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"Liam and Quinn" a New Story

As I warned you before, I’m not just working on nature sketches, beautiful landscapes and interesting portraits, but lately have been concentrating on my children’s stories and poems. I’ve been writing them for years but never have settled down to concentrate on illustrating them, until NOW!

I have many, many characters to create that are in my head, but need to come to paper with pen and paint. They’ll get born eventually, I have to start somewhere and it’s with my two newest pals.

I’d like to introduce you to my little friends, Liam and Quinn. They are actual teddy bears that I named after my two newest nephew’s, don’t they have the greatest names? They (the teddy bears!) were made years ago from my own pattern design when we were sewing bears to donate to Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. I say ‘we’ because I had a charity sewing club where high school students earned community credit by sewing the bears (from donated fabrics) and the younger kids would make the felt vests and decorate them with paint and glitter. It was fabulous fun and the kids all learned about creating for other children, just wonderful! Maybe I should write a book about that and put patterns in it? Ok, ok…one thing at a time!

Liam color sketch, three quarter view

This is Liam, the younger of the two bears, his face is shaped a little different and his eyes, nose and mouth are different from his brother.

Liam sketch front view

He is a little smaller than his brother Quinn, but that’s not surprising.

Liam color head study, what a cutie!

Here’s a study of Liam’s friendly face and what cute ears! The most obvious difference is Liam is yellow orange and Quinn is blue.

Quinn sketch front view

This is Quinn! I love drawing him because he’s a bit more rounded, has a bigger nose and big smile! I still need to paint him so you can see his wonderful blue color and purple vest.

Quinn thinking sketch

Here Quinn is thinking about something his little brother said, I really like this pose.

Quinn pointing up sketch

This is from the part of the poem where he points up to the top of the toy pile.

Quinn climbing the toy pile sketch

And here I’m trying to animate my little friend using my imagination to show how it would look if he climbed up the toy pile.

And now I’ll leave you with the first two stanzas as I go to work on painting Quinn and work on my storyboard!

“Liam and Quinn”

This is Liam
and this is Quinn,
and where do you suppose
my story shall begin?

I’ll start at the top
and work my way through
and end at the bottom,
as all stories do.

…to be continued!

“A Winter Birds Nest”

 Today was cold, oh so cold but SUNNY!, and that makes all the difference in the world. It’s been a long while since I’ve sketched in the field (or while walking) since coming home from England.

Pasture Lane in February, all icy and beautiful.

I wore my mud boots or Wellies because I knew it’d be wet. The photo shows the wet lane and as I walked here and all through the field, it was creaking and cracking ice under foot. It was actually fun and reminded me of some movie scenes when you’d hear that familiar creaking of ice, just before the huge crack creased through the ice towards the unfortunate victim! Haha…oh but don’t worry, the water under ‘my’ ice is only a few inches deep! A tip from me, walk near the grasses along the edges of icy lanes, it’s more solid and less water underneath.

Bird's nest found in the field (click to see nice large image)

I spotted this nest so clearly in the bare branches of a bush in the middle of my field. I walked over and found that it was actually above my head, probably around 6′ 6″ or more from the ground. I’m not sure what kind it is, I’ve seen Song Sparrow nests in this field but they were lower. I did a quick drawing while wearing my fingerless gloves, which makes it better but you still get cold! Drawing with a permanent ink pen, I tried to sketch and plan where I needed to ‘not’ draw the branches so I could put the nest in and not have unerasable lines. While I had the real nest in front of me I added the shadows to the branches.

It was when I got home that I started to play around and draw twigs around the page like a frame. I did this as I waited for my water to boil, that nice cup of coffee I’d enjoy soon, to help me thaw. Now that I just studied real branches in the field, it was fresh in my mind and the most important thing is adding the shadows. Just pretend the light is always from the same side (mine was upper right side) and after you draw the branches, add the shadows. Now if I wanted I could add a poem along the right side; below I created a card, in my Zazzle shop, where you can do that!

The birds nest up high in a bush

Here’s a picture of the nest as it looked from back a few steps, up in the bush.

