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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!

"Winter Sketches in England"

Winter has passed by and I’m still settling into my new life in England. I did some sketches as I could, being tired from unpacking, cleaning or just being overwhelmed in general. But happily I can see my sketching has increased as the months slip by and I will share all that in further posts to catch up.

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport...the big day way back in December!

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport…the big day way back in December!

Today I’m posting sketches I did way back in December and January. The one above I did while waiting in the Buffalo International Airport, Gate 12, for my flight to the UK. I like the way it came out, a person sitting ‘almost’ in silhouette in front of the huge windows. It definitely helped to pass the time and calm my nervous excitement.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

After I settled in I started walking in the mornings, mostly on my favorite lane above the village. Just like at ‘home’ in New York, sketching in winter I mostly use very small pocket sketchbooks. It’s just too cold to stand around freezing my fingers off, so I just do smaller quicker sketches; the most important thing is just to keep sketching.

The drawing above is actually tiny, done at the top of the page, but I like how it came out. It’s done with a brown Faber-Castell ink pen; I love using these pens. It’s a twisted little hawthorn along a sheep field, very exposed to the winds at the top of a ridge. I like it’s character because it reminds me of a bonsai tree. Some of the little trees you see hedges made of are actually very old trees that are trimmed all the time.

"Tree on Upper Lane", a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven't wet yet!

“Tree on Upper Lane”, a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven’t wet yet!

This sketch was done very quickly because it was so darn cold! I love walking on this one lane that goes out of our village because it’s lined with ancient trees and gorgeous views of distant hills and fields. I did it using water soluble pencil but wanted to scan it before I wet it. When you wet them they can get very dark and intense…it still waits for me to wet it with my brushes and mess around.

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.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small. I made a pen holder out of duct tape and attached it to the back cover. I have another one that’s even smaller that I used at home a lot too, just loved sticking it in my barn coat pocket when I went walking.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

January 7, 2015 – I walked down to Edlingham Burn (small river) and found a mossy rock to sit upon with this lovely view. Well maybe it’s hard to imagine from such a small sketch, but it was a view of the burn and moss covered trees everywhere, just lovely!

(c)me sketching 1-7-15

Me in the freezing cold, painting Edlingham Burn.

I was very cold painting this, I did it with mittens on mind you, no easy task! I sat on a bit of rock, cold and damp, but it felt so good to be out and finally messing with my watercolors, that I didn’t notice (until I got up, all stiff!) I used one medium sized waterbrush to do this.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets across small streams or ‘burns’ here, to keep sheep and cattle in sectioned off fields. I put it in the background of my watercolor sketch you can see above.

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

This is Edlingham Burn, I walked along it looking for a spot to paint. Where the rest of the land was pretty bleak and bare, the river was/is fascinating to me.  With all it’s mossy trees, ivy climbing everywhere, dry grasses draping over dark banks touching the cold water and the sound of splashing water, wonderful.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

These two trees I found behind the old church, in the farmers field. I really like how this sketch came out. They twisted together, almost in an embrace, part lichen covered, part moss. Standing in a cold, bare hedge, naked of leaves or flowers, just waiting till spring! Maybe someday I’ll do a larger color study.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

January 26th – I did this sketch on a day where I was tired and not feeling particularly inspired. That’s an especially good time to stick to your small sketchbook, just do something small until you ‘do’ feel inspired. It helped me to focus and relax; practice is always a good thing. I noted the birds I saw while doing it, Seagulls, Jackdaws and a Tree Creeper.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

I thought I’d leave you with two more photos, from Jan. 6th on my morning walk. I love watching the sheep in the fields all around me, there are so many kinds here!

A sheep wondering what I'm doing in his field.

A sheep wondering what I’m doing in her field.

This little ewe was watching me, they run away if you get too close, so having a zoom is needed! They are all carrying lambs at this time and I can’t wait to see them in spring!

