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“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!

“Hiking on my Land” 1-23-09

Today as the sun shone and the temperatures climbed to a balmy 30 or so degrees, I felt a very strong urge to just grab my field kit and go for a hike with Ginger. I notice whenever I go out field sketching or work on a painting in the studio, it’s like having a visit to the therapist! I feel like I’ve just had some kind of adjustment, and all is right in my world! Troubles melt away as I stop to catch my breath and listen to the wind gusting through the trees. Today was no different. (click on any picture to see enlarged view)
First small sketch done with a micron 05 permanent marker, it’s along the path that’s called “Long Lane” on my farm. To warm up and to see if drawing with my fingerless mittens would feel comfortable, I did the top of a small oak tree, then turned and looked down the lane where Ginger was disappearing down, and did a quickly scrawled sketch. It’s ok that it’s not beautiful and meticulously drawn, I can remember the scene in my mind just be looking at it. Sometimes the field sketch can have more movement and show more excitement than a carefully executed studio drawing. I also find that being able to work loosely in the field keeps my studio painting fresh and lively looking.
Just me in my dad’s old wool hunting coat that I treasure, using the fingerless mitten ok. I picked up this pair in England at a regular clothes store at the mall, I made sure they had wool in them, and I like the dark brown color (to hide the dirt of course silly!). At this point I think my fingers were cold, sometimes I worked with the top pulled back and sometimes closed. I’m using a waterbrush here and watercolors, I put my kit in a new bag to try out, an over the shoulder binder type thing, but no room for apples or water bottles. Extra things had to go in the back secret pouch on the hunting jacket, made for carrying dead birds that the hunter (dad) would shoot. It’s actually a handy pouch…I slid my sketchbook in there when I would get moving on my hike.
This is a page with a simple color study of the red bark on bushes and the little fern heads coming up through the snow. Their forms, almost silhouette because they’re so dark, are wonderful to study.
The photo above shows a leaf I found in a tiny birds nest that was tucked into a tangled bush. It’s small things like this that if you take time to notice the subtle beauty your enjoyment of the natural world and simple walks would be much more memorable. This leaf is a simple shape, but I love the mixture of subtle colors, there’s a promise of green there that makes me think of spring, it’s almost as if the green was frozen from the fresh times of summer. The pattern of the veins and cells is really something too, the wet sheen on it’s surface reflecting a cool light.
Then turn the same leaf over and it’s a whole other leaf! This side has a network of raised veins showing, like fine meshwork netting and the contrast of the color of vein to leaf is at once noticed. The fall like colors are not showing on this side. When you pick something up, turn it over and explore everything about it; if you draw it, you will study it deeply, noting it’s every interesting detail. Sometimes this is good to do once you get back home and can sit in the warmth and take time to study it.
Here’s another nest I found that almost looks like it has an ice cream scoop for an egg waiting to be hatched by the warm spring sun. (It’ll have to wait awhile still!) Walking in winter is a good time to look for birds nests, just look at bushes or trees for clumps of dark areas, usually made by leaves and small branches. It’s fun to look closely at them, how the tiny branches are laid criss cross and woven, and imagine two birds picked up ever single twig and made that. Some nests are tiny things..some larger and could even be for grey squirrels. I don’t ever disturb the nests…I feel they are there to be used somehow by other creatures, mice, bugs, etc. and I just let it alone. I will carefully pull some leaves out of a nest to see what the cup might look like.
Now this page has notes you can read, but I’ll explain a bit more. I went to a part of my land that has huge old oak trees on it, and one in particular that is dead. This dead tree had all kinds of funguses growing on it and was great to study.
I learned something new that I didn’t expect, there was an interesting type of fungus growing on the underside of all the large branches. It was a beautiful natural yellow with some orangey colors in it, but very muted. The funny thing was I noticed the snow beneath it had yellow spots following the branches, NO Ginger didn’t do that! haha…but as the snow piled on top of the branches melted, the yellow color in the fungus was dripping down to the ground. I wonder if the Indians or settlers used that as a color for something?
Here’s a close up, if anyone can help me identify this I’d be grateful. I looked it up in my mushroom and fungus books but can’t find it specifically.
This fungus is as far as I can tell, a “Redbelt” shelf fungus. I did a painting in the field while looking at it and looked it up when I got home. (The painting is below). The odd thing was, as closely as I thought I looked at this, I still missed something interesting. When I got home and uploaded my photos, I noticed on some close ups there were little blackish bugs crawling all over the place!! Ewww….I have to admit, I like studying bugs, but the idea that there were bugs all over this fungus and tree and I didn’t know it kind of made me uneasy! But the fascinating thing was that there were bugs out doing their thing in the middle of the winter! You would be surprised at what you’ll see on a mild winter day!At this point, at the end of my hike after being out two hours, my toes were frozen and getting numb. This is when the idea of hot cocoa creeps into my mind and Ginger’s happy face asking, “Can we go home yet?” starts to distract me.
This last page I finished at home while drinking that hot cocoa; the tree and fungus I did in the field. I brought home a stick with neat fungus growing on it, the leaf I photographed and a dead leaf. This stick was very interesting to look at under a magnifying glass, the black fungus was shiny and the rose colored had a velvety sheen almost. I made a stab at identifying the rose colored as Hypoxylon Fragiforme, any experts out there can verify this? I added color notes too so you could see what paints I used.
I hope you enjoyed our hike today in the winter chill! Sign up your email in the right column to recieve updates when I post new things. Happy Hiking!

