Search this Site:

Visit my Shop:

Share on Facebook

World Visitors to this Site:

Northumberland, Land of Distant Hills

As I was looking through my small sketches and watercolors from this spring and early summer, I found I have many that are of distant views of the hills. Scenes that are all around me here in Northumberland England, just drive anywhere and you will always see some far off huge hills in the distance that all the locals can tell you the name of. Yes, all have names, very old names! It’s fun to learn the silhouettes and names of them.

Our favorite thing to do is walk up any of the high hills and see into the distance; can you believe we can see all the way to Scotland!? You don’t have to climb a high hill to appreciate the views though, even walking on the upper lane out of our village gives you views across Whittingham Vale or up to Corby Crags.

(c)view of Cheviots + Glanton

View of the Cheviots and Glanton area in the Whittingham Vale.

The tiny watercolor sketch above is from one of my morning walks along the upper lane of our village. The blue hill in the distance on the left is actually two hills in the Cheviots, one being “The Cheviot” itself. The hill in the center I’m pretty sure is Low Pyke in Glanton, the next village that you can see across the valley. It makes you realize that all the way back to bronze age man, people must have named the hills and used them for direction.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor pencil.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor, March 10, 2015.

This little study above is of Corby Crags, as seen from my side yard in spring. It’s just a quick watercolor sketch to practice clouds and colors, but I remember standing there doing it on a sunny day in March, when winter was breaking.

(c)April 2015 Burning Heather on Brizlee 2

“Burning Heather on Brizlee”, watercolor field study, April 6, 2015

This one was done while walking along our upper back lane, I saw smoke from a fire in the distance and stopped to record it. I leaned on a big field gate as I looked past the buildings in the foreground to the long hill in the distance. My husband told me they were burning heather on the moors up on Brizlee, this is to promote new growth of heather shoots for the grouse and partridges (all for the hunting season). This hill I realized later when I looked on a map is all the way in Alnwick, the next village about 6 miles away!

(c)5-26-15 view of Demesne Farm + Thrunton Woods

“View of Demesne Farm and Thrunton Woods”, watercolor, May 26, 2015.

One of my favorite things here is to watch the clouds cast shadows and patches of sun creep across the face of the land. Where the sun goes the greens and golds of the land come alive, it’s so dramatic! The little 5 1/2″ x 7″ watercolor above I did while sitting on the side bank of the road out of our village looking towards Thrunton Woods and Demesne Farm. It’s one of my morning walks that is relatively short but always windy when you get to the top. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this view!

"View From Edlingham Lane" watercolor, July 21, 2015.

“View From Edlingham Lane” watercolor, July 21, 2015.

This 4 1/2″x 6″ study was done on the same lane but just a week ago. I was near the top of the lane where you really get hit with all the wind sweeping across this valley. It was a misty day and my hands got cold and stiff, yeah even in July! As I painted this it started to rain (see the approaching clouds?) so I quickly put my kit away…then it stopped….so unpack the kit again! The weather here is just like that, dress in layers because when the sun comes out you’ll get so hot and start peeling off jackets, but as soon as the clouds come it’s cold and there could be a surprise sprinkle in that cloud. I usually bring more than the average walker because I end up sitting or standing still a lot and it gets cold when you don’t move around.

 Next post I’ll share more photos of my surroundings, but still so many sketches to share too! Besides sketching I’ve been busy testing watercolor paper so I can dig in and concentrate on my illustrations, I also got a new watercolor field box that I’ve been using and love. I’ve been recording (with photos and sketches) the local flora and fauna (would you expect anything less from me?) So far I have positively identified 51 birds, 46 different wildflowers, 10 butterflies, 3 moths and any number of unidentified insects, moths, plants etc. It’s exciting to be in a new country with all these new things! I’ll share more of this coming up, stay tuned!

(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!

"Winter Sketches in England"

Winter has passed by and I’m still settling into my new life in England. I did some sketches as I could, being tired from unpacking, cleaning or just being overwhelmed in general. But happily I can see my sketching has increased as the months slip by and I will share all that in further posts to catch up.

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport...the big day way back in December!

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport…the big day way back in December!

