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!
(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!):
Posters / Prints in size you choose
Glossy Note Cards in two sizes
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!
This moth is a little watercolor painting I did on coffee stained paper (click it to see it larger and clearer). Using instant coffee to stain your paper is something I taught in my Creative Journaling class. It’s great to use lightly on your paper to make it look antique or like parchment. Here I just played with it like watercolor and brushed it around, then splattered water drops into it. Let it dry totally then you can draw or paint on top of it as I did. I have a few small sheets that I did at the same sitting, so I can grab one when I’m in the mood and use it. I lightly sketched with pencil first then just used burnt umber, burnt sienna, black and a touch of white for highlight. This was from a “Yellow Underwing” moth I photographed last year.
I have always loved the illustrations of Arthur Rackham and it’s the works he did using mostly brown colors that inspired me to work with brown tones alone. Click on any of the illustrations to see cards or gifts I created in my shop! There’s more items coming in the category Vintage Illustrations.
Flippant Fairies Floating Freely
Just look at how gorgeous this painting is!! Sigh…I love his work. (Sorry I don’t have a bigger copy to view) The background is just subtle tone, there’s a hint of tree tops below and then the sparrows come into view as they nonchalantly go about their business of preening. The branch is laid out as a perfect design element reaching across the paper and reaching up to lead your eye but not take you totally away from the subject of the fairies. Yes, those fairies, painted lighter than the rest to really make them stand out, aren’t they wonderful? Not having pointy ears, pointy eyes, pointy hair, sexy clothes and striped socks. Good God some of the awful modern day interpretations of what a fairy is is shocking! Just plain tacky and awful!
Oh but this is one of my favorites!
This is one of my favourites! SIGH….that’s how I feel when I look at work by another artist I revere. I love her dress, the attention to it’s detail but it doesn’t take over the attention of the piece, do you notice how the lower part blends into the tone of the ground and the skirt is the same as the background? It’s all married together, floating but on the same ground, do you know what I mean? Just like the tree roots coming from nowhere out of the paper and growing up into this tree that is alive. I love how he combined just enough elements that say man and tree at the same time, the fabric hanging adds a touch of color that picks up in her cheeks and it’s form adds a floating liveliness to the painting; movement. Not to mention the tenderness of the way they clasp hands….sigh.
Subtle tones means less distraction
In “The Man in the Wilderness” above, I love the way he draws his trees to be just like people, look at the ‘arms’ of the one in the background reaching up to the sky. For a child (or adult) reading the story this illustration would be something to pause over, study and discover. They’d see the obvious girl and elf and think about what they are doing but then they’d look at the trees and realize with delight they have faces and arms! Here again I like how he’s used such simple color to make this illustration, just a simple bit of red and gold on the elf to show the main subject. I can’t wait to use the card in my shop (click picture to see) as an invitation or birthday card, “Can we meet for tea?” “May your day be full of discovery”. Oh, how about a funny one for your friend…”I know you’re kind of different….but I like you all the same!” haha
The Queen floats in as if on air
This illustration shows use of line at it’s best, do you notice how in some places it’s thicker and heavy then it gets thin and light? This is very important in drawing, good drawing. This one is definitely more of a drawing than a painting, hardly any range of values used, quite flat. It’s all about the lines and what lines!, all swirling and curling, sweeping like there is a magical breeze blowing just her skirts and delicate lace veil. To give some depth and interest I like how he put the pale leaves and branches at the top then used a light similar design on her skirt in just the front.
I have wanted to do drawings and paintings starting with a freely painted base of brown or parchment colored paper for ages. The moth is my first one I guess, though I’ve done paintings before that are monochrome browns, (Autumn watercolor, Etain oil, Twilight oil) they were never started on a freely tinted paper. By that I mean a piece of paper where you just play with the color and use water drops and salt to add interest and you end up with something that in itself looks good. I’ve played with coffee staining before (as you can see on this post) but never got around to painting on them. So I’m hoping to do some more starting with small studies like this moth. Hope you enjoyed my discussion on using browns and the great Arthur Rackham! (more sighs) Oh, and I found an excellent, though old, article written about a show of his works in London in 2002 here on the “Telegraph”.
Below are a few items I designed with the Moth painting on it, please click the picture to see them in my shop. Enjoy and let me know if you’d like it on another item!
Try these stickers out, they’re glossy and I love ’em!
(if you are viewing this from your email subscription, please visit my blog on the actual website to see the video and links properly)
Today I went for a walk with Ginger. We ventured forth out into the wet lanes and fields, the mud sucking at our feet, water swirling as we waded. Not all my land is wet mind you, but this time of year it certainly is in some areas. I start my post off today with my drawings of the little snail I met while out walking, because I knew you’d be curious to see him.
