"16 Degrees and
on the Ferry"
Maple syrup is the best, you say? Try birch syrup some time.
A thirtyish couple in Haines, Alaska turns out quality birch syrup every spring. The trees, about 1100 of them, are tapped in April when the sap begins to run. It is then collected daily for about a month. I joined the group one day for sketching interspersed with slapping mosquitoes. If you want to try some Birch Syrup, phone 1-907-767-5660.
Airline ticket offices in Alaska's bush villages are not easily identifiable. Some are in the agent's home, others are in little shacks or in the general store.
The "Wings Airlines" office in Pelican is really "uptown". It even has a sign on the structure.
Since air traffic (all float planes) is light in Pelican, the agent has a second part time job, doing research work at the cannery only a few blocks down the boardwalk.
An electric cable spool, a checkered oil cloth (table cloth), plastic chairs and voila, it's Tenakee's sidewalk café, or actually "gravel trail café". Just like Paris; it's fun to sit there with a good cup of coffee and watch the world go by.
The first warm, sunny day of spring brings a slew of Starr Hill boys over to my neighborhood to resume construction on this two-story tree house which belongs to my neighbor's two boys.
As per tradition, no girls are allowed, and as per tradition, no girls would want to have anything to do with the project.
These color buoy or float swings are a common sight in Alaska's fishing villages. Commercial fishing regulations require the owner's name and commercial fishing license number be shown on all floats. This one with the Campbell name belongs to the family who invites me annually to their summer fish camp in the Yakutat area to sketch.
Now and again I meet someone who invites me to a far-off place in Alaska to come and sketch because: "There are all sorts of Rie Muñoz paintings there."
That's how I got up to Kotzebue and this fish camp. Other paintings resulting from this 1990 trip are "Sharpening the Ulu" and "Checking the Hydrometer" (plate numbers 288 and 309 respectively in the book "Portrait of Alaska".
The fish hanging out to dry here are the subsistence winter supply for the family dogs.
About 20 years ago, in this small southeast Alaska village of Pelican, I saw two fish buyers discussing business on the cold-storage dock. I sketched them and followed that up with a painting.
Two years ago I spent over a week sketching in Pelican, and to my amazement saw two fish buyers in the exact same spot. I quickly sketched them and did this painting.
I take photos of all my paintings and dug up the first one. They didn't look alike in the least bit. Furthermore, the first one looked like it could easily have been painted by another artist. Such is the transformation of art over time.
In the early 1960's I was invited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to go to Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea to sketch the annual reindeer roundup. I knew my eight-year-old son would enjoy such an adventure, so along he went.
The roundup was fun, hectic and wild. It started with several herders (no dogs) combing an area of the island looking for a heard. Once found, they would herd the reindeer to a certain point not far from the corrals. By walkie-talkie the herders would alert the village of their position. The village bell was then peeled - the sign for all villagers to climb aboard waiting boats - and off we'd go to a small bay beyond the reindeer.
Everyone went ashore without so much as a whisper and formed a long lone, side by side. At a signal given by the lead herder, we all (60 people more or less) jumped up yelling and screaming and running toward the reindeer. In panic, they fled blindly toward a wide-funneled fence that ended in the corral. Two-thousand reindeer in the corral was quite an impressive sight.
One of my Starr Hill neighbors, an artist, sculpts outside when weather permits. Here he spends his time chipping away at a self portrait. When he is finished for the day, he will leave his work outside at night and no one disturbs it. Starr Hill is populated with good people.
I sketched this woman sitting in the park happily feeding the ravens. I assume she was a regular because although this painting only show 10 birds, in actuality she was surrounded by close to 70 screeching ravens.
Pushing two children on swings in the winter has one advantage; it keeps the pusher warm. This image shows my Starr Hill neighbor in the area play ground with two small friends.
My son and granddaughter invited me to join them on a Starr Hill sledding outing. I left the sledding to them, but took my sketch pad and managed to do enough very quick and disjointed sketches to put together this image. The dog keeping up with the sledders is mine.
This World War II relic, a Quonset hut, near the top of my Starr Hill neighborhood is the cozy residence of a friend of mine. In the summer she bikes and kayaks. In the bleak, dark winter months she still gets her exercise.
I made three starts on this subject; in the first painting I used the actual colors of the church. Too somber, out it went. In my second effort the priest was as stiff as the rake. It too was tossed out. With this third attempt, Im happy.
