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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!

“Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom”

I am not sure when I started to be fascinated by mushrooms and fungi, but when I go hiking I find I’m always stopping to notice them tucked away under branches, logs or leaves. Sometimes they’re right in front of you on the sides of dead or dying trees or right on the path, or they may be hiding waiting for your keen eye to catch them.

I spotted this pair right in the lawn (that needed cutting!) and what an interesting mushroom. My best guess is a “Shaggy Ink Cap”. I wondered why it was named that until I saw it a few days later.

Shaggy Ink Cap watercolor sketch

Shaggy Ink Cap watercolor sketch

I did this little sketch with just watercolors, I wanted to avoid doing a careful pencil sketch and just kind of block in some green to form the light shapes of the mushrooms. I used a waterbrush which is handy but can be a bit limiting; it’s not as easy to mix quick pools of color in your pan and you must have a paper towel handy to clean between colors. Also I usually use just the one size waterbrush when doing a quick sketch so you use it to make wide and narrow lines or marks. The challenge on this set of fungi was the shaggy part, how to paint it without fussing too much? The “shags” were light and pointy, really their form was created by the darks around them…above and below. If I was doing a careful study I’d spend more time on that feature.

Me working on the sketch

Me working on the sketch

Here’s a picture of me working to show my set up; I’m sitting on my blue foam pad because the grass is damp and chilly, it was early morning still. It’s not the best posture for someone with a ‘bad’ back, no support, but what are you going to do? That’s partly why I worked so fast, I get achy!

Looking over my shoulder

Looking over my shoulder

You can see my new little field kit there, I use it as a purse and carry my bare essentials for field sketching. The art supplies take presedence I have to admit…no make-up just some money, credit card and the rest is for drawing! My motto, “Be Prepared”! I’m holding the watercolor pan in my left hand, waterbrush in the other. I have regular brushes in the pan in case I want to use them or have water with me.

Shaggy Ink Cap

Shaggy Ink Cap

This is how it looked the day I painted it.

Two days later

Two days later

And this is just two days later, I was shocked! I guess that’s where it gets it’s name, INK cap. It was eerie looking, dripping black goo, like it had melted.

Two days later close-up

Two days later close-up

I would like to learn more about this, and why it does that. Any of my readers know?… leave me a comment please. I didn’t have a chance to draw it at this stage, been too busy going off on hikes. I have been photographing many types of mushrooms, my favorite so far is the Fly Agaric…bright red cap with white flecks on it. I hope to do a painting of that one too.

