Exciting news! Garden 91, a non profit magazine in Taipei, Taiwan has featured my artwork and nature sketching blog in their magazine!
They are a non profit organization that concentrates on the value of nature, the true meaning of design, the life of aging and the vision of education. Does this sound like me?? YES!! The director contacted me to tell me that my blog and what I write and feel about nature is why they wanted to use my work. You’ll see several pages below that are right from my sketchbook pages I’ve posted in the past. Their island was hit by a typhoon in August of 2009 and they want to reveal more stories about people aware of nature and wildlife. They print about 1,000 copies and distribute them to upscale coffee houses, schools and libraries. I apologize ahead of time that I can’t translate the article, it’s written in traditional Chinese! But enjoy the pictures anyways! Here’s a link to their blog if you’d like to have a look, though it’s all in Chinese have a look around: http://garden91.pixnet.net/blog
Hi folks, just passing on some great news, I have three paintings I submitted to be juried for the Miniature Painters, Sculptors + Gravers Society in Washington DC and all were accepted! Yay! The three paintings I entered are following, click on each to see them larger in my gallery and more details about each. I even have links there to blog posts about how I painted them, have a look!
Here is a direct quote from their website about the society: “The Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers Society of Washington, DC, (MPSGS) was founded in 1931 by Alyn Williams (1865-1941), a well-known portrait miniaturist. The MPSGS is the oldest Miniature Art Society in the U.S. It is the second oldest in the world next to the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers in London, England–the world’s first Miniature Art Society also founded by Mr. Williams. The Inaugural Exhibition of the MPSGS of Washington, DC, was held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in December 1931. The Society has held exhibitions annually for 71 years with the exception of the years 1932 and 1942.”
Let me know if you live in the DC area and are going to the show. I’ll be unable to attend as I’ll still be in England.
My finished miniature watercolor painting of a Great Grey Owl, measuring a mere 2″x2″! Be sure to check it out in my Owl Gallery too. It’s an owl named “Aspen” that I photographed at the Keilder Water Bird of Prey Centre in Northumberland England. I’ll show you the stages of painting and talk about how I did it below.
"Great Grey Owl" -first washes
This shows the first stages of painting, the beginning washes to lay down the values, color hue and expression of the painting. I first started with a light sketch in pencil, lifting it as much as I could with a kneaded rubber eraser before painting. Then I painted the washes and sprinkled salt on wet areas to see how it would ‘pull’ the color and create interesting patterns. It is at this stage of the painting that you can get a feel for how the painting will go, will you be loose and expressive? Will you go for more details? Sometimes I think we have to let our intuition guide us, or perhaps our mood.
First wash set up
This picture shows you my set up for the first washes, I always start flat on the table so the color doesn’t run. Many times on larger paintings I stand up and work loosely with my brush. (check out this short Utube video of me working on the “Screech Owl” painting, it shows how I paint loosely when standing). This set up shows my photo reference to the left, the salt above that, then my field palette to the right because I’m right handed, the water bowl above that. I keep a white paper towel folded nearby for wiping off excess water and it allows me to see if there’s paint left on my brush. You see my magnifying lamp which I find good because the light is cool and matches daylight; but I don’t use the magnifier on it as I find it clumsy to use my brushes under it and I bump into all the time when I lean in super close! Sometimes I use a hand held magnifying glass or you’ll see pictures later of my glasses.
Great Grey Owl -stage 3
Now here in stage 3 you see I’ve jumped ahead with lots of details and color. As you work, squint your eyes at the photo and your painting to catch large areas of value that need to be developed and notice color hues. At one point I felt my owl was too brown so I washed a very watered down blue grey over areas, but only on very dry areas. In areas you need to lighten you can either lift color with a damp brush and blot with a paper towel, or you can add it using white watercolor or gauche mixed with your paint colors.