Nest up close.

This shot shows the nest up close, I love having my tiny olympus camera in my bag for this type of shot. On purpose I left my ‘regular’ camera at home, determined to push myself to do a sketch today! Well, darn it, I still like taking pics of the beautiful landscapes, close ups of interesting things and if I do a sketch perhaps the subject I drew. I try to always have my tiny camera in my sketch kit. I thought the nest had spider web helping to hold it together but now I look closer and think it could be downy seeds instead. I love the colors of the woven grasses in the nest, though being that it was so cold outside, I really didn’t want to pull out my watercolors as I stood in front of it drawing.

A view from above by holding the tiny camera up high.

And here’s the last shot, I held the camera up as high as I could and pointed it into the nest. It’s in such good shape after a whole winter, I’m so glad I spotted it and did my sketch today.

I’ve created some note cards using my photos and sketch in my Zazzle shop, please click any below and have a look! (I especially love the last one!)

“Pasture Lane in February” Note Card
Birds Nest in Winter card
“Birds Nest in February” Note Card
Birds Nest in Winter sketch in ink card
“Birds Nest in Winter Sketch” Note Card with changeable color background
Birds Nest in Winter sketch in ink card
“Birds Nest in Winter Sketch”  Note Card with changeable text!
If you have any trouble adding the text you want, please email me and let me help you.
Birds Nest in Winter sketch in ink with poem card
I couldn’t resist, I wrote a poem to go on this card! Please click to see it!

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?!

Large Snail Studies (step by step)

I’ve been studying my snail Cuthbert, and really learning a lot of interesting facts. I know they’re slimy, strange little creatures that eat your garden plants, but they still merit study in my opinion. So I went outside the strange thing was I just walked over to a huge Sycamore tree and felt directed to look right at it’s base in the long grasses, tucked between some big roots. I pulled the grass aside and there, lo and behold two snails! I must have felt the “Snail Vibes” hahah.

big snail photo

big snail photo

One of the snails was this big guy (or girl!) that has now been named “Jabba the Hut”! He’s munching on some sweet corn here. Enjoy the simple stages of painting in watercolor shown below, to give you an idea of how I paint them.

big snail stage 1- ink

big snail stage 1- ink

First I did drawings using light pencil, then go over it my micro permanent pen, keeping it simple and cartoon-like so I could add the detail with watercolor.

big snail stage 2

big snail stage 2

Then I look at the snails to see what pale color I see ‘underneath’ the other darker colors. I make a wash of this color and put it on, and while it’s wet, sometimes I drag a bit more of the wash or color into areas I want darker, with the tip of my brush.

big snail stage 3

big snail stage 3

Here you can see I’m just adding a bit more details and colors, keeping it simple. Look for dark patterns and be careful to leave light or white areas alone.

big snail stage 4

big snail stage 4

Sorry my stages kind of jumped here, I think I got busy and didn’t photograph any more stages! But all I did was kept looking for pattern, colors and shapes, let areas dry before adding new patterns so it doesn’t all blur together. If it does, take your paper towel tip and push it on the area to blot it, rub with brush tip and repeat until you get it lightened. You can add dappley marks with your brush tip for texture.

big snail stage 4 + paint

big snail stage 4 + paint

This is my sketch book along side my pan of watercolors, this is what I used to paint them.

Hope you enjoyed more snail studies!

More Snail Studies, Cuthbert Grows!

Well my snail has been named as I said before, “Cuthbert”, after St. Cuthbert the patron Saint of Northumberland. I did some more studies of him as he’s growing.

Cuthbert close-up, in color

Cuthbert close-up, in color

This is a close up of the watercolor study I did, it’s shown below first as a black and white ink.

Pages 2 + 3 studies in ink

Pages 2 + 3 studies in ink

Click on the images to read my notes. Cuthbert has already grown a few millimeters; the dark part on his shell is new growth.

Page 2 of colored studies

Page 2 of colored studies

Here’s the same studies colored in with watercolor.

