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Tiny Goldcrest

Today I saw a Goldcrest for the first time ever, but not the way I’d like to have seen it. This beautiful and tiny little bird flew right into the patio window while I was sat just on the other side of it.  I’m pretty certain this is the same bird at home we call the Golden Crowned Kinglet.

Tiny Goldcrest Studies in watercolor

 Poor little thing! I picked it up carefully with a paper towel and decided I’d do studies before putting it to rest in the field. I selected a nicely curled dry leaf to lay him on, it just seemed right for such a natural little creature. I sketched it out then added more detail then the layers of watercolor. I was fascinated by the tiny, hard black beak and little whiskers around it. The yellow crest was so beautiful, surrounded by black borders as if to hold the color in.

Goldcrest studies in ink and watercolor

The top drawing was done with permanent brown ink then I added just a touch of color. It’s amazing how long the claws are on such a small foot!

I hope to see a live one when I return to England, then I can do a painting from life! Much better I’d say!

Spider in the Garden

Now I’ll freely admit, I’m WAY behind on my blog posting! I was doing so well at sketching all the time in my journal this summer and getting out for walks in my fields then sharing it with you, but life has been so busy this winter. I’ve been in Northumberland England the past few months and though I didn’t get as many paintings and sketches done as I would have liked, I do still have sketches and photos to share here. So I’ll try to post them even though they’re a little ‘old’!

This one is about a short walk to the ‘local’ castle, church and a spider in my front yard.

Stone steps into the churchyard, access for people but not for sheep!

Just down the road there’s a Church, St. John the Baptist, built in the 11c, and sometimes I go have a walk around the churchyard. My boyfriend doesn’t know why I think this is interesting but I’m just amazed at how old the gravestones are. I read the names and dates and think of the real people who lived long ago in this village.

Gate latch at the church

I love looking at old gates and this one is especially cool, the metal clasp lifts up so you can swing the gate open. Think of all the people over hundreds of years that have walked this path, maybe not the same gate but it’s been around awhile!

Meet Me There carving on gravestone

This is a popular carving theme on stones, the finger pointing upwards; I just love drawing banners too so I had to sketch it. It’s permanent ink pen, the date on this stone was 1900.

Gate to the castle

This picture was taken just next to the church, the gate on the left goes down a grassy lane to the castle in the distance, the one on the right goes into the farmers field, we won’t go that way! You can see an old viaduct in the distance, that used to be for a small railway that ran through this little town, I wish it was still here. The hills you see in the distance I climbed up with Gary, right to the top and oh what a view! Then we walked all the way back down and came over that viaduct and back to where I shot this picture. That was a looong walk for me!

Edlingham Castle

There’s the castle, not far now. This is Edlingham Castle built in the 12th c. On either side of the grassy path there are usually sheep or cows, remember the red cows I sketched not long ago? Here’s a link to Wikipedia about Edlingham Castle.

Edlingham castle ruins

You can walk all around this castle ruins for free, I like trying to imagine the original layout of it. You can see the viaduct in the background and the crags on the hill above that.

Spider in the garden

So I knew you’d be wondering, what about that spider you mentioned? Well when I got back from my stroll I discovered a spider in the front yard clinging to an old leaf and stem. Now I had to squat down and lean in really close to take this picture, I hope you appreciate how close I got to this spider to take it’s picture! I think spiders are really interesting but I still get scared of them and don’t want to touch them! shudder….

Spider sketch and poem

It had a web woven attached to it. I did a tiny sketch while crouched down to look at it, and I wrote the poem in bed one night after.  I thought his web was like window panes in the air. Here’s the poem:

“Spider in the Garden”

Spider in the garden
What do you see?
A world through a web
Where we are all free.
 
Through your silver floss
Little windows in the air,
You watch us ignoring you
As if we didn’t care.

Mary McAndrew

October, 11, 2011

Blackbird eating berries

I’ll leave you with one more picture, a Blackbird (female) eating berries in the tree.

Walk to Aspen Hall

(I wrote this at the very end of May and wanted to share it with you before it gets too late!)

I took a walk out through the fields today to “Aspen Hall”,  just for a bit of exercise and to enjoy the sun. Along the way I discovered some beautiful butterflies, though it’s tiny, the “Pearl Crescent” was so pretty when you look at it on zoom!