“Hiking on my Land” 1-23-09

Today as the sun shone and the temperatures climbed to a balmy 30 or so degrees, I felt a very strong urge to just grab my field kit and go for a hike with Ginger. I notice whenever I go out field sketching or work on a painting in the studio, it’s like having a visit to the therapist! I feel like I’ve just had some kind of adjustment, and all is right in my world! Troubles melt away as I stop to catch my breath and listen to the wind gusting through the trees. Today was no different. (click on any picture to see enlarged view)
First small sketch done with a micron 05 permanent marker, it’s along the path that’s called “Long Lane” on my farm. To warm up and to see if drawing with my fingerless mittens would feel comfortable, I did the top of a small oak tree, then turned and looked down the lane where Ginger was disappearing down, and did a quickly scrawled sketch. It’s ok that it’s not beautiful and meticulously drawn, I can remember the scene in my mind just be looking at it. Sometimes the field sketch can have more movement and show more excitement than a carefully executed studio drawing. I also find that being able to work loosely in the field keeps my studio painting fresh and lively looking.
Just me in my dad’s old wool hunting coat that I treasure, using the fingerless mitten ok. I picked up this pair in England at a regular clothes store at the mall, I made sure they had wool in them, and I like the dark brown color (to hide the dirt of course silly!). At this point I think my fingers were cold, sometimes I worked with the top pulled back and sometimes closed. I’m using a waterbrush here and watercolors, I put my kit in a new bag to try out, an over the shoulder binder type thing, but no room for apples or water bottles. Extra things had to go in the back secret pouch on the hunting jacket, made for carrying dead birds that the hunter (dad) would shoot. It’s actually a handy pouch…I slid my sketchbook in there when I would get moving on my hike.
This is a page with a simple color study of the red bark on bushes and the little fern heads coming up through the snow. Their forms, almost silhouette because they’re so dark, are wonderful to study.
The photo above shows a leaf I found in a tiny birds nest that was tucked into a tangled bush. It’s small things like this that if you take time to notice the subtle beauty your enjoyment of the natural world and simple walks would be much more memorable. This leaf is a simple shape, but I love the mixture of subtle colors, there’s a promise of green there that makes me think of spring, it’s almost as if the green was frozen from the fresh times of summer. The pattern of the veins and cells is really something too, the wet sheen on it’s surface reflecting a cool light.
Then turn the same leaf over and it’s a whole other leaf! This side has a network of raised veins showing, like fine meshwork netting and the contrast of the color of vein to leaf is at once noticed. The fall like colors are not showing on this side. When you pick something up, turn it over and explore everything about it; if you draw it, you will study it deeply, noting it’s every interesting detail. Sometimes this is good to do once you get back home and can sit in the warmth and take time to study it.
Here’s another nest I found that almost looks like it has an ice cream scoop for an egg waiting to be hatched by the warm spring sun. (It’ll have to wait awhile still!) Walking in winter is a good time to look for birds nests, just look at bushes or trees for clumps of dark areas, usually made by leaves and small branches. It’s fun to look closely at them, how the tiny branches are laid criss cross and woven, and imagine two birds picked up ever single twig and made that. Some nests are tiny things..some larger and could even be for grey squirrels. I don’t ever disturb the nests…I feel they are there to be used somehow by other creatures, mice, bugs, etc. and I just let it alone. I will carefully pull some leaves out of a nest to see what the cup might look like.
Now this page has notes you can read, but I’ll explain a bit more. I went to a part of my land that has huge old oak trees on it, and one in particular that is dead. This dead tree had all kinds of funguses growing on it and was great to study.
I learned something new that I didn’t expect, there was an interesting type of fungus growing on the underside of all the large branches. It was a beautiful natural yellow with some orangey colors in it, but very muted. The funny thing was I noticed the snow beneath it had yellow spots following the branches, NO Ginger didn’t do that! haha…but as the snow piled on top of the branches melted, the yellow color in the fungus was dripping down to the ground. I wonder if the Indians or settlers used that as a color for something?
Here’s a close up, if anyone can help me identify this I’d be grateful. I looked it up in my mushroom and fungus books but can’t find it specifically.
This fungus is as far as I can tell, a “Redbelt” shelf fungus. I did a painting in the field while looking at it and looked it up when I got home. (The painting is below). The odd thing was, as closely as I thought I looked at this, I still missed something interesting. When I got home and uploaded my photos, I noticed on some close ups there were little blackish bugs crawling all over the place!! Ewww….I have to admit, I like studying bugs, but the idea that there were bugs all over this fungus and tree and I didn’t know it kind of made me uneasy! But the fascinating thing was that there were bugs out doing their thing in the middle of the winter! You would be surprised at what you’ll see on a mild winter day!At this point, at the end of my hike after being out two hours, my toes were frozen and getting numb. This is when the idea of hot cocoa creeps into my mind and Ginger’s happy face asking, “Can we go home yet?” starts to distract me.
This last page I finished at home while drinking that hot cocoa; the tree and fungus I did in the field. I brought home a stick with neat fungus growing on it, the leaf I photographed and a dead leaf. This stick was very interesting to look at under a magnifying glass, the black fungus was shiny and the rose colored had a velvety sheen almost. I made a stab at identifying the rose colored as Hypoxylon Fragiforme, any experts out there can verify this? I added color notes too so you could see what paints I used.
I hope you enjoyed our hike today in the winter chill! Sign up your email in the right column to recieve updates when I post new things. Happy Hiking!

“Swallow Hollow” Iroqouis Wildlife Refuge 8-12-08

What a day I had at the Swallow Hollow nature trail, part of the Iroqouis Wildlife Preserve. The above photo was just one of the many beautiful scenes I saw that day; the trail follows the water in a nice loop, sometimes going through woods, mostly near the marsh or some natural looking water canals. Much of the trail is a boardwalk to keep you up from the very wet ground, especially after such a rainy summer!

This is a picture of my new sketchbook cover, it’s a sketchbook that I designed and made myself with a long format. I thought it’d be fun to put some pictures of my paintings on the cover, to show people I meet some of my work. I can add or take pages from the sketchbook as I want to.