Check back for more updates, yes there are more sketches, paintings and photos to catch up with from this spring and I can’t wait to share them with you! Sign up in the right column with your email, if you want to be notified when I do new posts. Please leave me comments if you like!

Honey Bunny Leaves for England

(Please click pictures to see enlarged)

Honey Bunny left a message for her friends.

Honey  Bunny left a message for her friends at Long Lane.

Honey Bunny made her decision, she’s moved away from Long Lane to England. But her little friends and she have promised to write to each other. She wants to know what happens back home and they want to hear about her adventures!

The little flowers of her garden are sad.

The little flowers of her garden are sad.

Her leaving has made the little flowers of her garden very sad. Honey Bunny always cared for the little living things at Long Lane and they all will miss her.

Her little mice neighbors were sorry to see her leave.

Her little mice neighbors were sorry to see her leave.

Her mice neighbors had lived near her at Long Lane for such a long time, they were very sorry to see her leave.

Even the little insects were sad.

Even the little insects were sad.

When friends leave it can be very sad and lonely feeling but it can also mean something new and exciting is happening.

Life keeps expanding if you let it grow.

British Flag 2 here at last re

Well life has been expanding for me, as I am now sitting at my laptop in a cottage, in Northumberland  England. Expansion doesn’t happen all at once, I guess if it did it would hurt! What I mean is I think it’s going to take me some time to settle in and feel like this is home. Before when I came, it was for long visits and it was all new and exciting. I’m not saying it isn’t new and exciting now, just that it does feel different. We don’t have that countdown of ‘days until I leave’ now and that’s such a relief!

But I do keep referring to the place I left, back in Clarence Center, New York, as home! I’ll give myself some slack with that; I still refer to the place I grew up, Endicott NY, as HOME. “Going home to Endicott”…I referred to it like this all the years my boys were growing up, so much that even they used to say…”when can we go home to Endicott and see Grandma and Grandpa?”

1-17-15 my walk  (129) (338x450)

Walking down the lane in a small village.

But as they say “home is where the heart is”, and my heart is here with Gary, my soon to be husband. We share a love of nature and walking the hills, listening to good children’s stories and old tales and just being silly and laughing a lot. When I have a new idea for a story or character, and share it with him, it usually expands effortlessly, as he just ‘gets it’.

Gary and I on a walk by Edlingham Burn or creek.

Gary and I on a walk by a burn or creek.

So as I explore my new gorgeous surroundings, I promise to share lots of photos here. The drawing, painting and felting are a bit on the back burner because we’re still working on arranging things to make room for my soon to arrive shipment. “Groan”….I have a lot of boxes and plastic bins coming!! (Remember all those boxes I kept packing?) But I DO miss my ‘stuff’ and can’t wait for it to arrive!

Well here’s a selection of photos from some of the walks I’ve taken. I’ve done a few little sketches but will share them later.

Edlingham Castle and viaduct, just down the road from me.

Edlingham Castle and viaduct, right next to an 11th c church.

The viaduct was built in the Victorian age and was part of a railway line; I’d like to do some sketches of it someday. The views are spread out here, that is you can see really far especially if you get up a hill, and I’ve noticed people just walk to things they can see.

1-20-15 Walk to Crags + Viaduct (17) (450x338)

“My Northumberland!” from on top of the Crags looking down on the village.

Like above, we walked up to the top of the Crags and you have an excellent view for miles and miles!

This is the upper or back lane to the village.

This is the upper or back lane to the village.

This is the upper or back lane to the village and it’s one of my favorite (favourite 😉 ) places to walk…do you blame me?

Another view on the upper lane, coming back.

Another view on the upper lane, coming back.

This is usually how the upper lane looks as I come back, with the sun low in the winter sky.

There are sheep everywhere!

There are sheep everywhere!

Most of the fields and hills have sheep on them. I can guess at three breeds- Norfolk, Scottish Black Face and Texel. They’re all nice but the Scottish Black Faced ones are especially bonnie!

