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“Winter Field Sketch” oil

"Winter Field Sketch"

This is a little (5 x 7″) oil painting I did “en plein air”, or translation… “while standing in the snowy field freezing my fingers off”! What I wanted to do was study the colors in oil and not get too caught up in the finished look of a painting. It was a good exercise in study of color for me, it would not have been as successful if I did it from a photograph.

My oil field kit, closed.

I rigged up a little field kit for oil painting, just for taking out on hikes. Here’s a picture of the kit closed, it’s a plastic case you can buy at an office supply department. I’ve only used it this once but hope to work with it more and ‘tweek’ it. The main objective was to keep it as light as possible.

Here it is open to show you the metal pencil case and use of 'sticky tack'.

This shows the kit open with two areas of gessoed canvas ready to use. Notice the four dots of ‘sticky tack’ on the left, they’ll hold the lid of the metal pencil case when I want to paint, using the lid for mixing. I used tape to make loops to hold brushes; just put tape sticky sides together to make it ‘not’ sticky in the middle.

I created a loop of tape to slide my medium cup into.

I used the tape in the same way here, keeping it sticky on the ends but not in the middle, I created a loop that my medium cup would slot onto. At the angle I would hold the kit, the cup would not come off! It was then held from behind with a dab of ‘sticky tack’.

Here is my field kit in action!

I held the homemade kit in one hand, using my arm for support, and painted with my right hand. It’s all in my reach and I brought no tubes of paint. Notice my fingers are holding one brush at the ready and the other ‘dirty’ or ‘in use’ brushes are kept on the left of the hinge, clean ones to the right in the loop.

Of course Ginger was along for the adventure and waits patiently to continue with our walk!

I put a squeeze of my colors in a metal pencil case and put some in a pill box from the pharmacy before I left the house. The pill box was an experiment and I wasn’t really satisfied with it, it gets too messy on the lids and doesn’t keep the paint really airtight. Since then I’ve moved to using contact lens cases that screw shut…we’ll see how the paint lasts in them as they’re all back in England and I won’t see them until spring!

This shows you my view of the field as I worked.

The above picture shows you the view I had as I worked, it also illustrates how dull the colors look on a photograph and how I perceived the colors with my eyes to be a bit more vivid. This is why working in the field is so important whether you are oil painting, using watercolors, pastels…etc.

When I came back home, I stuck the little study up on a wood post in my living room using ‘Loctite” sticky tack. I hung there for ages and I enjoyed looking at it whenever I walked by. It wasn’t until I found a great frame and laid it on top that it popped out and said “HEY…I’m a good little painting!” hahah…yes sometimes my paintings talk to me…don’t yours? It also told me to stop ignoring it and get it framed so it could have a proper place on the wall! Yes…yes, the voice of guilt, this painting actually was done last year (12/31/10) and since I traveled to England it got sort of forgotten!

Click to see photos enlarged:

How it looks framed on the wall

"Winter Field Sketch" framed and in cool daylight

Original framed painting $165 contact me

Go here to see all my Landscape Paintings in the Gallery.

I also made some nice products in my Zazzle Gift Shop with this, please click on the pictures to have a look!

Glossy Note Cards- 2 sizes
Glossy Post Cards

A Walk in the Field, Late August (8-30-11)

I headed out to the back fields today, before the day got too hot. As I picked up my straw hat and plopped it on my head Ginger got all excited, her eyes riveted to my every move. Her whole body tensed and ready to run out the door, as she knows this means we’re going out. Now…when I have my sketch bag in hand and pick up my camera and sling it over my shoulder she knows we’re in for it! The ‘Big Walk’ hahaha…well it means we’re leaving the yard and going out to the ‘wilds’ of the fields and lanes. Yes, if I was a dog I’d be acting just like her!

Ginger waits expectantly!