A beautiful little butterfly called the Pearl Crescent

When we got to Aspen Hall, I did a very quick sketch using my watercolors and waterbrush. I say quick because the mosquitoes were finding us fast! The picture below shows how I held my palette as I worked.

This is how I held my palette while I stood and painted.

You can see the last post I did on Carpenter Bees there to the left. I also always make a little pen holder with clear tape on my sketch book.

This is the water brush I used to do the whole painting, a big flat.

Here’s a picture showing the big flat waterbrush I used to do the entire painting. The flat was great for making the marks on the trees and I used the corner when I wanted to make small marks. (If you click this pic you’ll see a really cool note card I created where you can put your own text on the palette!)

Painting and notes done while standing in "Aspen Hall", watercolor.

This is the page I created with my notes and watercolor sketch.  Click it to read my notes, the black flies were terrible, biting me and being pests! It was hard to paint, but I’m happy with the little watercolor sketch. Standing still is great for seeing and hearing birds, they were all around me.

Ginger gives me a toothy smile and says, "Hurry up already!"

And there’s Ginger, my faithful Aussie! She’s just looking at me saying, “Are you done yet?” 🙂

A footprint in the mud from ?

Here’s a cool footprint I spotted in the mud in “The Maze”, another area on my land. I have to look it up, but I’m thinking Opossum? Skunk?

Another Leopard Frog friend!

Could I take a walk on Long Lane Farm and NOT see a frog? I don’t think so! This is one of the most popular kinds here, the Leopard Frog. Isn’t he handsome? (oh it could be a female…can a frog be pretty?) I just love the spring greens, olive greens and bronze of their skin; in the sun it really is metallic!

A female Baltimore Oriole looking for food in the bushes.

A great capture, photos of a female Baltimore Oriole searching for seeds on this wild bush in my field.

Another shot of her as she searched for food.

It’s interesting to observe ‘garden’ birds further afield than your backyard. Seeing her feeding on native bushes, bugs, seeds….whatever she was eating she was very busy doing it.

A collection of leaves I picked while sitting in one spot.

After painting I sat for a few moments in Aspen Hall, I looked around me at all the green plants. It didn’t look like anything interesting to paint or draw, but, if I had students with me I’d challenge them to find as many different leaf shapes as they could to draw. I picked one of each just within my own reach and look how many I found! It would be nice to do as a lesson, ignoring color and talking about shape, and some botanical terminology.

I hope you enjoyed this (short) walk today! Wait till you see the next post, a new moth discovery for me!

BTW here’s a new page I created called “My Photography Equipment” to show what cameras I use when I go out walking and exploring, I love ’em!

Visit my shop for note cards (and more) of:

Frogs

Butterflies + Moths

Landscapes (New York areas)

Birds

“Mother’s Day Field Sketching” 2011

What did you think I’d be doing on Mother’s Day? It was gorgeous outside and I had the day to myself until later when my son comes over, so off I went for a walk with my sketch journal!

female bluebird I met along the way

Along the way I captured this shot of a female Bluebird, I’m so happy it came out. I didn’t use my long lens today, so the camera was actually easier to hand hold. (click to see as Note Card where you can see up close)

My watercolor crayons in a vinyl case so I can scatter them as I worked.

I was thrilled to find that the land on one side of the field was actually sort of dry. I mean I’ve been wading through water for weeks now, so any dry grass was pretty great. Before walking at all I decided to sit right down and have a go with my kit. I knew something would strike me. Above you can see something new I tried that worked great; I brought this empty vinyl case along and when I was ready just opened it and put it on the ground. I took my watercolor crayons and set the box right inside it, as I used colors I could just plop them in front and find them easier as I worked.  This would be good to use for the watercolor pencils too, as they get lost easily in the grass.

Putting color down around a round plastic shape.

I wrote some notes at the top of my paper as I sat, not even caring about painting, just enjoying the great weather. Then I decided I’d try to put a landscape but leave a circle in the foreground to fill with something. I have a piece of plastic I cut from a plastic milk carton and just filled in green watercolor crayon around it.

Blocking on more green for grass, sky has been painted a bit.

Blocking on more green for grass, sky has been painted a bit.

