Now that I’ve compiled all of my notes and drawings from my residency at the Huyck (pronounced “hike”) Preserve near Albany early last month, here is a breakdown of my experience out in the humid forests of upstate New York.
I had arrived literally right after hurricane Irene had struck, and while I was glad that this did not cause any delays in my flight, I found myself circling in my rental car around back roads from Albany to the preserve, as many of the main roads had been closed due to flooding and damage.
But, I made it safely to the Huyck Preserve and met up with Carolyn Barker, the wonderful woman who organizes the residencies for all of the artists that come through. She set me up in a rustic cabin they usually put their interns and residences in, but as I soon discovered when I woke up the next morning, there was neither electricity nor running water (again due to the hurricane). So, I was then moved to a guest house owned by a resident of the small town of Rensselaerville, which runs right alongside the preserve. There, I was to stay the next couple weeks with a few interns who were working on trails, though mostly they found themselves cleaning up after the storm.
A few notes on what Hurricane Irene did to the preserve: I was told that they had not seen flooding like this since at least the 1800’s. Their waterfall, which usually runs at a gentle trickle, was blasting a torrent of water by the time I got there. Bridges were out due to collapsed supports, trees fell on a few of the roads, and I myself got plenty muddy on the trails as I tried to get around huge puddles. I was not there while the damage was being done, but I know everyone was scrambling around trying to prevent as much as possible. Luckily, only a few were hurt and no one seriously injured.
All of this put a slight wrench in my plans when I arrived, but I managed to start sketching by the second day, while snapping pictures of wildlife and scenery whenever I could.
It was beautiful out there after the storm, at least for the first week. The second week another, smaller storm blew through and it rained until a few days before I was scheduled to leave.
One of my missions while I was there was to try and spot a beaver. I knew they were out there, but as they are mostly nocturnal, I had to wait beside Lincoln Pond at dusk… until I saw a small shape slowly swimming toward the shore. All I could really capture was the top of its head, but it was fun to see it swimming around. Not enough to do a full piece on one, but still exciting.
What I did end up doing a piece on was a white-tailed deer, which they have plenty of out there. However, Carolyn revealed that not one of the artist had turned in a mammal piece so far (most were botanical or birds, frogs etc.), and so I was determined to give her a couple by the end of my residence.
It was required of me to complete both a finished piece and a sketch, and so along with the deer, I had put together a series of Eastern Chipmunk sketches.
One thing I could not resist doing, was to drive up to Albany one of those days and visit the New York State Natural History Museum. I spent some time among their mammal collection, drew a few skulls and specimens, then wandered around the museum, enjoying their Prehistoric history the most. Their mastodont was amazing.
In the end, I feel I had a very enriching experience, with a bunch of sketches and a couple of finished works to show for it. I do wish more places around the US (the world?) would offer such residences as this for artists. A chance for the artist to work freely while enjoying the wilderness, and for their host to receive some lovely artwork in return. It’s a win-win!