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Snowdrops in the Churchyard

It’s been a long time since I used my watercolor pencils, so I thought I’d bring them out with me on this day (in March). The snowdrops were out in a thick blanket at the “St. John the Baptist” churchyard, Edlingham and the view in the distance with “Edlingham Castle”, the Viaduct and “Corby Crags” was great; so I thought I’d try to capture a bit of it.

Beginning sketch I did while sitting on the wall of the churchyard.

Beginning sketch I did while sitting on the wall of the churchyard.

I took this picture with my cell phone as I sat on the cold stone wall of the churchyard, cold enough I was drawing with fingerless mittens on!

This is how far I got working outside.

This is how far I got working outside.

Above shows how far I got working on it outside sitting on the churchwall. I got most of the important things drawn in the right place and color for a lot of it. I was very stiff and cold so had to stop!

This shows a bit more color laid on

This shows a bit more color laid on

This shows a bit more color layers put on, more on the trees and background detailed a bit. You can’t see it but I also put some color on the castle.

Finished! In all it's vividness and rich greens!

Finished! In all it’s vividness and rich greens! That’s Edlingham Castle and the Viaduct in the background.

This little painting really tidied up nicely! The fence ended up being a bit different than I planned but I think it’s ok. I wanted to leave the whites to show the snowdrops; I mostly showed them by using the greens around them. When I was done I used a white gel type pen and touched here and there helped really pull the flowers out more. I’m also experimenting with using Doc Martin’s Bleed Proof White, a non permanent white ink, to add touches of white (tree trunks).

I hope your Spring is shaping up nicely where-ever you may be! Happy Spring!

"There is Dawn" (Sept.19, 2011)

Sketch at dawn in watercolor pencils

Today I stepped outside quite early, before the sun was up in fact. I took my sketch journal, waterbrush, watercolor pencils and ink pen and left the camera behind (but not Ginger of course). I sat on the edge of a very damp and cold picnic table that wobbles from age, and used watercolor pencils to quickly record what I could see.

This was easier than watercolors because I could just sketch across the paper quickly trying to guess at how it’ll look once I wet it. I laid down as much of the color as I could before adding water, once you wet it you can’t just scribble color on. Once it’s wet you can add color in two ways, using the tip of your brush to pick up color from the pencil tip, painting with it like watercolors or you can draw directly on the damp paper but the color will be intense and hard to blend or lift off. This is what I planned on to put the darker trees at the bottom, I wanted some of their branches to stay as drawing and fuzz out around it to look like foliage and mist.

The thing about plein air painting a sunrise is it changes so fast. Try to work as quickly as you can then either don’t look any more or peek for ideas to check colors and see cloud shapes etc. I try to avoid one problem that I run into, that’s adding yellow to the clouds then having blue sky wash over it or mix with it….and as you learned in elementary school…yellow and blue makes green! So…a bit of green tint sometimes appears in my sky! Try to blot up mistakes or intense color right away with paper towel and re-wet and blot as you need to.

I wrote the words before I did the drawing,  just words of what I could hear, not a poem but kind of a way to get into the moment. If you don’t think you can write poetry or something clever, just write what you can hear. In case it’s hard to read, here’s my words on my painting above typed out:

“Sept. 19, 2011 – There is dawn. There are bird songs.

There are cars and trucks from morning traffic.

There are birds.

I look out over the fields, wet with dew.

Feel the cold dampness on my hands + face.

Dawn gets pinker.

The cloak of mist starts to lift off the field.

Blue Jay, Crow, Song Sparrow song.

Robin call + Yellow Throat makes it click call.

My day starts in peace.”

Well my day started in peace and ended with some stress I guess, my laptop died again and this time I think it’s permanent. I’m having burial services soon, in the meantime I got a Netbook…tiny little thing! We’ll see how we do with it. I had to get something portable as I’ll be leaving very soon for ENGLAND!!! YAYYY!! Please tune in to my blog page (you can subscribe to posts in the right column) and see what I find on my adventures. I’ll be studying nature and taking pictures and we’ll see what else. Eventually I’ll be doing some classes and if you want to come to England to do some sketching, I’ll be doing a tour or two this coming summer there. More on that later, if your interested in that idea email me so I get a feel for what people might like.

That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed my post today. I have lots of new caterpillar discoveries to share soon, I just have to organize all the photos I shot to go with the paintings I did.

