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Watercolor Paper Testing

Since moving to England I’ve had to look elsewhere when it comes to buying my art supplies. Back in Clarence Center N.Y., I had lots of local choices for supplies, and I really miss being able to go look at and ‘feel’ things in person. Nothing beats feeling the spring of a brush on your hand or the roughness of a sheet of paper. Of course I ordered supplies online too, if you ordered enough it was cheaper, but it always helps to see it in person first and maybe test it out.

Where we live now there’s nothing close by, you have to drive to Newcastle for choice; so shopping online is more convenient. Last year I ordered some watercolor paper from Jackson’s (jacksonsart.com) online and was happy with the price and it came pretty quickly. I meant to write a post about my tests but alas never got the time, maybe I’ll post those simple tests later. This time around I ordered seven different papers but two I didn’t bother to test yet, they aren’t anything I would use for my illustration but I couldn’t know that until I saw them in person! I also ordered a sample pack of papers that are big enough to do tests on, I’ll include them in my next round of testing.

Here are the five I started testing:

1. Canson Moulin de Roy HP

2. St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth 140

3. Royal Watercolour Society HP 140

4. Saunders Waterford HP 140 High White

5. Arches Aquarelle HP 140

The Arches is the most expensive, but it’s the one I picked from my last testing, as working best for my illustrations. I’m hoping some of these cheaper options will be just as good so I can make it my ‘go to’ paper and get really familiar with it!

When my new full size sheets of paper come they mostly measure 22″ x 30″ or 56cm x 76cm each. I then lay them out stacked up on my cutting board and figure out the best way to cut them up to get the most sheets. I’ll draw a little thumbnail on scrap paper to figure it out, then mark the watercolor paper for cutting. So I cut the sheets, leaving a big chunk uncut, and some small strips.

 (click on pictures to see larger)

Test strips and my tiny field palette.

Test strips being worked on and my tiny field palette (lid is partly closed, those aren’t my paints!).

For this post I’m just showing you the little bit of testing I’ve done so far. I have long strips from each paper on which I did small quick sketches/tests. Next I will use bigger peices and do a small study to get a feel for the paper with my inks and color pencils added.

All 5 test strips together.

All 5 test strips together.

Above shows all 5 strips laid out on my scanner, they were only 1″ to 1 1/2″ wide so you can imagine how small the bunnies and owls were! The strips are numbered L to R 5,4,3,2,1.

5 Little Owls

5 Little Owls

For the owls I did light pencil sketch then drew with Sepia Pitt “S” permanent ink pen, then watercolor on dry paper, then some color pencil last. The color pencil was brown or black and used for shading areas. They all were just great for using the ink pen and color pencil showed up on the tooth of the paper. Good so far!

5 Little Bunnies in a row.

5 Little Bunnies in a row.

It’s always good to practice bunnies! Isn’t it funny how each one looks like a different personality? For these I did a light pencil sketch then watercolor for all the color. Then I used various brown colored pencils for shading and some outlineing and at the end, a touch of black Pitt permanent ink “XS” pen. Doing the tiny washes showed me I will definitely need to do washes on larger paper to really see how it behaves. I want to see if layers lift too easily or does it get blotchy?

On the owls and bunnies I was also trying out different color pencils, my familiar Prismacolors, Derwent Coloursoft and some new Derwent “Studio” pencils. The “Studio” pencils are harder than the pencils I’m used to, so they will hold their point longer but not sure if I’ll like them yet!

Back side of test strips, dip nib testing.

Back side of test strips, dip nib testing.

On the backside of the strips I did a quick wash, let it dry then painted some Bracken leaves. When they were dry I used my dip ink nibs to try out some new inks I ordered, I’m very excited about them so far! I tested “Magic Colour – Grecian Olive” and “Vallejo – Umber”, both are acrylic permanent ink and the Magic Colour is made in England (yay! or should I say hoorah!) I did get some special empty markers that you can fill with this type of ink, but need to play around with that more. What I need to test here is, how well do my nibs work on the papers? They were all smooth enough that I cuoldn’t see much difference, next time I’ll try them on semi damp paper for bleeding.

