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“Leaves, Tracks and an Octagon House”


(please click pictures to see larger)

Oak leaves and tracks in the snow, January 9, 2013

The sketches above are from my walk on January 9, 2013. I didn’t need to wear my snowshoes this time and I walked further than before, making it to “Oak Lane” today.  It was there in my favorite lane, that I leaned against a tree to sketch the oak leaves on the ground. I also saw interesting little tracks that I can only guess are squirrel? I have grey and red squirrels here, these look a little big for red squirrel but I’m just guessing. The top track is life size at 1″ x 1″.

The Octagon House in Akron, NY

I went to Akron NY this weekend to go sketching a bit with my friend Nancy. I want to practice drawing buildings and houses more and Akron has some interesting old ones. This Octagon House was built in the 1840’s by Charles B. Rich for his fourth wife. It’s a museum too and someday I want to go through to see all the Victorian era furniture and decorations. It was a challenge to sketch standing there on the sidewalk opposite, leaning against a stop sign! I sketched it in pencil then put a little watercolor on; at home I used my ink pen to draw over and then painted from the picture I took. It was such a grey dull day but can’t complain about how warm it was.

A building on Main Street in Akron, NY.

This is a business on Main St. in Akron I started to sketch from a cold bench across the street. I’ll try to work on it this week to finish it up. I guess it looks like many old businesses do on any Main St. in America. It was popular to have a facade that is really taller than the building itself, kind of like an old western town movie set!

I also worked on a little watercolor landscape study from a photograph I took while in Northumberland, England, but want to put a few finishing touches on it.

"Snow Scenes, Mice and Bunnies"

Weekly Sketches text

(Since posting this I’ve come back and edited the text I had before.  I’ve changed my mind about doing a “Weekly Sketches” post as I don’t like how limiting it felt! I don’t want to label posts with dates and no names, they are all listed by date under “Archives” in the right side column anyways. And this way I can throw a painting in when I want also! Don’t worry I’m still going to try and keep up with posting more of my sketches as I do them.)

Here’s a few sketches from the week:

A tiny pencil sketch of an arch in the snow, complete with bunny!

I’m sneaking this one in, since it’s not technically drawn in 2013 but it’s close enough! I did it while out for a snowshoe walk on Long Lane Farm.

Fence in ink 1-3-13

A tiny sketch in ink of my fence.

I have a tiny sketchpad I made that I keep tucked in the pocket of my winter coat that I wear out walking. I did this aprox. 3″x3″ sketch with a permanent ink Micron pen after my walk. It was snowing on the paper and I was wearing my fingerless gloves, it’s not easy to draw in those conditions! This is the exciting challenge of it all!! It might not look like much but when I look at the sketch, I remember so much more than what is seen. I remember the sounds, colors and COLD! haha

The pictures of the mice below are sketched on cheap computer paper, no proper tooth but great for quick sketches. It’s also good when you want to transfer onto ‘good’ paper, just draw over the pencil with a black fine point marker and trace onto the ‘good’ paper using a light table or window.

Mouse Sketch 1

A rough sketch from a photo.

I printed out a bunch of photos of mice so I can sketch them as I have time. The one above shows how I was looking for the forms or shapes of the body, under the mouses fur.

Mouse 1 finished sketch

Here is Mouse 1 sketch finished.

Here it is finished. I just erased the light sketch lines and used a tortillion stump to do some quick blending.

Mouse 2 finished sketch

This guy is cute! Mouse 2 finished sketch.

This mouse was cute! He reminds me of a hamster because of his wide face, but it was a mouse. I love his little hands!

Sketch of Mouse 3, view from below.

This is from below, a view you don’t often see.

Mouse 3, sketched view from below. I noticed they have the tiniest noses and little pads on their feet. I tried to use a pin to score the paper on the right, so when I shade it might show as white whiskers; but the paper was just too thin, you can see just a tiny bit. It’s a great trick on heavier paper!

mouse in clay sculpture

Some fun with clay! A little mouse sculpture.

You must think I have “mouse on the brain” this week! Well when I was sketching I just started playing with some plasticine clay I have and he came out! It’s fun to play around with clay; I always had huge amounts of it for my boys to play with in my studio. The great thing about it is it never dries out, you can reshape it and reuse it for years.

Mice in clay and an eraser

Well he had to have a friend!