Today I’m posting sketches I did way back in December and January. The one above I did while waiting in the Buffalo International Airport, Gate 12, for my flight to the UK. I like the way it came out, a person sitting ‘almost’ in silhouette in front of the huge windows. It definitely helped to pass the time and calm my nervous excitement.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

After I settled in I started walking in the mornings, mostly on my favorite lane above the village. Just like at ‘home’ in New York, sketching in winter I mostly use very small pocket sketchbooks. It’s just too cold to stand around freezing my fingers off, so I just do smaller quicker sketches; the most important thing is just to keep sketching.

The drawing above is actually tiny, done at the top of the page, but I like how it came out. It’s done with a brown Faber-Castell ink pen; I love using these pens. It’s a twisted little hawthorn along a sheep field, very exposed to the winds at the top of a ridge. I like it’s character because it reminds me of a bonsai tree. Some of the little trees you see hedges made of are actually very old trees that are trimmed all the time.

"Tree on Upper Lane", a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven't wet yet!

“Tree on Upper Lane”, a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven’t wet yet!

This sketch was done very quickly because it was so darn cold! I love walking on this one lane that goes out of our village because it’s lined with ancient trees and gorgeous views of distant hills and fields. I did it using water soluble pencil but wanted to scan it before I wet it. When you wet them they can get very dark and intense…it still waits for me to wet it with my brushes and mess around.

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.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small. I made a pen holder out of duct tape and attached it to the back cover. I have another one that’s even smaller that I used at home a lot too, just loved sticking it in my barn coat pocket when I went walking.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

January 7, 2015 – I walked down to Edlingham Burn (small river) and found a mossy rock to sit upon with this lovely view. Well maybe it’s hard to imagine from such a small sketch, but it was a view of the burn and moss covered trees everywhere, just lovely!

(c)me sketching 1-7-15

Me in the freezing cold, painting Edlingham Burn.

I was very cold painting this, I did it with mittens on mind you, no easy task! I sat on a bit of rock, cold and damp, but it felt so good to be out and finally messing with my watercolors, that I didn’t notice (until I got up, all stiff!) I used one medium sized waterbrush to do this.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets across small streams or ‘burns’ here, to keep sheep and cattle in sectioned off fields. I put it in the background of my watercolor sketch you can see above.

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

This is Edlingham Burn, I walked along it looking for a spot to paint. Where the rest of the land was pretty bleak and bare, the river was/is fascinating to me.  With all it’s mossy trees, ivy climbing everywhere, dry grasses draping over dark banks touching the cold water and the sound of splashing water, wonderful.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

These two trees I found behind the old church, in the farmers field. I really like how this sketch came out. They twisted together, almost in an embrace, part lichen covered, part moss. Standing in a cold, bare hedge, naked of leaves or flowers, just waiting till spring! Maybe someday I’ll do a larger color study.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

January 26th – I did this sketch on a day where I was tired and not feeling particularly inspired. That’s an especially good time to stick to your small sketchbook, just do something small until you ‘do’ feel inspired. It helped me to focus and relax; practice is always a good thing. I noted the birds I saw while doing it, Seagulls, Jackdaws and a Tree Creeper.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

I thought I’d leave you with two more photos, from Jan. 6th on my morning walk. I love watching the sheep in the fields all around me, there are so many kinds here!

A sheep wondering what I'm doing in his field.

A sheep wondering what I’m doing in her field.

This little ewe was watching me, they run away if you get too close, so having a zoom is needed! They are all carrying lambs at this time and I can’t wait to see them in spring!

Check back for more updates, yes there are more sketches, paintings and photos to catch up with from this spring and I can’t wait to share them with you! Sign up in the right column with your email, if you want to be notified when I do new posts. Please leave me comments if you like!

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!

Mystery Cocoon Hatched!

Do you remember my last post about the cocoon I was watching all winter long?

leaf cocoon 4-20-14 (1) (375x500)

Unhatched cocoon hanging in tree, April 20, 2014

I did sketches of it on cold snowy days, while it hung in the tree, disguised as dead leaves.

