Orchid Swale

Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee
August 2, 2023
Oil on canvas
12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)


Spectacular yellow fringed orchids in full bloom were like orange punctuation marks in this open swale of cinnamon ferns, grasses, and fire-pruned trees and shrubs. Although the overcast kept the temperature down and the light conditions consistent, sweat bees and gnats made this afternoon’s painting session somewhat of a trial.

This is the last of four field paintings from my first visit to the remarkable Catoosa Savanna on the Cumberland Plateau. In the 90s, visionaries in the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency realized a rich native grassland was just waiting to be reawakened here, so after a pine beetle infestation and timber salvage operation they implemented a robust prescribed fire regime. Prairie plants, barely hanging on in the shade of the recent forest, exploded. On my visit, the call of “bob white” seemed fairly constant. Congratulations to the TWRA for (re)creating a magnificent place.

Exhibition History