This is the first page of my sketchbook from my day out. I stopped at a nice area in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area, Elizabeth Hilldurger Estate project. I was so happy to see two Great Egrets (or in my old Peterson guide American Egret) flying around. The one roosted in a tree far away, I tried to do some little sketches by looking through my binoculars.
The watercolor of the water scene I did using my little watercolor ‘altoids’ field kit and just a water-brush. It’s pretty simple looking but I did it quickly while standing up.

This is me pausing to sketch along the boardwalk. You can see I have my art kit bag on my waist and a backpack with other supplies on my back. Almost all of what I draw, I draw while I’m standing and looking at things.
Along the way on my walks I usually meet some nice people who are curious about what I’m doing. I met a couple walking their dogs, Papillions…Pudgie is the puppy furiously digging the hole in the back…Max is the one gazing up at his owner. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get to keep me company in the house? I’ve seen them before and thought about it. Their owner told me Papillion means butterfly in french….well at least it’s their names meaning, I guess because of how they look with their ears perked.

Next is another page from my sketchbook, click it to see it closer. I met a little Leopard frog along the way and did quick little sketches of him, then painted it at home using metallic watercolor paints. He really had a metallic look to his skin, so beautiful! At the end of this post you’ll see a little video clip of him!

I saw many Harvestman spiders in the woods and did a sketch of one on a dying milkweed leaf. I also took photos so when I got home I was able to paint it with watercolors. I took step by step photos of the painting, perhaps I’ll get to post it separately later.
I did some reading about Harvestmen Spiders, which are only distantly related to spiders, they are not venomous, lack fangs and do not bite. They use their legs to walk, breath, smell and capture prey! There are 5,000 species, about 235 known in North America, most are drab brown or grey, but a few are rusty red, mottled spots or have a stripe down their back. Now that I know that, I know I was lucky to see a rusty red one, and the one I painted had a mottled kind of dark stripe on it. One more interesting detail to keep my eyes open for while hiking! I hope you take a closer look next time you meet one.


This next page shows a light pencil sketch I did of the path, I also took some photos so later I could color it in. I haven’t gotten that far yet! The mushrooms at the bottom of the page I went specifically to Swallow Hollow to try to find again and paint, I saw them there just a week before. I could use some help indentifying them if anyone has expertise in this area?? I have become fascinated with mushrooms and fungi…when you walk in the woods, just take a close look at the ground or on trees or dead logs, you’ll be surprised at what you might discover! I’ve seen gorgeous yellow or orange mushrooms that I didn’t expect. The picture of the orange mushroom I could use help identifying too.

I set up my stool in the woods and I painted this study from life. It was difficult because the lighting kept changing, first direct, raking light, then very dark shadows. As I painted a Harvestmen Spider crawled across my sketchbook, pausing over my painting to ‘taste’ the wet paint! Before I could get my camera, he crawled off down my leg….he being a spider that he was I helped him hurry off me! I don’t mind them too much, but don’t want them lingering. At least I can say, knowing they are harmless helps me not to react like Little Miss Muffet! Remember her story?

This is the last page from my outing…while I was in the field I sketched the tiny mushrooms in pencil…kneeling in the pine needles to gain a closer look. They’re done at life size. Then while walking later I went over the lines with a sepia colored Micron Permanent ink pen. Later at home I printed out the photos I took of them and added the watercolor. I have found that when I do something in graphite pencil in the field, I get disappointed at how it will smear or fade with all the use the sketchbook gets, so I like to use my micron pens a lot to draw.

The while fungus is fascinating…they are hard to notice…you might just step right past them, but you have to be aware of everything and look everywhere when you walk. These are also drawn at life size, aproximately 2″ tall and coming up like delicate white filaments from the forest floor. A mystery to me, if anyone can tell us please do.

The butterfly was a type I saw all day, following me it seemed, to see what I was doing in their woods? I sketched it in the field on a leaf, but later painted it from a photo. Can anyone help me with identifying it?

I added a short video clip of my meeting with the Leopard Frog along a sunny path, check it out!