I suppose he had to have a friend! I’ve always played around with my kneaded rubber eraser while sketching and when I tweaked it into a point for erasing something I couldn’t resist, well…you know…another mouse! haha 🙂 I used the head of a quilting pin to make the dents for eyes, but they’d look much better with beads stuck in.

Fox tracks in the snow

I think these are fox tracks in the snow.

I was getting my exercise in my yard yesterday and spotted lots of tracks in the snow. Before I walked I had to sketch them, the tracks above are at ‘real’ size on my paper. I measured them with my pen and sketched it on my paper. I ‘think’ they’re fox.

Bunny and deer tracks

Rabbit and white tailed deer tracks.

There were bunny tracks all over my yard but these were just adorable! You could see every little toe pad on it’s back feet deep into the snow. The deer track is not at life size, they were all over too!

Bunny Studies in pencil

Three bunny studies in pencil

And the last one, three bunny studies that I think I sketched in bed while watching a movie. Thinking of ideas for a new poem I wrote.

Well that’s it! Busy week, lets see if I can do some more this week….stay tuned. Make sure you sign up your email in the “Subscribe” box in the upper right column if you want to follow what I’m up to! 😉

October Cows in Northumberland

 I know it’s already November and I’m way behind! I have more trouble getting online and having time to edit photos since I’ve been here in England. But I’m trying to go with the flow and keep up with posting my sketches and photos. I’m also using a tiny new laptop and my usual photo program isn’t on here, so I’m getting used to editing pictures with something new (sorry if they look small etc). I’ve also felt really down since my dad passed away and it’s hard to feel creative, as many of you probably know how that is.

 But here’s a few cows to start off with! It’s what I see most of around where I’m staying so they’ve gotten my attention. I just love the velvety look of their fur in fall. The days have been very cold, damp and windy but I did these sketches standing along the field in the wind! Brrrr.

Red Cattle in the Field, Oct 1

I wrote a poem as I watched them, just put a few words down then later I changed two words to make it better. I’ll retype it here:

“September ends…October is here,
The little Robin sings, Winter is near!

The red cattle in the field look so nice,
Fur like rust velvet, ready for Winter’s chill and ice.”

(c)Mary McAndrew 10-1-11

Overthwarts on the Hill, watercolor

The page above I did on October 2nd, it was windier, colder and wetter still than the day before! I wrote a note on the page about how hard it was to draw, of course I was wearing my fingerless mittens too and they are hard to paint in! There’s a farm called Overthwarts up on that hill as I looked from where I stood near Edlingham castle.

Cows at rest and an Angle Shade moth, ink.

The same day I walked a ways up the lane where it got even windier, I found some cows to sketch and sat down along the lane where I could see them through a break in the hedge. Getting down low really got me out of the worst of the wind.

Then another day an Angle Shade moth paid us a visit by coming inside, I guess it’s hibernation time! He didn’t want to leave. I put some sugar water in a little jar lid and he sucked it all up and grew very fat! Anything to help a little hungry wanderer. It hung around a few days just sitting there then disappeared, so I don’t know if he’s hiding out in the house or went back outside.

The furry red cow eyed me warily

Here’s one of the bovine beauties watching me, I tried to walk slowly and talk quietly to her but they are so skiddish, she turned away and made a retreat as I approached.

Well I hope you enjoyed my outdoor sketches, more to come, slowly but surely!

I had some fun creating note cards with cow (and sheep) photos I took in England, have a look in my shop!

“The Carriage Drive” 9-20-09

On Sunday, September 20th, I went on a carriage drive with eight different buggy’s and all kinds of horses, through Coquetdale (or the Coquet river Valley) all around Rothbury.

Grahm's Boys

Graham's Boys

This is a drawing I did after the drive while looking at one of my photos on the computer screen. It was WAY too bumpy to even consider sketching while on the drive. This was done with a permanent ink pen with no preliminary pencil sketch, so I had to plan as I sketched because you can’t erase.

View above Coquetdale 2

View above Coquetdale

A bit about the carriage drive. It’s hard to pick out just a few pictures. As you can imagine on an 8 mile pony trek through some of the most beautiful English countryside while in the back of a 4 wheeled horse cart, left me with lots of photos. The day was perfect, a bit breezy but no rain and no dark clouds!

Sheep above Coquetdale

Sheep above Coquetdale

Through a farmers field with gorgeous views of Coquetdale below.