As I walked I was VERY mindful of watching out for the huge yellow garden spiders that I discovered in my overgrown field, I didn’t want to walk through one of their webs! I’ll show you pictures in another post! Every step I took about three grasshoppers or more would fly up and over the grass for a short bit then land again. As I studied them I laughed to see when they landed, many times they did a sort of “moonwalk” backwards down the stalk they were clinging to.

Red Legged Grasshopper I think

If you stop to study them close, using the zoom lens on a camera is a great way, you’ll notice how many different varieties there are. I am guessing some of the many types may just be different ages of the same grasshopper, or males and females, all were really interesting.

Fat Yellow Grasshopper

Most had some kind of interesting pattern and colors that I’d like to do some studies of someday. First I need to start identifying them better, my field guide to insects is woefully lacking in species of many insects, grasshoppers included.

Nat. Wildlife Fed. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America

Nat. Wildlife Fed. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America

Though it’s not a bad all round guide to start with, I find now I need much more species to choose from.

Long Lane Farm in August - watercolor

Well as I got out into the field a ways, I paused and looked back and this is what I saw. The Purple Loosestrife was blooming, clouds billowing, wildflowers dotting the field. I did this small watercolor using one waterbrush and my pan of colors, while standing in some very hot sun. It was really hard to find any shade and it made me a little ‘snow blind’ looking at my page.

A tiny Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

After that Ginger and I made for the lane for a bit more shade. I’ve been noticing this tiny butterfly now sometimes when I walk on the lane. It first caught my attention flitting around the grasses and I thought it was one of those tiny white moths I always see. (It’s only as big as the end of my thumb!) There was something about it though, it seemed to have a bluish look too. So I followed it with my eyes to see where it landed then zoomed in with my camera and there you go! Ahha! A butterfly. Just one of my little discoveries this summer.

He shows a peek of blue wing

They don’t give up much, this tiny, tiny butterfly hardly ever opens it’s wings to show off it’s gorgeous blue!

Hummingbird Moth feeding on Teasel

 I couldn’t resist slipping this picture in to share. I have a great big area behind my barn that’s overgrown now with Teasel. I found the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies, and to my delight Hummingbird moths, loved feeding on them. I would encourage everyone to grow some for them to feed on and for their beauty of form.

Teasel drawn with permanent pen

I love drawing Teasel and long into winter you can enjoy their elegant forms. This is a drawing I did years ago in the fall, (sorry I don’t have it scanned large enough to enlarge much) can you see how much fun you could have looking at it’s bristly but graceful form?

I hope you enjoyed our little walk on Long Lane Farm. I always see or find something new when I stop and look for awhile. I want to point out that I have been adding great links for identifying things on my “Nature Links” page, please have a look. I use these links often when I need to identify bugs or blooms. I’m adding links all the time so everyone can use it, please let me know if you have a favorite you want to share!

Below are a few note cards I created in my shop from my sketches or photos, I hope you enjoy them!

My watercolor sketch
Hummingbird Moth card
Hummingbird Moth
I miss you! sad dog photo card
Awww, who could resist that face?!

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:


Butterflies + Moths

Landscapes (New York areas)


“Wind in the Willows” – Clouds and Crayons

April 14, 2011

(if viewing this in an email subscription, please go to the website to see the video clip and pictures better)

Clouds Over Fox Lane

Above, this is the first view Ginger and I got when we started out on our walk; clouds, gorgeous clouds stretching as far as the eye could see! I love the way the old pasture fence looks here along “Fox Lane”.

“Wind in the Willows”

I’ll show you right away what I ended up sketching after we walked all the way out on the property. (At the end of my post I have links to note cards and gifts using this image!) I had a page in my journal with the first verse of the song from “The Wind in the Willows”, the popular children’s tv show, written in permanent ink. I knew eventually I’d do some kind of painting over it of trees.  I just love the song from this show, I posted a link below so you could have a listen too!