Test of lifting and color pencils.

Test of lifting and color pencils.

For the test above I did a simple wash of green and brown then while it was damp lifted color using a clean damp brush. Repeatedly wiping and cleaning the brush and dabbing the paper with paper towel, to help lift moisture and color. Then when it was dry I used color pencil to pick out the marks. The green area was just a quick area to try lifing color after it had dried. All did ok, the St. Cuthbert’s Botanical and Canson Moulin du Roy lifted the cleanest and brightest; though this might not be a good thing when adding washes, we’ll see when I do larger studies.

(c)wc paper test strips- bunny 1 re2One Happy Bunny!

(c)wc paper test strips- owl 3 re

PS. Just wanted to mention on a more personal note, one of the reasons I did tiny strips was because I injured myself and sitting in the chair to work just kills me right now. I fell and cracked a rib or two and definitely injured the mustcles in my back! But what’s so unbelieveable is that I could do that in a muddy sheep field! I was walking alone along a very old line of trees in a muddy field. I thought, I need a stick so I won’t slip so much….I broke a long stick off a big dead branch on the ground then tried to break it again with my foot on the bottom. Well it still had quite a bit of spring in it and as it resisted I slipped and the branch kind of sprung and I got thrown back against the base of this huge old tree! AY CARUMBA IT HURT! The tree had huge rounded burly roots and that’s exactly what I slammed my side into. Wish I had fallen in the mud! So once I sat up, avoided crying and took inventory of what was working, I had to get up and walk 1.25 miles home. This included climbing over two or three slippery farm gates, muddy fields and a steep road home. I guess there’s not much you can do for cracked ribs but take pain killers and I hate doing that. So I have but avoid overdoing it and now am not taking much. It’s gettiing better and you’d think, “ah, I can’t walk much but at least I can sit and work in the studio”, well no, I can’t concentrate on anything other than small stuff! So, now you’re caught up on me, don’t worry I’m pretty healthy so I should heal quickly (she says!)

I’ll try to work on more testing of these papers and update you on that as I go.

(c)wc paper test strips- bunny 3 reThis little bunny says good-bye!

 

Painting on Gummer's How, Lake Windermere

This past summer my husband and I tried to pop out to the Lake District when we could. Unfortunately time slipped by and we only got out there a few times for the day, except of course when my son visited and I got to stay in Keswick two days with him! (but that’s another story). On this occasion we explored Kendal, then some small tarns but the best part was walking up Gummer’s How and having a picnic. (please click on photos to see larger views)

The Chocolate House, Kendal.

The Chocolate House, Kendal.

First we stopped in Kendal and had a quick run around, but lingered a little longer in the Chocolate House. It’s a very small shop filled with all kinds of chocolates and candies. To be honest I didn’t buy any this time, I just didn’t feel in the mood….I must have been NOT feeling myself! Well it’s a reason to go back again.

An amazing old door on a small church we visited.

An amazing old door on a small church we visited.

This is an amazing old heavy wooden door on a small church we visited.

A very scary ford to cross.

A very scary ford to cross.

This is a ford we came to, I’ve never seen one this wide! There was no sign saying not to cross it but I told Gary I’d get out of the car if he tried! It looked far too deep.

I'm so glad we decided not to cross this ford!

I’m so glad we decided not to cross this ford!

We drove around the long way and this is the ford from the other side. It was awful, the ground was all broken up from previous flooding, and it must have been 2 1/2 feet deep! There should have been a sign to warn people!

Gummer's How, waiting for us to come up!

Gummer’s How, waiting for us to come up!

This is Gummer’s How and you can just see Lake Windermere at its base. Time to get our boots on and get walking.

There were some really pretty areas on our walk up.

There were some really pretty areas on our walk up.

We passed small grassy glades and this one had a small stream that sounded so refreshing.

This is the path that curves around towards the top

This is the path that curves around towards the top

As we get near the top the path goes close to the edge and you get a great view of Windermere. I had to stop and take it in, though Gary said to keep on, he knew the view got better!