A tiny beautiful bird, the Blue Tit.

A tiny beautiful bird, the Blue Tit.

There are all new birds here for me to learn too. I’m frustrated when I hear them sing or twitter and I have no idea ‘who’ it is! I’m getting good at identifying them on sight though.

A male Blackbird, in the thrush family and closely related to the American Robin.

A male Blackbird, in the thrush family and closely related to the American Robin.

This beautiful bird is a male Blackbird…the same that were baked in a pie and that the Beatles sang about ‘singing in the dead of night’. They are thrushes just like ‘our’ American Robin; so things it does reminds me of it, and yes they’re known for their song!

Walking down by Edlingham Burn, wearing my gators!

Walking down by the burn, wearing my gators!

It’s spring. It’s muddy. When I go out walking and I put on my leg gators first, I’m always glad I did. The gators wrap around your lower leg and ankle and zip up. They stay put because of a strap that goes under your boot and a hook at your laces. I bought them years ago when I came here and just love them!

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

Can you see how beautiful this is? I love the tangle of roots, the moss covered trees and the branches that scraggle in all directions. I just hope I can start to capture it all when I start painting.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets strung together across the burns or streams, to keep livestock in the proper pasture. I really like the way this one looks, like it’s blended in with it’s natural surroundings.

Well I’ll leave you here, time to go get busy. I’ll post more pictures as I go and hopefully some sketches. Please leave comments below as I love to hear from you all!

It's Time to Move!

England Here I Come!

England Here I Come!

Good news, I was granted my Fiance Visa! Yay! I can finally move forward and go to be with Gary and start my new life in England. I hope to settle in and get sketching the British landscapes and nature again and focus on my children’s books.

There’s someone else who’s making big changes in her life…(please click to see nice clear image).

Honey Bunny thinks about her future.

Honey Bunny thinks about her future.

I’ll try to post updates as I can but have so much to do! Almost all my art supplies have been packed away forever and my little furry friends that give me inspiration are packed away too. Moving can’t come soon enough for me.

Should I stay here at Long Lane or should I go? Mr. McCuddles is waiting for me...

“Should I stay here at Long Lane or should I go? Mr. McCuddles is waiting for me.” thought Honey Bunny to herself.

“Should I stay here at Long Lane or should I go? Mr. McCuddles is waiting for me.” thought Honey Bunny to herself. I think we all know what she’s going to do! (Mr. McCuddles is an English Teddy that she met years ago).

Small Flowers + Plants In My Yard

Hello there! Yes I know it’s now October November, but I’m super busy getting ready for my big move to England so I haven’t had much time for posting! During the summer I did get my sketchbook out and go adventuring into my wild fields but most of what I observed just so happened to be right in my backyard. I have a really big yard and lots of wild stuff just dying to burst through the fence all around! I love it!

(Please click on pictures to view larger)

The back fence barely holds back all the wild plants and flowers in the field!

The back fence barely holds back all the wild plants and flowers in the field!

I took a break and sat in a lawn chair on a very nice day to do this little watercolor sketch. It’s only a couple inches in diameter but I got to play a bit with the watercolors and that was so relaxing.

A collection of wild plants and flowers.

A collection of wild plants and flowers.

I like studying the little plants and flowers that grow in my grass, above is an old sketch I did when I started to notice them.

I’ve been noticing this tiny purple wild flowering plant (below) for years, but just realized that there are two plants! So now I need help identifying them.

This plant grows very short when in the mowed lawn and still flowers!

This plant grows very short when in the mowed lawn and still flowers!

Bees just love these tiny flowers.

Bees just love these tiny flowers.

Look how beautiful these little clusters are!

Look how beautiful these little clusters are!

The three photos above are all the same kind of plant. Notice the leaves are oval/lance shaped and smooth margins? Also the flowers always grow from one spiked cluster at the top of the plant. What gets confusing is where the plant is found in my trimmed lawn, sometimes the spike is cut off and looks very different when flowering.  Each individual bloom is really quite beautiful (if you get down on your hands and knees and take a ‘mouse eye view’!)