Little Golden Snail Sketches
I did these studies actually back at my studio while looking at him under a magnifying glass. I did some while in the field (you’ll see below) but it was so small it was hard to really get a good look at him while I sat on a log! So he came home for a visit. I first lightly sketched him with pencil then drew with a permanent ink pen and then watercolor on that. After I drew the swirly curly border I drew over it with one watercolor pencil then just dragged a wet waterbrush over all of it to soften it and make the color bleed out a bit.
Now back to our walk.
Secret Circle Lane
This is “Secret Circle Lane”, as wet as it always is in springtime; (click it for high res. view in my shop) how pretty reflecting the sky like that! Ginger and I crept quietly along through this water because I heard an interesting call from some kind of frog along with the zillions of peepers that were singing.
Here’s a short video clip I shot while standing in the water, just to let you hear the sound of the Peepers calling.
Ah yes, the trusty boots! Can’t go anywhere without these mud boots or “Wellies”. Well these boots weren’t made for “walkin” they were made for “sloshin”!! I did see some interesting little critters in the water before our feet disturbed it, some snails and a few water beetles.
Oh, and there’s me…had to show you my favorite hat of all time and my Dad’s hunting coat! The hat I bought in England at a farm supply shop, where they sell the expensive horsey equipment and clothes. Well it WAS expensive too, BUT well worth ever penny! It’s waterproof, lined for warmth, has a flap that drops down over your ears and makes it fit your head like a helmet and has an elastic cord that goes under your chin for high winds. When the wind blew hard on the high hills of Northumberland, my wonderful hat stayed put!! The other nifty thing is it has a little button on the brim you click and you get two settings of led lights! High power beams!! I’m telling you we’ve used it to find our way on paths past dusk and it’s great for visiting old castle ruins because you can point your beam into dark places that you wouldn’t have seen before. I should get paid money to promote this hat!
And the wonderful old Woolrich hunting coat my dad gave me so I love it. He used to put it on when going out hunting, I still remember seeing him in the kitchen with the pants on with bright red suspenders and laughing playing like he was Santa! It is covered with pockets and has a special pocket at the back for carrying your ‘game’ home in. I have been known to carry sketchbooks there and always keep a spare kitchen size garbage bag for sitting on wet ground.
Crocuses in Aspen Hall
I told you before that we planted flowers in “Aspen Hall”, here’s two little crocuses I wanted to sketch. Click to see a note card of it where you can zoom in and see it bigger.
I love the close up pictures of this pretty little golden snail. I spotted him on the ground amongst the leaf litter, but in the sun he glistened like gold. I took my tiny Olympus camera on the macro setting and shot this picture through a close up part of my magnifying glass! It really works at getting a little closer. Click on the pictures to view note cards that you can view close up.
golde snail pointy end up!
Here’s another shot of him, I love the form of the shell twisting up like that.
Studying the snail closely for sketches
Now this picture is important because it shows you how tiny he was and when you need reading glasses to see things better, it doesn’t help. The other thing that made it difficult to draw him in the field was sitting on one little log made my back hurt terribly so I was not comfortable. I wrote my notes and did some little sketches anyways.
golden snail peeking at me
Another great shot, I love the patterns in the shell that the sunlight catches. And notice the subtle color that runs up through those eye stalks? I notice how well it matches the dead stick he was crawling on.
My Journal page
Here’s my actual journal page from my time sitting in “Aspen Hall”, go ahead and click it to read it.
Tiny Golden Snail with metallic gold watercolor paint added.
Now I had a little more fun with the snail studies I did by using some metallic watercolor paint on them. I took some pictures of the snail paintings tipped at an angle to catch the sun and really show the metallic watercolor paint I added on top. It was a lot of fun using it and really made it look like the snail did, it sparkled in the sun!
Golden Snails in watercolor with gold metallic watercolor over.
And one more shot showing the glitter in the full sun.
I hope you enjoyed our walk today and you didn’t even have to get your feet wet! 😉 Don’t forget to visit my SHOP by clicking the pictures above to see note cards of the little golden snail or the landscape photos in this post.
Here’s a note card using the watercolor studies:
Speaking of snails I’m honored to say there’s a wonderful blog written by two talented women one of which was inspired by my posts about the snail I found and did studies of while I was in England! Have a look here: “The Dao of Doing”
Today, though it is sad, I did a watercolor study of a blackbird female that died after flying into our patio window. Just as other naturalists before me have done, I took advantage of having a real bird in front of me and did a study as quickly as I could. I find that if you love nature you can do this as a way of showing respect for the creature and not think of it as ‘gross’. Of course always be careful handling things like this by washing your hands after, putting it on plastic, not having food or drink nearby while working…just to be safe. I did notice a little tiny bug or two on it as I worked, which made me work even quicker, to get it out of the house sooner!
Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 1
The picture above shows my pencil sketch and beginning stages of watercolor. I am laying in the golden color that I see ‘under’ the darker colors of the feathers.
Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 2
Here I put dark tone on the tail and more darks on the head and some cool tones along the side of the breast to start to round the form.
Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 3
Some more dark tones and details are laid in, feathers on ‘bottom’ wing.
Watercolor study of Female Blackbird-stage 4
At this stage I stopped painting feeling it was done, at least working from the ‘real’ model. I put a light wash of cool blue on the belly and added more color to the breast along with more details there.
Watercolor study with Blackbird
When I stood up and looked from further back, I felt it needed a more broad wash of dark on the birds right side so I just grabbed my brush and quickly washed some tone on, while standing up. Many times I like to work on my watercolors from a standing position to keep them loose and free; if it’s a detailed painting I like to either start it while standing to have a loose feel, or at least finish it this way. I could add some loose color around the bird, but I just didn’t feel like adding to it.
My set up to add final details from computer
So on another day I set up to touch up details using my photographs of the dead bird from my laptop. I used my field pan of watercolors and brushes and a magnifying glass to help me see details.
Watercolor study of female Blackbird - stage 6
At this point I decided it was finished. To be honest, I wanted to go back and ‘scratch’ out highlights along the legs to show their shine and make them stand out from the dark background, I also wanted to add grasses around the bird, but I’ve had too many other things to work on and just didn’t get time. So it’s DONE.
I don’t want to leave you with a dead Blackbird, here’s two photos of a healthy male so you can see how nice they look, their song is even nicer!
As a side note, the Blackbird (UK) is in the Thrush family just as my American Robin is. For my American readers you’ll notice a very close silhouette to our Robin, and the song, though different is beautiful as thrush songs are. The male Blackbird is ‘black’ with a yellow beak, the female looks, well like my painting, brown with speckles on breast.
This watercolor was commissioned by a lady for her husband’s 80th birthday! He loves groundhogs (just like me) and she really liked the groundhogs I had sketched on my blog this past summer, so she asked me to do a painting. Here’s the finished painting and below it I’ll share the stages of painting as I worked on it, along with how I changed or corrected areas as I went.
my set up 1
Above is my set up, an artists’ table easel box type thing that you can put oils paints in underneath, I have it filled with color pencils at the moment. I like it because you can change the angle to work on, I altered it though by drilling holes right up the front panel so I can change the height of the little shelf that you put your painting on while you work. (Yes, I love using my power drill!)
my watercolor pan palette
When I work on little watercolors, I like to keep my palette of colors close to the work. The paint dries out quickly in the tiny brushes so it helps to have it all close by. I set my pan of colors on a little wooden box and I can keep other supplies in here instead of all over my table. This pan is also what I use in the field, I have so many colors in it, I really don’t need to set up my big huge palette that I use in my studio for big paintings. When I worked on the painting, I had several pictures of groundhogs to the left of it for my reference, I used sticky tack (blue tack) to hold things in place on the Plexiglas surface.
my set up 2
I really created this set up because I wanted to work where the wood stove was, right in the middle of my living room. You can see the cold snow outside my window! So it’s like my little studio island, a plastic table 4′ x 2′, complete with laptop, small lamp, bundles of color pencils and some other piles of ‘stuff’. (ahmm…there’s a dark chocolate bar hidden in the box too, well you know, gotta keep the ‘ol strength up!)
This is the first stage of the painting, a light pencil sketch that I lighten first by tapping over it with a kneaded rubber eraser. Before I started I decided to make this a 5 x 7″ painting to fit a standard mat, so I lightly trace the inside of an 8 x 10 mat (5 x 7″ opening). Then I wash in a simple background of trees and start to place the long grasses and dandelions I want around this plump little groundhog.
groundhog 2 blocking shape
I like to try to keep some spontaneity in my paintings especially in the backgrounds. Here’s a little trick you can try to keep it loose while protecting areas; I grab a piece of paper or plastic to block or protect an area. This piece was just the right curve for his back, when it’s covered I can very freely stroke my brush right over the area with out it looking contrived and stiff.
groundhog 3 blocking shape
You can see above the protected area of his back.
In “groundhog 4” I have laid in some light body washes and beginning some fur areas, starting on the darker areas first. Notice I have left a light ‘cut out’ looking edge to him, this is so I can go back later and stroke color into it to make it look like fur, but also he’ll stand out a bit from the background. I also started to push the darks around the grass blades in the front left.
In “groundhog 5” you can see I darkened around the dandelions, added some grasses in front and also added some more tone and fur strokes on his body. Keep looking for the dark and light areas of his body; sometimes you show this by adding strokes or by adding whole washes to an area. If you look at his tail here I want to point out that I didn’t just paint in a tail shape, I put dark bits around where the grass went over it and it looks much more natural.