“Snowshoeing on My Land” 3-6-08

Today I felt like I just had to get out of the house! There was a bit of snow on the ground so before winter weather leaves us completley I decided to go snowshoeing with my dog Ginger. I decided to leave all the colors behind (watercolors, color pencils etc.) and just bring some non permanent ink, micron permanent pens and my waterbrush. I really like sketching with a NON permanent pen because you can create some nice effects with a little water and a brush after. You can rework or redraw on top of it after to add details or more value. The ink I’m using is called Brilliant Brown by Pellican. I put it into an expensive little Rapidograph pen, it has a very fine tip for details. The ink is nice though it gets a bit ‘pinkish’ when you wet it, but I still like it.

Page one of my sketchbook I talk about wearing my dad’s old hunting coat, oh I love that coat but mostly because it makes me think of him! When we were kids he’d dress up in the red plaid overalls and coat and chuckle like Santa! We’d all laugh!
The sketch shows a little deer path across my field that the foxes have been using. Then I used ‘comparative measurements’ to draw an exact size of the track. This is something I teach in my Nature Sketching classes. The branches were rubbing in the wind and they sounded like frogs calling!
The picture of me I took myself! I experiment all the time with my camera, this time using my trusty Olympus FE230. I hung it in a tree, on a branch, by it’s little strap. I turned it on, and checked to see if it was pointed in the right general direction and then set the auto timer. Once you set it RUN!! and get in the picture. Then you can check to see if it came out. I was lucky and this one came out first try! haha…

Page two of my sketchbook (click to enlarge) shows a drawing of Ginger’s footprint. I did this to compare to the other print I drew, and to show that a dog will have claw marks. The other print I couldn’t see any. The other drawings on the page were done with a Graphitint water soluble pencil (cocoa). I like the color of this a lot! The clouds were high and puffy, I tried to draw them, but it was hard! Then I sketched a flock of geese going over, at first they sounded like yipping coyotes in the distance.

Page three I switched back to my rapidograph pen and non perm. ink. I found a tiny nest and on the page I indicated it’s actual size by measuring with my pen. Then using my sketchbook, starting at the ground and going up I counted how many sketchbooks tall it was. Knowing the size of my sketchbook I was able to very closely estimate how far off the ground it is. 21″. This is using comparative measurements in another way. The oak leaves are still hanging on, still pretty in their dry form.

The two photos (click to enlarge) are from my return walk home. The one shows a view of what it looks like when you hug a tree and look up! It’s pretty cool!! TRY IT! The other is a view of Long Lane on my way back home. Ginger is actually up ahead in the bushes on the left, can you spot her? I have a video clip that I’m goint to attach, lets hope it works!
I really enjoyed sharing this walk with you, please leave me your comments and questions.
I have classes starting in May for Nature Sketching, please email me for more information mary@marymcandrew.com