Now don’t get jealous of this next photo! It looks like a scene from the “Miss Potter” movie and I love that!

Settling down to do a watercolor of the view at Lake Derwentwater.

Settling down to do a watercolor of the view at Lake Windermere.

Of course my big plan was to do a watercolor study up top and I’m happy to say I did. Many times we walk and when we’re at the top of our hill I don’t feel like painting or there’s just no time.

The day couldn't get more perfect!

The day couldn’t get more perfect!

After our picnic of Ploughman’s sandwiches (cheese and pickle), various biscuits (cookies) and a can of apple cider we shared, I settled down on some soft mossy heather to draw.

This apple cider was nice at our picnic.

This apple cider was nice with our picnic.

It helps to carry a plastic bag to sit on, the ground is usually very damp so I always have one tucked in my field kit.

My small sketchbook and travel palette balanced on my knees.

My small sketchbook and travel palette balanced on my knees.

The difficult part is translating that huge expanse of landscape to your small pad, I focused in on several of the distant mountains and first sketched with pencil.

This shows how far I got while working in the field.

This shows how far I got while working in the field.

The above picture shows how far I got in the field. One of the best things about painting or drawing outside, is all the things you see as you sit there! We heard loud airplane engines and then two really big military airplanes flew right up the lake; it was below us and that perspective made it even more exciting! They must have been returning from an airshow?

Finished watercolor of "Lake Windermere from Gummer's How"

Finished watercolor of “Lake Windermere from Gummer’s How”

Here’s the finished watercolor (above). The most challenging thing (as always) was the changing shadow patterns on the hills. You can sit and gaze all day at the moving shadows from the clouds, picking out brilliant greens in one area then fading to appear in another spot. It helped me greatly to look at photos I shot when I finished up details at home. I had to pick a bit from many to fit what my painting was showing.

Click on this Wikipedia link to read more about Gummer’s How. I love the quote by Wainwright at the end, I guess I don’t have to hang up my boots just yet!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gummer%27s_How

The sunset as we drove home.

The sunset as we drove home.

The end of a very nice day, this was the sunset as we drove through the Pennines back to Northumberland.  I hope you enjoyed the extra photos today, though I know August is long since gone, I’ll always remember our hike and painting on Gummer’s How.

View from Lordenshaws, Rothbury

The end of May was very chilly here, wool sweaters and extra layers to peel off when the sun did decide to shine. Gary and I have continued our walks of course, especially when the rain holds off. Most of our walks are later in the day and we don’t have much time for me to sit and paint. But today we went with the intention that I’d sit and do a study of distant hills. Yay!

The view I painted was in this direction, looking up Coquetdale.

The view I painted was in this direction, looking up Coquetdale.

We had a ramble around on Lordenshaws, which is situated right next to the well known Simonside Hills, a favorite place for walkers. Lordenshaws is a much more gentle hill and an easy walk but still offering great views.

Here's the largest cup and ring marked stone at Lordenshaws with the marvelous view in the distance of Coquetdale.

Here’s the largest cup and ring marked stone at Lordenshaws with the marvelous view in the distance of Coquetdale.

I love that there are ancient cup and ring marked stones to see as you walk, made about three thousand years ago!

Here's more of a close up to see the rings and the 'holes' are the cup marks.

Here’s more of a close up to see the rings and the ‘holes’ are the cup marks.

This shows the markings or carvings a bit closer. It’s amazing to think of how long ago they were made and we always have a wonder about the people that made them. What were they like? What did they think of and what do the marks mean? No one can answer that for sure.

View I had of the hills and Coquetdale valley.

View I had of the hills and Coquetdale valley.

Though there are many views, I decided to paint this one, with Simonside being just to the left and the view of Coquet valley coming from behind it. I liked the distant hills with fields marked by lines of hedges and then the nearer farm fields just at the base of Simonside. (It’s very hard to see any detail in this photo, because the sun was in front of me getting low.)

Painting with cold hands as the sky constantly changed.

Painting with cold hands as the sky constantly changed.

