Featured Painter, Sue Key tops the list of artists who will join us at the 2022 Wildlife Arts Festival to share her unique perspectives on our natural world. Key spent a week in May immersing herself in the beauty of the Red Hills to capture imagery to inspire her paintings for the show. Enjoy these excerpts from her journal during her stay!

from the journal of SUE KEY

Arrived after lunch, unpacked, went to check out town. Coordinated with Corey about meeting late afternoon where he upgraded my walking tour with Kate’s quiet ATV mule which was responsive, sturdy and not stubborn whatsoever.
Determined that first light was 6:13 am and last light was 8:51 pm. That became my clock and the schedule I worked around every day while I was there.
Learned that Kate Scovil and Sallie Sullivan, along with Sallie’s son Tim, married the two plantations (Springhill and Borderline) to one common name of Springline. 16 different hunting courses, each 225-350 acres each. Amazing seeing the “feed lines” and how they feed quail on all the courses.
Life lessons from my first venture to some dog training ponds on the far southeast corner of property…
  1. Some roads are flat, wide and green and you know where you are and are very impressed with yourself.
  2. Some roads are washed out and sandy and have feet deep convoluted ruts and holes that can almost make your back tires dig in and kick up sand like a dog on the beach and you are on those roads but they are not on the map.
  3. Sometimes it takes more time than remaining daylight to get where you’re going and back home again.
Spent four hours with Brian Wiebler at Tall Timbers. Such a GREAT thing for me to do my first day. Really laid the foundation for beginning to understand more about the Red Hills region, long leaf pines, prescribed burns, endangered species, research techniques, timber management, open forest savannas and woodlands, post civil war large scale logging and clear cutting of long leaf pines, species that need specific habitats such as quail, Sherman fox squirrel and red-cockaded woodpecker. I took notes (can you tell) and found myself completely absorbed in Brian’s conversational and easy way of explaining complex information. He is a great communicator and teacher, Tall Timbers is lucky to have him!
Brian told me about Lake Miccosukee and I took several painterly photos there of the cypress swamps and large views of the lakes shoreline.
Explored Springline late afternoon – sunset.
Early morning sunrise exploring at Springline. Went to Pebble Hill Plantation to enjoy the big house museum and it’s art collection upstairs. Wonderful. Lunch and Wi-Fi in town, started editing and sorting some of the growing collection of photos I’d been taking.
Hubs and Hops for some maps of bikers red dirt roads to look at. Quick look at Greenwood but it was getting close to 5 pm and I didn’t have a map of the roads and couldn’t risk getting lost! Finished the day riding the sunset at Springline. Beautiful cypress swamps.
Springline sunrise exploring, then lunch with Mariam and Joanne. A little retail therapy in town, more Wi-Fi in town sorting photos, found some of the red dirt roads from Hubs and Hops map. I was getting much better at finding my way around Springline’s road system, stayed out late photographing the light, home with headlights, no problem!
Met with Kitty Spivey at Pebble Hill in the morning, but woke up to dense fog and it was so beautiful I was out in my robe and slippers photographing, then had to call Kitty and apologize for being late because then I kept stopping to take photos along the way. During the week I had found that there was SO MUCH GREEN and “information” surrounding all the beautiful trees, etc. I found myself looking for trees that were clearly defined against the sky, etc., not lost in the sea of green. And then there was fog. It muffled all the noise and all that was left were the trees in silver silhouette. Just lovely.
Kitty and I explored Pebble Hill by truck and on foot. She was so charming, knowledgeable, eager to share. She understood my “aha” moment about the fog. We coordinated with Joe Burnam, a biologist who was about to “peep” some baby red-cockadeds. He extended a small video camera on a long extension pole up to the hole in the hole/nest of the long leaf pine and we watched the video of the babies on his phone. They weren’t old enough to band yet, so he went on to the next site to peep some more. So cool and interesting!
Kitty showed me one of her favorite places that felt more like “North Carolina” with its dense shadowy hardwoods and a kind of sandy stream (maybe tannic?) and filtered sunlight deep in the woods. We had to walk on a tall, man made berm that wound its way through the thick undergrowth. The reason for the berm being built in the first place was unclear (maybe some sort of attempt at redirecting the creek and irrigation?). It was obviously made a long time ago, and so far Kitty hasn’t found anyone to explain its history. She loved the mystery and uniqueness of the whole thing. I wonder if she brought home a few ticks like I did.
She also pointed out one particular plant, a unique azalea that they identified as one of a kind. “Alabama” something… She reported it, had it tagged to protect it from any future prescribed burns.
I enjoyed the THOM Collective art show at the center Friday night! And then hurried back to my mule for one more late sunset ride, one of the prettiest yet. Left Saturday the 21st for home.
The other “Sue.”
Gatekeeper and resident conversationalist at Springline!