As I decided where my horizon line would be I colored blue in the sky, leaving the clouds just blank paper. (lately I’ve been doing them with white wax to ‘block’ them out using a resist method, this time it’s just bare paper)  I then brought the green up as far as I thought it should go, then wet my paper with the big brush to blend all and used a brown crayon to put trees in on the wet paper. I like how sharp the trees can look if you put them on wet paper; if you draw them dry first and then wet them, they can get fuzzy looking.

My set up on the grass, balancing my sketch journal on my knee.

Here’s my set up, as I sat on my piece of vinyl and kept everything in easy reach. I actually leaned on one elbow to do most of this sketch, and quite smartly tucked an empty sandwich bag under my elbow. By the time I was done, my elbow would have been soaked!

The real scene behind my sketchbook, the clouds have already floated by.

So here’s the sketch with the ‘real’ scene behind it, I don’t really like the greens of the watercolor crayons, but more practice will help. Sometimes I admit I could do a better job but when working in the field either the weather is too cold or my back hurts then I just want to hurry up. So I try to work fast, I can always touch up later if I want, or leave it as a study.

This is the page as I finished it in the field, dandelions and all.

This is the page as I finished it in the field, dandelions and all.

This is my study finished in the field, I decided to put dandelions in the small circle as they were everywhere. First I lightly sketched in pencil then went over it with a brown Windsor Newton Permanent ink with a dip nib pen. Then I colored them in by touching the brush tip (a finer one) to the crayons then painting. I colored the letters the same way using a blue crayon. I really want to go back and tone down that green on that grass! Yikes!

Field sketch after touching it up back at home.

Well here’s the sketch after I got home and touched up the greens and added the yellow dandelions.

Leopard Frog

On our way after that sketch, I kept seeing Leopard Frogs. If I stood still I would start to pick them out of their hiding places.

Leopard Frog

I was really getting good at it! As you walk by they get scared into the water…then if you stop a few steps away, they would seem to appear everywhere. I imagined a funny cartoon of a photographer stopping to look for frogs, the way in front of her clear, but behind her all these little heads popped up in the water! haha, well it’s me of course!

mystery water bug

This was really cool, I noticed as I stood watching for frogs without moving, a little something moving in the water below me. I swore they were just catkins from the tree floating along the bottom, but it’s a standing pool of water and instinct told me otherwise. I bent over and kept watching them and remembered reading about larvae that formed cases by ‘gluing’ stuff around them. I got this great shot of it actually poking out of the case a bit! I am not sure yet what it is, have to look it up.

Long Lane green and lush.

Here’s Long Lane on the way back home. It’s green and lush in this very wet spring we’re having. It’s a bounty for the frogs but that means soon will come the mosquitoes too!

I hope you enjoyed this springtime walk with me and my sketching. I hope you go out and capture some nature the way I did, just stop and stand or sit still and you’ll be amazed at what you notice.

“View From Aspen Hall” 5-4-11

Before too much time goes by I wanted to get this post out, especially because I already have another waiting in the wings! Gee it sure has been a productive spring with getting out for walks and doing sketches in my journal!

Today I walked on my land and sat in “Aspen Hall”, a clump of trees that grows along “Long Lane” that the boys and I used to walk to when they were little. It became a special place to picnic, clear little paths and just feel adventurous. To anyone else it would just look like a clump of trees; some dead and broken, many new little ones coming up, a bit weedy but with the odd clump of daffodils and crocuses that we planted so many years ago. But to us it was a special place and as they grew and started to venture out for hikes on their own it was as far as they were allowed in the beginning. To get to Aspen Hall from the lane you have to cross a big ditch that is always filled with water. Over the years I would do a bit of house cleaning by tossing dead branches and trees across it. As they piled up we could gingerly walk across, while holding onto the wild grape vines that hung nearby.

View From Aspen Hall - watercolor crayon + ink pen

I’ll type out what my text says on the sketch above:

“May 4, 2011  Very, very wet walk, the land is saturated. Sloshing all the way! Sitting in Aspen Hall now on my pile of logs. I got pics of the Oriole near the barn! Sitting here I can hear: Song Sparrow, Towhee, Crow, Goldfinches, Yellow Shafted Flicker, dogs barking in the distance, cars droning, bubbles softly popping in the water of the wet ground, Red Winged Black bird, Blue Jay, House Wren, American Robin, Chickadee.”

