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Time for Mushrooms!

(This post was written on November 19th, 2016, but I never got to post it. Since we’re at that time of year again I guess it’s ok to share it now, better late than never!)

It’s the time of year for mushrooms! Whether you like to forage to eat (not me) or just admire (me), they are popping up everywhere. Now that we’ve had some rains and the ground is getting cold and soggy…I’m seeing them so much more.

Huge old Sycamore (Maple) I admire.

Huge old Sycamore (Maple) I admire.

At the top of the lane I like to walk up most days, there’s an especially old huge Sycamore tree I admire. At it’s base are what I think are three different kinds of mushrooms. I tried to go up to draw them the other day but got side tracked with the Brown Trout painting adventure. So this time I went right to them and found a good seat on one of the huge roots.

Drawing with mittens on!

Drawing with mittens on!

It was really cold just sitting there so I had to do the entire drawing wearing my mittens! I think I did pretty well with that in mind. Also to save time I did not do a pencil sketch first but drew directly with the permanent ink pen. That went ok too!

Look at all these lovely mushrooms!

Look at all these lovely mushrooms!

I love this new (to me) type of mushroom, I like imagining how the top split apart as it grew and expanded, kind of like how the continents split apart a long time ago! Each crispy looking brown shell part tops a bit of the mushroom flesh, making a great three dimensional subject to study.

Side view of one mushroom.

Side view of one mushroom.

Above shows the side view of one mushroom, you can really see the texture on it’s cap and see it’s ring around the stem like a little collar!

Below you can see how I progressed along, feet getting colder all the time.

My drawing is getting there, just one more mushroom!

My drawing is getting there, just one more mushroom!

I was definitely feeling the cold chill by now, but I really wanted to add one more mushroom behind these.

Mushrooms, brown permanent ink

Mushrooms, brown permanent ink

This is how far I got in the field, I got that last mushroom in! Now when I have time, I’ll add some more details of leaves and grasses…digging into the dark areas a bit. Then I’d really like to add the reddish brown color of the mushrooms using watercolor. We’ll see if I get that far.

Beautiful, I'm guessing at "Shaggy pholiota?

Beautiful, I’m guessing at “Shaggy pholiota?

Above is a picture of another mushroom cluster growing under that tree, I’m guessing it’s “Shaggy pholiota” (totally guessing from my small field guide!). It was so wonderful looking in it’s neat little cluster that dispite being very chilled to the bone, I decided to do a quick pencil sketch.

Very quick pencil sketch of mushrooms.

Very quick pencil sketch of mushrooms.

This also was done wearing mittens, it was really hard to do like that and to be very cold at the same time! But maybe I can find time to do up a little watercolor study with it? I loved the texture of these mushrooms, shaggy on top and stem.

Here you can see them growing in the root area.

Here you can see them growing in the root area.

Here’s a picture of the cluster growing in the root area, and I believe those on the root below it are more mature individuals.

A bright "Yellow Brain Fungus"

A bright “Yellow Brain Fungus”, (Tremella mesenterica)

This Yellow Brain Fungus I found growing on a stick broken off of the tree. The branch was heavily damp and covered with lichens and dead leaves. When I turned the stick to look at all it’s sides, the fungus flopped about a bit; it was so cool! I laid it back down on the ground, hoping to observe it each time I come back.

Do you see any mushrooms growing where you live? Post me a comment about them and where you are located, you don’t have to know what kind they are, I usually don’t know them either!

 

Small Flowers + Plants In My Yard

Hello there! Yes I know it’s now October November, but I’m super busy getting ready for my big move to England so I haven’t had much time for posting! During the summer I did get my sketchbook out and go adventuring into my wild fields but most of what I observed just so happened to be right in my backyard. I have a really big yard and lots of wild stuff just dying to burst through the fence all around! I love it!

(Please click on pictures to view larger)

The back fence barely holds back all the wild plants and flowers in the field!

The back fence barely holds back all the wild plants and flowers in the field!

I took a break and sat in a lawn chair on a very nice day to do this little watercolor sketch. It’s only a couple inches in diameter but I got to play a bit with the watercolors and that was so relaxing.

A collection of wild plants and flowers.

A collection of wild plants and flowers.

I like studying the little plants and flowers that grow in my grass, above is an old sketch I did when I started to notice them.