(c)3-20-14 tiny sketchbook (400x392)

March 20, 2014 – first day of spring, snowing, dismal + dark!

Another sketch of the 'leaf cocoon' after my walking was finished.

Another sketch of the ‘leaf cocoon’ after my walking was finished. (March 27, 2014)

Then one day I got the bright idea of putting mesh around it so when the mystery bug hatched I may have a chance to see what it was. I also knew that I now took responsibility for this creatures’ welfare, I had to check it everyday so if it hatched I could release it! I fastened it with wire bread ties.

Plastic mesh onion bag I carefully put around the cocoon.

Plastic mesh onion bag I carefully put around the cocoon.

Well as the weeks dragged on into spring I sort of gave up hope; I observed a small hole at the top and thought maybe something got at it. Also a ‘bug friend’ told me that sometimes wasps will parasitize these cocoons and it may not live. Leaves from the tree were now poking out through the mesh and black ants were crawling around everywhere, where was my ‘creature’?

June 1st, still not hatched!

June 1st, still not hatched!

Well one morning while walking around the yard I spotted something big and dark in the mesh bag from way across the yard! I actually ran across the yard, I was so excited! (yes, I really did! lol)

Much to my delight, not only did it hatch but it was HUGE! Introducing the “Promethea Silkmoth”! (Hatched June 4, 2014)

I love this photo, you can almost see his 'face' saying "Help, I can't hang on!"

I love this photo, you can almost see his ‘face’ saying “Help, I can’t hang on!”

I ran in the house and got my pruners and clipped the small branch it was on. I took it into my shady back porch and stood it up in a vase of water, then thought about how to sketch it quick so I could release it. Well it had that ‘ugly’ red plastic netting around it, but being that I was in my screen porch and it had only just hatched I decided to carefully cut away the netting. Lucky me, the moth still needed to hang out a bit to get stronger, so I took lots of photos then settled down to sketch.

This watercolor was done from life as the moth rested.

I did this watercolor from life then later finished from my photos.

Like many moths, his beauty wasn’t in his bright colors but in the subtlety of his patterns and earthy colors, and boy was he beautiful! I also loved his fat, furry body, it was deep rusty color with interesting patterns on the sides. In the sketch above I used my permanent ink pen along with the watercolors for real definition.

I sketched this pose from life and started to paint, then later finished from my photos.

This one I avoided using the ink pen to see how it would look with just watercolors.

The sketch above I avoided using the ink pen just to see how it would be with just watercolors. It’s softer looking but I favor the other one, which I actually spent a lot more time on too. I traced around a card to create the box look, then just colored around it; a nice way to ‘decorate’ your sketches!

Promethea Silkmoth with his wings partly open.

Promethea Silkmoth with his wings partly open.

Then I painted this view from a photo, where he had his wings partly open. I loved the ‘teeth’ patterns on his wings, above and below. It was when he decided to fly around in my screen porch that I noticed when his wings are open, he looks like a fearsome beast with many big teeth!! Well imagine your small too, and want to eat this moth, suddenly you have all these teeth and eyes (two black with blue spots) looking at you! Another interesting thing with his behavior was he shook his wings, something I’ve seen other moths do when frightened. He wasn’t shaking in fear! He was making himself look fearful! How cool is that?!

Flying around in my screen porch.

Flying around in my screen porch.

Above, here he is on the screen, shaking or vibrating his wings at me.

A nice photo showing how beautiful his antennae and body are.

A nice photo showing how beautiful his antennae and body are.

His little feet tickled my hand!

His little feet tickled my hand!

This photo above really shows the scale of how big he was. Now he was getting active, time to release him to the world!

I put him back into the tree his cocoon was on.

I put him back into the tree his cocoon was on.

I put him back onto the tree his cocoon had hung in all winter. It didn’t take him long and he fluttered around then disappeared…off to find a mate I’m sure or find dark shelter for the day.

Now all that's left is the cocoon.

Now all that’s left is the cocoon.

I hope you enjoyed this excited discovery with me! I know I’m late posting about it but as many of you know my time is taken up lately with preparing for my big move. I do have some other interesting photos and sketches from my backyard adventures, I’ll try to post as I can.

