The Great American Toad Chorus

American Toads Sing The Song Of Spring!

By Rachelle Siegrist

rachelle siegrist kayaking2

There are those times in your life when you do things right, like being in the right place, at the right time, and we managed to do just that one day this past week, with kayaking a nearby creek.  With brilliantly clear blue skies above, we excitedly climbed into our kayaks and started paddling upstream.  Within minutes, we started hearing toads singing, and suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of the most wonderful concert of nature, performed by hundreds of singing American Toads!

American Toad photo.by wes siegrist2

I absolutely love to hear frogs and toads sing, so I was instantly in heaven and filled with delight, while continually telling Wes “Wow . . . This is amazing!”  Everywhere we looked there were toads, and lots of them, in assorted colors and sizes.  Some were yellow or more orange, while others were copper and looked like they were made out of metal, while yet others were a drab brown or dark green.  As our kayaks skirted the curving shoreline, we noticed that they were sitting on rocks, clumps of moss and the muddy banks that hem in the stream.

rachelle siegrist watching american toads

It seemed that on every rock in the middle of the river sat a cute little toad, king or queen of its personal stone mountain, obviously a perfect place for belting out its song.  They were swimming too, perhaps not the most graceful swimmers of all time, but nonetheless, fun to watch as they “swam like a frog” perfectly through the crystal clear water.

American Toad photo

The serenade continued as we sat on a big rock in a nice warm sunny spot and enjoyed our supper whilst watching fish swim below our stone perch, and it continued as we paddled back afterward, mixing with the sounds of the wind blowing through the pines on the surrounding hillsides.

american toads photo by wes siegrist3

I was so mesmerized and transfixed with the hundreds of toads, that I nearly paddled right into this beautiful Banded Watersnake, who was obviously there for the free buffet!

banded watersnake photo

I really enjoyed watching one fellow in particular, who surely was the Pavarotti of the toad world, as he inflated his pouch and bellowed out a magnificent song that filled the air and mingled with the songs of other toads nearby!  For three gloriously relaxing hours, we paddled along whilst enjoying this amazing song of spring!  I’ve put together a short video of this delightful experience, so you too can enjoy it!

Click on the photo below to see the video and make sure you can hear it!

american toad video

 

~ Fresh Off The Easel ~

I finished my painting commission this past week, of a collector friend’s dog named Tucker.  He is totally adorable and I had such fun painting him and capturing his expressions of joy!  Our collector so wishes I could meet Tucker . . . and so do I, as I know I would love him!

 

Commission-a-dog-painting-Happy-Tucker-by-Rachelle-Siegrist1
“Happy Tucker”

 

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

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Painting, Paddling, ​And Picking

Kayaking, Litter Pick-up and Painting A Dog!

By Rachelle Siegrist

 

siegrist gardens

It’s finally starting to look like spring here in the Smokies, and I can’t tell you how much that excites me!  It seems like forever since we’ve had almost a full week of sunshine like this past week, and it has made the flora and fauna very happy as well.  Our Forsythias and cherry trees are in full splendor and the Crab Apple blossoms are opening up as I type.  The yard is looking alive once again and it’s a visual delight after a long period of gray.  Wes and I took advantage of one of our beautiful days to go kayaking this past week. The first spot we went to was way too windy and hence cold, so we headed to another location.

rachelle siegrist kayaking

The lakes near us are all man-made, and they obviously like playing with the water levels, in one of them especially, as we never know what the water level will be until we get there.  It could be normal, high, low or very low, and this time it was certainly bordering on very low.  However we really wanted to get on the water for a while, so we climbed into the kayaks and off we went.  It was slow going with the strong water current thanks to the water being let out at one end and poured in at the other.  The water was only inches deep in many places, so we had to push ourselves along in a few spots with our hands, which instantly went numb in the icy cold water.