Theme Song from “Wind in the Willows”

My Watercolor Crayons + Waterbrush

To explain a little how I did the sketch, as I stood in about 8″ of water on a particularly wet path, I held my sketch journal and balanced the little box of crayons on it. I have taken all my water soluble crayons and cut them in half so I could carry more in a smaller space and less weight! I put it on a peice of paper towel to protect a little watercolor I’ve got on that page, and I put a piece of paper towel (Viva) next to the box for wiping my brush on. I used one flat water brush, a favorite of mine when I want to do very quick washes and scrubbing. This particular brand releases water quite fast, at first I didn’t like that but now it’s also why I DO use it!

First thing I did was to scribble with white crayola wax crayon where I wanted to show white clouds. It doesn’t really show up until you color around it, but if you tip your paper a tiny bit you can see it. Then I colored very quickly with two different blue water soluble crayons all around; I found that I could shade right over the white wax and it didn’t really disturb it, cool! Then very quick scrubbing with the waterbrush to wet and move the color around. I grabbed the paper towel and sometimes blotted off the white cloud and it helped soften the look. Using the grey crayon ‘under’ each cloud really helped to pull them out and make them look real.

The trees were drawn on with a brown wc crayon from Derwent, using the hard edge to make branches. It works really great on damp paper, the lines are very vivid. I must say, it’s the scribbley look of the painting that I like so much! I could go back and soften the bottom of the moon, but it was a field sketch and I think I’ll just leave it as is. It was hard to get the look in such a tiny thing while hand holding my journal.

View I painted from while standing in water!

This is a photo from the spot I was standing, can you see the tiny moon in the middle?

A close up of the moon

Sometimes when you’re outside in the middle of the day, if you look for it you’ll see the moon amongst the clouds. I always think it’s a nice surprise.

Ginger all wet!

Yes, Miss Ginger is wet but doesn’t mind. This is the lane I stood in to do my sketch.

An old nest left from last year

I spotted some old nests as I walked, this one was out near “The North Pole”, the furthest part of my land. It’s amazing how many nests are at our eye level but we don’t see them when the bushes are in full leaf.

Clouds in Spring Over the Lane

I’ll leave you with one more pretty picture. I just love the colors in this, the blues contrasting with the golden colors of the dried grasses, the reds in the tips of the bushes and trees and the purpley colors under the clouds.

I hope you enjoyed our walk again out on “Long Lane Farm” at Springtime. Please enjoy the pictures links shown below, they go to prints, note cards, tee shirts and a magnet using my “Wind in the Willows” field sketch painting, in my shop. I can’t wait to order a tee shirt for myself!

Visit my SHOP to see many beautiful note cards with photos of the new Spring flowers, bees, landscapes etc!

“Wet Walk in March”

As my page describes, it was overcast, wet and dreary. I did the small landscape sketch while standing up, just a small little thing but it reminds me exactly of the time and place. At the bottom I wrote words I associated with where I was sat, this is a great way to begin creative writing. When I got back to the house I added the background colors behind the words and around the landscape to perk the page up. Without it it was quite plain looking! Then I outlined the leaf shapes under the crocuses to give it more ‘umph’.

Wet Walk in March (2011)

I was sitting on a small pile of dead trees that I stacked as I could during the winter, right in the middle of “Aspen Hall”, a favorite place on my land. It’s just a clump of Aspen trees that sticks out into my field and can be seen from the house. As you walk up the lane, lined with bushes and some trees, you come to a place where there are thick trees on both sides and it forms a sort of shady canopy, so we named it “Aspen Hall”.  When my boys were just two and four (when we first moved here) we found it to be just the right distance to hike from the house and have a picnic. I then planted daffodils, crocuses and maybe some tulips some seventeen years ago! When I went out the other day I was excited to see shoots coming up! Today there were crocuses ready to open, I can’t wait to see what will be out next time I visit.

Mud Boots and Paint

This picture and those that follow I took with my cell phone! I guess I was glad I had it, sometimes it is great to get some pictures. Had to add this photo! The mud boots or “Wellies” are standard fare around here; if you want dry feet you practically live in your mud boots! I just reached down to use the colors but it wasn’t the most comfortable after awhile for my lower back, even though I was on a low seat.