Cheers!

A Last Look at Winter

I’ve been meaning to post these pictures as I did them at the end of this winter. All of them were done outside while wearing mittens, so I was going to title the post something like that, but now that winter is gone I can’t bring myself to think about mittens! So, here’s a bunch of tiny sketches done at the end of winter, using my tiny square sketchpad.

Tiny sketch kit I keep in my winter 'backyard coat' pocket. I also keep a mechanical pencil and kneaded rubber eraser in it.

Tiny sketch kit I keep in my winter ‘backyard coat’ pocket; I also keep a mechanical pencil and kneaded rubber eraser in it.

The baggie is sandwich sized and in it I keep a permanent ink pen, one mechanical pencil, a kneaded rubber eraser along and the homemade 4″ x 4″ sketchbook. This small size is great for winter because just capturing a small sketch on a freezing cold day is better than trying to do something bigger and your fingers fall off from the cold before you’re done! 😉 I also keep a few pages of printer paper at the back for notes or creative ideas for poems.

(c)3-16-14 tiny sketchbook (400x391)

Aspen leaf deep in the snow…very cold outside!

I’ll add my small sketches in order that I did them.

(c)3-16-14 tiny sketchbook -2 (400x392)

“Waiting for Spring”

The tree sketch above was done the same day, after strolling around the frozen yard. The two trees at the back corner of my yard had dark, dead leaves and swirled dried grasses all about them, like an oasis in the white snow.

(c)photo 2 (500x373)

“Waiting for Spring” photo of sketchbook.

This photo above just shows how small the sketch is. Like I said the idea is to keep the sketchbook handy in my pocket and keep the drawing time to a minimum.

(c)3-20-14 tiny sketchbook (400x392)

“Cocoon Leaf” that I’ve been watching all winter.

This is a sketch of the leaf I’ve kept an eye on all winter. I wondered why one dead leaf never fell from this little tree in my yard, I suspected what I found, a cocoon. Very interesting to look at up close and see the silk spun around the stem.

(c)3-21-14 tiny sketchbook (400x399)

“Cocoon Leaf” sketched from the other side.

And this is sketched the next day after my walking. It was difficult to draw with bulky mittens on, sometimes I pull back the top and use my fingers. I like this sketch because it shows how beautiful the form of the leaves wrap together.

(c)3-22-14 tiny sketchbook (400x391)

A tree by the lane (Long Lane).

Today I went further than the yard, up Pasture Lane into the big field. It was just great to be out in the open and not cooped up inside, though it was still very cold. All the ground that had flooded in the winter was covered by ice + water, so I had to watch my steps. As I sketched the tree I imagined a squirrel could be looking down from that one ‘V’ branch, in a story, then I thought of England as usual. “My mind if full of leaving, my mind is full of returning…to England”. Then it started to snow again.

(c)3-23-14 tiny sketchbook (400x399)

“Cocoon Leaf”, another sketch…I like this one.

The next day I walked in the yard again and drew the leaf. It’s great to repeatedly study one object, every sketch a different angle or different lighting.

(c)3-24-14 (398x400)

“Cocoon Leaf” gets covered with a plastic mesh bag.

I decided to play more the ‘scientist’ and hopefully get to study what kind of critter comes out of the cocoon, if any!  I took a plastic mesh bag from some onions and gently tied it over the twig with the cocoon. I made sure the bag won’t move and disturb the cocoon leaf. The only thing about doing this is now I’ve signed on to be “Cocoon Keeper”, it’s my responsibility to watch it everyday in case something does come out.

The other neat thing about drawing outside that day is the sounds I heard from the treeline. There’s a ditch that drains the fields there and all winter it’s full of water and ice. Today the ice made such interesting cracking sounds, I assume it’s to do with temperature changes between air and earth.

(c)3-25-14 1 (400x398)

Sketches of what I think are Woodcock footprints in the snow.

I had a nice walk on this day, March 25. The sun was out, it was cold but calm and I got to see a Woodcock walking on the ground! First I saw these tracks which I noted, then just further on I saw a Woodcock in the treeline walking! I’ve never seen one on the ground, they always flush as I come upon them. I tried to grab photos but, NO WAY, it was too quick for me.

