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"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!

Watercolor Lesson - Color Practice

Sometimes when you don’t feel like painting or don’t have the time to work on a painting, it can be helpful to just play with color mixing; this is also great for a beginner in watercolor (or any medium!) or if you haven’t touched them in awhile and feel rusty.

Watercolor practice mixing - pages 1+2 of sketchbook

Watercolor practice mixing - pages 1+2 of sketchbook

Here is my small field sketchbook opened up to show you my color studies. I wanted to experiment with greens and then various blues for landscape painting. It can be great fun to do this, it’s relaxing and loosens you up with the paints. I find it good practice to try to copy from life, that is the landscape right in front of you, but also from pictures of paintings you like in books.

Watercolor - practice mixing - pg 1

Watercolor - practice mixing - pg 1

I made this nice and big so you could read my notes, I abbreviate the names of my colors and put (+) plus signs where I mixed a new color in.

Watercolor practice mixing - pg 2

Watercolor practice mixing - pg 2

The blues at the bottom of this page are from looking at watercolor paintings and trying to copy the color and study how the artist (A. Heaton Cooper) made it look like water.

Having these pages in my field sketchbook is great reference when I’m in the field painting or at home in the studio, you can refer to your color notes when searching for the right color. This was a great exercise and glad to share it with you, give it a try no matter what your level of experience, remember even virtuoso violinists warm up and practice their scales everyday!

“Swallow Hollow” Iroqouis Wildlife Refuge 8-12-08

What a day I had at the Swallow Hollow nature trail, part of the Iroqouis Wildlife Preserve. The above photo was just one of the many beautiful scenes I saw that day; the trail follows the water in a nice loop, sometimes going through woods, mostly near the marsh or some natural looking water canals. Much of the trail is a boardwalk to keep you up from the very wet ground, especially after such a rainy summer!

This is a picture of my new sketchbook cover, it’s a sketchbook that I designed and made myself with a long format. I thought it’d be fun to put some pictures of my paintings on the cover, to show people I meet some of my work. I can add or take pages from the sketchbook as I want to.

This is the first page of my sketchbook from my day out. I stopped at a nice area in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area, Elizabeth Hilldurger Estate project. I was so happy to see two Great Egrets (or in my old Peterson guide American Egret) flying around. The one roosted in a tree far away, I tried to do some little sketches by looking through my binoculars.
The watercolor of the water scene I did using my little watercolor ‘altoids’ field kit and just a water-brush. It’s pretty simple looking but I did it quickly while standing up.

This is me pausing to sketch along the boardwalk. You can see I have my art kit bag on my waist and a backpack with other supplies on my back. Almost all of what I draw, I draw while I’m standing and looking at things.
Along the way on my walks I usually meet some nice people who are curious about what I’m doing. I met a couple walking their dogs, Papillions…Pudgie is the puppy furiously digging the hole in the back…Max is the one gazing up at his owner. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get to keep me company in the house? I’ve seen them before and thought about it. Their owner told me Papillion means butterfly in french….well at least it’s their names meaning, I guess because of how they look with their ears perked.

Next is another page from my sketchbook, click it to see it closer. I met a little Leopard frog along the way and did quick little sketches of him, then painted it at home using metallic watercolor paints. He really had a metallic look to his skin, so beautiful! At the end of this post you’ll see a little video clip of him!

I saw many Harvestman spiders in the woods and did a sketch of one on a dying milkweed leaf. I also took photos so when I got home I was able to paint it with watercolors. I took step by step photos of the painting, perhaps I’ll get to post it separately later.
I did some reading about Harvestmen Spiders, which are only distantly related to spiders, they are not venomous, lack fangs and do not bite. They use their legs to walk, breath, smell and capture prey! There are 5,000 species, about 235 known in North America, most are drab brown or grey, but a few are rusty red, mottled spots or have a stripe down their back. Now that I know that, I know I was lucky to see a rusty red one, and the one I painted had a mottled kind of dark stripe on it. One more interesting detail to keep my eyes open for while hiking! I hope you take a closer look next time you meet one.


This next page shows a light pencil sketch I did of the path, I also took some photos so later I could color it in. I haven’t gotten that far yet! The mushrooms at the bottom of the page I went specifically to Swallow Hollow to try to find again and paint, I saw them there just a week before. I could use some help indentifying them if anyone has expertise in this area?? I have become fascinated with mushrooms and fungi…when you walk in the woods, just take a close look at the ground or on trees or dead logs, you’ll be surprised at what you might discover! I’ve seen gorgeous yellow or orange mushrooms that I didn’t expect. The picture of the orange mushroom I could use help identifying too.

I set up my stool in the woods and I painted this study from life. It was difficult because the lighting kept changing, first direct, raking light, then very dark shadows. As I painted a Harvestmen Spider crawled across my sketchbook, pausing over my painting to ‘taste’ the wet paint! Before I could get my camera, he crawled off down my leg….he being a spider that he was I helped him hurry off me! I don’t mind them too much, but don’t want them lingering. At least I can say, knowing they are harmless helps me not to react like Little Miss Muffet! Remember her story?

This is the last page from my outing…while I was in the field I sketched the tiny mushrooms in pencil…kneeling in the pine needles to gain a closer look. They’re done at life size. Then while walking later I went over the lines with a sepia colored Micron Permanent ink pen. Later at home I printed out the photos I took of them and added the watercolor. I have found that when I do something in graphite pencil in the field, I get disappointed at how it will smear or fade with all the use the sketchbook gets, so I like to use my micron pens a lot to draw.

The while fungus is fascinating…they are hard to notice…you might just step right past them, but you have to be aware of everything and look everywhere when you walk. These are also drawn at life size, aproximately 2″ tall and coming up like delicate white filaments from the forest floor. A mystery to me, if anyone can tell us please do.

The butterfly was a type I saw all day, following me it seemed, to see what I was doing in their woods? I sketched it in the field on a leaf, but later painted it from a photo. Can anyone help me with identifying it?

I added a short video clip of my meeting with the Leopard Frog along a sunny path, check it out!