I’ve been noticing this tiny purple wild flowering plant (below) for years, but just realized that there are two plants! So now I need help identifying them.

This plant grows very short when in the mowed lawn and still flowers!

This plant grows very short when in the mowed lawn and still flowers!

Bees just love these tiny flowers.

Bees just love these tiny flowers.

Look how beautiful these little clusters are!

Look how beautiful these little clusters are!

The three photos above are all the same kind of plant. Notice the leaves are oval/lance shaped and smooth margins? Also the flowers always grow from one spiked cluster at the top of the plant. What gets confusing is where the plant is found in my trimmed lawn, sometimes the spike is cut off and looks very different when flowering.  Each individual bloom is really quite beautiful (if you get down on your hands and knees and take a ‘mouse eye view’!)

Below are photos of the second purple wildflower.

Study of purple wildflower #2 I did years ago.

Study of purple wildflower #2 I did years ago.

I ‘think’ this might be called “Gill Over the Ground”?? I did this study years ago. I love how the tiny leaves look like round geranium leaves and have wavy margins. When the new leaves are forming they make the nicest little clusters that are really fun to draw! I really need to do more studies of this one.

Here's a photo of the same plant.

Here’s a photo of the same plant.

This photo doesn’t show many flowers, but they grow more than this example. Their flowers can grow from sections along the stem and not so much from a spike like the other flowers.

A beautiful Hawkmoth hovers over the flowers as it feeds.

A beautiful Hawkmoth hovers over the flowers as it feeds.

I know it’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a Hawkmoth hovering over the tiny flowers! Below I cropped the photo so you could see it better.

A fascinating Hawkmoth, can you see it's clear wings?

A fascinating Hawkmoth, can you see it’s clear wings?

See how important all these little flowers are in your grass?

For tiny flowers you get tiny butterflies and bugs.

With tiny flowers you get tiny butterflies and bugs.

Above is a photo of that same plant in my grass…and what is that tiny little blue flutter I saw?

A gorgeous Spring Azure Butterfly!

A gorgeous Spring Azure Butterfly!

Yes, for tiny flowers you have tiny butterflies, tiny bugs and bees. This butterfly was a dainty flitting little thing, until I identified it I was calling it a “Fairy Blue Butterfly”! I kind of like my name better! So it looks pale blue now, but when it opens it’s wings (extremely hard to catch a photo) it’s very blue. So when it flies you see the white and blue of under and upper wings combine to make a light blue! Just like one of those flat paper toys you spin on a string and it makes a new picture or color.

An old style illustration using the wild plants in my yard.

An old style illustration using the wild plants in my yard.

Above is a study I did in my field sketchbook years ago using the tiny plants in my yard. I really like it and will do more studies like this in the future! Do you see the little purple wildflower #2 in this?

A watercolor study of Knapweed (as far as I can tell).

A watercolor study of Knapweed (as far as I can tell).

I ventured out on my land here at Long Lane Farm, towards the end of summer. Out in what we call “The Maze” there’s this beautiful wildflower growing; I think it’s Knapweed. I tried very hard to find photos like it online and since all my wildflower books are packed away I didn’t really figure it out definitively.

This is another study of Knapweed, done in bright sunlight.

This is another study of Knapweed, done in bright sunlight.

Yes, this is the same type of plant, just different lighting when I painted it. I worked in full sunlight and tried to paint the colors I saw. I tried to take more note of the leaves so someday I can get help with identifying it. Though I love it I have a feeling it might be one of those dreaded invasive weeds?

Skipper butterfly on sweet white clover.

Skipper butterfly on sweet white clover.

Above is white clover with a Skipper butterfly on it. All summer I enjoyed the multitude of clovers and Moneywort growing in my grass…weed killer?? God help us, NEVER! I have all kinds of beautiful tiny plants and flowers in my lawn…their leaves are green, they add to the ‘greeness’ of my lawn and also beautiful tiny flowers.

White clover blooming in the warm grass of summer.

White clover blooming in the warm grass of summer.

And when that clover is blooming I’ve never smelled anything sweeter! You just have to stop and breath in, and realize that subtle sweet smell is the clover talking to you. It’s saying, “Don’t spray me with weed killer!” Seriously though, when I look across the yard and it’s blooming, it’s so beautiful, especially with the sunny yellow Dandelions.

