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Spring Walk, Nature Notes and Poems

It’s been weeks since I’ve been out in the field sketching, and now that I’ve been out I feel renewed! I guess that’s how we should feel in Spring. I put on my Wellies or “Mud Boots” grabbed my sketch kit and camera and set out. Come with me and I’ll show you my walk with sketches and photos! (Please click on pictures to view clearer.)

Dried grasses in “Pasture Lane” on the way to the pond.

The first lane I walk in follows the pasture so it’s always been called “Pasture Lane”. No animals in the pasture now but still lots of wild things to look at. This lane has lots of nice dried rushes and sedges in it; I love this color, especially with the blue sky. It won’t be long I’ll be spotting all kinds of Nursery Web Spiders and underwater little nymphs and creatures.

Natural arch of branches on Long Lane

This is on “Long Lane”, looking towards “Aspen Hall” and it’s a natural archway of branches that’s been forming the past few years. I keep breaking branches when I go under it to keep it a bit under control! I’ve done sketches and paintings of it before, and not too long ago photographed it covered with snow! But as I was standing here I decided to go up “Memory Lane” to my left. This leads me to “Oak Lane”, one of my favorites, where I thought I’d check things out.

Woodpecker hole in dead tree by “Memory Lane”.

Just at this intersection the woods are quite wet and I always see dead trees with lots of woodpecker holes. This one looks like it’s been freshly pecked at.

One of the ancient oaks in “Oak Lane”, standing tall and strong.

I ended up in “Oak Lane” my favorite place on my property where the oaks are huge and tall, standing for many many generations. I made a little place to sit right up next to the tree at it’s base, by spreading my trusty garbage bag out, first checking for pokey sticks and bits. There I sat, ate a snack and enjoyed the peace, then did a small sketch of the grapevines growing about me. Hmm…funny but that seems sort of rhymy to me…lets see:

“Here I Sit”
Before I sat down
Upon leafy ground
I gave the spot a good scour
Where I’d while away the hour.
There were pokey sticks
And hard little bits
I had to clear before I sat,
So I could sit and have my snack.
Well, now here I sit
With favorite sketchkit
Having a think and a good look,
At what will go in my sketchbook.
by Mary McAndrew

Well that was fun! I just made that up!

Here’s the start of my “Grapevine” sketch

I put my sketchbook on my knees and decided to draw the big grapevine branch hanging near me…that’s it by my leg.

My watercolor palette, I just love the colors!

There’s a close up of my watercolor palette I take when I go afield, it’s getting pretty stained now and I’ll have to look for a new one. Some of my colors I have in temporary little plastic containers, just to see if I want to add them to the kit.

Using a waterbrush to paint.

This is one of my waterbrushes, it’s actually not one of the more expensive ones but it worked great for me today. It has good juicy water-flow and the tip stayed sharp for details. I also wrote words about the grapevine on the page that I’ll type out below:

“The grapevine grows greatly
reaching upwards with twisted limb.
It’s rough bark twisting tightly tense
along it’s sinuous length.
Great muscle of wooden rope reaching right up
to entangle and strangle it’s host.
And gentle innocent long trailing tendrils
Hang down from above,
stirring in the breeze
to tease.”
by Mary McAndrew

As I wrote the words I let my mind think poetically and freely. I knew later I’d like to write a poem from some of the words I found because I liked the way they sounded together. Here’s the finished sketch below and then the new poem follows:

Grapevine sketch and words done in the field.

Here’s my little poem I wrote just now while looking back at the words:

“The Grapevine”
Grapevine growing greatly
Reaching upwards with twisted limb,
Rough bark twisting tightly
Tense, sinuous and slim.
Great muscle of wooden rope
Reaching right up to entangle,
Clinging to unwilling host
As you wind about to strangle.
Gentle, innocent tendrils trail
Stirring in the breeze.
Stronger than you look so frail,
Climbing any tree you please.
by Mary McAndrew

Watercolor started in the field of purpley red bushes.