Page 3 of colored studies

Page 3 of colored studies

This is the last page of my studies. I added to these pages on different days until I filled the two pages, but most was done in the first sitting.

Well Cuthbert says hello and goodbye, time to go and eat more carrots!  Don’t worry, more snail sketches coming again!  Don’t forget to visit my shop to see glossy note cards and other gifts with my sketches, paintings and photographs on them.

“View of Cheviots and Rothbury” May 9,2010

This evening we went for a drive up towards Beanly Moor which looks over a gorgeous valley with the Cheviot mountains in the background.

Road by Beanly Moor

Road by Beanly Moor

You can park your car on the side of the road here and just walk up to Beanly Moor, a beautiful and wild area filled with heather and bracken with wonderful views.

Shepherd and his dogs

Shepherd and his dogs

I love seeing the shepherds with their dogs, they don’t go on foot or by horseback as they used to, nowadays it’s a quad bike or 4 wheeler as transport across fields and the dog seems to LOVE riding on back!

View from hill by Beanly Moor

View from hill by Beanly Moor

We walked up the hill and watched the sun set here, I just love this view. I dream of having a house in a setting like this, with a view just as peaceful.

Cheviots from Beanly Moor + Rothbury biuldings

Cheviots from Beanly Moor + Rothbury biuldings

I pulled out my watercolors and used my water-brush to do a little sketch. It was a bit hard because though it’s sunny, it was cold!  At the bottom of the page is a pen and ink sketch I did the next day, of buildings in Rothbury, a small town in Northumberland. I was freezing while sketching this, but I liked the windows and stones and though angles are tricky, I like to do them because it’s good practice.

Church in Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Church in Rothbury, Northumberland, England

You can see the day was cloudy and cold, I sat on a bench looking out across the town square. You can see the hills right in the background, I love walking near Rothbury.

Rothbury church

Rothbury church

I hope to get a nicer photo of this church on a sunny day then do a painting.

Click here to view my Landscape Paintings of England in my shop.

Click here to view my Landscape Photos of England in my shop.

“Walk on a Winter Day” 1-21-10

I actually walked pretty far on my land today, I bundled up with lots of layers and told Ginger the magic words, “Go for a WALK?” She can’t contain herself, to the point I get a little annoyed at her insistence at leaving this very moment, regardless of how cold it is and how many layers I believe I need.

"Tree on a Winter Day"

Today I tried to walk without stopping to look at every little thing, just for the start of my walk. I wanted to get some exercise today and do some studies once I get out on the land a bit. When we reached a lane I call “White Tail Trail” I was searching for something interesting. The sky was so blue and clear and when I looked up at this tree, I think an Ash, I liked the branches, shadows and colors. Armed today with my sawed off watercolor pencils and a waterbrush I started the tree, first with a light sketch of the trunk and branches with a light grey watercolor pencil. Now remember I told you I was bundled up? Well imagine freezing cold temperatures a bulky big coat, freezing toes and BIG mittens! haha…it’s always an adventure! I like to wear mittens where the tops flips back and your fingers are then exposed; these are great for quick sketching in winter. I tried to color the drawing with my little pencils and wet them with the waterbrush, but got frustrated when the water froze in a thin layer on the paper. So subsequent color layers became impossible; when I returned home I played around with adding some more color.

1-21-10 "Tree Scars and Bullrushes"

On my way back I stopped to look at the patterns on the trees in Aspen Hall, a favorite area on Long Lane. Where old branches had been but broken off now, there are scars that made interesting marks on the bark.

Here’s the notes I wrote on the page: “Old Branch Scars on an Aspen. Cold today but pretty, Blue skies, snow crunching, Ginger whimpers, we walk on, Chickadee calls, car drones in the distance. I wish I were farther away. We walk on. I pause to study a grapevine tendril- curled still though long dead. And the beauty of the Bull Rushes, the elegant lines…”

1-21-10 "A Bit of Grapevine"

I just love the way grapevine tendrils reach out for anything and  grab on…twirling and twining. With this one I was trying to sketch their forms as they twisted out into the air too, I like the way the sunlight cast a good shadow. My feet and hands were very cold at this point and it was hard to concentrate, holding my sketchbook in front of me as I stood to draw this vine clinging to my fence. But as usual I’m glad I took my sketchbook with me to stop and see things.