My Watercolor Paints and Watersoluble Crayons

Here’s a closer look at my watercolors and crayons. I didn’t use the crayons but put them out just in case; they’re new to me so I want to play around with them more while out in the field. I also used just a tiny round watercolor brush with a small container of water I had, not my usual waterbrush.

Ginger's Big Nose

My little companion Ginger, she loves to walk with me and waits patiently (though she whimpers when she wants to keep going) as I stop often to sketch or paint.  She’s getting older now though so it’s probably good for her to stop.

Water Droplets on Seed Heads

On my return to the house I noticed something glimmering like diamonds in a rather dreary landscape; it was water droplets hanging on the seed heads of the plants.

The World Upside Down in a Drop of Water

Did you know that water droplets hanging like this reflect the world upside down? It reminds me of the drawing I did of a crystal ball reflecting the woods around it (Ravensphere), everything is upside down.  I think someone poetic could think of ways to use this imagery of the world being caught like this.  (This picture is a bit dark but it shows the glimmering of the droplets quite well).

Well I hope you enjoyed coming on this walk with me today! There’s always something to discover outside your door and you don’t have to go that far. I hope you will go out today and see and hear what you can!

“Step Outside Your Door Today”

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Spring Fuzzy Buds

Spring Fuzzy Buds on "Long Lane Farm"

Today is the “Equilux”, that is the day of the Equinox, where day is the same length as night. I heard that it’s also “World Storytelling Day“; now this interests me greatly as I love to tell stories and love to hear and read them. I’ll have to look into that further.  For me today was like a story of Spring coming. The sun was out, though the air was still very cold, and the birds are all vying for attention, not from me but they were certainly getting it! I did some sketches and wrote notes and a poem while I was walking so I’ll re-type what I penned on my pages for you to read.  So I tell a story today. (Please click pictures to see enlarged).

"Step Out Your Back Door" notes, poem and Hawthorn needle.

"Step Out Your Back Door" notes, poem and Hawthorn needle.

Journal: “March 20, 2011 Just had to pop outside. It’s sunny but cold; I am wearing a wooly cap + wool fingerless mittens. Though the sun shines + the birds are all singing, it’s COLD! Daffodils by the back door are getting ready for their entrance into Spring.”

Then I walked out into the pasture, totally flooded and squishy; so lucky I wore my ‘barn boots’ or Wellies as they call them in England.  Here’s a little poem I wrote while standing and listening to the birds:


“Step Outside Your Door Today”

“Step outside your door today, walk in your backyard.

Watch the Blackbirds sing and play, smiling is not hard.

The woodpecker laughs from his high perch,

As signs of Spring you do search.

Cardinals red and grasses of brown,

You smell the earth deep beneath the ground.

A stirring of creatures above and below,

Spring’s arrival defeats Winter’s foe!”

Mary McAndrew

Hawthorne needle

Hawthorne needle

Then I walked on and around “Aspen Hall”, a favorite area of my land where the boys and I used to picnic, I found a branch from the Hawthorne tree on the ground. I plucked many of the long sharp spines off it, then poked one through my paper like a needle. This looks really cool if you click the picture to see it enlarged!

As I walked it was so cold I had to keep my hat and scarf on.  When I found a sunny spot in the “Maze”,  it actually felt better to sit down out of the breeze. I was able to pull my wooly hat off and stretch my legs out; I put a plastic kitchen garbage bag on the ground to keep the wet where it belonged! Just make sure you don’t put it on any pokey stubs of things, you’ll get a hole and be surprised later!

Black Crayola Crayon Sketch

Black Crayola Crayon Sketch

Here’s a page in my sketch journal that I worked on, a view of the path I had just walked on.  I started with a little border line around the edges to add a neat design element. Then sketched in black ‘Crayola’ wax crayon that I had sharpened with my knife. Using this crayon was SO MUCH FUN! I can’t wait to try it some more, I loved the feel of the crayon on the slightly rough paper, you could see the texture too. You can press harder for darker lines and very lightly to make it light of course.