I tried to get as much done as possible, then at home I looked at the photos I took on the computer, and tried to touch it up. It’s always best to get as much done in the field as possible, as the colors are never the same on the computer! The hard thing is when you work outdoors, especially in the chilly evening air, your hands get cold and your back aches…well mine does. So I try to work quickly.

Finished! "View From Lordenshaw's" watercolor, 5.5"x7"

Finished! “View From Lordenshaw’s” watercolor, 5.5″x7″

Here’s the finished painting, only 5.5″ x 7″, including the ring holes!

More posts to come, it’s been such a busy summer I am far behind! Please sign up your email (upper right) to recieve notification of new posts.

Cheers!

Garden Plant Studies

It’s gardening time again! I started a variety of seeds on the window sill and we’re really looking forward to the sunflowers! The spring has been so cold that I waited a bit to plant, but we can hope for warmer weather. Now the sprouts have been moved outside and a few are planted. Fingers crossed, we’ll see what happens!

Sunflower seeds sprouting.

Sunflower seeds sprouting.

Above are two very small studies of the sunflowers sprouting; I LOVE when seeds sprout! After messing around with my sunflower sprouts, I decided to get outside, now that the sun is actually shining!

Photo of the plant I did the watercolor study of.

Photo of the plant I did the watercolor study of.

I wanted to do a small study of some plants and decided on this one. I liked how the tips of the leaves at the bottom of the plant are reddish, a good alizarin crimson red. I’m almost positive it’s a weed, but who cares? It looks good for a study.

My sketchbook and paint kit, where I sat in front of the garden.

My sketchbook and paint kit, where I sat in front of the garden.

I sat on the grass and the plant was about eye level in a low bed. I clipped my sketchbook and the tiny paint kit onto a stiff peice of cardboard, then I could hold it in one hand. I used a waterbrush to paint and the tiny white bottle is water that I can squirt onto the pan for extra wetness, I also use it to wet my colors.

Close up of my kit and sketchbook.

Close up of my kit and sketchbook.

Here it is a bit closer. The sketch of the bird was done from a dead wren that my husband’s cat killed. 🙁 I would usually like to do a study from it but just didn’t have time, so I traced it’s outline. Poor sweet little thing. Happily though, the wrens are nesting behind our house, under the seat of an old bicycle! We keep the cat well away from there!

Coming up soon, a post about an adventurous hike and some watercolors that were inspired by it. (it involves little mice!)

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New Classes! Colourful Critters + Owls!

I promise I have some new sketches coming up soon, and some photos of springtime happenings around me, but lately I’ve been preparing to teach some workshops in Needle Felting. Please take a look at the fun creations I’m making! And if you live in Northumberland maybe you’d like to take a class?

Make a Colourful Critter of your own or makes a great gift!

Make a Colourful Critter of your own or makes a great gift!

Class 1: Wed. March 23rd 10am – 12:30 pm  £20

Optional Follow-Up Class 2: Wed. 30 March 10am-12:30 pm Only £10!

LOCATION: Alnwick Playhouse, Bondgate Without, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1PQ

Come have fun learning to Needle Felt with over 106 colours of wool to choose from!

In Class 1 you will make one Colourful Critter of your choice and all materials are included in the fee. The optional follow-up Class 2 is Half Price and you just pay for wool you use in class. It’s inexpensive for each little project so you may want to make a bunch! Optional follow-up class 2 is a great opportunity to ask questions, get help on projects you tried at home and gives me the opportunity to make sure you get lots of extra attention! Sign up for one or all classes! Secure your place to learn creative techniques with artist Mary McAndrew. Email me for details and to secure your place.

The class will be held at the Alnwick Playhouse. We’ll work on the balcony that overlooks the Gallery; it’s a great location but still feels cozy! Also the cafe will be open, it’s goodies and drinks available for purchase if you like.

I will also have Needle Felting kits with all tools, some different colored wool and a basic Needle Felting booklet available at class for purchase. I’ll also bring over 106 different colored wools if students would like to purchase any. See additional pictures of Colourful Critters I’ve made below!