Tiny study of Dandelions in the grass.

Tiny study of Dandelions in the grass.

Below you see the Skipper on a bending Dandelion head, can you remember the smell of that pretty little flower? And how soft it is when it tickles your nose?

A tiny Skipper butterfly on a soft dandelion head.

A tiny Skipper butterfly on a soft dandelion head.

A small study I did years ago of Moneywort, not in bloom.

A small study I did years ago of Moneywort, not in bloom.

The Moneywort loves it here because it’s damp and when that blooms it’s stems are absolutely covered with bright yellow flowers. It actually gives the grass a yellow hue when you look at it with a ‘painters eye’. I remember when I did this study all the plants were under freezing cold spring melt-water.

White Asters grow in profusion around my fences.

White Asters grow in profusion around my fences.

The bees are allover, gathering nectar from the wild flowers and pollinating to their hearts content…do bees have hearts? I’m sure they do! Above is a study I quite like of White Asters. They grow in tiny but profuse branched clusters that form little bushes of white dainty flowers. As the flower grows ‘old’ the center turns from a bright yellow to a dark orange-ish to red-ish looking color. I really love these little dainties and even wrote a story about one little aster, someday to share.

Tiny mushrooms growing in the grass. Watercolor + ink.

Tiny mushrooms growing in the grass. Watercolor + ink.

One of my favorite things is to discover little mushroom clusters in the grass. I’m terrible at identifying mushrooms and someday I think I’ll concentrate on learning a bit more, but for now I’m content to just sketch and be inspired.  When I see mushrooms in the grass and get right down at eye level (or mouse level as I call it!) I think about how they look like little houses for wee folk or critters.

Studies of tiny mushrooms

Studies of tiny mushrooms

So we’ll end it here, Fall is almost over now and there are NO flowers in my yard! I have collected lots of photos to use for reference when I do my illustrations in the future. Oh that reminds me! I have one more picture that you’ve seen before but would be fitting here.

Mouse family in the Leaves

“Mouse Family in the Leaves”

It’s great to use the real plants I see in my own backyard when I do my illustrations. I hope to show you more in the future!

Do you have tiny wildflowers growing in your grass? I love reading comments, please add yours below!

Mouse Family Watercolor is Finished!

(click for larger clearer view)

Mouse family in the Leaves

Mouse Family in the Leaves

Happy to say I’ve finally finished it! My little mouse family playing in the leaves, the mother being surprised by a spider (she doesn’t much like spiders!) I’m happy with how the colors came out and really enjoyed painting these fall leaves. If you saw my past post showing the beginning stage of this painting, I mentioned I might darken the leaf in her hand (paw!) and I did. I added some glazes of Alizarin Crimson and some other colors, for a purpley cast. You can also notice I made the spider more defined and added more reds to the right leaf. Have a look at the other post to compare the differences. What do you think of the purpley color instead of the brown? (it blended in with the mice too much I thought.)

As usual I’ve created some really nice things in my shop using this illustration, it makes a lovely card for any occasion, I’ve already ordered a few for myself! Click the picture links below to have a look! Please leave me comments or questions below, I love getting them.

Glossy Note Cards (customizable)
Glossy “Happy Birthday” Cards (change text if you want) picture inside too!
Glossy Note Card- Close Up of Baby Mouse
Glossy Stickers (I LOVE the stickers, they’re shiny and colorful) You can add text on it if you want.
Prints in many sizes!
Ok…off to work on “Liam and Quinn” and some more mice!!

Adding Color to the Mouse Family and Other Studies

I thought I’d show you the progress on my illustration of the ‘mouse family’ and some other little studies.

(click on them for larger view)

Work in progress, adding watercolor to the ink drawing.

It looks so different than it did as just a pen and ink drawing! They are starting to come to life more with the added color and fur. I’ve been so busy with other things that this illustration is going slowly. What I did here I did in one evening while watching a movie, if I could just sit down one more time it’ll be finished. So she says!

I’ve run out of opportunities to paint from ‘real’ colored leaves as they’ve all gone to the dark side in my yard, they’re all brown and blackish. But I did take lots of reference photos and that will serve me well as usual. I have a decision to make about the leaf in the mommy’s hand, it blends in with her and the baby maybe a little too much? I may add a purpley maroon, something with alizarin crimson? I’ll be adding just a touch more color to the leaves but I don’t want them to overwhelm the mice either. I do like the touch of blue in the background, it helps to show the mushroom better.