Below are photos of the second purple wildflower.

Study of purple wildflower #2 I did years ago.

Study of purple wildflower #2 I did years ago.

I ‘think’ this might be called “Gill Over the Ground”?? I did this study years ago. I love how the tiny leaves look like round geranium leaves and have wavy margins. When the new leaves are forming they make the nicest little clusters that are really fun to draw! I really need to do more studies of this one.

Here's a photo of the same plant.

Here’s a photo of the same plant.

This photo doesn’t show many flowers, but they grow more than this example. Their flowers can grow from sections along the stem and not so much from a spike like the other flowers.

A beautiful Hawkmoth hovers over the flowers as it feeds.

A beautiful Hawkmoth hovers over the flowers as it feeds.

I know it’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a Hawkmoth hovering over the tiny flowers! Below I cropped the photo so you could see it better.

A fascinating Hawkmoth, can you see it's clear wings?

A fascinating Hawkmoth, can you see it’s clear wings?

See how important all these little flowers are in your grass?

For tiny flowers you get tiny butterflies and bugs.

With tiny flowers you get tiny butterflies and bugs.

Above is a photo of that same plant in my grass…and what is that tiny little blue flutter I saw?

A gorgeous Spring Azure Butterfly!

A gorgeous Spring Azure Butterfly!

Yes, for tiny flowers you have tiny butterflies, tiny bugs and bees. This butterfly was a dainty flitting little thing, until I identified it I was calling it a “Fairy Blue Butterfly”! I kind of like my name better! So it looks pale blue now, but when it opens it’s wings (extremely hard to catch a photo) it’s very blue. So when it flies you see the white and blue of under and upper wings combine to make a light blue! Just like one of those flat paper toys you spin on a string and it makes a new picture or color.

An old style illustration using the wild plants in my yard.

An old style illustration using the wild plants in my yard.

Above is a study I did in my field sketchbook years ago using the tiny plants in my yard. I really like it and will do more studies like this in the future! Do you see the little purple wildflower #2 in this?

A watercolor study of Knapweed (as far as I can tell).

A watercolor study of Knapweed (as far as I can tell).

I ventured out on my land here at Long Lane Farm, towards the end of summer. Out in what we call “The Maze” there’s this beautiful wildflower growing; I think it’s Knapweed. I tried very hard to find photos like it online and since all my wildflower books are packed away I didn’t really figure it out definitively.

This is another study of Knapweed, done in bright sunlight.

This is another study of Knapweed, done in bright sunlight.

Yes, this is the same type of plant, just different lighting when I painted it. I worked in full sunlight and tried to paint the colors I saw. I tried to take more note of the leaves so someday I can get help with identifying it. Though I love it I have a feeling it might be one of those dreaded invasive weeds?

Skipper butterfly on sweet white clover.

Skipper butterfly on sweet white clover.

Above is white clover with a Skipper butterfly on it. All summer I enjoyed the multitude of clovers and Moneywort growing in my grass…weed killer?? God help us, NEVER! I have all kinds of beautiful tiny plants and flowers in my lawn…their leaves are green, they add to the ‘greeness’ of my lawn and also beautiful tiny flowers.

White clover blooming in the warm grass of summer.

White clover blooming in the warm grass of summer.

And when that clover is blooming I’ve never smelled anything sweeter! You just have to stop and breath in, and realize that subtle sweet smell is the clover talking to you. It’s saying, “Don’t spray me with weed killer!” Seriously though, when I look across the yard and it’s blooming, it’s so beautiful, especially with the sunny yellow Dandelions.

Tiny study of Dandelions in the grass.

Tiny study of Dandelions in the grass.

Below you see the Skipper on a bending Dandelion head, can you remember the smell of that pretty little flower? And how soft it is when it tickles your nose?