The next project I’m offering is OWLS:

Class 1: Wed. 13th April 10am – 12:30 pm  £20

Optional Follow-Up Class 2: Wed. 20 April 10am-12:30 pm Only £10!

LOCATION: Alnwick Playhouse, Bondgate Without, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1PQ

Come have fun learning to Needle Felt with over 106 colours of wool to choose from!

The OWL class will be run just like the COLOURFUL CRITTERS above, Email me for details and to secure your place.

Needle Felting Classes and a Christmas Fair

Hello everyone, I’ve been a busy bee! Working not only on some watercolors while out on my walks, but also putting together some Needle Felting classes! I’ve had so much fun preparing by making lots of snowmen, gnomes, flat felted picture ornaments and floaty soft Fairies and Angels. It really is so much fun to work with all the colors and different types of wool I’ve collected.

Here is the poster we designed for my two classes in December.

snowman + gnome wkshps flyerSnowman Workshop: Monday 7th December, 2 pm-4:30 pm £20

Gnome Workshop: Monday 14th December, 2 pm-4:30 pm £20

Both will be taking place at Nelson’s at the Park cafe in Swarland Village, Northumberland. It’s a great little community cafe with the most excellent desserts and I’ve been hearing such good things about their food from the locals! I’m excited because our class will include a hot coffee or tea and a dessert specially prepared for us! YUM. I already have a few students signed up so please don’t wait to send me an email if you want to join us. When you email (marymcandrew62 at gmail.com) I’ll send you a Paypal invoice and you can pay with paypal or credit card.

We’ll learn about the qualities of different wools and how to work with them. I’ll bring some fun needle felted projects I’ve made to show you what else you can do with wool and spark your creativity. I’ll also bring along a very big selection of all colors of wool for students who want to purchase some to take home.

CHRISTMAS FAIR

21 November at the Gallery 45 Christmas Fair.

21 November at the Gallery 45 Christmas Fair.

On Saturday (Nov.21) I took part in the Christmas Fair at Gallery 45 in Felton, Northumberland. I decided to do it only two days before the event so I kept it simple. I rented a small table just so I could put out some note cards, small prints of my artwork and a good selection of felted peices. It was a lot of fun meeting local people and talking about my work and a great way to talk about my classes coming up in December.

Sock Monkey and Angel, both needle felted.

Sock Monkey and Angel, both needle felted.

I thnk the Sock Monkey was trying to serenade the angel when I wasn’t looking, is she throwing her arms up to cover her ears? We’ll never know!

Email me (marymcandrew62 at gmail.com) if you have a small group in Northumberland that would like to learn how to needle felt and we’ll see if we can arrange something. So many fun things to create!

 

Watercolor of Edlingham Castle - July 2015

Here’s a post I wrote from July, never too late to enjoy a bit of sun I guess!?

July 16, 2015

Did I tell you how much I LOVE living here in Northumberland? I did? Well I won’t get tired of saying it or doing my sketches out in the field.

7-16-15 havin a rest (3) (460x345)

Taking a rest, enjoying the day, in my barn boots of course!

I went up in the field near Edlingham Castle, I had it all to myself, no sheep or cows about. It was just that kind of day that I sat on the ground to think, listen to the birds and enjoy just living. Then I just lay back and put my straw hat over my eyes and let time slip by, and it was ok.

7-16-15 havin a rest (4) (345x460)

Trying to take a selfie with a 35mm isn’t easy!

Laying down amongst the clovers, it made me feel like a kid again. Isn’t that funny? I should go lay in the grass more often! Maybe we could start a national “Lay in the Grass Day”! haha.

Below is a picture of what it looked like, my view from the grasses, the clouds were so beautiful.

7-16-15 mouse eye view (3) (345x460)

My view from the grass, my mouse eye view.

And below, this is what I saw near me, a Ringlet butterfly, a very common sight in the fields here in summer. I’m really enjoying learning the new butterflies and bugs here in the UK.

7-16-15 butterfly (3) (460x345)

A Ringlet butterfly on a clover head.