Now on purpose I’m going to point out some things that I found to be unsatisfactory in my painting and I changed. At stage 3 here, I felt like I did a pretty nice painting! I was feeling like it was done, ah….no such luck. If you let it sit a day or two and return to it, or if you show it with the photo reference to a friend with a sharp eye, they’ll be sure to catch something ‘off’ with it. If you’re a conscientious artist, you’ll be bothered by it until you fix it and you probably already knew it was wrong to begin with but wanted to ignore it! Well lets just say my boyfriend has a good eye, sigh, well now he ‘did’ pick me didn’t he? We both agreed the beak wasn’t right, I pointed it out to him then when he agreed it was back to the easel with it. I can’t believe how much I was able to amend the beak being that this is watercolor after all. People are afraid of watercolor because they think it’s unforgiving, wait until you see the changes I made.
Great Grey Owl -stage 4
Stage 4 shows the beak changed, I totally moved the angle of it and lengthened it! (see the enlargements below of these final stages too) If you take a damp brush and gently re-wet an area, and only the area you want to fix, you can then repeatedly rub it gently with a damp brush tip, blot it with a clean paper towel (I prefer Viva!) then clean your brush, wipe it off and repeat. Do this over and over, you’ll be amazed at how much you can lift. When I repainted the beak I thought like an oil painter, I laid down a more opaque yellow layer to clean and brighten the beak, then I kept putting washes over this dry layer to affect the color. It ended up with an unusual translucent look like a real beak would have.
As I did this, of course I started to notice other areas I wanted to improve upon. Sigh…such is the plight of an artist with a picky eye! Notice the area of light tan below his beak, I needed to bring out the lightness of it so I added white watercolor to some cad.yellow, and browns to create a tint for an underlayer. Another note about this painting, next time I will pick a much smoother paper, working with this much detail you need to keep your paper super smooth with no distracting texture.
Great Grey Owl -stage 5
Stage 5 shows how I painted detail on top of the tan area under the beak and the beak has more details added. The owl has an overall lighter look, this is because I kept stroking on little feathers with a tint of whitish blue grey to add detail. Now I thought I was done here, but remember that boyfriend of mine with the good eye? Well he helped me notice I had painted out the nostril! SIGH….yes, when I was adding the little hairs by the beak I must have done that so back to the easel. The picture at the beginning of the post is the final stage, fixed and finished!
Working with my magnifying glasses
This is me working with my reading glasses on and a little set of clip on magnifier lenses. In the photo I have the magnifying lenses lifted up so I can look at the paints in front of me, if they were down I’d need to get much closer to see what I was doing. So I would lift the lenses up when I would sit back a bit and take a look at the ‘whole’ painting and the photo, looking for areas that need attention. Then I’d flip them back down and get close for the detail painting. I wouldn’t use them for the initial stages of painting, you don’t want to focus on details at that point.
Also you notice here my setup is different than before, I have another pan of watercolors and have them set up on some jars so they are closer to my painting. Working with a tiny brush ( 10/0 liner) it dries out super fast and keeping my pallet nearer seemed to help. The nice thing about working on a miniature painting was being able to mix small amounts of color right in the pan lid. (the brush in the picture is not my liner brush)
The pictures below are so you can look at one section close up to see the changes I made to the beak and area around it.
Great Grey Owl close up detail stage 3
Great Grey Owl close up detail stage 4
Great Grey Owl close up detail stage 5
Great Grey Owl -close up detail finished
I hope you’ve enjoyed my post about my painting. I looked forward to showing you my mistakes and how I fixed things as I painted because this is how it goes, it’s a process and doesn’t always go as easy as it looks. I like to encourage my students and others to keep looking at their paintings for more detail but most of all a good beginning drawing is crucial. As you can see here, I missed the beak angle and had to fix it later, but the more you paint and draw the better you’ll be at catching these things in your work. That’s my two cents! Please leave me some comments and if you are interested in note card or prints please let me know.
For the fun of it, here’s some Utube links with owls!