A tiny Skipper butterfly on a soft dandelion head.

A tiny Skipper butterfly on a soft dandelion head.

A small study I did years ago of Moneywort, not in bloom.

A small study I did years ago of Moneywort, not in bloom.

The Moneywort loves it here because it’s damp and when that blooms it’s stems are absolutely covered with bright yellow flowers. It actually gives the grass a yellow hue when you look at it with a ‘painters eye’. I remember when I did this study all the plants were under freezing cold spring melt-water.

White Asters grow in profusion around my fences.

White Asters grow in profusion around my fences.

The bees are allover, gathering nectar from the wild flowers and pollinating to their hearts content…do bees have hearts? I’m sure they do! Above is a study I quite like of White Asters. They grow in tiny but profuse branched clusters that form little bushes of white dainty flowers. As the flower grows ‘old’ the center turns from a bright yellow to a dark orange-ish to red-ish looking color. I really love these little dainties and even wrote a story about one little aster, someday to share.

Tiny mushrooms growing in the grass. Watercolor + ink.

Tiny mushrooms growing in the grass. Watercolor + ink.

One of my favorite things is to discover little mushroom clusters in the grass. I’m terrible at identifying mushrooms and someday I think I’ll concentrate on learning a bit more, but for now I’m content to just sketch and be inspired.  When I see mushrooms in the grass and get right down at eye level (or mouse level as I call it!) I think about how they look like little houses for wee folk or critters.

Studies of tiny mushrooms

Studies of tiny mushrooms

So we’ll end it here, Fall is almost over now and there are NO flowers in my yard! I have collected lots of photos to use for reference when I do my illustrations in the future. Oh that reminds me! I have one more picture that you’ve seen before but would be fitting here.

Mouse family in the Leaves

“Mouse Family in the Leaves”

It’s great to use the real plants I see in my own backyard when I do my illustrations. I hope to show you more in the future!

Do you have tiny wildflowers growing in your grass? I love reading comments, please add yours below!

Mystery Cocoon Hatched!

Do you remember my last post about the cocoon I was watching all winter long?

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Unhatched cocoon hanging in tree, April 20, 2014

I did sketches of it on cold snowy days, while it hung in the tree, disguised as dead leaves.

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March 20, 2014 – first day of spring, snowing, dismal + dark!

Another sketch of the 'leaf cocoon' after my walking was finished.

Another sketch of the ‘leaf cocoon’ after my walking was finished. (March 27, 2014)

Then one day I got the bright idea of putting mesh around it so when the mystery bug hatched I may have a chance to see what it was. I also knew that I now took responsibility for this creatures’ welfare, I had to check it everyday so if it hatched I could release it! I fastened it with wire bread ties.

Plastic mesh onion bag I carefully put around the cocoon.

Plastic mesh onion bag I carefully put around the cocoon.

Well as the weeks dragged on into spring I sort of gave up hope; I observed a small hole at the top and thought maybe something got at it. Also a ‘bug friend’ told me that sometimes wasps will parasitize these cocoons and it may not live. Leaves from the tree were now poking out through the mesh and black ants were crawling around everywhere, where was my ‘creature’?

June 1st, still not hatched!

June 1st, still not hatched!

Well one morning while walking around the yard I spotted something big and dark in the mesh bag from way across the yard! I actually ran across the yard, I was so excited! (yes, I really did! lol)

Much to my delight, not only did it hatch but it was HUGE! Introducing the “Promethea Silkmoth”! (Hatched June 4, 2014)

I love this photo, you can almost see his 'face' saying "Help, I can't hang on!"

I love this photo, you can almost see his ‘face’ saying “Help, I can’t hang on!”

I ran in the house and got my pruners and clipped the small branch it was on. I took it into my shady back porch and stood it up in a vase of water, then thought about how to sketch it quick so I could release it. Well it had that ‘ugly’ red plastic netting around it, but being that I was in my screen porch and it had only just hatched I decided to carefully cut away the netting. Lucky me, the moth still needed to hang out a bit to get stronger, so I took lots of photos then settled down to sketch.

