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Garden Plant Studies

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

Sunflower seeds sprouting.

Sunflower seeds sprouting.

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

Photo of the plant I did the watercolor study of.

Photo of the plant I did the watercolor study of.

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

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

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

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

Close up of my kit and sketchbook.

Close up of my kit and sketchbook.

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

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

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(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!

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!

Hunting For Acorn Caps

(I wrote this in November. Sorry it’s a bit late, but I thought you’d still enjoy the pictures of my walk!)

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go…high ho the dairy oh….a hunting we will go!

When you need something for a project and you can’t buy it at the local store, it’s great to know you have it right in your own backyard! I want to make some felted acorns, have you seen any of these? Oh they are so cool; I love the texture and colors of the wool and the real acorn cap is just perfect.

On my property there is a place I call “Oak Lane” because all along it there are huge, ancient oak trees growing and I watch over them the best I can. Well I set out for a short walk, only taking my camera and a plastic bag and glad that I put on my Wellies or barn boots because ‘AY CARUMBA’ it was wet!

Just what I was looking for, Bracket Fungus and Moss!

Just what I was looking for, Bracket Fungus and Moss!

I also had it in mind to collect reference pictures for my illustration projects. I found some excellent bracket fungus and moss for “Miss Mouse’s House”. I made up a sketch (in the new, big studio sketch book!) of her house and I can’t believe when I was walking, I found JUST the thing! I hope to share Miss Mouse with you when I get more sketches done.

What was supposed to be a short walk turned (as usual) into a long ramble, taking pictures every few steps. Seriously, every few steps…”oh look at that color!” “Oh…look how the trees reflect in the water”….glad no one came with me, I was able to wander slowly, drinking it all in and taking lots of pictures for future reference. When you walk slow and pause often, you also can take notice of so many things around you.

(c) P1410476 reflections

Reflections in the water, along Pasture Lane as I walked.

When I made it to Oak Lane, I picked up a small stick with a forked tip and used it for shuffling the wet leaves away. We’re not talking about oak trees in a yard with neatly trimmed grass! No…it was wild and absolutely covered with leaves, and how beautiful. But any caps I did find were mostly covered with mud, so into the bag they went to be studied later.

(c)mysterious pod (1)

Interesting and delicate pod or gall I found under the leaves.

Another neat thing I found, this thing that looks like some kind of a gall? It was on the ground under the leaves and I’m guessing it was on the tree or a small plant before because it had a stem. There’s a hole so whatever grew up inside it came out. It is paper thin and very interesting, so I put it in my bag, hoping it wouldn’t get squished. (see note at end of post)

Can you see anything in all these leaves?

Can you see anything in all these leaves?

The best find of all was when I noticed something move in the leaves, a tiny, tiny movement but I saw it. Then I just stopped and watched, and waited…then saw it again and really had to watch it not to loose it in the leaves again, a tiny Wood Frog!

A beautiful and tiny Wood Frog!

A beautiful and tiny Wood Frog!

Not very big and exciting you say? NO it IS! How many years have I walked on my land and do you think I see them all the time? NO, I hear them but don’t see them. So I snapped as many photos of this frog, that seriously was only as big as my thumbnail, as I could. Then when I was satisfied I had gotten enough, I used my stick to carefully move a blade of grass that was blocking my view of him.

Nice side view showing his mask.

Nice side view showing his mask.

It’s totally ok that it made him hop onto new leaves, I got even better pictures of him! You have to be patient and yes, it gave me a very stiff neck, all that looking down and crouching.

(c)Wood Frog (18)

Here’s a top view of him, you can see the patterns on his back that help him blend in.

I think because it was so cold he was moving slower than normal, a great time to get photos of frogs. Then I heard another Wood Frog across the lane calling and I thought, maybe that’s his mate or in ‘children’s book land’ his friend? It’s wandering through the woods alone when you can let your imagination have play too, and it’s good for you!

(c)'raisin' fungus 1

This was an unusual fungus I saw more than once, it looked liked someone squished raisins on the branch!

On the way back then it started to rain, then it hailed on my head! It was ok, the clouds were magnificent and the the cold breezes blowing, making my cheeks glow, it was wonderful to be there at that moment and really take it in.

Such beauty in a much overlooked wildflower, Chicory.

Such beauty in a much overlooked wildflower, Chicory.

I found two Chicory plants with beautiful blue blossoms on them still, hanging on to any sun they can get now.

And one little Aster in the middle of the ‘Maze’, an overgrown field with paths I cut years ago. The white Aster looked up at me with it’s tiny little face, and asked if winter was coming soon? I told it to prepare and go to sleep before the snow falls. It was sad but missed it’s friends, as they had all gone, so it nodded it’s head and drooped a little in it’s tiny stem.