The watercolor above I did half in the field and half at home.  On my way back I stood in an field we call “The Maze”, because of all the intertwined paths in it, all cut by me years ago using a tractor and brush hog. It was very difficult to paint the stems while standing there in front of them, tired, cold…but I loved the colors so much and wanted to try and ‘study’ it. When I got back I looked at photos I took using my computer, and did more detail and study. I found myself using Dioxizine Violet mixed with Alizarin Crimson for most of the purpley colors; mixing it with Sepia made a nice shadow color. I had to use a bit of Cadmium Red to brighten up the color here and there. You can see my color notes on the left side there. By the way, I can’t really recall what the name of the bushes are, I think “Red Pannacled…something or other! Sorry, I packed all my field guides up, I’ll see if I can look for them.

The old stick bridge at “Aspen Hall”

This is the old stick bridge in “Aspen Hall”, I add to it every spring and summer, tossing on dead branches to go over the ditch. “Aspen Hall” is located along “Long Lane”, so I’ve done a circle and am coming back towards home now.

A very old car frame.

This is a very old car frame just sitting by the pasture, it’s been there ages! I think the former owner of the farm told me it was Model T or Model A …wooden spokes! How cool!

I’ll leave you with one more picture from my spring walk…

Ahhh…this is the life!

I didn’t want you to miss my favorite picture! I love taking pictures of my boots when I go hiking, wherever I am. In my shop I have pictures of my boots in England too! Go here to my shop then scroll down left side column and click “Hiking – Walking + Boots”

Hope you enjoyed our ramble!

Click on the pictures below to see my photos as note cards, it has a nice ZOOM feature that’s lets you look closely.

“Great Old Oak Tree” glossy note cards
“The Old Stick Bridge” glossy note cards
“Old Wheel” glossy note cards

“The Lightning Bugs”

I must report that this poor, suffering artist has not opened her sketchbook or touched her paints in over a month and a half! I say ‘poor and suffering’ just because of that fact! When I don’t get to paint my life just gets disjointed and unhappy fast! Well I’ve been focused on things like going through a big house myself and organizing for my someday move. Someday, the sooner the better, I’ll be moving to England, but now is preparation time. Selling things, packing things, donating things…you know the scene, total chaos! (and an aching back!)

But amidst this chaos sometimes the creativity just has to bubble out, and lately it’s been my poetry. Did you know I was a poet? Well I guess I am, I’m putting together all the poems I’ve written over the years (for children mostly) and now adding lots more. Once my life gets settled I’ll be working on illustrating them, YAY!!  You will start to see little characters appear here amongst the more ‘serious’ artwork and studies. I hope you’ll stick with me on my journey, I think it’s going to lead somewhere exciting, besides England and a new life with my sweetheart!

I have notes about the poem following it below.

“The Lightning Bugs”

I peer out my bedroom window
into the darkness
listening to the crickets
and frogs songs caress.

A peaceful end
to a long hot day,
a slight cool dark breeze
brings smells of summer night my way.

My fields and trees
are absolutely alive,
an incessant glittering sea
of the lightning bugs arise.

There is a twinkling of light
so clear
on this warm foggy night
Through and in and on
and around all the trees,
lime yellow lights are upon.

Then it continues
in a glimmering show
of electricity
across the grass of the yard
and out into the dark field it goes.

I long to be flying with them,
these little fairies of the night.
When we meet on stem,
it is them I shall know
as Flicker, Glimmer and Glow.

I’ve seen them before
when I was a child
caught them in my hand,
watched them glow
between my fingers
then let them go.

I shall meet them again
on dewy long nights
wandering quietly through the dark
sparkle of their lights.

(c) Mary McAndrew July 8, 2012

I wrote four stanzas of non rhyming lines in my journal the other night, after looking out my window at the lightning bugs. Though it didn’t rhyme I did keep a pace to it or rhythm, I guess you’d call that ‘free verse’. Then the next day as I typed it up I decided to make it rhyme and it also grew longer. In making it rhyme I found I had to stretch my thoughts more and I liked the way the ideas and feelings came across. This is what I LOVE about poetry, writing it and reading it! It can be a bit ‘abstract’ in thoughts but this can be what gives it such a feeling.

I always wish to paint a scene with Lightning Bugs but think it’d be rather hard, how would I do it?

I guess when I look out at the Lightning Bugs I feel a sort of longing, just like looking at the moon when I’m alone. So the poem, as I developed it above, has a feel of longing for childhood, magical memories. It might have been different if I wasn’t looking at them alone. Also I introduced the names “Flicker, Glimmer and Glow”. As I wrote the poem I thought of them and how I could create characters of a more light and delightful kind to write a story about for children.