“I can hear a lot but it’s not a great place to draw from, bushes all around, uncomfortable seat of logs.”

I wrote this first as I settled into the spot. It’s good to settle in and listen before you draw or write, absorb your surroundings no matter where you are. I use a permanent ink type pen to write then I can paint right over it. Then I did a light sketch of all the trees using a brown ink pen, Faber Castell Pitt. Then I took a clear wax (birthday candle) and rubbed on the paper where I wanted the clouds to be. Next I used watercolor crayons to put in the blues and greys of the sky and colors of the bushes and grass in front. I darkened the distant trees by adding crayon to them too, though it’s hard to keep it detailed using them if your in a hurry. To use the crayons you just color like a coloring book and then wet them, you can choose to color softly and leave no lines, or use the lines and marks as part of your sketch. I’m finding as I use my new watercolor crayons, the sets I have don’t have a good brown! They both have reddish browns which I find limiting. As I keep working with them I might just come up with a combination of using them with watercolor pencils.

Yellow Warbler

Now as you read on my sketch page, I did meet a few beautiful birds today! This picture isn’t super clear but I had my long lens on and was hand holding the camera. This Yellow Warbler was constantly on the move and very hard to capture but I just had to share him with you! He was flitting around in the reeds by my pond, wow was he pretty!

Baltimore Oriole

And there’s the Baltimore Oriole, oh wow, one of my favorite summer birds! He was way up in a tree along the lane, but I caught a few pictures of him as he sang his loud, clear song. Click on this pic to see it as a note card that you can customize.

Baltimore Oriole

I’m always amazed at the deep orange on his throat and the contrast of the velvety black with hot (cadmium) orange on his body.

Baltimore Oriole

I keep saying, “Someday… someday I have to paint an Oriole!” It’s on the list, believe me! Click this picture also to see it as a note card.

Swamp Sparrow

Now I was excited about this little guy, a Swamp Sparrow VERY quietly and demurely hopping around under the bushes. I was standing in the flooded area in front of my pond, in about 8″ of water (wearing my rubber boots of course) and taking pictures of the Yellow Warbler. I kept seeing something out of the corner of my eye moving like a leaf in a light breeze. Just here and there a tiny movement, I started to let my eyes roam over the area until I saw it again, and yes, it was a little sparrow. I had to put the camera on manual focus because of the branches in the way; the camera will focus on them, not on him.  I was able to catch enough pictures of him, though each picture caught a different part of him, to identify him later at home. I think, with all the water I have here, his name is befitting him! haha 😉

Well another nice walk on Long Lane Farm, glad you came along with me on this cold day. If you like sketching or it’s something you want to try, I encourage you to get out and just start. Take time to sit and absorb, listen and then just write about what you hear, what you’re thinking. Then add some sketches or colors, the more you do the faster and better you’ll get at it! And if you’re like me, if it’s cold outside you’ll learn to sketch even quicker! 😉

Walk to the Roman Fort (June 21, 2010)

Though I went for this walk a month ago, I need to catch up on posting my sketches from all my walks so you can see where I’ve been.  This walk started at the Edlingham Church from the 11thC and Edlingham Castle.

Edlingham church and castle quick sketch

Edlingham church and castle quick sketch

As I noted on my page, it was a gorgeous, sunny day. I started by walking past the old church and as I stood in the parking lot near it, I sketched using my Derwent Inktense “Ink Black” watercolor pencil. I then used my waterbrush to make washes using the pencil lines. You can add more color or value by touching the tip of your pencil with the waterbrush and adding it to the already damp paper. If you re-draw on the damp paper the pencil will make a very strong line and be harder to blend.  Since I don’t have use of a scanner here, I photographed my pages and then brightened them, the picture here looks a bit more contrasty than the real one.

The sketch of the castle at the bottom of the page (shown above) is started with the same Inktense pencil then later colored with watercolors and watercolor pencils. I was way up in a sheep field looking back when I did this, just a quick impression.