Though I see interesting and beautiful things, walking alone on my land, I’m sometimes like the little Aster. It focuses my thoughts as I walk in quiet and when I see the beauty I want to turn to my sweetheart to share it with him, and he’s not there. And the discoveries I make I want to share with my Dad…and then I miss him again and again, not being able to talk to him. I’m sure many of you know what I mean, but instead of focusing on who isn’t there, I try to share my experiences with those I can.

The wild rose hips and their leaves were just beautiful, magical colors!

The wild rose hips and their leaves were just beautiful, magical colors!

I can show Gary pictures and talk to him on Skype until we can walk together. And my dad, I thank him for encouraging my love of nature and my creative endeavors as I quietly promise to follow through on my children’s stories. And to all of you, so glad you stop by to read my ramblings and see what I’m up to!

Have you gotten outside to take a slow walk lately? Noticing the change of seasons?

Maple leaf I made by wet felting wool.

Maple leaf I made by wet felting wool.

I made this leaf out of wool by wet felting it, isn’t it cool? I can keep it forever and it won’t lose it’s color. Here’s a picture with two leaves I made.

Two Maple leaves I made into felt from wool.

Two Maple leaves I made into felt from wool.

Now here are those felted acorns I made! Aren’t they cool?

Colorful wool needle felted acorns, caps from two different oak trees.

Colorful wool needle felted acorns, caps from two different oak trees.

I have since added pretty beads to the strings and made them into ornaments.

* My online friend Ed has kindly sent me a link to a page about the mysterious empty gall I found. It’s from an Oak Apple Gall Wasp, please read about it here, it’s fascinating! And here’s a page all about galls and the ‘critters’ that form them. Thanks Ed!

Spring Walk, Nature Notes and Poems

It’s been weeks since I’ve been out in the field sketching, and now that I’ve been out I feel renewed! I guess that’s how we should feel in Spring. I put on my Wellies or “Mud Boots” grabbed my sketch kit and camera and set out. Come with me and I’ll show you my walk with sketches and photos! (Please click on pictures to view clearer.)

Dried grasses in “Pasture Lane” on the way to the pond.

The first lane I walk in follows the pasture so it’s always been called “Pasture Lane”. No animals in the pasture now but still lots of wild things to look at. This lane has lots of nice dried rushes and sedges in it; I love this color, especially with the blue sky. It won’t be long I’ll be spotting all kinds of Nursery Web Spiders and underwater little nymphs and creatures.

Natural arch of branches on Long Lane

This is on “Long Lane”, looking towards “Aspen Hall” and it’s a natural archway of branches that’s been forming the past few years. I keep breaking branches when I go under it to keep it a bit under control! I’ve done sketches and paintings of it before, and not too long ago photographed it covered with snow! But as I was standing here I decided to go up “Memory Lane” to my left. This leads me to “Oak Lane”, one of my favorites, where I thought I’d check things out.

Woodpecker hole in dead tree by “Memory Lane”.

Just at this intersection the woods are quite wet and I always see dead trees with lots of woodpecker holes. This one looks like it’s been freshly pecked at.

One of the ancient oaks in “Oak Lane”, standing tall and strong.

I ended up in “Oak Lane” my favorite place on my property where the oaks are huge and tall, standing for many many generations. I made a little place to sit right up next to the tree at it’s base, by spreading my trusty garbage bag out, first checking for pokey sticks and bits. There I sat, ate a snack and enjoyed the peace, then did a small sketch of the grapevines growing about me. Hmm…funny but that seems sort of rhymy to me…lets see:

“Here I Sit”
 
Before I sat down
Upon leafy ground
I gave the spot a good scour
Where I’d while away the hour.
 
There were pokey sticks
And hard little bits
I had to clear before I sat,
So I could sit and have my snack.
 
Well, now here I sit
With favorite sketchkit
Having a think and a good look,
At what will go in my sketchbook.
 
by Mary McAndrew

Well that was fun! I just made that up!

Here’s the start of my “Grapevine” sketch

I put my sketchbook on my knees and decided to draw the big grapevine branch hanging near me…that’s it by my leg.

My watercolor palette, I just love the colors!

There’s a close up of my watercolor palette I take when I go afield, it’s getting pretty stained now and I’ll have to look for a new one. Some of my colors I have in temporary little plastic containers, just to see if I want to add them to the kit.

Using a waterbrush to paint.