This watercolor was done from life as the moth rested.

I did this watercolor from life then later finished from my photos.

Like many moths, his beauty wasn’t in his bright colors but in the subtlety of his patterns and earthy colors, and boy was he beautiful! I also loved his fat, furry body, it was deep rusty color with interesting patterns on the sides. In the sketch above I used my permanent ink pen along with the watercolors for real definition.

I sketched this pose from life and started to paint, then later finished from my photos.

This one I avoided using the ink pen to see how it would look with just watercolors.

The sketch above I avoided using the ink pen just to see how it would be with just watercolors. It’s softer looking but I favor the other one, which I actually spent a lot more time on too. I traced around a card to create the box look, then just colored around it; a nice way to ‘decorate’ your sketches!

Promethea Silkmoth with his wings partly open.

Promethea Silkmoth with his wings partly open.

Then I painted this view from a photo, where he had his wings partly open. I loved the ‘teeth’ patterns on his wings, above and below. It was when he decided to fly around in my screen porch that I noticed when his wings are open, he looks like a fearsome beast with many big teeth!! Well imagine your small too, and want to eat this moth, suddenly you have all these teeth and eyes (two black with blue spots) looking at you! Another interesting thing with his behavior was he shook his wings, something I’ve seen other moths do when frightened. He wasn’t shaking in fear! He was making himself look fearful! How cool is that?!

Flying around in my screen porch.

Flying around in my screen porch.

Above, here he is on the screen, shaking or vibrating his wings at me.

A nice photo showing how beautiful his antennae and body are.

A nice photo showing how beautiful his antennae and body are.

His little feet tickled my hand!

His little feet tickled my hand!

This photo above really shows the scale of how big he was. Now he was getting active, time to release him to the world!

I put him back into the tree his cocoon was on.

I put him back into the tree his cocoon was on.

I put him back onto the tree his cocoon had hung in all winter. It didn’t take him long and he fluttered around then disappeared…off to find a mate I’m sure or find dark shelter for the day.

Now all that's left is the cocoon.

Now all that’s left is the cocoon.

I hope you enjoyed this excited discovery with me! I know I’m late posting about it but as many of you know my time is taken up lately with preparing for my big move. I do have some other interesting photos and sketches from my backyard adventures, I’ll try to post as I can.

Cheers!

A Last Look at Winter

I’ve been meaning to post these pictures as I did them at the end of this winter. All of them were done outside while wearing mittens, so I was going to title the post something like that, but now that winter is gone I can’t bring myself to think about mittens! So, here’s a bunch of tiny sketches done at the end of winter, using my tiny square sketchpad.

Tiny sketch kit I keep in my winter 'backyard coat' pocket. I also keep a mechanical pencil and kneaded rubber eraser in it.

Tiny sketch kit I keep in my winter ‘backyard coat’ pocket; I also keep a mechanical pencil and kneaded rubber eraser in it.

The baggie is sandwich sized and in it I keep a permanent ink pen, one mechanical pencil, a kneaded rubber eraser along and the homemade 4″ x 4″ sketchbook. This small size is great for winter because just capturing a small sketch on a freezing cold day is better than trying to do something bigger and your fingers fall off from the cold before you’re done! 😉 I also keep a few pages of printer paper at the back for notes or creative ideas for poems.

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Aspen leaf deep in the snow…very cold outside!

I’ll add my small sketches in order that I did them.

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“Waiting for Spring”

The tree sketch above was done the same day, after strolling around the frozen yard. The two trees at the back corner of my yard had dark, dead leaves and swirled dried grasses all about them, like an oasis in the white snow.

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“Waiting for Spring” photo of sketchbook.

This photo above just shows how small the sketch is. Like I said the idea is to keep the sketchbook handy in my pocket and keep the drawing time to a minimum.