(c)3-25-14 2 (400x398)

Tree in Aspen Hall with interesting marks on it.

Last sketch of ‘Winter’; though it’s officially spring, with snow on the ground and mittens I still call it winter! This was sketched the same day, after seeing the Woodcock. I walked up Long Lane to Aspen Hall and sat for a bit on a pile of dead branches I use for a seat. Aspen Hall is a special place for me because it’s a place on my land where my sons and I would first hike to. Just far enough for a 2 + 4 year old to make it to, one in a wagon when tired, but far enough to be an adventure and secret place; I always loved secret, special places. We planted daffodils and crocuses 20 years ago, and some still come up now! I can’t believe it’s been so long ago.

Well that’s it for ‘wintery sketches’! I do have more in my tiny sketchbook but they are officially done ‘without mittens’! so I’ll save them for another ‘tiny sketchbook post’.

If anything, I hope this encourages some of you to stick a small sketchbook in your pocket and just do little studies when you’re out. Some of us spend far too much time focused on work, the house, the kids, the computer….when it’s so important to get out and walk and see. The best way to see is to stop, study and draw!

(Just a note on my actual drawing techniques, sometimes I use a pencil to sketch and correct with a kneaded rubber eraser. Afterwards I’ll go over it with the permanent pen, let it dry, then erase the pencil. I do this because I don’t like pencil in my field sketchbooks as it smudges. Many, many times I don’t use the pencil first at all, I just take my time and sketch directly with the permanent pen. It can be a freeing feeling to do this, but also can make you think a little more before you make your mark!)

Hope you enjoyed my tiny sketches and notes, please leave me comments and ask questions if you like, I love reading them and replying!

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.

"Snow Scenes, Mice and Bunnies"

Weekly Sketches text

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

Here’s a few sketches from the week:

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

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

Fence in ink 1-3-13

A tiny sketch in ink of my fence.

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

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

Mouse Sketch 1

A rough sketch from a photo.

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

Mouse 1 finished sketch

Here is Mouse 1 sketch finished.

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

Mouse 2 finished sketch

This guy is cute! Mouse 2 finished sketch.

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

Sketch of Mouse 3, view from below.

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

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

mouse in clay sculpture

Some fun with clay! A little mouse sculpture.

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

Mice in clay and an eraser

Well he had to have a friend!

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

Fox tracks in the snow

I think these are fox tracks in the snow.

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

Bunny and deer tracks

Rabbit and white tailed deer tracks.

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

Bunny Studies in pencil

Three bunny studies in pencil

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

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

New Years Eve Snowshoe Ramble (2012)

New Years Eve has come again, as it does. We had lots of snow lately and now that hunting season is over, I can venture out into my fields again! So I got out my snowshoes, stuffed a tiny sketchbook in my pocket and slung my camera over my shoulder and ready for a walk! Well after donning a few wool layers that is! (Click pics for clearer view.)

My ‘long’ snowshoes are ready to go.

This post isn’t really about great sketches but mostly just getting out into nature, going for a good walk and of course looking for inspiration. I love looking as I go and letting ideas come to me. I see holes in the snow and think of my little characters living in there! But if you just enjoy sketching nature then you get inspired by the lighting, colors and forms you see as you walk. If anything you feel better for filling your lungs with fresh air. I enjoyed taking pictures to add to my reference folders, so I’ll put my photos here that I shot as I walked and you can see what I saw.

My long snowshoes.

I have two pair of snowshoes, one is a “Bear Paw” style that is rounded on both ends, and the other are what I wore today, they taper out long in the back. These were great for the long trails, I guess the others are supposed to be good when in a more ‘brushy’ trail where you don’t want a long end (like skies) to maneuver.

The start of my walk, up “Pasture Lane”.

This is “Pasture Lane”, the start of almost every walk. I did a nice oil painting one year in May, while sitting just here and looking down the grassy lane filled with yellow dandelions! Ahh…to dream of green spring! (Have a peek at the painting here in my gallery)

“Long Lane” waiting to be explored, this is near the pond.