Visit with a Friend (black and white studies)

Trees at Nancy's - Inktense 'Ink Black' watercolor pencil

(Please click on the pictures to see them clearer, use the back button to return)

I had a chance to visit with my friend Nancy the other day and we sat on her back deck to do some sketching. We had a nice view; just behind her place is a small pond with trees on the other side. I was showing her how to do something simple by just using one watercolor pencil, the Inktense “Ink Black” by Derwent Pencils. I keep one in my kit always because sometimes it’s nice to just do a sketch with a waterbrush using this one pencil. The nice thing is you can go back over your black and white study with color after, the Inktense pencils will not lift off like watercolor can.  It IS a VERY intense pencil, go very lightly at first and see what it does when you wet it. I started with the simple border as kind of a warm up, just draw a line around your page then use your waterbrush to wet it. To get it to look like mine, keep your brush ‘inside’ the line with the tip always touching and rubbing the line, letting the color run into the wetness left behind from the brush.

Sketch your scene lightly, trying to do most of it before you wet it. Once you wet the paper you’ll have a hard time adding more lines because they will be very dark and intense! If you need to just touch your waterbrush to the tip of the pencil to pick up more ink, then use your brush to add it to the sketch. Test how dark it is on a piece of scrap paper before you touch your sketch, this will help you avoid mistakes. I really like the look of this, sort of like an old antique picture.

Sketch of Cullernose Point from the south

Here’s a sketch I did in England last year, along the coast of Northumberland, of Cullernose Point as viewed from the south. I had my sketch journal with me (OF COURSE!!) and because we wanted to keep walking, just sitting a bit and doing a sketch with no color worked well.  I used my waterbrush and especially like how the clouds came out.

Alnmouth, Northumberland -water soluble graphite

Alnmouth, Northumberland -water soluble graphite

Now I thought I’d add this one too just to show how nice it can be to do non color studies. This was done with water soluble graphite, not the colored type, just plain old graphite color! We were at Alnmouth, Northumberland England; a beautiful coastal spot! I did it in my tiny sketch journal which was so much fun to use! It was a wonderful experience to stand on the hill at the coast and capture the scene forever in my memory. Please read my post about it here to see the wonderful photos I took that day! I loved being there and can’t wait to go back for more! I love, love, love England!

I hope you enjoyed my little ‘non color’ sketches, as I said they’re a great way to capture a scene without the worry and time of adding color. And thanks to my friend Nancy for a nice visit! (ps. I photographed lots of dragonflies at her place and two of them were new for me!) I created a really nice print and greeting cards in my shop, see the links below! I love the dark grey background with it.

Make your own card at Zazzle

When you see this print in my shop (below) don’t be scared by the price! It shows you the huggest size but can be ordered as a 16×11 for only $11.20 too!

"April Poem" 4-15-11

April is coming to a close soon, hopefully lets say goodbye to a wet, cold month!

April Poem

The last post I did a drawing on a very cold, damp day then I wrote this word “April” in my sketch journal and later colored it in while watching a movie. I had fun making it 3 dimensional and coloring it. Then two days later I wrote the poem while sitting in “Aspen Hall” while out for a walk on my land. I wrote it in the back of my journal first on lined paper then re-wrote it with watercolor pencil on the page here, and added the swirlies. I took a waterbrush and washed over it all to ‘release’ the color.

Here’s the short, simple poem, one of my un-serious poems!


April is the time of year
When cold winds blow,
And sun does cheer.

Buds are out and grass is greening,
Love sick birdies
All are preening.

Mary McAndrew 4-15-11

Enjoy the following photos from my walk.

Bush Blossoms

These bushes would have been easy to walk right by, their blooms aren’t showy like our garden shrubs. But if you stop to take notice and look a little closer they are really beautiful. Soft and delicate, with yellow tips, and then the sun shone through them they almost glowed like magic.

One of my really old oak trees

I have a line of really old oak trees, my farm is around 200 years old so I figure that’s how old these are. Their girth is such it would take several people to reach around their base. I love hugging this tree!

My seat in Aspen Hall

Just a simple pile of dead branches and small trees I have been adding to during the early spring. Aspen Hall is an area on my land that we used to sit in for picnics (my boys and I) and it’s been neglected over the past years. I’ve been going out to it whenever I go for a walk with Ginger.

Sap like a red jewel in the scar of a tree

I had to look closely at this red jelly like jewel in the tree scar. I took this picture using the closeup setting and making the camera look through my magnifier.

Old farm equipment in the woods

Another interesting find, some really old farm equipment! I think it’s so cool looking how it blends into the forest colors.

Old farm equipment in my woods

One last shot of the farm equipment; anyone know what it might be? It had plow ‘thingys’ on the back.