I’m sharing the poem because I’d really like some feedback. If you could read it again aloud, especially to children, and see how it feels? Sounds? When I wrote it I meant for it to be read slowly, deliberately, quietly. This lends to a more somber mood though and I wonder would children find it peaceful? Would they prefer it read more lively? I’d love some feedback, please leave comments!

October Cows in Northumberland

 I know it’s already November and I’m way behind! I have more trouble getting online and having time to edit photos since I’ve been here in England. But I’m trying to go with the flow and keep up with posting my sketches and photos. I’m also using a tiny new laptop and my usual photo program isn’t on here, so I’m getting used to editing pictures with something new (sorry if they look small etc). I’ve also felt really down since my dad passed away and it’s hard to feel creative, as many of you probably know how that is.

 But here’s a few cows to start off with! It’s what I see most of around where I’m staying so they’ve gotten my attention. I just love the velvety look of their fur in fall. The days have been very cold, damp and windy but I did these sketches standing along the field in the wind! Brrrr.

Red Cattle in the Field, Oct 1

I wrote a poem as I watched them, just put a few words down then later I changed two words to make it better. I’ll retype it here:

“September ends…October is here,
The little Robin sings, Winter is near!

The red cattle in the field look so nice,
Fur like rust velvet, ready for Winter’s chill and ice.”

(c)Mary McAndrew 10-1-11

Overthwarts on the Hill, watercolor

The page above I did on October 2nd, it was windier, colder and wetter still than the day before! I wrote a note on the page about how hard it was to draw, of course I was wearing my fingerless mittens too and they are hard to paint in! There’s a farm called Overthwarts up on that hill as I looked from where I stood near Edlingham castle.

Cows at rest and an Angle Shade moth, ink.

The same day I walked a ways up the lane where it got even windier, I found some cows to sketch and sat down along the lane where I could see them through a break in the hedge. Getting down low really got me out of the worst of the wind.

Then another day an Angle Shade moth paid us a visit by coming inside, I guess it’s hibernation time! He didn’t want to leave. I put some sugar water in a little jar lid and he sucked it all up and grew very fat! Anything to help a little hungry wanderer. It hung around a few days just sitting there then disappeared, so I don’t know if he’s hiding out in the house or went back outside.

The furry red cow eyed me warily

Here’s one of the bovine beauties watching me, I tried to walk slowly and talk quietly to her but they are so skiddish, she turned away and made a retreat as I approached.

Well I hope you enjoyed my outdoor sketches, more to come, slowly but surely!

I had some fun creating note cards with cow (and sheep) photos I took in England, have a look in my shop!

"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.

“Wind in the Willows” – Clouds and Crayons

April 14, 2011

(if viewing this in an email subscription, please go to the website to see the video clip and pictures better)

Clouds Over Fox Lane

Above, this is the first view Ginger and I got when we started out on our walk; clouds, gorgeous clouds stretching as far as the eye could see! I love the way the old pasture fence looks here along “Fox Lane”.

“Wind in the Willows”

I’ll show you right away what I ended up sketching after we walked all the way out on the property. (At the end of my post I have links to note cards and gifts using this image!) I had a page in my journal with the first verse of the song from “The Wind in the Willows”, the popular children’s tv show, written in permanent ink. I knew eventually I’d do some kind of painting over it of trees.  I just love the song from this show, I posted a link below so you could have a listen too!

Theme Song from “Wind in the Willows”

My Watercolor Crayons + Waterbrush

To explain a little how I did the sketch, as I stood in about 8″ of water on a particularly wet path, I held my sketch journal and balanced the little box of crayons on it. I have taken all my water soluble crayons and cut them in half so I could carry more in a smaller space and less weight! I put it on a peice of paper towel to protect a little watercolor I’ve got on that page, and I put a piece of paper towel (Viva) next to the box for wiping my brush on. I used one flat water brush, a favorite of mine when I want to do very quick washes and scrubbing. This particular brand releases water quite fast, at first I didn’t like that but now it’s also why I DO use it!