Edlingham Church and Castle

Edlingham Church and Castle

After my walk I added color to the top sketch of the church, with watercolor pencils. I’m going through a phase with them right now, as I so often do…then I switch back to my loved watercolors. I’m having fun layering colors to find nice greens and browns. I don’t like a drawing or painting to look ‘mushy’, that is be too soft, and I’m tempted to go back and draw with my ink pens into these little studies. But they are studies and sometimes the soft look of them is nice.

Lapwing

Lapwing

As I walked up through another farmers field I saw Lapwings on the ground. They are such a neat bird with two long feathers on their crest that looks like a fancy plumed hat! When they fly their wings are wide, rounded and a sharp looking black and white. They have a very nice call too. This picture is a bit blurry as I shot it from far away, but you get the idea of what they look like.

Dog Rose + Lapwing

Dog Rose + Lapwing

I’ll type out the notes from this page down below.

I had fun and created a old fashioned looking greeting card with this Dog Rose watercolor I did. Click to see it in the shop, it has pink inside and you can add your own text. Click your back button to return.
On the way to the top

On the way to the top

This photo shows just how gorgeous the views were; I wanted to stop and paint all the time! But if you don’t keep walking you’ll never see as much, so on I went. (click it to see it in my shop larger)

Yup, that's me!

Yup, that's me!

Yes, well, that’s me! I was happy to be out walking alone, stopping as I pleased and discovering interesting things, like the butterflies below.

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

This is a tattered looking Painted Lady, it looks similar to the Tortoiseshell below, but see how that one is dark in the center around the body?

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

This small little Tortoiseshell butterfly looks like it’s been through some weather, maybe even escaped a birds beak?  I saw quite a few butterflies along the little dirt lane I walked on, I think they enjoyed the windbreak of the stone wall that followed it.

At the Roman Fort site, wow, buttercups!

At the Roman Fort site, wow, buttercups!

(Click to see this picture as a glossy note card) This picture is at the top of the hill where the Roman Fort used to be. There are piles of stones around in a big rectangle shape, all that is left of it now. The Buttercups were so pretty, I crouched down low to get this shot, I liked the angle of it.

Here are the notes I wrote on my page: ” Headed to the Old Roman Fort. Sitting here now- it’s so beautiful the scene. Skylark is singing to my right + sheep are calling down the valley behind me. I don’t have time to paint the landscape, I have too much to do at home. 🙁  oh…I couldn’t resist! Quick watercolor sketch!” (See below!)

Small watercolor view from top of Edlingham

Small watercolor view from top of Edlingham

I’m so glad I took some time to do this little watercolor, now I look at it in my field journal and can remember the scene so well.  I sat on a huge rock of the fort, with my feet up and set a little container of water besides me. I used regular watercolor brushes for this one. I first laid on washes of blue and quickly lifted areas with a tissue for clouds. Then overlapping (on purpose) the blue near the horizon, I put pale green hills. The blue showed through and it made very nice distant hills, keep it soft and pale for this. Then I put various patches of greens for the fields in front.

View from Top, "Ah, this is the life!"

View from Top, "Ah, this is the life!"

I used this picture to create a glossy note card for those who love hiking, click on the picture to see my “people in landscapes” but I also created one that says on it: “Ah, this is the life!” I guess that says it all, you’ll find that one in my shop here.

More posts coming as I catch up! Please sign your email in the box at the right if you’d like to be notified. Exciting news coming soon about Creative Journaling and Sketching tours!

Studies of the Coast near Cullernose Point

Come with me on a sunny, breezy stroll along the Northumberland coast of England, south of Cullernose Point and Dunstanburgh Castle.

South of Cullernose Point, Northumberland

This sketch is done looking northwards while I sat on the grass. I used one water soluble “Inktense” pencil (Ink Black) by Derwent, ; after doing a light sketch I wet it with my waterbrush to create tonal values. It’s like doing an ink wash sketch, great for quick sketches and you can go back over it later with color. The inktense pencils are relatively permanent once dry, so I’m experimenting with using the black then coloring later from photos. These colors of Inktense are very intense, so you need to practice and go lightly with your pressure. You can also achieve very black areas which I like.

Me Drawing near Cullernose Point

Drawing near Cullernose Point

Here I am with my field sketchbook, what a view! (click on the picture to see it as a note card with a quote by Pablo Picasso)

Enjoy the many photographs I took below, they show the things we discovered as we walked and some I used later to do sketches from at home.