“The Journals’ Answer”

Today the sun was out so warm and I eventually found myself in the backyard in a lawn chair for the first time this season. I pondered my journal and things going on in my life, then before you know it I was writing a poem. So I’m sharing it with you here, hope you like it. (I also typed it at the end so you can read it minus the typo’s!  😉

“The Journals’ Answer” by Mary McAndrew

My poem "The Journals' Answer" on parchment

As usual I like to share with you a little about how I did something. Below are color swatches to show what color’s I used making this parchment. The top five are water soluble crayons, the bottom one is Derwent’s Inktense black water soluble pencil. I used the top four mostly, and at the end I added some black right next to the edge of the paper. I then added some black water soluble crayon over it just to try it. The paper was Bristol Vellum and it’s great for a journal you’ll paint in but it only handles a so much ‘rubbing’ when you’re blending layers of colors.

Color chart for what I used making the parchment

I jotted the poem on some lined paper I keep at the back of my journal then started to write it ‘neatly’ (hahah) on the journal page. I didn’t realize it was going to grow to be so long so I drew the parchment borders after I got the whole thing written. Oh and as a side note, I didn’t really cry though I felt a frustration with some things on my mind. Writing about crying was like crying for real.


“The Journals’ Answer”

Holding my journal in my hands,
I think of things I don’t understand.
Breezes warm upon my face,
Leave behind  no sign or trace.

Of feelings that welled from inside.
Tracks of wet tears that from my eyes
Ran freely down upon my cheek.
Leaving nothing for me to speak.

Where will this future take me now?
I ask my book, my pages, “how?”
Can they not give me some support?
I listen hard for it’s retort,

Is it my book I hear replying
Or the breeze in yon willow sighing?
My heart tells me what I’m feeling
Write it, draw it, find your healing.

Pages open wide for me
Put to paper what I see.
Draw and write what I hold dear
Focusing on these makes it clear.

Leaving my writing for all to see
Nature drawings now history.
My world is your world, this my gift,
To hope it gives a little lift.

No time for tears or heavy sighs
Lift your spirits to the skies.
Find your path, do what you will
Just remember “don’t sit still”!

Futures come and futures go
This you can be sure to know.
Thank you journal, you showed me how
To stop and see what’s here now.

Now is all that matters much
The rest is all “out of touch”.
Draw it, share it, live it, breath it,
In my journal I will leave it.

(c) Mary McAndrew 2011

I may change the line that reads “Futures come and futures go” to “The future comes then it goes”? Usually when I write a poem I finish it pretty fast, all in one sitting because it just kind of flows out at that time. Sometimes I go back and rearrange a bit.

Well leave me a comment and let me know what you think. Ponderings of a poet-naturalist-artist!

“Windows + Doors of Alnwick”

Alnwick Doors + Windows

Alnwick Doors + Windows

Some more sketches of architectural elements from about Alnwick (pronounced Annick). The page above is my entire sketchbook page, I drew the boarded window, then much later added the doorway. I kept the page just for windows and doors or things like that. Then even later than that I played around with decorating the page with scrolly bits and made up lettering for the word “Alnwick”

Window in Alnwick

Window in Alnwick

I did this sketch using an inktense watercolor pencil and my waterbrush while standing looking over a stone wall into an abandoned yard.

"Number 8"

"Number 8"

This “Number 8” was done with a permanent ink pen when I was sitting in the car waiting. People might think that I’m secret police studying their houses! I drew some of the leaves at top (vines) and bottom in the hedge then left it to finish later by repeating mostly. This was a little cottage with a white door, dark stone walls and pink roses and greenery all around, very sweet!



Playing around with the name “Alnwick” using my watercolor pencils.  I like to make up my own lettering, it’s fun to do this on your pages. Check out some note cards and prints I made using my photos and drawings of architectural elements here.

Watercolor Pencil Lesson - Color Practice

I go through phases with what materials I use when I go out sketching and my love of watercolors sometimes gets pushed aside for watercolor pencils. It normally doesn’t last too long and I’m reaching for my familiar pan of watercolor paints, but for now I am in a watercolor pencil mood. So I thought I’d share with you a good lesson for people starting out with watercolor pencils or those wanting to practice.

Set up for watercolor pencil color play

Set up for watercolor pencil color play

I have quite a few colors but when I go into the field I try to carry as little as possible to keep the weight down. Above you can see many pencils and containers with lots of color charts, my sketchbook, waterbrush, bit of paper towel and of course the cup of coffee!  You may notice my pencils are short, I cut them in half so I have less weight and bulk in the field, keeping the other set at home or in other field kits.

