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Dry Wetlands: Where’s the water?

Shollenberger Wetlands, 12x9", Oil on panel (click image to enlarge)
Dry wetlands sketch, 12x9", Oil on panel (click image to enlarge)

Shollenberger Park is normally a watery paradise where you see swans, herons, egrets, pelicans, geese, turtles, frogs, lizards and the occasional harmless snake. But when I arrived there this morning with Camille Przewodek’s class, we were surprised to find cracked dry soil where the watery marsh used to be. Camille said she’d been painting there for years and had never seen it dry before. You can see many of her marsh paintings on her website here.

She set up for her demo in the hot sun, on land that used to be under water. Seeing her paint is like watching a magician, the way she creates the illusion of space, depth, atmosphere, weather, even time of day, all done with color relationships.

The smell from the dried up marsh was making me nauseous but nothing phases Camille when she’s painting. She never complains, whether it’s hot or freezing, windy or smelly; she just gets in the zone and paints. Her students know better than to whine about weather or anything else; or as one student pointed out:

“It’s called ‘PLEIN Air’ NOT ‘Complain Air’!”

About the paintings:
Both of these 1 to 2 hour plein air sketches were done at the marsh, trying to work on getting the big shapes and color relationships. I think my easel must not have been level today; the horizon seems to be slanting downhill on today’s sketch above.

Shollenberger Wetlands sketch, 12x9", oil on panel (click image to enlarge)
Shollenberger Wetlands sketch, 12x9", oil on panel (click image to enlarge)

When I got home I tried to find out what happened to the water at Shollenberger but couldn’t find anything online. I did learn some interesting things about wetlands and what a valuable and important resource they are on the Petaluma Wetlands site.

I know we’re having a drought in California, but I don’t see how such a large body of water could dry up that quickly from being full just a few weeks ago.

I hope all the birds and fish and froggies are OK.  If you know what’s going, please do tell!

One reply on “Dry Wetlands: Where’s the water?”

I haven’t been to Schollenberger recently, but the main pond does dry up occasionally, particularly when we have a low rainfall year. It gets filled with freshwater from Adobe creek, and also gets regular doses of water from the Petaluma river every few years when the channel is dredged.


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