Brown Lipped Snails on Cowslip Leaves

Brown Lipped Snails on Cowslip Leaves

It’s funny, once you learn about something you start noticing it more and more, as is the case with snails for me. Now when we walk I see them everywhere!

Brown Lipped Snails

Brown Lipped Snails

These are Brown Lipped Snails; notice the brown line at the edge of their shell. I just love the striped patterns they have.

Pool with Grey Heron

Pool with Grey Heron

This is looking down from the coastal path we walked on, there is a Grey Heron in that pool down there.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Well spotted! He’s a beauty; we watched him fish in the pool as I took pictures from afar.

View of the coastal rocks we explored

Here’s another view of the coast where we walked. You can see two figures walking on the path ahead, that’s where we’ll be going.

Common Limpets and a Sea Slater bug

Common Limpets and a Sea Slater bug

When we ‘clambered’ down to the shore, (hey it’s an old word but it fits here!), we found lots of Limpets, snails and Periwinkles. It wasn’t until I looked at my pictures on the computer later that I noticed the bug, a “Sea Slater”, how interesting! The Limpets are living creatures that cling very tightly to the rocks, you’ll see a watercolor sketch below of one I did.

Yellow Scales

Yellow Scales

This is called Yellow Scales, a type of lichen that grows near the coast on rocks. It’s very beautiful along with the whitish lichens and grey rocks.

Southern Marsh Orchid

Southern Marsh Orchid

When we returned to the top of the cliffs, we found these small unusual orchids growing here and there. I was surprised at how tiny they were and may have passed them by if Gary didn’t point them out. As near as I can tell they are Southern Marsh Orchids, if anyone knows better, please let me know!

Me Drawing near Cullernose Point

Me Drawing near Cullernose Point

This photo will show you how tiny they were, the orchid is just in front of my sketchbook. I just lay in the grass and did a tiny light, sketch with a pencil. (click to see this and other photos like this, in my shop)

Shell and Flower studies

Shell and Flower studies

When I got home I downloaded my photos and did these studies from the laptop. I used watercolors for these, but using Titanium White this time for the white highlights and ‘wet’ look. I don’t usually use white paint, I rub or scrape off to create lights, but I quite liked using the paint for the glaze look. You can read my list of things we saw while there that day on my page.

Studies of Grey Heron

Studies of Grey Heron

The little studies at the top of the page show my experiment with “Inktense” and just a black watercolor pencil, using watercolor pencil to color it. I wanted to see how much the blacks would lift or blend, hoping they wouldn’t. As I thought the Inktense didn’t lift as well and that’s exactly what I wanted.

The heron studies are also done from the laptop, just painted without sketching him out first. The little one in the left corner was an experiment of painting solid blue water then lifting color and using white paint to add the heron after. I’m not thrilled with how it came out but you should always experiment!

I hope you enjoyed coming along on this walk by the sea. Get outside and bring a small sketchpad with you, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll see when you sit and start to draw things around you; a whole new world opens up before your eyes.

Here’s a little video clip of the waves washing over the rocks where we were, enjoy!

NOTE: Many of the photographs in this post have been made into beautiful glossy note cards and gifts and are in my shop (home page link). There are many more besides the links in this post, I hope you have a look and please pass it on to friends!

“Blackbird Study” on May 28, 2010

Today, though it is sad, I did a watercolor study of a blackbird female that died after flying into our patio window. Just as other naturalists before me have done, I took advantage of having a real bird in front of me and did a study as quickly as I could. I find that if you love nature you can do this as a way of showing respect for the creature and not think of it as ‘gross’. Of course always be careful handling things like this by washing your hands after, putting it on plastic, not having food or drink nearby while working…just to be safe. I did notice a little tiny bug or two on it as I worked, which made me work even quicker, to get it out of the house sooner!

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 1

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 1

The picture above shows my pencil sketch and beginning stages of watercolor. I am laying in the golden color that I see ‘under’ the darker colors of the feathers.

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 2

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 2

Here I put dark tone on the tail and more darks on the head and some cool tones along the side of the breast to start to round the form.

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 3

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 3

Some more dark tones and details are laid in, feathers on ‘bottom’ wing.

