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"Winter Sketches in England"

Winter has passed by and I’m still settling into my new life in England. I did some sketches as I could, being tired from unpacking, cleaning or just being overwhelmed in general. But happily I can see my sketching has increased as the months slip by and I will share all that in further posts to catch up.

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport...the big day way back in December!

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport…the big day way back in December!

Today I’m posting sketches I did way back in December and January. The one above I did while waiting in the Buffalo International Airport, Gate 12, for my flight to the UK. I like the way it came out, a person sitting ‘almost’ in silhouette in front of the huge windows. It definitely helped to pass the time and calm my nervous excitement.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

After I settled in I started walking in the mornings, mostly on my favorite lane above the village. Just like at ‘home’ in New York, sketching in winter I mostly use very small pocket sketchbooks. It’s just too cold to stand around freezing my fingers off, so I just do smaller quicker sketches; the most important thing is just to keep sketching.

The drawing above is actually tiny, done at the top of the page, but I like how it came out. It’s done with a brown Faber-Castell ink pen; I love using these pens. It’s a twisted little hawthorn along a sheep field, very exposed to the winds at the top of a ridge. I like it’s character because it reminds me of a bonsai tree. Some of the little trees you see hedges made of are actually very old trees that are trimmed all the time.

"Tree on Upper Lane", a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven't wet yet!

“Tree on Upper Lane”, a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven’t wet yet!

This sketch was done very quickly because it was so darn cold! I love walking on this one lane that goes out of our village because it’s lined with ancient trees and gorgeous views of distant hills and fields. I did it using water soluble pencil but wanted to scan it before I wet it. When you wet them they can get very dark and intense…it still waits for me to wet it with my brushes and mess around.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it's great for winter sketches because it's small.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small. I made a pen holder out of duct tape and attached it to the back cover. I have another one that’s even smaller that I used at home a lot too, just loved sticking it in my barn coat pocket when I went walking.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

January 7, 2015 – I walked down to Edlingham Burn (small river) and found a mossy rock to sit upon with this lovely view. Well maybe it’s hard to imagine from such a small sketch, but it was a view of the burn and moss covered trees everywhere, just lovely!

(c)me sketching 1-7-15

Me in the freezing cold, painting Edlingham Burn.

I was very cold painting this, I did it with mittens on mind you, no easy task! I sat on a bit of rock, cold and damp, but it felt so good to be out and finally messing with my watercolors, that I didn’t notice (until I got up, all stiff!) I used one medium sized waterbrush to do this.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets across small streams or ‘burns’ here, to keep sheep and cattle in sectioned off fields. I put it in the background of my watercolor sketch you can see above.

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

This is Edlingham Burn, I walked along it looking for a spot to paint. Where the rest of the land was pretty bleak and bare, the river was/is fascinating to me.  With all it’s mossy trees, ivy climbing everywhere, dry grasses draping over dark banks touching the cold water and the sound of splashing water, wonderful.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

These two trees I found behind the old church, in the farmers field. I really like how this sketch came out. They twisted together, almost in an embrace, part lichen covered, part moss. Standing in a cold, bare hedge, naked of leaves or flowers, just waiting till spring! Maybe someday I’ll do a larger color study.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

January 26th – I did this sketch on a day where I was tired and not feeling particularly inspired. That’s an especially good time to stick to your small sketchbook, just do something small until you ‘do’ feel inspired. It helped me to focus and relax; practice is always a good thing. I noted the birds I saw while doing it, Seagulls, Jackdaws and a Tree Creeper.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

I thought I’d leave you with two more photos, from Jan. 6th on my morning walk. I love watching the sheep in the fields all around me, there are so many kinds here!

A sheep wondering what I'm doing in his field.

A sheep wondering what I’m doing in her field.

This little ewe was watching me, they run away if you get too close, so having a zoom is needed! They are all carrying lambs at this time and I can’t wait to see them in spring!

Check back for more updates, yes there are more sketches, paintings and photos to catch up with from this spring and I can’t wait to share them with you! Sign up in the right column with your email, if you want to be notified when I do new posts. Please leave me comments if you like!

Honey Bunny Leaves for England

(Please click pictures to see enlarged)

Honey Bunny left a message for her friends.

Honey  Bunny left a message for her friends at Long Lane.

Honey Bunny made her decision, she’s moved away from Long Lane to England. But her little friends and she have promised to write to each other. She wants to know what happens back home and they want to hear about her adventures!