In “groundhog 6” you can see I have put a light wash of green in the background, then washes of brown in the foreground. I then added more grasses and darks around the dandelions, foreground and his body. I developed the arm and shoulder area more now, also added more to the head.
I developed the grasses around him in “groundhog 7”, pushing the darks in places.
Now I’ll show you some close up pictures of parts of the painting as I did corrections. I find it interesting to look back on how I changed things and I know my readers really like to see this, you can learn a lot by looking at how another painter reworks things to correct them.
correcting the back 1
When I painted more of the grasses in I was able to see his back silhouette better; I then realized that it looked too straight. So I gently re-wet the area along the edge (above) and rubbed a bit with my brush to lift the color then I blotted it with a clean paper towel. I repeat this as many times as nessesary to lift what I need to, you can’t always lift everything though!! Take care also not to lift other areas.
correcting the back 2
To reshape the back I carefully put down the dark green grass colors further out from the original back line. (above) Then you have to soften where needed so it all looks ‘right’ together.
Below I show a close up of an area that when I thought I had finished the painting, I looked back and decided to fix. That blade of grass pointing at his head looked ok in the beginning when it was lighter, but now was too strong.
blades of grass 1
Below is the area that I changed.
blades of grass final
Here’s some close ups of the head as I changed it. The mouth I found difficult to do, it was a give and take between showing details and sort of softening them, but then that’s the essence of painting! Notice the careful biulding of darks on the head to shape it’s 3 Dimensional feel, the changing of the black area of the mouth and the developing of the dark area under the jaw.
Head close up #1
Head close up #2
Head close up #3
#4 Final head close up
I ended up going over the entire head at the end and added darks here and there…sculpting until it looked just right.
Once again here is the painting finished and ready for it’s new owner!
The original is sold but SHOP for gifts, note cards, prints, t-shirts etc with this image on it in my Zazzle shop! Go to www.zazzle.com/marymcandrew*This will take you to my shop where my artwork and designs are listed, go to the Small Mammals folder to find the groundhog designs or just type Groundhog into the search box. You can add your own text to customize gifts! If you want it on something you don’t see, just email me to ask!
Exciting news! Garden 91, a non profit magazine in Taipei, Taiwan has featured my artwork and nature sketching blog in their magazine!
They are a non profit organization that concentrates on the value of nature, the true meaning of design, the life of aging and the vision of education. Does this sound like me?? YES!! The director contacted me to tell me that my blog and what I write and feel about nature is why they wanted to use my work. You’ll see several pages below that are right from my sketchbook pages I’ve posted in the past. Their island was hit by a typhoon in August of 2009 and they want to reveal more stories about people aware of nature and wildlife. They print about 1,000 copies and distribute them to upscale coffee houses, schools and libraries. I apologize ahead of time that I can’t translate the article, it’s written in traditional Chinese! But enjoy the pictures anyways! Here’s a link to their blog if you’d like to have a look, though it’s all in Chinese have a look around: http://garden91.pixnet.net/blog
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.
Just some little sketches from my field book. I pick up leaves just like so many people do, I can’t help it, they call to me from the ground all wet and shiny and brilliant colors. Each one calls, “Pick me up, pick me!” I end up with a pile tucked into my sketchbook where they get nicely pressed but I usually only have time to get one done before they lose their vibrant color. That’s what happened here, I wanted to use my watercolor pencils (and waterbrush) to test colors it would take and the second day when I went to finish it the leaf had already faded quite a bit.
The Goldfinches were neat, they kept landing in the long grass in front of my window and eating the dandelion seeds from the seed heads. It was funny to see this one bird with a seed sticking out of his beak, he’s twirl it around from one side of his beak to the other, it looks like a cigarette in the sketch! I used my watercolor pencils for this too, with a waterbrush.
Hi folks, just passing on some great news, I have three paintings I submitted to be juried for the Miniature Painters, Sculptors + Gravers Society in Washington DC and all were accepted! Yay! The three paintings I entered are following, click on each to see them larger in my gallery and more details about each. I even have links there to blog posts about how I painted them, have a look!
Here is a direct quote from their website about the society: “The Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers Society of Washington, DC, (MPSGS) was founded in 1931 by Alyn Williams (1865-1941), a well-known portrait miniaturist. The MPSGS is the oldest Miniature Art Society in the U.S. It is the second oldest in the world next to the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers in London, England–the world’s first Miniature Art Society also founded by Mr. Williams. The Inaugural Exhibition of the MPSGS of Washington, DC, was held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in December 1931. The Society has held exhibitions annually for 71 years with the exception of the years 1932 and 1942.”
Let me know if you live in the DC area and are going to the show. I’ll be unable to attend as I’ll still be in England.
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