I like to keep my field kit ready at hand to grab and it was a good thing today. I had a doctor’s appointment that I knew would be a long wait and lucky I had my kit. I threw a handful of 4×5 owl photos from my trip to England, into my bag; this will give me a chance to sketch some ideas for larger paintings. Here is the sketch of a young Spectacled Owl sitting on my gloved hand at the Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre in Northumberland.
“Spectacled Owl Sketch”
I’ll be working on this some more and then post it, not sure if it’ll be watercolor or not. You can see a picture of me holding him on my “About Me“ page.
The cardinals I did looking at the little feeder that is stuck to my studio window. I wasn’t concerned with a fantastic drawing, just practicing the gesture sketches of it. I added a touch of color with a waterbrush and watercolor.
Then I decided to take my sketchbook, watercolors and a simple waterbrush with me when I went out to feed the chickens. It was really cold and windy, so it was hard to draw, but I donned the flip top mittens and went to it! Ok..it was worse trying to paint, but I did some simple color studies. It’s very hard to sketch chickens as they move so much!
Then I headed outside the barn and set my pad on top of a tripod that I attached a piece of wood to, it was very windy! The mount isn’t a very strong one, it loosened up sometimes, but it allowed me to set everything down in front of me. I’m always experimenting with ideas.
Above you can see the some chickens that were roosting in the rafters. I painted them with Chinese ink…from a dry cake I keep in a tin; it used to be liquid I just let it dry and can use it like dry watercolors. Below that is the little landscape study with some notes. The hawk sketches I added today actually. I saw a hawk through the window and tried to do a sketch using my binoculars. I’m pretty sure it’s a red tailed hawk.
My landscape was pretty far away from me, but I was after the colors of the field. You can see the picture below. Oh yes…and then there’s Ginger, always waiting for me to walk on somewhere else! haha….
That’s it for now…stay tuned for more updates about my trip to England, sign up your email in the box in the right column. Bye!
My third day at Muncaster was so full, I did two posts to cover it, this is the second half!
The following pictures are all from the World Trust Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle on September 9th in the late afternoon after a busy day filled with hiking and exploring the castle. At the end of my day I walked around the owl yard and sketched a little…I was quite tired so I didn’t sketch too much! It was raining gently so I limited myself to a few brown watercolor pencils and watersoluble graphite pencils, a brown micron pen and a sepia micron pen. I listed the owls of England on my sketchbook page; Long Earred Owl, Short Earred Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, White Breasted Barn Owl.Above is a Buzzard that is being brought out to take part in the Bird of Prey show they put on everyday behind the castle.
This is a Buffy Fish Owl, they have a funny sort of look with their ‘ears’ flopping out to the sides many times.
This is a Mackinder’s Eagle Owl…the Eagle Owls are some of the largest owls in the world. I just love the sleepy look of this bird…I really want to do a painting of this one!
This gorgeous bird is the Oriental Bay Owl; I just love it’s patterns and colors! I feel another painting coming on!
This is a video of Red Tailed Kites flying around in their pen. Such a beautiful bird, it’s centres like this one that help educate people about Birds of Prey so they won’t kill them in the wild or take their eggs.
Well I decided that I’d concentrate on birds of prey amongst all the other nature stuff I’m painting. It’s great to concentrate on a particular subject for awhile; you’ll learn more information as you read about it, visit locations where it can be studied in real life and ask questions of those who know more than you about your subject.
This little (3.5″x3.5″) watercolor painting is a warm up for a larger painting I want to do in oil. I am working from photographs by my photographer friend Gene Witkowski (of Buffalo) from when we went to the Sterling Renaissance Festival three years ago. (wow has it been that long??) After that I became a full time artisan there but never had time to go visit the acts and see the owls or joust first hand. So now I use the invaluable photos. The oil painting I’m going to do is a full size pose of this owl named Boo, sitting on the gloved hand of his owner Jenn, who did the bird of prey show.
She told me he was an African Eagle Owl, now that I read about the Eagle Owls, I’ve learned he is indeed an Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and that the ones found in Africa would be smaller and greyer as he is. I wondered because as I read about them it says they are brown mostly, and mine was not. Another fact I never knew, our Great Horned Owl is an Eagle Owl, Cool!