The little flowers of her garden are sad.

The little flowers of her garden are sad.

Her leaving has made the little flowers of her garden very sad. Honey Bunny always cared for the little living things at Long Lane and they all will miss her.

Her little mice neighbors were sorry to see her leave.

Her little mice neighbors were sorry to see her leave.

Her mice neighbors had lived near her at Long Lane for such a long time, they were very sorry to see her leave.

Even the little insects were sad.

Even the little insects were sad.

When friends leave it can be very sad and lonely feeling but it can also mean something new and exciting is happening.

Life keeps expanding if you let it grow.

British Flag 2 here at last re

Well life has been expanding for me, as I am now sitting at my laptop in a cottage, in Northumberland  England. Expansion doesn’t happen all at once, I guess if it did it would hurt! What I mean is I think it’s going to take me some time to settle in and feel like this is home. Before when I came, it was for long visits and it was all new and exciting. I’m not saying it isn’t new and exciting now, just that it does feel different. We don’t have that countdown of ‘days until I leave’ now and that’s such a relief!

But I do keep referring to the place I left, back in Clarence Center, New York, as home! I’ll give myself some slack with that; I still refer to the place I grew up, Endicott NY, as HOME. “Going home to Endicott”…I referred to it like this all the years my boys were growing up, so much that even they used to say…”when can we go home to Endicott and see Grandma and Grandpa?”

1-17-15 my walk  (129) (338x450)

Walking down the lane in a small village.

But as they say “home is where the heart is”, and my heart is here with Gary, my soon to be husband. We share a love of nature and walking the hills, listening to good children’s stories and old tales and just being silly and laughing a lot. When I have a new idea for a story or character, and share it with him, it usually expands effortlessly, as he just ‘gets it’.

Gary and I on a walk by Edlingham Burn or creek.

Gary and I on a walk by a burn or creek.

So as I explore my new gorgeous surroundings, I promise to share lots of photos here. The drawing, painting and felting are a bit on the back burner because we’re still working on arranging things to make room for my soon to arrive shipment. “Groan”….I have a lot of boxes and plastic bins coming!! (Remember all those boxes I kept packing?) But I DO miss my ‘stuff’ and can’t wait for it to arrive!

Well here’s a selection of photos from some of the walks I’ve taken. I’ve done a few little sketches but will share them later.

Edlingham Castle and viaduct, just down the road from me.

Edlingham Castle and viaduct, right next to an 11th c church.

The viaduct was built in the Victorian age and was part of a railway line; I’d like to do some sketches of it someday. The views are spread out here, that is you can see really far especially if you get up a hill, and I’ve noticed people just walk to things they can see.

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“My Northumberland!” from on top of the Crags looking down on the village.

Like above, we walked up to the top of the Crags and you have an excellent view for miles and miles!

This is the upper or back lane to the village.

This is the upper or back lane to the village.

This is the upper or back lane to the village and it’s one of my favorite (favourite 😉 ) places to walk…do you blame me?

Another view on the upper lane, coming back.

Another view on the upper lane, coming back.

This is usually how the upper lane looks as I come back, with the sun low in the winter sky.

There are sheep everywhere!

There are sheep everywhere!

Most of the fields and hills have sheep on them. I can guess at three breeds- Norfolk, Scottish Black Face and Texel. They’re all nice but the Scottish Black Faced ones are especially bonnie!

A tiny beautiful bird, the Blue Tit.

A tiny beautiful bird, the Blue Tit.

There are all new birds here for me to learn too. I’m frustrated when I hear them sing or twitter and I have no idea ‘who’ it is! I’m getting good at identifying them on sight though.

A male Blackbird, in the thrush family and closely related to the American Robin.

A male Blackbird, in the thrush family and closely related to the American Robin.

This beautiful bird is a male Blackbird…the same that were baked in a pie and that the Beatles sang about ‘singing in the dead of night’. They are thrushes just like ‘our’ American Robin; so things it does reminds me of it, and yes they’re known for their song!

Walking down by Edlingham Burn, wearing my gators!

Walking down by the burn, wearing my gators!

It’s spring. It’s muddy. When I go out walking and I put on my leg gators first, I’m always glad I did. The gators wrap around your lower leg and ankle and zip up. They stay put because of a strap that goes under your boot and a hook at your laces. I bought them years ago when I came here and just love them!