It depicts the "New" church at Russian Mission on the Yukon River. Dilapidated as the new church may be, the "old church" teeters precariously in the tall grass only a hundred yards or so away and must surely be held up solely by miraculous intervention.
A great favorite of bird watchers is the Pribilof Island rookeries in Alaska's Bering Sea.
Birds return annually to the great cliffs of the Islands to breed and rear their young safe from predators. An ornitholigist would frown on my interpretation of the Tufted Puffin, Common Mure, Glaucous Winged Gull, Red Faced Commorant, Marbled Murrelet and Pigeon Guillemot, but that's what they are.
I had just finished a painting and wondered what next, when my son called on his cellular phone: "They're unloading halibut on the dock, and a whopper of 200 pounds or more has just come up out of the hold!" I drove right over and got lots of good sketches of the goings-on. Later, I went over to the cold storage for more sketching and saw an enormous one being cleaned.
Normally fish are cleaned on metal tables, but when it comes to an unwieldly giant like the one in the print, a frustrum shaped contraption topped by a pulley system takes over.
Although adults also dip into Atlin Warm Springs in British Columbia, it's very apparent that Mother Nature designed it especially for children; the pool is warm--not hot. It's only about three feet deep and just the right size for it's patrons. It's in total wilderness, and the outlet on either side is lined with a profuse growth of watercress.
Crews on the Alaska State Ferries are required to conduct weekly fire drills. Crew members are assigned to specific areas of the vessel for simulated drills.
This group--appropriately clad in life jackets--is "charging a line"; that is to say checking the fire hose for necessary pressure.
Laundry lines are still a common sight in rural Alaska. This one, heavy with a homemade quilt in what is known as the "Crazy" pattern, has the benefit of a lively Bering Sea breeze to dry it in short order.
Winter laundry dries nicely as well--but slower. First it freezes solidly, then the wind evaporates the water and ... presto, dry clothing.
Strolling through Unalakleet, I saw the vivid quillt from afar, but the bonus came when I neared and saw the napping Husky on his doghouse.
Boules is probably the most popular game in France. It can be played on any relatively flat dirt area with two or more people--most often men.
Serious "Boules" players will not stray far from home without their three-boules carrying case, on the odd chance they might happen onto a game and be invited to join in.
This game is taking place on the square at Collioure, a village near the foothills of the Pyrénées Mountains, where I spent some time two years ago.
Plying the waters of the Alexander on the Alaska State Ferries on a sunny summer day brings most everyone out on deck! I sketched this young man in fits and starts as he energetically made his way around the deck again and again. Later, I showed him the finished sketch and asked him how many laps he'd done" "Sixteen" he said and added, "...that's a mile!"
Every winter this Starr Hillite climbs on her roof to clear off the snow - much to the dismay of her concerned neighbors. To alleviate their worries, she promised to give up the effort when she turned 69 yeas of age. This year she reached the cut-off date and this image is proof that she did not keep her promise. Sigh!
Everyone know that singing in the shower sounds like a solo performance at Carnegie Hall. The same applies to singing in the hot springs at Tenakee. If enough of us are bathing, we frequently burst into song - especially a 'round' sounds great.
Hyakutake was so easy to find, even without binoculars, that every night before going to bed, I'd slip on my halibut jacket and step out on my balcony. I'd find it with the naked eye and then train the binoculars on it for a better look see. The comet was visable in the starry skies for over a month. I was so enthralled that although Hyakutake didn't in the least resemble this glorious apparition, it may as well have.
My son's father-in-law not only has the best raspberry patch in Juneau, in season he pick them every few days. He then goes in the house and makes the best raspberry jam ever, which is generously shared with friends and family. He's kept me in raspberry jam since my son's marriage to his daughter five years ago I'm happy!
This Yukon River couple is cleaning their day's catch with the help of a screeching riot of gulls who take care of the majority of the scraps. The remainder is frequently mixed with soil for the vegetable garden. It and the long sunny daylight hours in summer make for bumper crops.
The Caribou Hotel is located in Carcross, Yukon Territory. It's the tallest building in a community of several hundred. The town also boasts a general store, gas station, train station, bar and several churches. It's on the shores of Lake Bennett. The name Carcross is a contraction of Caribou Crossing, owing to the huge herds of migrating caribou that, in the past, crossed the River at that location. Hence also the name Caribou Hotel.
(c) 1997, rie muñoz, ltd.
All Rights Reserved