I got to ride in a 4 wheel buggy as I said, pulled by a team of two, half-brother horses. They were perfectly matched though, both dark brown. They were only 4 years old so young by standards of experience and the owner, Graham, was thrilled at how well they did.

Butterknowes Mare

Butterknowes Mare

This is a water color pencil sketch I did once again after the drive. I used one black pencil and a waterbrush to do it.  It was a mare in the field we passed, the gate read, “Butterknowes”, that’s the farm name. Any time we passed a field with horses they all galloped around and bucked, you could feel their excitement! This mare had a foal and they did the same thing, running along the fence as we passed, it was really exciting.

Driving a buggy can be dangerous stuff though, all in the cart had riding helmets on in case of a tip over, me…well I didn’t have one. I had to just hope the horses and terrain would cooperate! There were some parts where we had to duck from tree branches over an old railway line, where the steep bank was just a step away; and parts where the road was so bumpy I held myself up off the seat by partial standing and using my arms. I just couldn’t take the bumps with my back. But other than that it was relaxing and fun.

On the highway

On the highway

This is the buggy that was just behind us in the first part, then we switched positions so our horses could feel secure and follow.

We went through farmers fields, on a two lane paved ‘highway’, on old railroad lines, on country dirt roads (complete with pot holes!), through many field gates, up past the Simonside Hills and moors covered with bracken and heather, to swing down through gorgeous mature pine forests and then into Rothbury, a quiet little town in Coquetdale (the River Coquet valley).

Pausing at the parking area

Pausing at the parking area of Simonside

We had a brief pause at the parking area  near Simonside in the open moorland areas. We were trying to let the others catch up. It was windy and cold up here, but we couldn’t stand long or the horses would chill.

Tower at Rothbury

Tower at Rothbury

This is the old tower just outside of Rothbury, I’m not sure if it was used to look out for invading Scots or not? I have to find out.

Coming home

Coming home

Everyone filed in after the drive to June’s farm at East Raw, June’s the shepherdess who hosted the drive. The buggy in the back with the gorgeous chestnut horse is June with her groomswoman (or gate opener!) Becky. The cart in front is a lady from Scotland who came down just for the drive, with her Shetland Pony.

Chester sweated

Chester sweated

What can I say? Is this not a perfect looking horse?! (June’s horse Chester)

After the drive

After the drive

I’ll leave you with this picture of the buggy I rode in, with these two chaps having a talk over it, under a huge ancient tree. Sigh…a perfect day. I feel some horse paintings coming soon.

“Groundhog Day in the Summer” 7-23-09

Hi folks, I wanted to get this page of sketches up before I embark upon my ‘Big Journey’ to England! I’ll be blogging and posting away while I’m there, hopefully getting access to a scanner so I can put up my sketches I’ll do as I go. I hope you sign up your email in the post “Subscribe” box in the right column, then you’ll see my new paintings and read about my adventures. But, for now, check out my Groundhog!

Woodchuck studies

Woodchuck studies

Very early in the morning I saw a Groundhog or Woodchuck (known as both) nosing around in the back yard. It was well before Ginger was up so this plump furry one was eating, I noticed it ate only what we’d consider weed plants, dandelion leaves and clover. All the little sketches I did from life while observing him foraging, looking down from my studio window on the second floor. I did them using a black watercolor pencil and waterbrush just to keep it simple. First I snapped a bunch of photos using my long lens and zoom, because he was far away, there was a dirty window and a screen and it was foggy…the pics are blurry a bit. BUT they are good enough to refer back to to notice details or general form shading. The bottom little painting I did from a photo, I sketched the general shape of him with pencil (graphite) while soaking in the tub. (haha yes, we must find any time possible to get work done!) Then the next day while visiting my dad in Endicott, NY I painted him from the photo using my watercolors and one waterbrush, as I sat chatting with the family. I’m pleased with how it came out, at the end I added some blue washes here and there and that’s what really made it look good, it was a chilly, foggy morning and his coat had that tint to it.  They are actually a handsome little critter, study one next time you see one, they have a lovely reddish tone in some parts of their fur and their head is nice with the light area of the cheek and dark top. he didn’t see his shadow…but anyways…

Don’t forget to visit my Galleries to have a look around and sign your email in the subscribe box on the blog, you can also sign up for my occasional emailed newsletter found in the left column. Have a great day!!