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

Can you see how beautiful this is? I love the tangle of roots, the moss covered trees and the branches that scraggle in all directions. I just hope I can start to capture it all when I start painting.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets strung together across the burns or streams, to keep livestock in the proper pasture. I really like the way this one looks, like it’s blended in with it’s natural surroundings.

Well I’ll leave you here, time to go get busy. I’ll post more pictures as I go and hopefully some sketches. Please leave comments below as I love to hear from you all!

A Last Look at Winter

I’ve been meaning to post these pictures as I did them at the end of this winter. All of them were done outside while wearing mittens, so I was going to title the post something like that, but now that winter is gone I can’t bring myself to think about mittens! So, here’s a bunch of tiny sketches done at the end of winter, using my tiny square sketchpad.

Tiny sketch kit I keep in my winter 'backyard coat' pocket. I also keep a mechanical pencil and kneaded rubber eraser in it.

Tiny sketch kit I keep in my winter ‘backyard coat’ pocket; I also keep a mechanical pencil and kneaded rubber eraser in it.

The baggie is sandwich sized and in it I keep a permanent ink pen, one mechanical pencil, a kneaded rubber eraser along and the homemade 4″ x 4″ sketchbook. This small size is great for winter because just capturing a small sketch on a freezing cold day is better than trying to do something bigger and your fingers fall off from the cold before you’re done! 😉 I also keep a few pages of printer paper at the back for notes or creative ideas for poems.

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Aspen leaf deep in the snow…very cold outside!

I’ll add my small sketches in order that I did them.

(c)3-16-14 tiny sketchbook -2 (400x392)

“Waiting for Spring”

The tree sketch above was done the same day, after strolling around the frozen yard. The two trees at the back corner of my yard had dark, dead leaves and swirled dried grasses all about them, like an oasis in the white snow.

(c)photo 2 (500x373)

“Waiting for Spring” photo of sketchbook.

This photo above just shows how small the sketch is. Like I said the idea is to keep the sketchbook handy in my pocket and keep the drawing time to a minimum.

(c)3-20-14 tiny sketchbook (400x392)

“Cocoon Leaf” that I’ve been watching all winter.

This is a sketch of the leaf I’ve kept an eye on all winter. I wondered why one dead leaf never fell from this little tree in my yard, I suspected what I found, a cocoon. Very interesting to look at up close and see the silk spun around the stem.

(c)3-21-14 tiny sketchbook (400x399)

“Cocoon Leaf” sketched from the other side.

And this is sketched the next day after my walking. It was difficult to draw with bulky mittens on, sometimes I pull back the top and use my fingers. I like this sketch because it shows how beautiful the form of the leaves wrap together.

(c)3-22-14 tiny sketchbook (400x391)

A tree by the lane (Long Lane).

Today I went further than the yard, up Pasture Lane into the big field. It was just great to be out in the open and not cooped up inside, though it was still very cold. All the ground that had flooded in the winter was covered by ice + water, so I had to watch my steps. As I sketched the tree I imagined a squirrel could be looking down from that one ‘V’ branch, in a story, then I thought of England as usual. “My mind if full of leaving, my mind is full of returning…to England”. Then it started to snow again.

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“Cocoon Leaf”, another sketch…I like this one.

The next day I walked in the yard again and drew the leaf. It’s great to repeatedly study one object, every sketch a different angle or different lighting.

(c)3-24-14 (398x400)

“Cocoon Leaf” gets covered with a plastic mesh bag.

I decided to play more the ‘scientist’ and hopefully get to study what kind of critter comes out of the cocoon, if any!  I took a plastic mesh bag from some onions and gently tied it over the twig with the cocoon. I made sure the bag won’t move and disturb the cocoon leaf. The only thing about doing this is now I’ve signed on to be “Cocoon Keeper”, it’s my responsibility to watch it everyday in case something does come out.

The other neat thing about drawing outside that day is the sounds I heard from the treeline. There’s a ditch that drains the fields there and all winter it’s full of water and ice. Today the ice made such interesting cracking sounds, I assume it’s to do with temperature changes between air and earth.

(c)3-25-14 1 (400x398)

Sketches of what I think are Woodcock footprints in the snow.

I had a nice walk on this day, March 25. The sun was out, it was cold but calm and I got to see a Woodcock walking on the ground! First I saw these tracks which I noted, then just further on I saw a Woodcock in the treeline walking! I’ve never seen one on the ground, they always flush as I come upon them. I tried to grab photos but, NO WAY, it was too quick for me.