Below shows my set up as I worked, I put a masonite drawing board on top of a tv tray table and this is where I plunk myself sometimes to work near the woodstove. Ahhhh, you can’t beat that heat when it’s freezing outside! I limited myself to my field palette of watercolors and yes, I had to use the reading glasses! An invaluable tool when working on tiny paintings!
In this post I bring you two owls, both are Barn Owls but look very different. The first is a sketch of a Barn Owl from the United States, the typical light heart shaped face and brown markings on the feathers. I think the same species is what you see in the UK, but theirs are slightly different in color or size. I need to research this further! (a note from me…I did put this up in a post back in August, but this shows it scanned in much clearer and the framed version.)
I used watersoluble graphite (graphitint) color pencils to do it, and a waterbrush to blend and make washes with the drawn lines. The property I like about watercolor type pencils is how you can leave the drawn lines if you like, it give a certain texture. If you don’t like that, just rub it a little more with the brush tip and it will all go to wash. The original sketch is only 2.5″ x 3.5″ big; it’s already been sold but I do have mini framed prints of it available, note cards and 8×10 handsigned prints. The original sketch is only 2.5″ x 3.5″ big; it’s already been sold but I do have mini framed prints available (shown below), note cards and 8×10 handsigned prints. This owl below is an Ashy Faced Barn Owl, an owl I never heard of until I visited the Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre in Northumberland England. The owner let me take pictures of their owl, telling me it’s an uncommon bird even in England. It’s a young owl, you can see some of the down poking out from the feathers still. It’s dark face contrasted by it’s golden feathers were fascinating to look at! I looked it up in my two huge owl books and can’t find it in there, time to research this one more also!
This tiny painting was done exclusivly with watercolors and a tiny brush, it measures 2.5″ x 3″. The original has sold but I have tiny framed prints (shown below) available and note cards. Just email me to inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org
Imagine the most beautiful valley you can. The mountains surrounding the valley are covered with rusty reds of Bracken changing color in the fall, and rich, deep greens from the excessive rains and some parts have exposed rock face a pink tint in certain light. Now imagine a perfect winding lazy river meandering across it’s deep valley and the view from where you stand is so perfect, you can see for miles down it’s center, the distant mountains turning blue with the atmospheric mists. Now you look up and realize there are Buzzards (Hawks) flying up the valley, floating on the drafts that carry them.
You turn and look just behind you and there is a great castle, standing like a strong old soldier. This is Muncaster Castle, built in 1258 partly on Roman foundations. A Roman coin from AD380 was found there!
So, onto my adventure! You can see below I’m standing on the road that winds around the castle, sketching the view of the valley. My art kit is strapped to my waist, at the ready to grab my waterbrushes or pencils, and my backpack with extra supplies in case I need them, including my 35mm camera, rain pants, extra art suppies and snacks.
Below you can click on my sketchbook page to read the notes I wrote. I talked about my first English Breakfast, and my first impression upon seeing the castle. I was surprised when I turned the bend and saw it, wow! The color scribbles on the page are just that, I was testing out colors there for another sketch.Below, here I am now sitting at the top of Cannon Bank, the castle is right behind me again. I did the small watercolor below the picture, working with my little travel palette. It’s from this bank that every afternoon they feed the wild herons…more on that later.
The “Eskdale Valley and Muncaster Bridge”
Below is a view of the back of the Castle, I’m now headed up the hill for a walk into the expansive woods. There are 1,800 acres with the property, I think that’d keep me busy exploring for awhile!
This is a great shot of a back door into the castle, what a great drawing this will make!
Everyday they hold an owl demonstration behind the castle, with the birds being flown to educate people about them. I think this might be an Eagle Owl.
I added this picture just so you could see (and enjoy) the fantastic wing span of this beautiful bird. Here is another page from my sketchbook, not too many sketches here, but lots of notes about what I was seeing. I then headed into the Owl Center they have on the grounds to take pictures. I listed the owls I photographed for further reference.