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 1

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 1

I was specifically trying to pick out colors I could use for landscapes while in England, so you’ll notice I made little ‘mountains’ with the colors to test the mixing when overlapped.  To do a color ‘spot’ with medium pressure just scribble a small area and label it with initials of the color.  Take your wet brush or waterbrush and rub into the color then keep rubbing lightly as you move the brush away; it will get lighter and you’ll create a nice color swatch. I group mine together, blues, yellows, greens etc. Between colors, either rinse your brush then wipe on paper towel, or if you’re using a waterbrush, just stroke it on the paper towel until it appears clean.

From the blue swatches at the top left, I then selected a few and lightly colored them next to it and then wet it to see if it’d look good as ‘sky’ colors. Then at the bottom right I was pleased with the test of mixing basic blues with my yellows to make various greens. If I like I could leave the green pencils behind but it does mean more layering and mixing and while in the field I try to make it so I can sketch fast.

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 2

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 2

This picture looks paler than I’d like, I don’t have use of a scanner here so these are photographed with my camera! But anyways, at the top I was experimenting with first laying down a light blue wash then putting the green mountains on top. Then I tried purpley colors because distant mountains sometimes have that hue. Then I made up some fields and tried layers of various yellows, blues and greens. At the bottom I experimented with toning down the vibrant colors by adding charcoal grey and various reddish colors (red is opposite of green so it can tone it down)

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 3

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 3

This page is also a bit light but you can see my colors still. I was determined to eliminate any excess green pencils if I could, so I tested them next to each other. At the top you can see I tested some browns, overlapping them in a square pattern. At the bottom is a quicky sketch in ink done at the beach, later I played with the colors to test them on it.

Well I know it’s not a thrilling post but it shows you how to get familiar with your watercolor pencils if your a beginner or very experienced and just needing to pick out some colors. Once you pick the colors you’ll use in your ‘kit’, make a small color chart of them, labeled so you can refer to it quickly until the pencil choices come easily.

A note about one of the reasons I like watercolor pencils; if you lay more than one color down dry, then wet it to blend and bring out the vibrant color, I like the grainy textures left and how you can see bits of both colors (depending on how much you rub it to blend). You can draw lines and leave them somewhat or you can shade lightly for more of a watercolor look.

So, grab your watercolor pencils and have some fun playing!

Walk to the Roman Fort (June 21, 2010)

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

Edlingham church and castle quick sketch

Edlingham church and castle quick sketch

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

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

Edlingham Church and Castle

Edlingham Church and Castle

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



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

Dog Rose + Lapwing

Dog Rose + Lapwing

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

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

On the way to the top

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

Yup, that's me!

Yup, that's me!

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

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

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

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

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

At the Roman Fort site, wow, buttercups!

At the Roman Fort site, wow, buttercups!

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

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

Small watercolor view from top of Edlingham

Small watercolor view from top of Edlingham

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

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

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

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

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

“Snowy Egret” 1-17-09

This is a miniature painting of a Snowy Egret done in Inktense Watersoluble Ink Pencil, black. It’s very small, 2.25″ x 3.25″ and I used just water and a small brush to wet the pencil as I worked. I wanted to keep it fresh looking with pencil scribbles showing and blotches of ink. I like the dynamics of that, reminds me more of nature sometimes rather than a perfectly and meticulously painted peice.

When you work with inktense pencils you can either rub at the lines with a wet brush to eliminate the pencil marks or brush lighter to leave them there. Also if you draw on wet paper be forwarned it will draw very dark and quite permanent! The properties of these pencils are such that if you let the worked area dry it will be more permanent than watercolor pencils or watercolor. You can work over it without lifting the colors. I enjoy their boldness and the mixture of water media and dry media.

“Sunrise Studies” 12-3-08

The sunrise was just too beautiful to ignore. While I was making my morning coffee, I kept looking out the studio window at it. Knowing how fast a sunrise will change, I ran and grabbed my camera (literally!) to catch some photos. All the fantastic colors can bloom to unbelievable brilliance, then it can fade as the sun comes out so bright you can’t look, or it will slip behind clouds.

After taking some photos, I then grabbed my watercolor pencils and worked very quickly to sketch out some colors. I used watercolor pencils, watersoluble graphite and inktense watersoluble ink pencils with my waterbrush to blend and wet them. These are all Derwent brand pencils I used. I played around with drawing on the paper wet and dry when I did the trees. At first I drew them on dry…then ran the brush over bringing out the darkness of the color, but it also washes it out or softens it. Then I tried drawing the trees on wet paper and they were dark and intense from the start. This is good for trees in the forground. You can use both methods to your liking.
(Below) I liked this one better, though it’s more simple, the colors are so pleasant. When I do a sunrise sketch, the colors shift very fast so I work on the large color impressions and cloud patterns, then try to work from memory. This leads to a lively painting but don’t be surprised if you look at the photos you took at the time and they look very different!