(c)3-25-14 2 (400x398)

Tree in Aspen Hall with interesting marks on it.

Last sketch of ‘Winter’; though it’s officially spring, with snow on the ground and mittens I still call it winter! This was sketched the same day, after seeing the Woodcock. I walked up Long Lane to Aspen Hall and sat for a bit on a pile of dead branches I use for a seat. Aspen Hall is a special place for me because it’s a place on my land where my sons and I would first hike to. Just far enough for a 2 + 4 year old to make it to, one in a wagon when tired, but far enough to be an adventure and secret place; I always loved secret, special places. We planted daffodils and crocuses 20 years ago, and some still come up now! I can’t believe it’s been so long ago.

Well that’s it for ‘wintery sketches’! I do have more in my tiny sketchbook but they are officially done ‘without mittens’! so I’ll save them for another ‘tiny sketchbook post’.

If anything, I hope this encourages some of you to stick a small sketchbook in your pocket and just do little studies when you’re out. Some of us spend far too much time focused on work, the house, the kids, the computer….when it’s so important to get out and walk and see. The best way to see is to stop, study and draw!

(Just a note on my actual drawing techniques, sometimes I use a pencil to sketch and correct with a kneaded rubber eraser. Afterwards I’ll go over it with the permanent pen, let it dry, then erase the pencil. I do this because I don’t like pencil in my field sketchbooks as it smudges. Many, many times I don’t use the pencil first at all, I just take my time and sketch directly with the permanent pen. It can be a freeing feeling to do this, but also can make you think a little more before you make your mark!)

Hope you enjoyed my tiny sketches and notes, please leave me comments and ask questions if you like, I love reading them and replying!

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

"Snow Scenes, Mice and Bunnies"

Weekly Sketches text

(Since posting this I’ve come back and edited the text I had before.  I’ve changed my mind about doing a “Weekly Sketches” post as I don’t like how limiting it felt! I don’t want to label posts with dates and no names, they are all listed by date under “Archives” in the right side column anyways. And this way I can throw a painting in when I want also! Don’t worry I’m still going to try and keep up with posting more of my sketches as I do them.)

Here’s a few sketches from the week:

A tiny pencil sketch of an arch in the snow, complete with bunny!

I’m sneaking this one in, since it’s not technically drawn in 2013 but it’s close enough! I did it while out for a snowshoe walk on Long Lane Farm.

Fence in ink 1-3-13

A tiny sketch in ink of my fence.

I have a tiny sketchpad I made that I keep tucked in the pocket of my winter coat that I wear out walking. I did this aprox. 3″x3″ sketch with a permanent ink Micron pen after my walk. It was snowing on the paper and I was wearing my fingerless gloves, it’s not easy to draw in those conditions! This is the exciting challenge of it all!! It might not look like much but when I look at the sketch, I remember so much more than what is seen. I remember the sounds, colors and COLD! haha

The pictures of the mice below are sketched on cheap computer paper, no proper tooth but great for quick sketches. It’s also good when you want to transfer onto ‘good’ paper, just draw over the pencil with a black fine point marker and trace onto the ‘good’ paper using a light table or window.

Mouse Sketch 1

A rough sketch from a photo.

I printed out a bunch of photos of mice so I can sketch them as I have time. The one above shows how I was looking for the forms or shapes of the body, under the mouses fur.

Mouse 1 finished sketch

Here is Mouse 1 sketch finished.

Here it is finished. I just erased the light sketch lines and used a tortillion stump to do some quick blending.

Mouse 2 finished sketch

This guy is cute! Mouse 2 finished sketch.

This mouse was cute! He reminds me of a hamster because of his wide face, but it was a mouse. I love his little hands!

Sketch of Mouse 3, view from below.

This is from below, a view you don’t often see.

Mouse 3, sketched view from below. I noticed they have the tiniest noses and little pads on their feet. I tried to use a pin to score the paper on the right, so when I shade it might show as white whiskers; but the paper was just too thin, you can see just a tiny bit. It’s a great trick on heavier paper!

mouse in clay sculpture

Some fun with clay! A little mouse sculpture.

You must think I have “mouse on the brain” this week! Well when I was sketching I just started playing with some plasticine clay I have and he came out! It’s fun to play around with clay; I always had huge amounts of it for my boys to play with in my studio. The great thing about it is it never dries out, you can reshape it and reuse it for years.