Using the flat tipped waterbrush to wet the watercolor crayons

Using the flat tipped waterbrush to wet the watercolor crayons

Then I tested my colors by making a tiny dot at the bottom of the next page and wet it. Make sure you test your colors before you scrawl all over a drawing, watercolor pencils and crayons can surprise you at how different they look wet!  I very lightly, using the side of the point of each crayon, added color to the areas. I saw the bushes and trees in front of me as more of a mass of value with some standing out in the foreground; so I massed it in as brownish reds then added heavier marks for trees and branches.  Experiment with adding lines onto your wet paper, they will be very distinct and bold; this is good for adding branches.

I’m using the flat waterbrush, I really like this brush for studies that need large washed areas and it’s great for making grass marks! PS. yes it was cold still, I did the sketch with the mittens on, the flipped back the finger cover to use my brush!

Sketch in the Maze done with watercolor crayons on black wax crayon

Sketch in the Maze done with watercolor crayons on black wax crayon

Here’s a picture of my crayons, (each is broken in half to make them fit and weigh less in my pack) I have them tucked into an “Altoids” tin with some paper towel. The ones in the lid on the left are what I used for this sketch. Another thing you can see is how in the foreground I used more lines from the crayons going back and forth to add texture. Then the flat waterbrush with tip sort of dry, it spreads apart and makes good grass type marks. Touch it to your crayon tip to get color and brush it on the paper. Click on the finished sketch below.

"Springtime Path in the Maze" watercolor crayon + wax crayon

"Springtime Path in the Maze" watercolor crayon + wax crayon

Here’s the finished sketch done in wax and water soluble crayons. I rather like it! Oh and the three bigger trees on the left are the “Sister Trees”, they are a group of huge trees I’ve painted before.

You may like to read my notes on this page that I wrote as I did the little painting. They are here at full size so you don’t have to click it and I typed out the notes below the picture!

Notes from my walk with colors for sketch at bottom.

Notes from my walk with colors for sketch at bottom.

Journal: “I’ve found a sunny spot to sit in a clearing on one of the paths in the “Maze”, an overgrown field on my property that I cut paths and tracks all around. This is an area I cleared more  into an open, private spot along one path. I put a clean plastic garbage bag upon the ground and that’s where I’m sat; legs stretched out and wooly hat off! Sun warming me nicely now! 🙂 I did the little sketch with Black Crayola crayon and it was wonderful to see the fine texture of the paper under my hand; pressing hard or light to get variety of lines. Then I lightly scumbled over it all with watercolor crayons by Caran d’ Ache. I never used these before as I thought the colors too garish- but if you go light the browns + the golden yellow were great over the black wax crayon! I love how the black crayon just stays. I used the big, flat waterbrush and it blended all nicely, then made perfect marks for texture on the ground in front.

Just sitting here quietly feels wonderful. I hear birds + distant sound of cars. The Chickadees are so curious they keep coming closer and closer. One just looked down on me from a small bush. Something else interesting, I can hear the ground making sound! There is a barely audible sound like “ticking” here and there all about me. I’m sure it’s the sound of air bubbles coming to the surface of this very wet ground…the earth breaths as the ice melts…the peepers awake.

12:10 pm 3/20/2011  Mary McAndrew”

Ginger on Long Lane, listening to the Peepers singing.

Ginger on Long Lane, listening to the Peepers singing.

Now, go get your dog, your children or just yourself, grab that sketchbook and some crayons and get out there!! Good days don’t wait for anyone, go enjoy what’s around you no matter where you live. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been out and noticed signs of Spring, leave me some comments.

I started putting lots of my sketches on “Flickr” if you want to stop by and see them, I may use it as a place to show all my sketch pages? We’ll see. Don’t forget to stop by my ‘SHOP’ to see the new Easter and Spring cards.

“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.



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.

