myself and capture the Lake District from Wordsworth’s perspective. He had been climbing mountains all his life and getting up to the summit of Helvellyn seemed like the best way to be close to his poems. After coming down from the summit and scrambling around on the rocks, I re-read Prelude. It suddenly made sense with its harrowing winds in his ear and as he hung on to the grass. The whole landscape was covered by the threat of stormy clouds. I was probably the luckiest poet on the mountain that day. I ascended with rain gear and found clear weather. A couple was sitting on the top of Helvellyn comfortably and marvelling at the view of the clouds below, remarking that they had not seen it so clear and calm in 40 years! The poem has lines of the sea, and it was not until I had reached the top that I had realized what Wordsworth was expressing. I did feel the sea out in front of me there on the edge of the “Ether.” I took my time walking up to Red Tarn, a small glacier lake. The moon was hanging low just over the edges. I touched all the grasses and lichens, and plunged my hands into the iron red puddles. I decided not to sketch with coloured pencils for most of the walk. Instead I rubbed the plants and mud into my notebook. Everywhere I looked there were sheep grazing, so I thought it was like a poetic grazing to press those colours into my sketch pad.
The first visual impression of Machado’s poem is the view of Guadarrama from Madrid as we are accustomed to seeing it as urban dwellers. Additionally, Machado began walking in his early youth from the Fuenfria Valley near Cercedilla, accessing Guadarrama from Madrid. This route goes over the central range that divides the Castile regions (Castilla-Leon/Castilla-La Mancha). Nonetheless, I travelled by bus first around the mountains to access the Valsain route and to see Guadarrama from another perspective. It was the older Machado reminiscing from Segovia about his earlier days as a young man walking along those ridges and getting lost in the ravines. The colours were spectacular from the Segovia side; dynamic and full of vitality. Yet, the overcast sky of the first walk provided a foggy silence with few hikers. The sound of cow bells was overwhelming and yet I could not see them on the river path near the forest. The second tactile walk was a clear, sunny day with a more robust palette full of contrasts of blue sky and white snow caps. I delved into the river with enthusiasm and was shocked by the frozen feeling of melted snow surrounding my fingers.