“Rydal Water-Last Day” 9-12-08

In the morning looking out my window, I was greeted by an unusual sight, sheep in the courtyard! I guess it would be very frustrating to have a garden here as the sheep kind of wander where they like, especially if their gate is left open. The owners of Cote Howe B+B told me it was hard to protect the garden and they try to put fencing around it.
This morning I was leaving Rydal Water, I was sad to say good-bye. I went out behind the B+B to wait for my friend Gary to come, it was chilly and damp. I climbed up on top of a big wooden gate with huge stone posts and did a balancing act as I swung my legs to the other side. The stone wall is fascinating in itself to study, notice the huge cap stone at the end on the left…I don’t know how deep it goes into the ground, but I’m sure it goes down a few feet at least. This is how the stones were set for Stonehenge and the other stone circles around England and Ireland. The big stone here is used as the post, the wall being built up against it and also gates can be hung on it. The wall has a niche in it, I forget what the owner told me it was for? Does anyone know?
Above you can see some beautiful forms of fungus’s and moss. It seems anything that wasn’t moving in England this fall, was covered with mosses! I’ll try to identify these later from my field guides, if anyone has some good identification, leave me a comment please!
There were sheep in the field, an occasional hiker and just a beautiful view looking towards Rydal Water and the path I took yesterday for my hike. I sat on a gate and sketched the sheep and path view, the bunny is from when I was standing by the garden and saw him there. I sat so quietly sketching that the sheep came right up under me, when I spoke to her, she was very surprised to see me! That’s the neat thing about sketching in nature, you sit so quietly engrossed that wildlife will come around you.
Below you can see my original page, this is what I did as I sat on the fence, I painted it in while looking at the photos on my computer screen, using my tiny Altoids watercolor kit and just one waterbrush. You can see my tiny color tests in the spiral area of the paper.

“Robert Burns Day and his poem “To a Mouse”

I hesitated to put this study up, it’s nothing gross to a naturalist, a dead mouse. Some people would say “oh, gross!” but all through time, man (scientists and artists in particular) has learned by studying from dead creatures. I love animals and things of our natural world and have a great respect for them even when dead. This mouse was very beautiful and being the curious naturalist that I am, I studied it, sketched it and painted it. It’s fur was soft and shiny, and it’s tiny paws amazing. Someday I’m going to have some pet mice again, (had them when a teenager) then I can study and paint them all I want.
The top painting was done first with a light pencil gesture sketch then I used watercolors, his whiskers being added with a Chinese white watercolor and tiny brush. The bottom left study was done with a brown micron permanent marker and the right one was done with non permanent brown ink, that I touched with a waterbrush to create value washes.

And now about Robert Burns, he was a poet from Scotland and they commemorate his life by having a Burn’s Supper on January 25th, there are formalities of speeches, whiskey toasts and haggis. Here’s a link to Wikipedia to learn more about it.

And why I mention Robert Burns…Scottish poet? I heard a poem on Robert Burns day (Jan. 25th) and it was about a mouse and it went with my mouse study; here’s a link to UTube to listen to a reading of his poem “To a Mouse”.

I like that he calls the mouse lucky, because he doesn’t look back at his past or worry about his future, he lives in the here and now unlike man. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, I’ll look at my dog rolling in the grass, trotting freely around the yard and think…how lucky you are! To be as simple as an animal and live for just this moment.

“Pet Shop Visit” March 3, 2008

Today I found myself at the mall, not usually where I find myself but I needed a haircut. So I decied to visit the pet shop because the last time I was there one of the employees had a gorgeous green boa snake wrapped around himself. I would love to paint it, but I learned he’s no longer there, along with the snake! I’ll have to go searching it seems for snakes. I remember when I was a zookeeper sometimes I’d get to walk around with a huge but tame boa constrictor wrapped around my waist. This was so people could touch it and I would talk to them about the boa. It was really cool.
So while I was there I pulled out my sketchpad and did some small drawings. Even with a nagging headache it gave me the idea that this would be fun on a day when I’m more in the mood! I thought it would be good to share with you all, it’s a great place to see lots of animals up close for free. The goldfish were a kick, their eyes are soooo weird, like blobs or half deflated balloons. The frog I drew at life size, it was so tiny! I did the sketches in pencil then at home I used a simple writing pen that when it is wet, will run. So I was able to make it like a wash.