Before I forget I’ll show you a little study I did after Beatrix Potter’s mushrooms.

Watercolor study after Beatrix Potter

It’s from a painting with more mushrooms but this little one and the grasses were all I needed to study the colors she used. This was great for me to do before diving into the color of my painting, especially because I wasn’t working outside from real life. I just love and adore her paintings!

A small watercolor study of Moneywort done in springtime.

This is a small study I did in the spring of Moneywort. It likes to grow in wet areas so my land is filled with the stuff! Wonderful in late spring as it covers itself with little yellow flowers; my ditches along the lane seem to be filled with gold! I don’t know if the name refers to the yellow flowers (like gold) or the round leaves looking like coins? I found out something interesting, it’s a native to Europe and was introduced to America for use as ground cover and as an indoor hanging plant. Ha! I never would have thought to use it inside!  Well anyways, I remember sitting in a lawn chair on a cold spring day, in a flooded area of my yard when I did this.  I watched the little Nursery Web Spiders scampering over the water and over the plants. How great it is to study from life! That’s why I love Nature Sketching so much.

Study of a small wildflower (weed) that grows in my grass.

And this is another favorite ‘weed’ I like that grows around anything not moving! haha…It seems to grow at the edge of everything but I don’t mind, it has tiny pretty flowers and neat rounded leaves that remind me of a tiny geranium. I haven’t yet looked it up, guess I should. Oh by the way, the bees love it! Don’t go killing everything that grows in your grass, as long as it’s green it looks fine! Look closer at some of those weeds, they can be pretty and the bees need them.

I just thought I’d show these because I feel it’s important to always study from real life. Even if it’s a tiny study done quickly, it will help you to look closer at what’s really there, and you will remember it. Especially when it comes to color, the photos you take will not be as accurate as what your eye sees at the time, in that lighting.

Well I hope you enjoyed seeing my progress and other studies. I’ve been playing around with adding some new colors to my watercolor field palette, so we’ll see how that goes. Leave me comments if you like, I always love hearing what you think!

Click the picture above to see another cute mouse painting I did! If you hover over it (in my shop) you can see an enlarged image.  Go to this link to see some other new children’s  illustrations in my shop!

Mouse Family in Ink

Though I’m working on illustrating a story with Teddy Bears at the moment, I just can’t leave behind my love of nature. I haven’t had much time for my usual nature studies but what I have been doing is testing out different papers to use for illustration. Arches, Fabriano, Canson…cold press, hot press, dual sided even!, they are all getting tried. I was surprised to find the ones I thought I’d love I hated and the cold press was feeling pretty nice. Cold press paper is rougher and can show nice textures when working with watercolors, but not as nice if you’re doing fine detail.

"The Mouse Family" in Windsor Newton Nut Brown Ink on Arches 140lb watercolor cold press paper.

(please click the pictures to see larger)

So I combined my experimenting with papers with wanting to draw some mice, my subject in many, many little children’s poems I’ve written. I want to keep a realism but cross the line into children’s illustration…make them a bit cute and giving them humanesque qualities.

Just showing the start of my drawing; I did it without a pencil sketch first!

I started by drawing freehand in permanent ink (no pencil sketch) this mouse on Arches 140 lb cold press paper. I used Windsor Newton Nut Brown, a really nice brown ink. (Forgive the yellow picture quality, I snapped this with my camera at night-time so I could record the stages of drawing.)

Windsor Newton Nut Brown Pernanent Ink

Then I went outside and grabbed up a bunch of leaves to add around it, and drew some of them.

my pile of leaves I first brought in to sketch from

What started all this was a cute sketch in ink of the mouse (mother) but she had to have some leaves to be tucked into. I brought in a good variety from the yard, they looked more colorful than this in the beginning. They all curled and dried but that’s ok, I like keeping some dried leaves around in a small box, for sketching.

Here it is on the easel, you can see my dip nib pen and brown ink there.