First thing I did was to scribble with white crayola wax crayon where I wanted to show white clouds. It doesn’t really show up until you color around it, but if you tip your paper a tiny bit you can see it. Then I colored very quickly with two different blue water soluble crayons all around; I found that I could shade right over the white wax and it didn’t really disturb it, cool! Then very quick scrubbing with the waterbrush to wet and move the color around. I grabbed the paper towel and sometimes blotted off the white cloud and it helped soften the look. Using the grey crayon ‘under’ each cloud really helped to pull them out and make them look real.

The trees were drawn on with a brown wc crayon from Derwent, using the hard edge to make branches. It works really great on damp paper, the lines are very vivid. I must say, it’s the scribbley look of the painting that I like so much! I could go back and soften the bottom of the moon, but it was a field sketch and I think I’ll just leave it as is. It was hard to get the look in such a tiny thing while hand holding my journal.

View I painted from while standing in water!

This is a photo from the spot I was standing, can you see the tiny moon in the middle?

A close up of the moon

Sometimes when you’re outside in the middle of the day, if you look for it you’ll see the moon amongst the clouds. I always think it’s a nice surprise.

Ginger all wet!

Yes, Miss Ginger is wet but doesn’t mind. This is the lane I stood in to do my sketch.

An old nest left from last year

I spotted some old nests as I walked, this one was out near “The North Pole”, the furthest part of my land. It’s amazing how many nests are at our eye level but we don’t see them when the bushes are in full leaf.

Clouds in Spring Over the Lane

I’ll leave you with one more pretty picture. I just love the colors in this, the blues contrasting with the golden colors of the dried grasses, the reds in the tips of the bushes and trees and the purpley colors under the clouds.

I hope you enjoyed our walk again out on “Long Lane Farm” at Springtime. Please enjoy the pictures links shown below, they go to prints, note cards, tee shirts and a magnet using my “Wind in the Willows” field sketch painting, in my shop. I can’t wait to order a tee shirt for myself!

Visit my SHOP to see many beautiful note cards with photos of the new Spring flowers, bees, landscapes etc!

“Step Outside Your Door Today”

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Spring Fuzzy Buds

Spring Fuzzy Buds on "Long Lane Farm"

Today is the “Equilux”, that is the day of the Equinox, where day is the same length as night. I heard that it’s also “World Storytelling Day“; now this interests me greatly as I love to tell stories and love to hear and read them. I’ll have to look into that further.  For me today was like a story of Spring coming. The sun was out, though the air was still very cold, and the birds are all vying for attention, not from me but they were certainly getting it! I did some sketches and wrote notes and a poem while I was walking so I’ll re-type what I penned on my pages for you to read.  So I tell a story today. (Please click pictures to see enlarged).

"Step Out Your Back Door" notes, poem and Hawthorn needle.

"Step Out Your Back Door" notes, poem and Hawthorn needle.

Journal: “March 20, 2011 Just had to pop outside. It’s sunny but cold; I am wearing a wooly cap + wool fingerless mittens. Though the sun shines + the birds are all singing, it’s COLD! Daffodils by the back door are getting ready for their entrance into Spring.”

Then I walked out into the pasture, totally flooded and squishy; so lucky I wore my ‘barn boots’ or Wellies as they call them in England.  Here’s a little poem I wrote while standing and listening to the birds:


“Step Outside Your Door Today”

“Step outside your door today, walk in your backyard.

Watch the Blackbirds sing and play, smiling is not hard.

The woodpecker laughs from his high perch,

As signs of Spring you do search.

Cardinals red and grasses of brown,

You smell the earth deep beneath the ground.

A stirring of creatures above and below,

Spring’s arrival defeats Winter’s foe!”

Mary McAndrew

Hawthorne needle

Hawthorne needle

Then I walked on and around “Aspen Hall”, a favorite area of my land where the boys and I used to picnic, I found a branch from the Hawthorne tree on the ground. I plucked many of the long sharp spines off it, then poked one through my paper like a needle. This looks really cool if you click the picture to see it enlarged!

As I walked it was so cold I had to keep my hat and scarf on.  When I found a sunny spot in the “Maze”,  it actually felt better to sit down out of the breeze. I was able to pull my wooly hat off and stretch my legs out; I put a plastic kitchen garbage bag on the ground to keep the wet where it belonged! Just make sure you don’t put it on any pokey stubs of things, you’ll get a hole and be surprised later!