Well I didn’t just lay around all day, after a little while I went down the field, found a spot to stand and did a small painting. Below is a picture of Edlingham Castle, this was what I drew. You can see by the photo, the lighting never stays the same when you’re painting outside. My painting ended with nice blue skies and sunshine!

7-16-15 drawing the castle (7) (345x460)

Edlingham Castle view from field.

Below is the ink drawing I did first. Sometimes I do an ink drawing then paint with my watercolors, especially if I don’t think I’ll have time to paint it. The other way is to do a light pencil sketch and then paint, drawing with ink a little for details on the pencil before or after painting.

(c)7-16-15 drawing the castle (9)

Ink drawing of Edlingham castle, over the gate.

Below is my finished watercolor painting, only 4.5″ x 6″. You can see how bright the colors are, the day really was so bright, unlike the photo! The ink drawing makes it look more like an illustration than a painting to me. Kind of like all details are picked out at once, but that’s ok.

(c)Edlingham Castle wc

Edlingham Castle, Northumberland. Watercolor and Ink 4.5″ x 6″

I hope you enjoyed a little look back into summer! If you don’t want to miss any of my posts, just put your email in the box at the top right column. It’ll send you an email notice and you just respond then you’ll get my posts right in your inbox. Remember though, it’s best to click to come here and read the post, it lays out better on the page (and you can leave comments here).

Views of Edlingham Castle, Northumberland

I wrote this post way back in July, when it was sunny and warm, now here we are at the end of October! I still have new drawings and paintings to share, it’s just been more hectic than I expected! I’m still settling into this new life, trying to learn how to drive standard (badly!), finding a new accountant, and not being able to find some of my supplies because many things are still packed and stacked in plastic bins! But what has been most excellent is our walks near our home and a few trips to the Lake District. The greatest joy Gary and I share is our love of walking in the countryside. I’m overwhelmed with subject matter, it’s just finding time to sit and work.

So, on to my July post! Please click on the pictures to see them enlarged and clearer, enjoy!

(July 2015) I’m very lucky to have an ancient castle near where I live.  I can go visit the site and walk around it, or view it from the fields.

(c)April 2015 Edlingham Castle from the field

Brown ink drawing of Edlingham Castle done in the field in April 2015.

I did this drawing in brown ink (Faber Castell Pitt pen) while standing in the field where only local villagers usually go, way back in April. It’s great to switch your mediums once in awhile when out painting. I think it’s great ‘brain training’ as you have to approach it in different ways, seeing shapes, values, lines, textures and measurements; and thinking what you will use to capture that.

As I am settling into my new studio space here in England, I am still re-organizing my ‘stuff’ and wanting to play with materials I’ve had packed for ages. One of those is charcoal, I haven’t really used it in a long time so lately I’ve been rediscovering it. Below I’ll show you how I did another small drawing of the castle en Plein Air or sitting in a field with my art kit.

Sometimes I set my stuff out on the ground, this is charcoal drawing supplies.

Sometimes I set my stuff out on the ground, this is charcoal drawing supplies.

This shows my small backpack, a big lawn + leaf type garbage bag, Altoids tin with loose charcoal sticks and one plastic box with charcoal pencils, tortillions, brushes, sandpaper and eraser. I almost always stand when I work but today I had a small folding camp stool to sit on. The garbage bag is great for when you want to throw your backpack or kit on the ground and it’s all damp OR use it for sitting on.

Here's part of my field kit for charcoals, good 'ol Altoids tin.

Here’s part of my field kit for charcoals, good ‘ol Altoids tin.

And the ever popular ‘Altoids tin’, once used by me for watercolors but now I put my charcoal sticks in here. The rubber bands on the lid are holding a piece of paper towel and some cotton balls in place.

Here it is open and ready to use.

Here it is open and ready to use; I put the messy hard and soft sticks in here.

The base holds an assortment of soft vine and compressed charcoal sticks also a piece of chamois for blending and shading.

You can use the 'messy' charcoal powder in the tin to draw with a stiff brush.

You can use the ‘messy’ charcoal powder in the tin to draw with a brush.

When I sharpen points on sandpaper I let the powder fall into this tin and then it’s great to pick up with brushes for shading. A great way to start your sketch with soft blocked in areas of value, using soft or stiff brushes.