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“Cocoon Leaf” that I’ve been watching all winter.

This is a sketch of the leaf I’ve kept an eye on all winter. I wondered why one dead leaf never fell from this little tree in my yard, I suspected what I found, a cocoon. Very interesting to look at up close and see the silk spun around the stem.

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“Cocoon Leaf” sketched from the other side.

And this is sketched the next day after my walking. It was difficult to draw with bulky mittens on, sometimes I pull back the top and use my fingers. I like this sketch because it shows how beautiful the form of the leaves wrap together.

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A tree by the lane (Long Lane).

Today I went further than the yard, up Pasture Lane into the big field. It was just great to be out in the open and not cooped up inside, though it was still very cold. All the ground that had flooded in the winter was covered by ice + water, so I had to watch my steps. As I sketched the tree I imagined a squirrel could be looking down from that one ‘V’ branch, in a story, then I thought of England as usual. “My mind if full of leaving, my mind is full of returning…to England”. Then it started to snow again.

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“Cocoon Leaf”, another sketch…I like this one.

The next day I walked in the yard again and drew the leaf. It’s great to repeatedly study one object, every sketch a different angle or different lighting.

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“Cocoon Leaf” gets covered with a plastic mesh bag.

I decided to play more the ‘scientist’ and hopefully get to study what kind of critter comes out of the cocoon, if any!  I took a plastic mesh bag from some onions and gently tied it over the twig with the cocoon. I made sure the bag won’t move and disturb the cocoon leaf. The only thing about doing this is now I’ve signed on to be “Cocoon Keeper”, it’s my responsibility to watch it everyday in case something does come out.

The other neat thing about drawing outside that day is the sounds I heard from the treeline. There’s a ditch that drains the fields there and all winter it’s full of water and ice. Today the ice made such interesting cracking sounds, I assume it’s to do with temperature changes between air and earth.

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Sketches of what I think are Woodcock footprints in the snow.

I had a nice walk on this day, March 25. The sun was out, it was cold but calm and I got to see a Woodcock walking on the ground! First I saw these tracks which I noted, then just further on I saw a Woodcock in the treeline walking! I’ve never seen one on the ground, they always flush as I come upon them. I tried to grab photos but, NO WAY, it was too quick for me.

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Tree in Aspen Hall with interesting marks on it.

Last sketch of ‘Winter’; though it’s officially spring, with snow on the ground and mittens I still call it winter! This was sketched the same day, after seeing the Woodcock. I walked up Long Lane to Aspen Hall and sat for a bit on a pile of dead branches I use for a seat. Aspen Hall is a special place for me because it’s a place on my land where my sons and I would first hike to. Just far enough for a 2 + 4 year old to make it to, one in a wagon when tired, but far enough to be an adventure and secret place; I always loved secret, special places. We planted daffodils and crocuses 20 years ago, and some still come up now! I can’t believe it’s been so long ago.

Well that’s it for ‘wintery sketches’! I do have more in my tiny sketchbook but they are officially done ‘without mittens’! so I’ll save them for another ‘tiny sketchbook post’.

If anything, I hope this encourages some of you to stick a small sketchbook in your pocket and just do little studies when you’re out. Some of us spend far too much time focused on work, the house, the kids, the computer….when it’s so important to get out and walk and see. The best way to see is to stop, study and draw!

(Just a note on my actual drawing techniques, sometimes I use a pencil to sketch and correct with a kneaded rubber eraser. Afterwards I’ll go over it with the permanent pen, let it dry, then erase the pencil. I do this because I don’t like pencil in my field sketchbooks as it smudges. Many, many times I don’t use the pencil first at all, I just take my time and sketch directly with the permanent pen. It can be a freeing feeling to do this, but also can make you think a little more before you make your mark!)

Hope you enjoyed my tiny sketches and notes, please leave me comments and ask questions if you like, I love reading them and replying!