“Allegany Nature Pilgrimage” (moss, lichens, fungus, dragonflies and moths) 5-31-08

This is a continuation of my weekend at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage at the end of May. This post I have some pictures of fungus, lichens and moss from the non flowering plants hike I took led by Alice Brown.
This is a fungus I’ve seen growing on my land in Clarence Center NY, in the Adirondack mtns. and at Allegany. It’s a fungus I identified as Trametes Versicolor, the common name is Turkey Tail, so named because of the variable bands of color. I’ve seen it in all seasons which makes it kind of fun to look for, check dead trees and branches on the ground etc. I read on a website that a tea can be made from it and that it’s used to fight cancer and hiv. Don’t quote me on that but it’s what I read, I do know that mushrooms can be very good for you. I wouldn’t recommed going out and eating these though…my mushroom book (Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Mushrooms- Excellent Book!) says that it’s inedible because of texture.
This is a flat fern type of moss, I don’t know my mosses yet so if someone can help me out here. I have to look for a good field guide, you know…tall, dark, handsome! haha…no really, the kind with pages is fine!
This is a picture of mosses on the side (type?) and in the center is a type of lichen, foliose type I think. I’ve always liked the cool color of lichens..like the green patina copper gets when it’s out in the elements.
Then there was the night I was headed to bed, enhausted from all the hikes and early mornings, but saw this show-stopping Luna Moth! Wayne Gall had a simple white sheet up each night with a really bright light to attract all kinds of bugs. I never imagined I’d ever see a Luna Moth and there it was! Wow! It caused quite a bit of excitment. I definitley have to do a painting with one of those in it. Notice the antennae…so large.
This is a page from my sketchbook, just some quick sketches of the dragonfly talk led by Jeremy Martin. Below is a picture of a dragonfly that just came out of the ‘Exuvia’, or shed skin. That’s what I did the small sketch of above. I have written in my sketchbook that I took a picture of a Springtime Darner…maybe that’s the type below.
Well as I said, not too many drawings on this Nature Pilgrimage…I needed the whole following week to stay there and digest all that I learned, and go back and sketch things. Be sure to check my post about Thunder Rocks coming up!

“Hiking on my Land” 2-6-08

Today, I felt a great urge to be outside, the weather was terrible for painting and drawing but actually not bad for a nice cold hike! The air was fresh, the wind steady but not too strong, and Ginger was very excited to go for a run. I used permanent ink fine point markers, no pencil for sketching and even tried out my watercolors. I must be crazy on such a cold day but I really felt like capturing some of the colors with some quick watercolor sketches. You can click on pictures to see the pages of my sketchbook close up or the photos. On the first page we had made it to the ‘maze’ an area of my land that I cut like a maze, and Ginger found something. I could tell it held great interest for her, it was scat (droppings) from I think a fox. Now don’t get grossed out, but any naturalist would record and study it, so I did. It was very full of hairs, probably from the rabbit it ate.
Then I did a quick study of the open field, mostly to capture color, not detail. Detail would be almost impossible in this cold wearing the huge, stiff leather gloves I had on! A flock of geese went over…I tried to catch them through the trees, and some lichens growing on stick in the icy water of the lane.

I think artists should show themselves in their environment, here I was, thoughtful, studying the land…umm freezing! ha! You can see I’m wearing my heavy coat with rain coat over that, wool hat, big gloves. I kind of like the little sketch of my big old ‘sister’ oak tree on the second page of the sketchbook. I’m looking across the field, where there’s the red barked bushes in front.

The third page I had frozen fingers by this time, you can tell by the loose, quick grasses I did. I also show a photo of how I held the sketchbook, palette, watercups and brush. In my hand of course, I also had picked up several ‘treasures’ to take back to the studio. I’m going to design a better way to hold a few brushes or pens, and the water. I was constantly on the move and this was too hard to handle with the gloves and weather. Did you notice the sarcastic note I wrote on my sketchbook about drawing with frozen fingers? At the end I was aggravated with struggling with my watercup lids so I just dipped my brush into the icy water at my feet. I tried not to swish it in where it was muddy and as I painted, it really was cold enough that I was getting icy crystals on my paper! YES, time for cocoa!

The last page of the sketchbook was done in the studio, I took more time to work from some of the ‘treasures’ I brought back. I drew most of it with a permanent fine point marker with no pencil sketch first. When you do this, it helps to make some little marks where you think your line will go before you commit to a solid drawn line. Pay attention to negative spaces especially on things like the center weed, it helped me to look at the spaces between the stems as I laid it out. Hope you enjoyed coming for a hike with me today at Long Lane Farm! ps. I drank two cups of cocoa to thaw out!