Work in progress, my support is just the cardboard back of a sketchpad.

Work in progress, my support is just the cardboard back of a sketchpad.

Above here it is almost finished, just a few touch ups and strengthening of darks and details to do.

Charcoal drawing of Edlingham Castle,  July 2, 2015.

Charcoal drawing of Edlingham Castle, July 2, 2015.

And it’s finished! I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my kit and how I worked. I’ll try to post more of those sketches I’ve done! Leave me comments below, I love to hear from you all.

And my other facebook page: Mary McAndrew Painting and Illustration

Northumberland, Land of Distant Hills

As I was looking through my small sketches and watercolors from this spring and early summer, I found I have many that are of distant views of the hills. Scenes that are all around me here in Northumberland England, just drive anywhere and you will always see some far off huge hills in the distance that all the locals can tell you the name of. Yes, all have names, very old names! It’s fun to learn the silhouettes and names of them.

Our favorite thing to do is walk up any of the high hills and see into the distance; can you believe we can see all the way to Scotland!? You don’t have to climb a high hill to appreciate the views though, even walking on the upper lane out of our village gives you views across Whittingham Vale or up to Corby Crags.

(c)view of Cheviots + Glanton

View of the Cheviots and Glanton area in the Whittingham Vale.

The tiny watercolor sketch above is from one of my morning walks along the upper lane of our village. The blue hill in the distance on the left is actually two hills in the Cheviots, one being “The Cheviot” itself. The hill in the center I’m pretty sure is Low Pyke in Glanton, the next village that you can see across the valley. It makes you realize that all the way back to bronze age man, people must have named the hills and used them for direction.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor pencil.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor, March 10, 2015.

This little study above is of Corby Crags, as seen from my side yard in spring. It’s just a quick watercolor sketch to practice clouds and colors, but I remember standing there doing it on a sunny day in March, when winter was breaking.

(c)April 2015 Burning Heather on Brizlee 2

“Burning Heather on Brizlee”, watercolor field study, April 6, 2015

This one was done while walking along our upper back lane, I saw smoke from a fire in the distance and stopped to record it. I leaned on a big field gate as I looked past the buildings in the foreground to the long hill in the distance. My husband told me they were burning heather on the moors up on Brizlee, this is to promote new growth of heather shoots for the grouse and partridges (all for the hunting season). This hill I realized later when I looked on a map is all the way in Alnwick, the next village about 6 miles away!

(c)5-26-15 view of Demesne Farm + Thrunton Woods

“View of Demesne Farm and Thrunton Woods”, watercolor, May 26, 2015.

One of my favorite things here is to watch the clouds cast shadows and patches of sun creep across the face of the land. Where the sun goes the greens and golds of the land come alive, it’s so dramatic! The little 5 1/2″ x 7″ watercolor above I did while sitting on the side bank of the road out of our village looking towards Thrunton Woods and Demesne Farm. It’s one of my morning walks that is relatively short but always windy when you get to the top. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this view!

"View From Edlingham Lane" watercolor, July 21, 2015.

“View From Edlingham Lane” watercolor, July 21, 2015.

This 4 1/2″x 6″ study was done on the same lane but just a week ago. I was near the top of the lane where you really get hit with all the wind sweeping across this valley. It was a misty day and my hands got cold and stiff, yeah even in July! As I painted this it started to rain (see the approaching clouds?) so I quickly put my kit away…then it stopped….so unpack the kit again! The weather here is just like that, dress in layers because when the sun comes out you’ll get so hot and start peeling off jackets, but as soon as the clouds come it’s cold and there could be a surprise sprinkle in that cloud. I usually bring more than the average walker because I end up sitting or standing still a lot and it gets cold when you don’t move around.

 Next post I’ll share more photos of my surroundings, but still so many sketches to share too! Besides sketching I’ve been busy testing watercolor paper so I can dig in and concentrate on my illustrations, I also got a new watercolor field box that I’ve been using and love. I’ve been recording (with photos and sketches) the local flora and fauna (would you expect anything less from me?) So far I have positively identified 51 birds, 46 different wildflowers, 10 butterflies, 3 moths and any number of unidentified insects, moths, plants etc. It’s exciting to be in a new country with all these new things! I’ll share more of this coming up, stay tuned!