“Fuzzy Buds and Spring Peepers” 3-20-10

Many birds were calling today but it was hard to see much on this cold day; I’m sure if I stopped to dig around in the leaves I would have found more life, but we mostly walked today or ‘slogged’. Read my notes to see what we did, saw and heard while out walking; we of course being me and “Ginger” my Australian Shepherd.  Here’s a picture of her to show you how wet some areas were!

Ginger on the wet lane

Ginger on the wet lane

3-20-10 Notes in My Field Sketchbook

3-20-10 Notes in My Field Sketchbook

I drew this little branch tip in the field while standing and then later colored it, but closed my book a little too soon and it smeared.

Bud of a red branched bush

Bud of a red branched bush

I took a picture of one of the branches to show how beautiful the colors are on it; also to show this unusual bud that each bush had, like a swollen rose hip. I’ll have to look up the native bushes to learn more about what I’m seeing. These bushes had little soft catkins on them also.

Below is a more careful study done the next day of two kinds of branch tips I collected and put into water. I’ll hopefully get time to color them too with my watercolors. Now, as they stand in a glass of water on my kitchen table, they are starting to burst forth into a more greenish fuzzy catkin.

Fuzzy Buds 3-21-10

Fuzzy Buds 3-21-10

Another thing we heard today, everywhere we went, were the Spring Peepers. They called so loudly and as you creep up to where the noise came from, you could be standing almost on top of them and still not see one! Click on this link to see (or hear) a short video clip of the Spring Peepers singing like mad in the watery ditch along “Long Lane”.

Spring Peepers Singing

“A Chair in the Woods” 2-21-10

It was bright and sunny today but winter still hangs on, the snow is over a foot deep and I wish I had my snow-shoes on! The snow is heavy, wet and deep; as I trudge through it I thought of the word ‘slogging’! Under the heavy snow is a deep, wet slaw of melted snow; I’m glad for my rubber boots.

"The Branches Reach Towards the Moon"

"The Branches Reach Towards the Moon"

Ginger prances on ahead of me, begging me to hurry. Finally along the edge of the pasture I paused to catch my breath and attempt to capture a likeness of the moon with the trees reaching up towards it. At the end of this post you’ll see my small sketchbook and watercolors, and how I hold them on a clip board. Almost all my field sketches are done while standing and holding my book.

"The Field in Late February"

"The Field in Late February"

Well as you can read in my honest notes, Ginger surprised me and did something different; I feed her really I do! I guess you can’t stop instinct. I’m happy with how this little watercolor came out, I’m always trying to capture that color of the bushes in winter, they’re gorgeous. I was standing in deep snow and at the same time had to shrug my coat off my shoulders and take my hat off as the sun made me that warm. Maybe spring is coming?

"Paw Prints"

"Paw Prints"

There are so many things to see if you take your time and look around you. The snow was quite hard on top, if you’re a lightweight animal. I noticed little tracks as I walked,  then saw these little prints and had to sketch them. I brought no camera on purpose today, I wanted to really have to describe all I saw with my brush and pen. For tracks you can use your pencil or pen to measure the real size onto your sketchbook. I call this Comparative Measurements and it can be extremely accurate when you practice using it. These tracks were a bit hard to see because they were so shallow and the snow had dusted over them a bit. I drew the tracks at real size and then measured the distance between the sets, finding they were one pen length. This tells me it’s a small animal, at first I thought raccoon but when I looked on my pocket animal tracks guide I think it may be a skunk! Hey hibernation must be over! Look at this link to see a picture of my pocket track guide which, by the way, I don’t carry with me in the field.

"Snow Burrow"

"Snow Burrow"

Then as my eyes followed some more tracks, made by a fox I think, they led me to a small hole dug into the snow. I guessed that a fox, who used his great sense of hearing to listen for small mammals under the snow, had been by and dug down to ‘no surprise’ a burrow or tunnel of a vole. I like to think about the event that may have taken place, probably while the moon was shining on the snow at night. I wonder if he got his dinner?