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 4

Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 4

At this stage I stopped painting feeling it was done, at least working from the ‘real’ model. I put a light wash of cool blue on the belly and added more color to the breast along with more details there.

Watercolor study with Blackbird

Watercolor study with Blackbird

When I stood up and looked from further back, I felt it needed a more broad wash of dark on the birds right side so I just grabbed my brush and quickly washed some tone on, while standing up. Many times I like to work on my watercolors from a standing position to keep them loose and free; if it’s a detailed painting I like to either start it while standing to have a loose feel, or at least finish it this way. I could add some loose color around the bird, but I just didn’t feel like adding to it.

My set up to add final details from computer

My set up to add final details from computer

So on another day I set up to touch up details using my photographs of the dead bird from my laptop. I used my field pan of watercolors and brushes and a magnifying glass to help me see details.

Dead Blackbird - stage 6

Watercolor study of female Blackbird - stage 6

At this point I decided it was finished. To be honest, I wanted to go back and ‘scratch’ out highlights along the legs to show their shine and make them stand out from the dark background, I also wanted to add grasses around the bird, but I’ve had too many other things to work on and just didn’t get time. So it’s DONE.

Blackbird male

Blackbird male

I don’t want to leave you with a dead Blackbird, here’s two photos of a healthy male so you can see how nice they look, their song is even nicer!

Blackbird male

Blackbird male

As a side note, the Blackbird (UK) is in the Thrush family just as my American Robin is. For my American readers you’ll notice a very close silhouette to our Robin, and the song, though different is beautiful as thrush songs are.  The male Blackbird is ‘black’ with a yellow beak, the female looks, well like my painting, brown with speckles on breast.

“Ingram Valley” May 15, 2010

Come with me on a walk up into the Ingram Valley in Northumberland England, land of unending vistas and wildlife. I know that sounds ‘corny’ but its true, Northumberland is so beautiful and wild.

Mama sheep and 2 lambs

Mama sheep and 2 lambs

As Gary and I began our walk, right away we met a proud and healthy mama black faced sheep with her two little lambs. Walking the hills in lambing season is so much fun, the little ones prance, bounce from all fours like they have springs in all hooves and they join up in little gangs to play king of the hill. When they can they run to their moms and push under for a feed, their tails wag like little flags of victory!

Ingram Valley -shepherd's road

Ingram Valley -shepherd's road

We turn our attention towards the uphill walk in very chilly wind, but with the sun it was bearable. This is a small track used by the shepherd with his quad-bike, to visit the various hills with sheep on. (I’m actually taking a look ‘back’ downhill here).

Ingram Valley-old stone wall and some lone Scotts Pines

Ingram Valley-old stone wall and some lone Scots Pines

This is along the way up, an old stone wall like so many you see in England, with a few lonely Scots Pines playing sentinel on the lonely hills.

mama sheep

mama sheep

When we went as far as we wanted to go, we watched the sheep playing and running. This ewe and her lamb were all by themselves on the other side of the fence. The lamb looked so special that we couldn’t help but wonder if the shepherd had separated them on purpose. The mother was gorgeous with a coat like no other!  (I loved them so much I created note cards of them, and the other sheep, in my shop!)

Wheatear in Ingram Valley, Northumberland

Wheatear in Ingram Valley, Northumberland

As we made our way down, I talked Gary into stopping for a sit down….of course this was my chance to try to do a watercolor study of the hills opposite! We relaxed, and sitting quietly as I worked, a little bird landed down the hill a bit and started to work it’s way up towards us. I got my camera slowly and started to shoot as he came closer and closer; the wonderful thing about nature sketching or plein air painting is because you’re so quiet, usually wildlife will come near. (keep your camera always handy!) I created note cards of this one too of course, I can’t wait to do a painting of it!

sheep on far hill

sheep on far hill

Now this is the hill we looked at on our way down and what captured my attention for painting. I wanted to show you first if you look closely, you’ll see tiny white dots on it, those are sheep! No kidding…see the picture below.

sheep on far hill-Zoomed in

sheep on far hill-Zoomed in

This is a close up of the same hill, see the sheep walking single file along the steep hill? They are sure footed but Gary told me sometimes they do fall and get killed 🙁

The picture shows you the scale of the size of the mountain.