“Winter Stroll on Long Lane Farm” 1-17-10

Today I went for a walk with my dog Ginger out through the pasture to the field beyond. As it says in my notes the morning was very cloudy and misty, I think because the temperature has warmed enough that the snow is melting. Click on any picture to see larger.

Page 1-notes from my walk

Believe me it’s still cold! There was ice crunching beneath my boots but it was all water underneath; the ground is absolutely saturated with snow and water. You can see on my first page, I was playing around with the watercolors to capture that beautiful reddish color in the field. It’s actually all the tips of the bushes, together they look like a mass of this color.

Page 2-Watercolor sketch of the field

Here’s a very small sketch I did while standing in the snowy field.

Page 3-Ink sketch on the Lane

Sometimes I like to take a shape and trace it on the page to play around with, sketching inside or outside it. I had already put this square in the sketchbook and found it when I flipped the page, so I decided to do a tiny ink sketch of my view ahead. This is out by Aspen Hall, a special place on my land, all those trees ahead on the left are “Aspen Hall”. When working with permanent ink pen I sketch by making little marks of where I want things placed, you will always see little mismarks on my ink sketches because I believe in being loose and kind of scribbly. It’d be different if this was a planned drawing done while sitting at my drawing table in the studio.

“Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland” 9-13-09

This is a sketch I did back in September but didn’t have time to post it, thought I’d share it now.

Dunstanburgh castle sketch

Dunstanburgh castle sketch

Just thought I’d put this little tiny sketch up. Gary and I ended up here pretty late on a windy cold evening, but I still managed to sketch with my ink pen and wearing fingerless gloves. It was more like a shilhouette at this point, but as I started it I could still see the grass in front of it. It was scribbled pretty fast because I was so cold!

Dunstanburgh Castle at sunset

Dunstanburgh Castle at sunset

Dunstanburgh Castle is on the East coast of Northumberland, just a short walk along the sea from the harbour Town of Crastor. We walked along with the rocky coast to our right, an area I’d love to explore more in the day time. Quite aways from the castle still is a fence with a gate you enter, there was a bench right there we decided to just sit because it had gone dark. That’s where I did my quicky sketch from, yet though it was quick, because I DID take the time to do it, I remember so much more about being there. Sometimes I prefer a scribbly looking sketch to a perfectly neat and tidy one, it can be much more expressive about the day or the feeling.

Town of Craster

Town of Craster

Craster was small and quaint, has a kipper smokehouse, fishermen’s houses and a pub..perhaps a hotel? There is a small bay you can see here (though I know it’s dark!) where the fishing boats come in.

small book-cover sketchbook

small book-cover sketchbook

This is a picture of the special little sketchbook I made up. Once in awhile I throw this in my bag when I want to carry less and know I’ll be somewhere where quick sketches will be done. It’s an old book my kids didn’t want any more so I pulled the pages out to make this. (ouch, I know book lovers!! It was painless believe me) I cut nice watercolor paper the same height as the book and folded it acordian style to go inside, taping both ends onto the cover. I put a big rubber band around it to keep it shut or open to a certain page while drawing.

“Path to the Barn” 1-2-10

Path to the Barn 1-2-10

Path to the Barn 1-2-10

Here’s a very small sketch (4″x5″) that I did outside in the freezing cold. The sun had set and twilight time was coming, when the snowy landscape takes on a bluish cold tone. I tried to use my waterbrush but the water was freezing on the paper too fast and in the bristles! So I used my permanent ink pen and that was scraping the ice off the paper, I had to laugh a bit, I’ve never tried to watercolor when it was this cold. I colored it inside after thawing my fingers out.

Below I included the small page of notes that I wrote about the sketch.

journal notes 1-2-10