"Paul's Chair"

"Paul's Chair"

As I said the sun was shining brightly as I returned from my day’s walk, trudging along the deep snowy lane. I looked off the lane into the woods and saw there a black metal folding chair. This chair is not there by mistake, my son Paul placed it there years ago and would disappear at times and he’d go here to sit in the woods. I think everyone should have a chair in the woods somewhere, where we can go escape or think. I felt a bit sad seeing it there by itself, perhaps it’s owner would never sit in it again as he’s off to college now. I just hope (as his mother) that he’ll always “find a chair somewhere” and sit in the woods.

Clip board with closed sketchbook

Clip board with closed sketchbook

Here’s a picture of my clear clipboard with my handmade 4 1/2″ x 5″ sketchbook and watercolor palette attached. This is how it looks when I pull it from my bag, I use the rubber bands to hold the book shut and the palette. The palette is held on with blue ‘sticky tack’ or ‘blue tack’. The sketchbook is clipped on with metal clips with the front cover.

Clip board with open sketchbook

Clip board with open sketchbook

This is how it looks when open, I use the white rubberband  (actually it’s a hairband thing) to hold the piece of paper towel or to help hold the book open, or you can use a metal bankers clip. You can see I’m using my waterbrush today with the watercolors, I find it easier when hiking and especially in cold weather. Though it won’t work when it’s ‘really’ cold, it turns to ice on my paper!

I hope you enjoyed coming on my walk, please leave me a comment! I’ll have classes this summer in England where you can come along and sketch while we explore the gorgeous countryside. Please sign up your email address in the “subscribe to posts” box in the right column.

“Winter Sketches, New Years Eve”

Winter Wasp

I have a few sketches to share that came before New Years Eve day, I’ve been getting behind on my updates here! So just a few sketches, the above one is a wasp that paid a visit to my bathroom windowsill. I wasn’t even sure what it was at first because it was so small. But I’m pretty sure it’s a wasp, I helped him find his way outside! What was really neat is that I held a magnifying glass up to study him, I was able to see so much more!

Thistle and Chickens in Winter

Then just the other day I realized it had been forever since I went outside and did some sketching in my field sketchbook. So, though it was in the Teens I ventured out with small sketchbook and simple ink pens in hand. I also brought my camera and had fun taking black and white photos till my fingers absolutely froze. I drew these sketches wearing big fat mittens, it was really hard!

December 29, 2009 journal

These are notes from the back  of my journal from that day. It’s  a small sketchbook that I made myself and in the back are pages made from cheap computer paper just for note taking freely.

Ink sketches of weeds in the snow

“Dead weeds…seeds awaiting is it really ever dead? Awaiting a warmer time in a warmer clime.”

New Years Eve watercolor sketch

I hope my writing is readable, I wrote it after dropping my sketchbook into the snow and the paper was damp! It really may look simple but looking back at this little sketch reminds me exactly of the day and standing there to paint it.

New Years Eve 2009 journal

Though I’ve scanned my pages above I’ll type them out so you can read them better. This is what I wrote in the back section of my sketchbook where I just write my thoughts.

“December 31, 2009-New Years Eve, I walked across the yard, the ice crunching under my boots, and reaching the side of the yard with bushes, weeds + trees. I stopped as a Mourning dove flew from a distant tree. I stood still and just waited, listened + watched. Then I noticed a group of house sparrows in the treeline, clustered together like a friendly band of cheerful friends. I remained still. Then I saw a sparrow closer this time, oh it’s a Chipping Sparrow! With a red cap! He’s looking for seeds on the weed heads, I remained still. Two Blue Jays silently flew from one tree to the next and then a tiny Chickadee…followed by another…then a woodpecker (Downy) made it’s appearance followed by the whirring sound of doves wings. Overhead now I hear a flock of Canadian Geese, two, three….23! Just standing silent at the yards edge in Winter, so much life if you stop and watch and listen. Now they seem to all have moved on…time for me to move on.”

Looking forward to the New Year!

Mary McAndrew