This is one of my waterbrushes, it’s actually not one of the more expensive ones but it worked great for me today. It has good juicy water-flow and the tip stayed sharp for details. I also wrote words about the grapevine on the page that I’ll type out below:

“The grapevine grows greatly
reaching upwards with twisted limb.
It’s rough bark twisting tightly tense
along it’s sinuous length.
Great muscle of wooden rope reaching right up
to entangle and strangle it’s host.
And gentle innocent long trailing tendrils
Hang down from above,
stirring in the breeze
to tease.”
by Mary McAndrew

As I wrote the words I let my mind think poetically and freely. I knew later I’d like to write a poem from some of the words I found because I liked the way they sounded together. Here’s the finished sketch below and then the new poem follows:

Grapevine sketch and words done in the field.

Here’s my little poem I wrote just now while looking back at the words:

“The Grapevine”
 
Grapevine growing greatly
Reaching upwards with twisted limb,
Rough bark twisting tightly
Tense, sinuous and slim.
 
Great muscle of wooden rope
Reaching right up to entangle,
Clinging to unwilling host
As you wind about to strangle.
 
Gentle, innocent tendrils trail
Stirring in the breeze.
Stronger than you look so frail,
Climbing any tree you please.
 
by Mary McAndrew

Watercolor started in the field of purpley red bushes.

The watercolor above I did half in the field and half at home.  On my way back I stood in an field we call “The Maze”, because of all the intertwined paths in it, all cut by me years ago using a tractor and brush hog. It was very difficult to paint the stems while standing there in front of them, tired, cold…but I loved the colors so much and wanted to try and ‘study’ it. When I got back I looked at photos I took using my computer, and did more detail and study. I found myself using Dioxizine Violet mixed with Alizarin Crimson for most of the purpley colors; mixing it with Sepia made a nice shadow color. I had to use a bit of Cadmium Red to brighten up the color here and there. You can see my color notes on the left side there. By the way, I can’t really recall what the name of the bushes are, I think “Red Pannacled…something or other! Sorry, I packed all my field guides up, I’ll see if I can look for them.

The old stick bridge at “Aspen Hall”

This is the old stick bridge in “Aspen Hall”, I add to it every spring and summer, tossing on dead branches to go over the ditch. “Aspen Hall” is located along “Long Lane”, so I’ve done a circle and am coming back towards home now.

A very old car frame.

This is a very old car frame just sitting by the pasture, it’s been there ages! I think the former owner of the farm told me it was Model T or Model A …wooden spokes! How cool!

I’ll leave you with one more picture from my spring walk…

Ahhh…this is the life!

I didn’t want you to miss my favorite picture! I love taking pictures of my boots when I go hiking, wherever I am. In my shop I have pictures of my boots in England too! Go here to my shop then scroll down left side column and click “Hiking – Walking + Boots”

Hope you enjoyed our ramble!

Click on the pictures below to see my photos as note cards, it has a nice ZOOM feature that’s lets you look closely.

“Great Old Oak Tree” glossy note cards
“The Old Stick Bridge” glossy note cards
“Old Wheel” glossy note cards

“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.

Small Sketches From My Yard

For the past few months I’ve been using my backyard to walk laps for exercise. During hunting season I stay away from the fields and when my back was especially stiff, I found walking on the even grass a great way to keep up my routine. The weather hasn’t been inspiring for sketching outdoors but lately I’ve been tucking a simple stiff folder with loose watercolor papers in it, into my coat pocket. I also carry a mechanical pencil, eraser and ink pen. So I’ll show you just some of the small studies I did with REALLY COLD hands!

bluebird house on snowy day

bluebird house on snowy day

(Nov. 25, 2012) This is one of my Bluebird houses, now just filled with an old nest that the field mice use to ‘hole up’ for the winter. My paper looks blotchy because while I sketched, it snowed on me! Snow all over and my hands were cold; I drew this with mittens on!

tree sketch (Paul's trees)

tree sketch (Paul’s trees)

(Nov. 27, 2012) This is a very small study, about 3″x 4″ in graphite. I like how this one came out, smudged it a bit for atmosphere and a bit of distance. And I like the light trees in front of the dark ones. These are special trees because my son Paul always loved them, so he claimed them to be ‘his’ trees, so when I draw them they are “Paul’s Trees”!

The House Through the Trees

The House Through the Trees

(Nov. 28, 2012) Now this was a cold grey day but I had just finished a great walk and felt warm enough to try and stand still to sketch this. I am still wearing my fingerless mittens though, which are awkward to do drawing in. It’s a house up the road from me I can see through the trees. Doing these sketches in pencil is good practice for me as I usually draw in permanent ink in the field.