Next..well you gotta eat sometime! I sat and had a most enjoyable hot lunch after all that exploring. There is a phenomenal cafe on the property with so many choices. I tried the carrot and marrow soup because I never heard of marrow and it’s an English vegetable. It was great!
I have notes on the page about meeting the owner of the castle himself! Please read it and see!
As the day wound down I took an adventurous walk down the hill along a path that I had no idea where it went. All I know is it went down and I was curious to see if it got anywhere near that gorgeous valley? I had my trusty L.L. Bean rain hat with light in the brim so I could see if it got dim, and with the surroundings always noted, I began. The photo below shows the ‘picture perfect’ top of the hill path, this is a painting waiting to happen!
The path meanders down from there…crossing a noisy little brook on a wooden bridge, and many large stone pavers.
I made it all the way to the bottom and walked off to the left following the path. It ended suddenly at a big metal gate and the view I had was wonderful, yes it was my valley floor I was looking for! There were sheep grazing in the distance and as the light faded I did a small sketch with my watercolor pencils. It was getting chilly and hard to draw as my hands were stiff, I saw a bat flying overhead and then….the clock tower bell tolled 8 times…eight o’clock, time to pack up and go before it gets dark suddenly and I can’t find my way back!
I don’t have a picture or drawing to tell about the last adventure of the day but it was exciting. After dark, I grabbed my 35 mm camera and tripod and headed outside. It was pitch black and not a soul was about, absolutely quiet! I wanted to play around with getting some photos of the sky, it was just full of stars! I heard a deep hooting from the owl pens just near me in the owl center, I imitated it and then…I heard the same call answer but not from the pens…but from up the hill in the woods!! How cool is that?! I tried to imitate it as best I could and we called back and forth.
After this I walked down to the side of the castle that looks over the valley. In total blackness I sat on the same bench that I had sat upon that day, listening to the sounds of the night. I heard a very large bird (of prey) give an alarm call from the woods below. If I hadn’t ventured out at night, I would have missed so much!
Please come back for the next post about Muncaster, I have so much more to tell!
This is a watercolor study I did to as a demonstration for my fall Nature Sketching and Painting Indoor class that just finished up. I used it to show the stages it took to make a simple study, step by step, layering washes, values etc. Posted below are the steps it took to make this 5″x5″ study head, be sure to click on pictures to see larger views! Enjoy!
Detailed sketch – Shown below, first I started with a light gesture sketch of the shape of the bird, then rechecked placements of things and refined details.
Darkest Darks-This is one approach to watercolors, start by laying in your darkest darks and blacks. If you start with a confident sketch it should work out fine, when you work this way you set out from the beginning with a defined dark end of the value range. You can then judge all other values against it as you paint. You won’t have to go back and keep “pushing” your darks to make them pop.
I also painted the eye, being carful not to touch the highlight area, black for the pupil, and brown put into the wet black for the iris. (I think I put my reading glasses on for this step! haha).
Below I started to lay in more darks of the cheek, as my brush was drying out I would ‘sketch’ areas I wasn’t sure about…just to start to lay in some value so I could see where I wanted to paint. Color Wash-Here I laid in a bluish grey, ultramarine and black thinned with water. After it dried I laid in some small lines for feathers.
Changeing the drawing– A pale yellow ochre wash on skin of eye area and nares. A wash over the eye highlight to tone it down and soften it. Here I also made a decision about the beak, now that I was putting values down, I thought the beak looked a bit too heavy. So before committing to paint, I erased! I reworked the curve then I painted keeping all areas soft and blended slightly. Feather details-I brushed on more feather details here, laid in more darks with repeated ‘feather’ strokes to top of head and all around eye. Nice spotty look at right edge, I like when the watercolor can been seen for what it is, it gives it a looseness. See the photo below for this step, just repeated tiny strokes. Yellow of beak and eye-Here I laid in the yellow on the nares and eye area, and it’s completed! See it on my Art Gallery Blog soon with prices for note cards and prints!
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