(Belated) Signs of Spring

Ok, so I know it’s summertime so why am I talking about spring? Well I still have sketches and paintings to share that are from late winter and spring before I share my recent work. You’ll notice my winter and spring sketches were all quite small and not as much watercolor going on. As the weather warms up, and thus my fingers, I start to do more. Lately I’ve been doing some charcoal drawings too, but lets not get ahead of ourselves…spring first!

Watercolor of Edlingham Burn, in Edlingham village, Northumberland.

Watercolor of Edlingham Burn, February 10th in Edlingham village, Northumberland.

Above, here’s a small watercolor I did while sitting by the burn or stream that runs through Edlingham. The painting is just small, about 5×6″ or so, but good practice to paint the green trees and blue and brown water. Well actually the water is quite clean and clear, it just reflects all that’s above it! I really enjoyed the sun that day though it was still cold, so I finished the painting at home.

Fuzzy Buds drawing in ink

Fuzzy Buds drawing in ink February 17, 2015

I just love when native bushes bloom with soft fuzzy buds in springtime. They have little shiny, leathery looking caps that their fuzzy little heads push up as they swell to bloom. I brought some twigs in to draw; if you put them in water they look great and last awhile as you draw them.

I set up the jar of buds by the patio windows, getting some natural light to work by.

My set up for drawing.

I set up the jar of buds by the patio windows, getting some natural light to work by. I like sitting here with my porridge in the morning to read and watch the birds outside.

Painted with watercolor from live branches I brought inside.

Painted with watercolor from live branches I brought inside. February 17, 2015

I really enjoy trying to paint the soft look of the buds and also showing that they are white. You can’t (well I can’t) help but stroke them and think of how it feels like the ear of my bunny I had years ago!

One of many snowdrops, done in ink and watercolor.

One of many snowdrops, done in ink and watercolor. February 11, 2015

Spring here in England, wouldn’t be spring without the Snowdrops! They were everywhere and lasted so long, a real promise of more spring flowers to come. I had planned to paint a Snowdrop open, but ran out of time. I took a lot of pictures though so maybe in the future?

Sketch of a bit of Edlingham Valley.

Unfinished sketch of a bit of Edlingham Valley.

Here’s another from February; do you notice how small this is? It’s from one of my tiny 4.25″ x 5″ sketchbooks I like to use in the winter. (see pic below). It’s great for tucking in your pocket when you just might want to draw something interesting, and I draw while standing up so it’s easy to hold too.

Finished watercolor 4.25" x 5", view in Edlingham, Northumberland.

Finished watercolor 4.25″ x 5″, view in Edlingham, Northumberland.

Later I finished the color on the trees and grasses. As the page says, it was cold that day!

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it's great for winter sketches because it's small.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small.

There’s the sketchbook I made, designed complete with a pen holder made out of duct tape!

The Vole Hole, watercolor, 4.25" x 5".

The Vole Hole, watercolor, 4.25″ x 5″.

Another tiny one, done on the backside of the sketch of Edlingham Valley view. Who can resist a tiny hole belonging to a vole or mouse? I know my husband’s cat can’t but neither can I for different reasons. I just have this little childlike vision of cute mice straight from Beatrix Potter coming out of the holes. I like to practice drawing these kinds of homes for future stories I may illustrate.

4.25" x 5" ink drawing of our ancient Sycamore.

4.25″ x 5″ ink drawing of our ancient Sycamore.

I did this sketch with the intention to study the wonderful colors that are on this tree. It’s an ancient Sycamore covered with lichens of many colors, mosses of green and the tree bark’s own reddish hue, just waiting (still) to be studied by my watercolors.

Well I think that’s all for this post, I still have lots of small spring sketches and watercolors to share soon though. Next time I’ll post some more photos too. I’ll be posting soon, stay tuned!