Dry teasel

Dry teasel

I then drew these Teasels that I left to grow in my garden this summer. I love the way Teasel looks when it’s dry, the elegant swirl of the long (would they be Sepals?)

I’m sharing these with you hopefully to encourage those of you who like nature sketching, to keep a pad with you, go out and walk in your yard and see what you can find. I’m working hard on my children’s book illustrating projects so my nature sketching has been pushed aside a bit. So this is my way to keep from getting too rusty and it just feels so good to study something outside using my sketching. Have you been wanting to sketch more?

Stay tuned, next post is the finished Mouse Family watercolor! yay!

Thanksgiving Day 2012

Today, before I started cooking our Thanksgiving Day dinner, I popped outside for some air. I’ve been trying to walk laps around my yard for exercise but today I brought my lonely field sketch kit. It’s gotten ‘dusty’ from non use and how great it was to refresh with a sketch. I did this small, quick sketch of a tree covered with Wild Grapevines. (Click pictures to see clearer.)

Quick sketch of wild grapevines all over a tree.

 As I was drawing/painting, I noticed that the vines on the right (in the sun), were best drawn by showing the darks around them. By painting the dark areas the vines showed up. And on the left side they were best shown by making the vines themselves dark and the space around them light.  Opposites on each side of the tree they clung to. Hmm…might be something poetic here but haven’t gone with that inspiration yet.

The tree was absolutely choked with vines!

You can see the tree was choked with vines but they were so graceful looking, swirling around and in and out! What a good hiding place for critters when covered with leaves.

Yes that’s me sketching, wearing my Dad’s old Woolrich hunting coat and my fingerless mittens.

I got a picture of me sketching, wearing my Dad’s old Woolrich hunting coat that I love as it makes me think of him. He loved to be out in the fields in fall hunting birds with our Brittany Spaniel “Red” and in winter he’d don this coat with it’s matching trousers and go deer hunting. I remember going with him to ‘run the dog’ in fall, to get Red in shape and work on training. I loved going with him! I’m also wearing my fingerless mittens which later I took off, along with the coat because it was so nice and warm in the sun! I wear my sketch bag crosswise over one shoulder and my camera strap over the other.

Such blue skies!

I thought it was going to be colder. The sky was clear and blue, I love looking up at the tree tops like this. There were a few Chickadees flitting around keeping me company.

Get Outside and Sketch!

And there’s my final words! “Get Outside and Sketch!”

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you don’t celebrate it, I hope you still had a good week and got outside for some fresh air!

Adding Color to the Mouse Family and Other Studies

I thought I’d show you the progress on my illustration of the ‘mouse family’ and some other little studies.

(click on them for larger view)

Work in progress, adding watercolor to the ink drawing.

It looks so different than it did as just a pen and ink drawing! They are starting to come to life more with the added color and fur. I’ve been so busy with other things that this illustration is going slowly. What I did here I did in one evening while watching a movie, if I could just sit down one more time it’ll be finished. So she says!

I’ve run out of opportunities to paint from ‘real’ colored leaves as they’ve all gone to the dark side in my yard, they’re all brown and blackish. But I did take lots of reference photos and that will serve me well as usual. I have a decision to make about the leaf in the mommy’s hand, it blends in with her and the baby maybe a little too much? I may add a purpley maroon, something with alizarin crimson? I’ll be adding just a touch more color to the leaves but I don’t want them to overwhelm the mice either. I do like the touch of blue in the background, it helps to show the mushroom better.

Before I forget I’ll show you a little study I did after Beatrix Potter’s mushrooms.

Watercolor study after Beatrix Potter

It’s from a painting with more mushrooms but this little one and the grasses were all I needed to study the colors she used. This was great for me to do before diving into the color of my painting, especially because I wasn’t working outside from real life. I just love and adore her paintings!

A small watercolor study of Moneywort done in springtime.

This is a small study I did in the spring of Moneywort. It likes to grow in wet areas so my land is filled with the stuff! Wonderful in late spring as it covers itself with little yellow flowers; my ditches along the lane seem to be filled with gold! I don’t know if the name refers to the yellow flowers (like gold) or the round leaves looking like coins? I found out something interesting, it’s a native to Europe and was introduced to America for use as ground cover and as an indoor hanging plant. Ha! I never would have thought to use it inside!  Well anyways, I remember sitting in a lawn chair on a cold spring day, in a flooded area of my yard when I did this.  I watched the little Nursery Web Spiders scampering over the water and over the plants. How great it is to study from life! That’s why I love Nature Sketching so much.

Study of a small wildflower (weed) that grows in my grass.