After paddling around for some time, we found a great spot for a boat picnic, nestled amongst an army of old tree stumps, exposed by the low water level.  They looked like wooden soldiers marching along, with only the bottom few inches of their roots dipping below the crystal clear water.  I love photographing old stumps in or near water, as they seem quite architectural in nature and look very distinguished as black and white photos. It was a fun day and even more so when the very chilly wind died down a bit, and I was able to bask in the warmth of the sun!

rachelle siegrist mountain lake photos5

Yesterday, Wes and I met with a group of about 25 to 30 volunteers working with the Keep Blount Beautiful program, to help pick up litter around Townsend.  As always there was no shortage of it and we spent almost 3 hours picking up trash and by the end, just Wes and I alone had picked up 5 big trash bags full!  We were served pizza for lunch afterward as a thank you, which was very yummy and a lovely treat.

wes siegrist keep blount beautiful

The “big” find of the day was this shredded dollar bill, with enough left to trade in for a full one, which can then, in turn, be traded for perhaps some dark chocolate.  It looks wonderful to see an area cleaned up afterward and is always so nice to be a part of something bigger than one’s self!

dollar bill photo

~ Fresh Off The Easel ~

My current painting commission is of a collector friend’s dog named Tucker.  He is totally adorable and I’m having such fun painting him and capturing his expressions of joy, with paint on paper!  I’ll be putting the finishing touches on Tucker this week and will share his complete portrait with you next week.

 

dog painting commission
Tucker in progress

 

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~ Rachelle

Commission A Miniature Painting

Working On Painting Commissions!

By Rachelle Siegrist

 

miniature paintings of michael the archangel & st. george and the dragon
My miniature paintings of “Michael The Archangel” & “St. George and The Dragon”

 

It has been a busy week here in the studio, while painting on miniatures for upcoming shows as well as working on current commissioned paintings.  We enjoyed a visit from one of our dear collector friends this past week, to discuss a couple of commissions, and had a delicious lunch at our local Mexican restaurant.  One of the commission paintings will be a miniature after Alred Usher Soord’s painting from the late 1800s, “The Good Shepherd“. It’s a beautiful painting depicting a beautiful message, so I’m quite excited about painting this in miniature!  The completed painting will be displayed alongside two other miniature commissions of Raphael’s “Michael The Archangel” and “St. George and The Dragon”, which I painted for him in years past.  They were both incredibly fun to paint, although very challenging, and remain two favorites to this day!

 

alfred usher soord the lost sheep the good shepherd
Alfred Usher Soord’s “The Good Shepherd” reproduction

 

He kindly brought along this old reproduction of the painting, which hung in his grandmother’s house so I could see what it looked like. It will be a fun challenge to research it and then to carefully paint the color and beauty of the original in my miniature masterpiece.  The other painting will feature our resident precious Carolina Wrens, Peedeepeeps and Elvira, with Peeps holding a mealworm in his beak and Elvira coming to get her own.  I’m sure Peeps will be most thrilled to pose for reference photos whilst being fed extra worms in the process!

 

dog photos for dog commission
Reference photos of Tucker 

 

Another current fun commission is of a collector friend’s dog named Tucker.  He is totally adorable and I’m quite excited about painting him and capturing his expressions of joy, with paint on paper!  Our collector emailed me several photos of him, and I chose a few to do sketches and different compositions from.

 

dog sketches for dog commission
The many faces of Tucker sketches

 

After going back and forth and making changes, we chose this one, which captured Tucker’s joy with life!  The busyness of the white porch rungs are being left out and replaced with a nice muted green behind the wooden porch floor, hence placing the focus solely on Tucker.  I can’t wait to get started on him and look forward to sharing the progress on him, and the other commissions with you soon!

 

dog drawing for dog commission
Drawing “Happy Tucker”

 

~ Fresh Off The Easel ~

Wes finished this miniature painting of  Mountain Bluebird this past week.  On miniatures with the gold backgrounds, it’s always so exciting to paint the gold background in after the subject is completed and watch it really come to life right before your eyes!

 

Mountain-Bluebird-painting_Teton_Blue-by-Wes_Siegrist1
Wes’ “Teton Blue”

 

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle