I bought a package of grid paper a few weeks ago, with the intention of trying my hand at sketching and drawing. I haven't tried much of that since high school, and the results this time around were similarly . . . odd. I tried drawing the tea cup that I used to use whenever I visited my grandma, which I did quite a bit growing up, particularly in high school. My aunt gave the tea cup to me as a Christmas present. It's a mass-produced item that I think my grandma bought in the 50s or earlier. She had a set of them, and usually used them for making gravy and related cooking tasks. Most of the cups met their end in kitchen accidents or were beaten and chipped up over the years. But this one survived. It's a solid thing, not a wedding-gift china sort of tea cup that feels like it could be broken between one's index and thumb, but more like an old diner or cafeteria coffee cup. It's stamped "U S A" on the bottom, which means, sadly, it's pretty old. Anyway, here's a copy of the resulting sketch (readers might wish to avert their eyes. Click on the photo for a larger version, but you've been warned):
A poorly drawn stonefly sneaked into the effort, and for a model I fished out a photograph of an adult stonefly that landed on me while I was wading in a creek last May, looking for dragonflies and mayflies. A friend and I have been wondering about winter stonefly hatches. There have been a few "half-hardy" birds, such as Eastern Phoebes, this winter along an effluent outflow from a water treatment plant into the Great Miami River. Last week, my friend found an adult male Wilson's Warbler (a possible latest-ever record for Ohio) foraging with a mixed flock of Chickadees and other locals along this same channel. Phoebes and Wilson's Warblers can eat seeds and fruit if they have to, but they're typically and mostly insectivores. It's been bitterly cold this week, but possibly the warm water channel is producing insect hatches that might otherwise need slightly warmer, sunnier days to come out on other local streams. We plan to do a little sweep netting and see what we find. My bet is we'll find winter stoneflies.
The stonefly that crept into the sketch above is not, to my knowledge, a winter stonefly. But I haven't tried to ID it, yet. Some winter stoneflies hatch out in early spring, others as early as January. Identification of this group seems really complicated. The dichotomous key in Merritt, Cummins, and Berg's An Introduction to Aquatic Insects of North America covers twenty-two pages and 112 possible steps for getting nymphs to family or genus. The adult key looks similarly imposing to a novice. Locally, winter stonefly variety is probably somewhat limited, and it shouldn't be too hard to get IDs or to find someone who can help with IDs, once we collect a few bugs. But that's for another day . . .
The sketching efforts having produced mixed results, I tried some photos of the tea cup, then sliced those up along with the photo of the stonefly perched on my left index finger taken last May on Gregory Creek in Liberty Township, used a couple pages scanned from the Merritt, Cummins, and Berg book as background, and ended up with an interesting still life/visual poem piece. I hadn't realized that a couple of the heating elements on our stove have the words "expandable element" on them, so that was a happy accident. The Merritt, et. al., book, grandma's teacup, and a copy of Hockney's Pictures--his photo collages from the late 80s are an obvious influence--helped make the stew out of which this piece came. However it turned out, it was fun to do, and the original crappy sketch was probably the reason the piece eventually came together. (To see it full size, please click on the image).
("Teacup and Plecopteran")