Ingram Valley

Ingram Valley

So I sat on one of many tussocks remaining from and old forest, (a tussock is a small hump covered with grass that remains from where a tree used to be) and used my watercolor pan and one water-brush.

Ingram Valley

Ingram Valley-watercolor

This is the finished painting; I used the photo I took and looked at it on my computer screen when I got back to finish it. It may have the wrong color cast as I don’t have a scanner to use while I’m away from home, I just shot a picture of it with my camera. Here is a note card of this painting in my shop.

I hope you enjoyed this hike with me, I enjoyed having you along! Remember when you’re out for a walk to look around with curiosity and you may discover something you never noticed before.

Remember for any of my note cards, if you order 10 or more you get a discount…and the savings increase the more you buy, they can ALL BE DIFFERENT CARDS TOO!!

“A Glorious Spring Morning” 4-23-10

Come walk with me on my Spring morning hike at Long Lane Farm!

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Below is the first page in my small field sketchbook from today, I’ll type what it says below in case my handwriting is hard to read! (Click the photos for larger view, drawings are already enlarged.)

"A Glorious Morning!" 4-23-2010 pg 1

"A Glorious Morning!" 4-23-2010 pg 1

“A glorious morning! Frost on the ground and now at 9am it’s just wet in the sun, sparkles on the grass everywhere. The House Sparrows are chattering at the barn and a Song Sparrow has staked his claim to the back corner of the yard. Ginger waits in Fox Lane for me. Tree Swallows diving at each other near the nest box, constant twittering, bubbling, chatter. “

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

I saw some great birds today, the Tree Swallows are a joy to watch!  They swoop and turn and I’ve watched them play a game by snatching up chicken feathers from the ground while in flight, then carrying it up high they drop it and another bird will catch it out of the air! I can’t get over the glossy green blue of their feathers.

me sketching

me sketching

Here’s a picture of me sketching in the lane, wearing my tall mud boots (Wellies), winter coat, bag for sketch supplies and my camera with the long lens. I like to cross the strap diagonally from my shoulder as it takes pressure off my neck and back better.

"Budding Tree" 4-23-2010 pg 2

"Budding Tree" 4-23-2010 pg 2

“Song Sparrow over and over, cardinal in the treeline and a crow, gurgling of the Red Winged Blackbird and Tree Sparrows. Such a sound! Now a Yellow Shafted Flicker…off up the field somewhere. I hear a Field Sparrow now at the maze.”

The trees are just starting to bud, looking up at them in the sunlight they looked like little gems glittering on the tips of branches.

Bluebirds

Bluebirds

I was so happy to see a pair of Bluebirds have chosen one of the houses in the field, the Tree Sparrows have claimed the other one.

"Secret Circle Lane" 4-23-2010 pg 3

"Secret Circle Lane" 4-23-2010 pg 3

I had fun discovering tadpoles, snails and a tiny red mite on “Secret Circle Lane”, all in the freezing cold water flooding the lane.

Water Mite

Water Mite

As I wrote in my sketchbook, I was finally able to scoop up a ‘red dot’ floating in the water. Later I was able to study the tiny red dot from the photos I took and found out it’s a Water Mite. Before it got any ideas of how tasty my finger would be I released it back into the water!  I’d like to know what they do live on or how they live.

Here’s a short video clip I shot while standing over the flooded lane (now promise you won’t laugh at me!) :

"The Wet Woods" 4-23-2010

"The Wet Woods" 4-23-2010

I walked into the wet woods and standing in 4″ of water I did this tiny watercolor sketch of the dead tree. What fascinated me the most was how the shadows and sunlight dappled on the ground and tree branches

"Snail Study" 4-23-2010

"Snail Study" 4-23-2010

Once home I looked at my photos on the computer screen and did this little watercolor study of a snail and two tadpoles. I haven’t identified the snail yet, but it was amazing to see when it was floating in the water it wriggled until it looked like it was out of it’s shell. It was a queer blue color, I never saw one like it.

Go here to find note cards and gifts of this Snail and Tadpoles painting.

"Water Mite + Snail Study" 4-23-2010

"Water Mite + Snail Study" 4-23-2010

The shell of the snail was not flashy or patterned boldly but I think it was beautiful in it’s own subtle way. It looked almost of a gunmetal grey with a cream background.