Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blue Spring State Park.

For my birthday, Pam Schwartz got me two fountain pens to draw with.We also decided to take the day off, and go to Blue Spring (2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, FL 32763). She has a kayak and there are also rentals, so we explored the spring and the Saint Johns River. Pam had a waterproof bag to hold any art supplies and phones. We seem to have amazing luck seeing wildlife anytime we explore around Orlando. We kayaked down a tiny tributary that is not very accessible to normal sized boats. The prows of our kayaks split the river grass until the stream once again opened up. Beautiful white flowers were just opening up on Lilly pads.

On a more open stretch, we spotted a river otter swimming back and forth across the stream. He must have been on the hunt for fish and he didn't seem to mind our presence. He swam towards us for a closer look. Large birds were building nests in the brush and I could hear the chicks as we floated by. When we paddled into Blue Spring itself, we came across a manatee that was slowly making her way out towards the open river water. The spring water is much clearer than the river water making the manatee easy to see. She approached Pam's kayak and boop-snooted her boat to say hello. Pam got some amazing photos before the manatee decided to gently swim out to the murky river.

I had brought along my snorkel and mask and we decided to hike upstream to the source of the spring. The water is a constant 73 degrees year round. The stream is surprisingly strong. It is hard to imagine that much water gushing up from a single hole in the ground. 102 million US gallons (390,000 m3) of water flow out of Blue Spring into the St. Johns River every day. At the large watering hole at Blue Springs source, we found a large rock to sit on and I got out my new fountain pen to try out. Unknown to me, the ink was not waterproof, so when I added watercolor to the sketch, the ink bleed into each color I applied. Flesh tones quickly turned black. Rather than fight the new media, I just let it be and applied very light washes. Back at the studio later, I replaced the ink with Noodler's ink, which is waterproof, and now the pen is in constant use every day.

Swimming over the Blue Spring itself is amazing. You have to kick hard to go against the stream. I dove down to a tree trunk which had fallen over the stream below the water's surface. Water pressure in my ears kept me from going down any further, but I could see scuba divers down below me exploring the depths. I much prefer exploring above the water where pen lines and washes can capture any scene in some form or another.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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