Then I turn to the area where the pond is but if I continue on in the direction as before, “Long Lane” is before me. The lane that my farm is named for! It goes on and on and all the trails I’ve made over the years with the brush-hog run off of it. It’s all been getting pretty wild though the past few years, as I’ve either been in England or my tractor broke or couldn’t because my back bothered me. I have noticed a LOT more wonderful butterflies and dragonflies on the property though, by letting the field go wild!

A pretty view of the field from Long Lane.

In winter you learn to appreciate the subtle things, like the colors of the dormant bushes, the murky greyness of the trees in the distance, the way snow rolls over everything and creates subtle shadows that are a challenge to draw.  You also notice the quiet of it all except today, today the wind was making it’s presence known!

A little natural snow arch that would be perfect for a bunny!

I spotted this little snow arch created by the tree and bushes and it captured my imagination. I thought it’d make a great reference for adding a bunny someday.

A close up of the “snow nook”.

So I took a bunch of photos from all different angles, then stood still to do a tiny sketch in my tiny sketchbook.

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

Ohh it was cold but I tried to do what I could and later I touched it up a bit while looking at the photos. I added a pretend bunny while I was drawing it in the lane; someday I’ll have to think of a story or painting.

Water in the ditch and snow covered downed trees.

The deer always cross here and I like to stop and image things. It’s like a little world to a small creature complete with lake! Other than that it’s just pretty.

Tracks from my snowshoes.

Always look back to see how things look from a different view…

Dead grapevine leaves, auto setting.

Dead grapevine leaves, auto setting.

Now these two pictures of the grapevine leaves are just a mini photo lesson. I only wanted to point out that I tested using the “auto” setting (shown above) which makes the picture very cold and bluey. But below…

Dead grapevine leaves taken with Aperture Priority mode.

 I switched it to Aperture Priority mode and was able to select the kind of lighting…you know, indoor with lights, outdoor shade etc. When I selected outdoor type and shade it allowed the warmer tones to come through. I thought it was much nicer and how I was ‘seeing’ it in real life. In that setting I could play around with the depth of field a little too. Sorry my photos in the this post aren’t a bit nicer but I don’t take time to tweak in any photo program…they just are what they are. I was mostly interested in photos for references.

Now I'm following some deer tracks.

Now I’m following some deer tracks.

So I wander onward…following deer tracks. Another great thing about winter is being able to study all the tracks that are made in the snow! You can try to figure out what went on during the night when you were sleeping.

Here’s a little hole that could be good for one of my illustrations!

More holes capture my imagination, so I photograph them for references.

here’s another hole that caught my imagination.

Now as you think of the holes and look at the photos below…

Almost to “Memory Lane”.

…read what I wrote in that tiny journal sketchbook, while walking in the freezing cold lane:

“Dec 31. New Years Eve Walk  – Snowshoes…cold.

The wind blows through the Ash tree tops, Great roaring above that sounds like an ocean in the distance.
The wind looks everywhere for a burrow, a hole a nest…it has no home. So on it roars…looking.
I hear clacking little frozen branches – small ones that rattle against each other in this wind.
Sometimes I hear the squeaking and creaking of big limbs, pressed together over time but now mobil in this wind.
I walk on.”

Beautiful dried grasses all swirled in different directions.

This is near “Memory Lane”, where most of the year it’s wet so this grass grows profusely there and in winter it’s nice to look at. I love the color of dry grasses.

Dried Bull Thistle bends low.

Here are some more notes from my journal: “The Bull Thistle – bending over, trying to kiss the snow, once stood 7′ tall.Now it prostrates itself in a deep bow.”

The downy hairs they once had are now soaked with ice.

“What bristly seed heads still have downy beards – are now soaked with ice as they hang their heads to the ground.”

Me with my snowshoes after a long walk!

Oh dear, there’s me without a stitch of makeup on!! Yikes! I can also see white blurry bits of snow on the lens. Oh well, I like this photo because it reminds me of my mini adventure so I thought I’d share it!

So now, my parting words to you are – instead of moping around the house this winter, grab your sketchbook or camera and go for a walk!