Black Crayola Crayon Sketch

Black Crayola Crayon Sketch

Here’s a page in my sketch journal that I worked on, a view of the path I had just walked on.  I started with a little border line around the edges to add a neat design element. Then sketched in black ‘Crayola’ wax crayon that I had sharpened with my knife. Using this crayon was SO MUCH FUN! I can’t wait to try it some more, I loved the feel of the crayon on the slightly rough paper, you could see the texture too. You can press harder for darker lines and very lightly to make it light of course.

Using the flat tipped waterbrush to wet the watercolor crayons

Using the flat tipped waterbrush to wet the watercolor crayons

Then I tested my colors by making a tiny dot at the bottom of the next page and wet it. Make sure you test your colors before you scrawl all over a drawing, watercolor pencils and crayons can surprise you at how different they look wet!  I very lightly, using the side of the point of each crayon, added color to the areas. I saw the bushes and trees in front of me as more of a mass of value with some standing out in the foreground; so I massed it in as brownish reds then added heavier marks for trees and branches.  Experiment with adding lines onto your wet paper, they will be very distinct and bold; this is good for adding branches.

I’m using the flat waterbrush, I really like this brush for studies that need large washed areas and it’s great for making grass marks! PS. yes it was cold still, I did the sketch with the mittens on, the flipped back the finger cover to use my brush!

Sketch in the Maze done with watercolor crayons on black wax crayon

Sketch in the Maze done with watercolor crayons on black wax crayon

Here’s a picture of my crayons, (each is broken in half to make them fit and weigh less in my pack) I have them tucked into an “Altoids” tin with some paper towel. The ones in the lid on the left are what I used for this sketch. Another thing you can see is how in the foreground I used more lines from the crayons going back and forth to add texture. Then the flat waterbrush with tip sort of dry, it spreads apart and makes good grass type marks. Touch it to your crayon tip to get color and brush it on the paper. Click on the finished sketch below.

"Springtime Path in the Maze" watercolor crayon + wax crayon

"Springtime Path in the Maze" watercolor crayon + wax crayon

Here’s the finished sketch done in wax and water soluble crayons. I rather like it! Oh and the three bigger trees on the left are the “Sister Trees”, they are a group of huge trees I’ve painted before.

You may like to read my notes on this page that I wrote as I did the little painting. They are here at full size so you don’t have to click it and I typed out the notes below the picture!

Notes from my walk with colors for sketch at bottom.

Notes from my walk with colors for sketch at bottom.

Journal: “I’ve found a sunny spot to sit in a clearing on one of the paths in the “Maze”, an overgrown field on my property that I cut paths and tracks all around. This is an area I cleared more  into an open, private spot along one path. I put a clean plastic garbage bag upon the ground and that’s where I’m sat; legs stretched out and wooly hat off! Sun warming me nicely now! 🙂 I did the little sketch with Black Crayola crayon and it was wonderful to see the fine texture of the paper under my hand; pressing hard or light to get variety of lines. Then I lightly scumbled over it all with watercolor crayons by Caran d’ Ache. I never used these before as I thought the colors too garish- but if you go light the browns + the golden yellow were great over the black wax crayon! I love how the black crayon just stays. I used the big, flat waterbrush and it blended all nicely, then made perfect marks for texture on the ground in front.

Just sitting here quietly feels wonderful. I hear birds + distant sound of cars. The Chickadees are so curious they keep coming closer and closer. One just looked down on me from a small bush. Something else interesting, I can hear the ground making sound! There is a barely audible sound like “ticking” here and there all about me. I’m sure it’s the sound of air bubbles coming to the surface of this very wet ground…the earth breaths as the ice melts…the peepers awake.

12:10 pm 3/20/2011  Mary McAndrew”

Ginger on Long Lane, listening to the Peepers singing.

Ginger on Long Lane, listening to the Peepers singing.

Now, go get your dog, your children or just yourself, grab that sketchbook and some crayons and get out there!! Good days don’t wait for anyone, go enjoy what’s around you no matter where you live. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been out and noticed signs of Spring, leave me some comments.

I started putting lots of my sketches on “Flickr” if you want to stop by and see them, I may use it as a place to show all my sketch pages? We’ll see. Don’t forget to stop by my ‘SHOP’ to see the new Easter and Spring cards.