This is my set up, a small table easel that has a little drawer you can slide out. I like to put my watercolors there and anything else I might be using to draw. You can see my bottle of ink and my small ‘dip nib pen’ laying there. I have my paper on a piece of plexiglas. This is great to use when you are tracing a sketch onto ‘good’ paper, just go over your sketch with dark ink, put good paper on top, stick a lamp behind and sketch lightly with pencil. I didn’t do that with this drawing, as I said, I just started in and the drawing grew.

Here’s a picture of my “dip nib pen”.

Small "dip nib pen" with a little study after Beatrix Potter's Dormouse in the background.

You can see my two favorite pens here, when I want to use loose dip ink that is. I just love the detail I can get with this little nib! There’s something nice about using loose ink. I decided I liked when it ran out of ink regularly, it gave me a pause to check my drawing and think before making marks!

Just a little more drawn in...

As I drew the mouse I started to think maybe it could become a story, so I felt I needed to leave the area in front of it open to possibilities. *Very important when working with permanent ink to take your time and plan a bit!

A little close up of the mother mouse and baby.

I was going to put a grasshopper in because they are everywhere in the grass right now, but I decided on a baby mouse. At this point I started sketching with pencil…the rest of the leaves, mushrooms and babies, because now it had become an actual illustration to NOT mess up! haha. You can see I changed the mouses face, added an open mouth, eyes a bit bigger with lashes, just a touch! I’m looking for my ‘mousy style’.

And a close up of the other little baby mouse!

And you know with mice…where there’s one there’s many!…so I added this baby on the right. It’s good for the composition because it leads your eye around the page. Keep this in mind too when arranging your leaves, all the curves, waves and curls can really be exciting to draw and look at as they lead your eye around the composition.

Below are a few photos of what inspired me to keep adding to my drawing.

baby nursery web spider

I’m fascinated by the Nursery Web Spiders in my yard. In spring I see them living half under water and half above, then all summer they have their webs in the tall grasses on the lanes. Now as I walk through my yard in fall I see tiny baby spiders darting across the leaves everywhere!  I couldn’t wait to sneak them into an illustration!

I liked the twist of this leaf so I used it in my drawing

Well these leaves aren’t colorful but I love the curve of the big one, and the other small one fit in nice. You can see them on the right side of my drawing. I used this photo on my computer screen when I drew these leaves.

dead fall leaves in the grass

This is another one I added on the right side by the baby mouse. I tried not to go too heavy adding the shadows, since the leaves were all photographed at different angles in the sun. I also looked at this on my tiny computer screen while drawing, late into the night!

little golden mushrooms in the grass

One day when I was walking through the yard I spotted an area of mushrooms, each were about 2″ across at least. They blended in so well I almost didn’t notice them at first, but looking for “things in the grass” for my drawing they were a nice find. It wasn’t until the next day I went out to photograph them and they were all gone! I searched and searched and finally started noticing these tiny mushrooms around under blades of grass. NO, my lawn is NOT neatly mowed, I’m lucky when my son comes and gives it a cut, so I get all kinds of things growing and hiding in the long grass!

more tiny little golden mushrooms

I love looking at mushrooms, though I admit I don’t know too many species names. If anyone can tell me what these are I’d be grateful (Western NY-wet area)

This is the small Ink Cap mushroom I used after the first one disappeared

This one was the best find! It’s a Shaggy Ink Cap mushroom and I’ve never seen one here before, I’ve only ever seen them when I was in Ireland and England. One day I spotted a big one growing in the yard, I wasn’t able to get out to photograph it until the next day. To my great disappointment it had all but disappeared! I never saw one ‘roll up’ as fast as that! For those who have never seen this, the mushroom will start to roll up from the bottom, disappearing until just the top is left, surrounded by a black inky goo. It’s really quiet interesting and yuchy at the same time!

But lucky me, walking my laps around the yard the next day I spotted this small one growing not far from the other spot. So I grabbed my camera right away and got some good shots. I couldn’t wait to use it in my drawing and already knew it would be perfect as a backdrop.

"The Mouse Family" Ink on Arches watercolor paper.

So there you have it, all the parts together! Now that I’ve scanned it, I can play around with watercolors on it and we’ll see how that goes! Please visit my shop to see the Note Cards and Gifts I made using this and other photos in this post. I’ll add a few picture links you can click to visit it, please please share my shop links with friends once you get there! 🙂

Glossy Note Card with plain white background
Glossy Note Card with changeable text and brown background
Customizable Mug
Shaggy Ink Cap Glossy Note Cards
Hope you enjoyed my post! Please leave me comments and share on your Facebook or Pinterest pages!