Mice in clay and an eraser

Well he had to have a friend!

I suppose he had to have a friend! I’ve always played around with my kneaded rubber eraser while sketching and when I tweaked it into a point for erasing something I couldn’t resist, well…you know…another mouse! haha 🙂 I used the head of a quilting pin to make the dents for eyes, but they’d look much better with beads stuck in.

Fox tracks in the snow

I think these are fox tracks in the snow.

I was getting my exercise in my yard yesterday and spotted lots of tracks in the snow. Before I walked I had to sketch them, the tracks above are at ‘real’ size on my paper. I measured them with my pen and sketched it on my paper. I ‘think’ they’re fox.

Bunny and deer tracks

Rabbit and white tailed deer tracks.

There were bunny tracks all over my yard but these were just adorable! You could see every little toe pad on it’s back feet deep into the snow. The deer track is not at life size, they were all over too!

Bunny Studies in pencil

Three bunny studies in pencil

And the last one, three bunny studies that I think I sketched in bed while watching a movie. Thinking of ideas for a new poem I wrote.

Well that’s it! Busy week, lets see if I can do some more this week….stay tuned. Make sure you sign up your email in the “Subscribe” box in the upper right column if you want to follow what I’m up to! 😉

New Years Eve Snowshoe Ramble (2012)

New Years Eve has come again, as it does. We had lots of snow lately and now that hunting season is over, I can venture out into my fields again! So I got out my snowshoes, stuffed a tiny sketchbook in my pocket and slung my camera over my shoulder and ready for a walk! Well after donning a few wool layers that is! (Click pics for clearer view.)

My ‘long’ snowshoes are ready to go.

This post isn’t really about great sketches but mostly just getting out into nature, going for a good walk and of course looking for inspiration. I love looking as I go and letting ideas come to me. I see holes in the snow and think of my little characters living in there! But if you just enjoy sketching nature then you get inspired by the lighting, colors and forms you see as you walk. If anything you feel better for filling your lungs with fresh air. I enjoyed taking pictures to add to my reference folders, so I’ll put my photos here that I shot as I walked and you can see what I saw.

My long snowshoes.

I have two pair of snowshoes, one is a “Bear Paw” style that is rounded on both ends, and the other are what I wore today, they taper out long in the back. These were great for the long trails, I guess the others are supposed to be good when in a more ‘brushy’ trail where you don’t want a long end (like skies) to maneuver.

The start of my walk, up “Pasture Lane”.

This is “Pasture Lane”, the start of almost every walk. I did a nice oil painting one year in May, while sitting just here and looking down the grassy lane filled with yellow dandelions! Ahh…to dream of green spring! (Have a peek at the painting here in my gallery)

“Long Lane” waiting to be explored, this is near the pond.

Then I turn to the area where the pond is but if I continue on in the direction as before, “Long Lane” is before me. The lane that my farm is named for! It goes on and on and all the trails I’ve made over the years with the brush-hog run off of it. It’s all been getting pretty wild though the past few years, as I’ve either been in England or my tractor broke or couldn’t because my back bothered me. I have noticed a LOT more wonderful butterflies and dragonflies on the property though, by letting the field go wild!

A pretty view of the field from Long Lane.

In winter you learn to appreciate the subtle things, like the colors of the dormant bushes, the murky greyness of the trees in the distance, the way snow rolls over everything and creates subtle shadows that are a challenge to draw.  You also notice the quiet of it all except today, today the wind was making it’s presence known!

A little natural snow arch that would be perfect for a bunny!

I spotted this little snow arch created by the tree and bushes and it captured my imagination. I thought it’d make a great reference for adding a bunny someday.

A close up of the “snow nook”.

So I took a bunch of photos from all different angles, then stood still to do a tiny sketch in my tiny sketchbook.

A tiny pencil sketch of a snowy arch in the snow, complete with bunny!

Ohh it was cold but I tried to do what I could and later I touched it up a bit while looking at the photos. I added a pretend bunny while I was drawing it in the lane; someday I’ll have to think of a story or painting.

Water in the ditch and snow covered downed trees.

The deer always cross here and I like to stop and image things. It’s like a little world to a small creature complete with lake! Other than that it’s just pretty.

Tracks from my snowshoes.

Always look back to see how things look from a different view…

Dead grapevine leaves, auto setting.

Dead grapevine leaves, auto setting.