And this is another favorite ‘weed’ I like that grows around anything not moving! haha…It seems to grow at the edge of everything but I don’t mind, it has tiny pretty flowers and neat rounded leaves that remind me of a tiny geranium. I haven’t yet looked it up, guess I should. Oh by the way, the bees love it! Don’t go killing everything that grows in your grass, as long as it’s green it looks fine! Look closer at some of those weeds, they can be pretty and the bees need them.

I just thought I’d show these because I feel it’s important to always study from real life. Even if it’s a tiny study done quickly, it will help you to look closer at what’s really there, and you will remember it. Especially when it comes to color, the photos you take will not be as accurate as what your eye sees at the time, in that lighting.

Well I hope you enjoyed seeing my progress and other studies. I’ve been playing around with adding some new colors to my watercolor field palette, so we’ll see how that goes. Leave me comments if you like, I always love hearing what you think!

Click the picture above to see another cute mouse painting I did! If you hover over it (in my shop) you can see an enlarged image.  Go to this link to see some other new children’s  illustrations in my shop!

Watercolor Studies of Moss on Trees

It’s been a long while since I posted! I’ve been busy with packing up and also selling things in my house for my eventual move. Wow I didn’t realize I had so much STUFF! I was also busy with my eldest son’s University Graduation, which was in Washington DC. and afforded me an entire day at two fine art galleries that would blow your mind. Well it did mine! I’m going to post about that visit next I think!

moss study in watercolor, of same tree

 Back to the moss now…  I did these studies in March (click pic to see detail) when it was sunny but still chilly and actually quite nice to be out on the land. Trees were still working on their buds; leaves, grasses and wild plants were all just coming up through the dead, wet leaves of winter. But everywhere I looked there was gorgeous moss growing on all the bases of my trees. I have very wet land and there is no shortage of moss!

I did these studies because of a little story I made up about a mouse…and I needed to do moss studies. Wow, a great excuse to go out and paint!! haha. This first study (above) I did the same tree twice; sometimes I do that, the second time going faster,  more bold or just trying a different technique. For the one on the right (the second study) I stepped back and just looked at darks and lights of the green, also tried to do the bark quicker. I’ve left a good amount of clean paper because I may be able to use it later to add in some characters or more trees.

moss study in watercolor on tree in Aspen Hall

The study above I was really happy with! I went to Aspen Hall, a special place on my land that my boys and I used to go to, and I picked this one tree because the moss had a different hue. When the mosses are ‘blooming’ or sporing (?) they have little rusty brownish reddish heads that come up on hairlike stalk. If you get in close you can see them; it’s these that give the moss a sort of rust patina on top of the green.

I firmly believe if you want to paint something right, the more you can study and understand your subject the better. You don’t have to scientifically understand all about it, but get up close and really look at it’s parts, ask yourself what those parts are maybe. I find the more you do this, the more you SEE, you will get really good at seeing details you would never have thought about before! That’s my two cents!

A beautiful fuzzy budding bush, close up

On my walk I took a few pictures (of course!!) Here’s a few beautiful, soft buds on a bush. Don’t they look like those fireworks that explode outward? There’s such symmetry in the unopened bud, like a pine cone and the opened ones are irresistible to stroke to feel their softness.

Here's a snail keeping company with the tiny frog eggs

And then there were frog eggs in the wet lane, some tadpoles that had hatched and a snail friend on top of them all.

This could be the mom or dad of those eggs!

I see countless Leopard Frogs while I walk, all jumping this way and that as I come along the lanes. This was a big one so I assume an adult that overwintered and had something to do with those eggs! Now (at the end of May) I go walking and see many young frogs leaping into the wet areas of the paths, new frogs of the year!

A male (American) Robin has his crest raised while looking at me

This male American Robin was in “Pasture Lane” as I walked, he has his crest raised like someone with big eyebrows would lift them to look at you! He’s on alert.

This is a typical pose for robins, with wings held slightly hanging

Here he is again, it’s a good pose to show you how they typically hang their wings a bit. He’s still looking at me you can see!

Well I couldn’t resist adding a few more pictures from my walk, so here they are:

Two beautiful Mourning Doves, watching me from a high branch.

A beautiful setting of moss, grasses and dried leaves on a tree.

And here's my view looking home, along "Pasture Lane", a very wet but ALIVE with creatures lane!

I hope you enjoyed my moss studies and nature pictures from my day out. Please leave me a comment or ask a question, I love getting comments! I promise to TRY to put aside packing for planned sketching time everyday and get back to my posting here!

Some of my pictures link to my Zazzle Shop, please have a look around as I put many photos there that aren’t on my blog.