“Lightning Bug Under Grass” watercolor

"Lightning Bug Under Grass" watercolor + ink

(click to see enlarged, hit ‘back’ arrow to return)

I know it’s not the time of year for Lightning Bugs (or Fireflies) to be out but thought I’d share this small illustration I finished recently. I’ve been working on studies of small, native plants (NY) to go with illustrations in the children’s books I’m working on and decided to put this Lightning Bug in here. It’s more realistic than the books will be but I really like how it looks like an ‘old time’ illustration. Many people have never seen this bug in the day, known for it’s magical blinking lights at night, but if you get to know it you may spot it in long grasses or hedges.

Though I painted this entirely in the studio all the studies had to be done in the field. Lately when I’ve been able to get out for sketching, I’ve taken my garden kneeling pad and a big garbage bag to sit on the wet ground to work. It really is amazing how many different small plants there are growing right under your feet!

Next post will be about the small plant studies I’ve done out in the wet lanes of spring. Click on the images below to see my prints, note cards and other items with this painting (you can add text to any of them!):

Lightning Bug or Beetle Under Grass with Mushroom zazzle_print
Posters / Prints in size you choose
Lightning Bug or Beetle Under Grass with Mushroom zazzle_card
Glossy Note Cards in two sizes
Lightning Bug or Beetle Under Grass with Mushroom zazzle_sticker
Stickers in many shapes and sizes (change text or remove if you like)
I love reading your comments as it really keeps me enthused! It’s been hard to get time to paint lately because I’m getting ready to downsize my house so I’ll be ready to move. Years of stuff is all I can say! I will keep posting as I have time so please bear with me, there is more to come!

“Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom”

I am not sure when I started to be fascinated by mushrooms and fungi, but when I go hiking I find I’m always stopping to notice them tucked away under branches, logs or leaves. Sometimes they’re right in front of you on the sides of dead or dying trees or right on the path, or they may be hiding waiting for your keen eye to catch them.

I spotted this pair right in the lawn (that needed cutting!) and what an interesting mushroom. My best guess is a “Shaggy Ink Cap”. I wondered why it was named that until I saw it a few days later.

Shaggy Ink Cap watercolor sketch

Shaggy Ink Cap watercolor sketch

I did this little sketch with just watercolors, I wanted to avoid doing a careful pencil sketch and just kind of block in some green to form the light shapes of the mushrooms. I used a waterbrush which is handy but can be a bit limiting; it’s not as easy to mix quick pools of color in your pan and you must have a paper towel handy to clean between colors. Also I usually use just the one size waterbrush when doing a quick sketch so you use it to make wide and narrow lines or marks. The challenge on this set of fungi was the shaggy part, how to paint it without fussing too much? The “shags” were light and pointy, really their form was created by the darks around them…above and below. If I was doing a careful study I’d spend more time on that feature.

Me working on the sketch

Me working on the sketch

Here’s a picture of me working to show my set up; I’m sitting on my blue foam pad because the grass is damp and chilly, it was early morning still. It’s not the best posture for someone with a ‘bad’ back, no support, but what are you going to do? That’s partly why I worked so fast, I get achy!

Looking over my shoulder

Looking over my shoulder

You can see my new little field kit there, I use it as a purse and carry my bare essentials for field sketching. The art supplies take presedence I have to admit…no make-up just some money, credit card and the rest is for drawing! My motto, “Be Prepared”! I’m holding the watercolor pan in my left hand, waterbrush in the other. I have regular brushes in the pan in case I want to use them or have water with me.

Shaggy Ink Cap

Shaggy Ink Cap

This is how it looked the day I painted it.

Two days later

Two days later

And this is just two days later, I was shocked! I guess that’s where it gets it’s name, INK cap. It was eerie looking, dripping black goo, like it had melted.

Two days later close-up

Two days later close-up

I would like to learn more about this, and why it does that. Any of my readers know?… leave me a comment please. I didn’t have a chance to draw it at this stage, been too busy going off on hikes. I have been photographing many types of mushrooms, my favorite so far is the Fly Agaric…bright red cap with white flecks on it. I hope to do a painting of that one too.

“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!