Now these two pictures of the grapevine leaves are just a mini photo lesson. I only wanted to point out that I tested using the “auto” setting (shown above) which makes the picture very cold and bluey. But below…

Dead grapevine leaves taken with Aperture Priority mode.

 I switched it to Aperture Priority mode and was able to select the kind of lighting…you know, indoor with lights, outdoor shade etc. When I selected outdoor type and shade it allowed the warmer tones to come through. I thought it was much nicer and how I was ‘seeing’ it in real life. In that setting I could play around with the depth of field a little too. Sorry my photos in the this post aren’t a bit nicer but I don’t take time to tweak in any photo program…they just are what they are. I was mostly interested in photos for references.

Now I'm following some deer tracks.

Now I’m following some deer tracks.

So I wander onward…following deer tracks. Another great thing about winter is being able to study all the tracks that are made in the snow! You can try to figure out what went on during the night when you were sleeping.

Here’s a little hole that could be good for one of my illustrations!

More holes capture my imagination, so I photograph them for references.

here’s another hole that caught my imagination.

Now as you think of the holes and look at the photos below…

Almost to “Memory Lane”.

…read what I wrote in that tiny journal sketchbook, while walking in the freezing cold lane:

“Dec 31. New Years Eve Walk  – Snowshoes…cold.

The wind blows through the Ash tree tops, Great roaring above that sounds like an ocean in the distance.
The wind looks everywhere for a burrow, a hole a nest…it has no home. So on it roars…looking.
I hear clacking little frozen branches – small ones that rattle against each other in this wind.
Sometimes I hear the squeaking and creaking of big limbs, pressed together over time but now mobil in this wind.
I walk on.”

Beautiful dried grasses all swirled in different directions.

This is near “Memory Lane”, where most of the year it’s wet so this grass grows profusely there and in winter it’s nice to look at. I love the color of dry grasses.

Dried Bull Thistle bends low.

Here are some more notes from my journal: “The Bull Thistle – bending over, trying to kiss the snow, once stood 7′ tall.Now it prostrates itself in a deep bow.”

The downy hairs they once had are now soaked with ice.

“What bristly seed heads still have downy beards – are now soaked with ice as they hang their heads to the ground.”

Me with my snowshoes after a long walk!

Oh dear, there’s me without a stitch of makeup on!! Yikes! I can also see white blurry bits of snow on the lens. Oh well, I like this photo because it reminds me of my mini adventure so I thought I’d share it!

So now, my parting words to you are – instead of moping around the house this winter, grab your sketchbook or camera and go for a walk!

Small Sketches From My Yard

For the past few months I’ve been using my backyard to walk laps for exercise. During hunting season I stay away from the fields and when my back was especially stiff, I found walking on the even grass a great way to keep up my routine. The weather hasn’t been inspiring for sketching outdoors but lately I’ve been tucking a simple stiff folder with loose watercolor papers in it, into my coat pocket. I also carry a mechanical pencil, eraser and ink pen. So I’ll show you just some of the small studies I did with REALLY COLD hands!

bluebird house on snowy day

bluebird house on snowy day

(Nov. 25, 2012) This is one of my Bluebird houses, now just filled with an old nest that the field mice use to ‘hole up’ for the winter. My paper looks blotchy because while I sketched, it snowed on me! Snow all over and my hands were cold; I drew this with mittens on!

tree sketch (Paul's trees)

tree sketch (Paul’s trees)

(Nov. 27, 2012) This is a very small study, about 3″x 4″ in graphite. I like how this one came out, smudged it a bit for atmosphere and a bit of distance. And I like the light trees in front of the dark ones. These are special trees because my son Paul always loved them, so he claimed them to be ‘his’ trees, so when I draw them they are “Paul’s Trees”!

The House Through the Trees

The House Through the Trees

(Nov. 28, 2012) Now this was a cold grey day but I had just finished a great walk and felt warm enough to try and stand still to sketch this. I am still wearing my fingerless mittens though, which are awkward to do drawing in. It’s a house up the road from me I can see through the trees. Doing these sketches in pencil is good practice for me as I usually draw in permanent ink in the field.

Dry teasel

Dry teasel

I then drew these Teasels that I left to grow in my garden this summer. I love the way Teasel looks when it’s dry, the elegant swirl of the long (would they be Sepals?)

I’m sharing these with you hopefully to encourage those of you who like nature sketching, to keep a pad with you, go out and walk in your yard and see what you can find. I’m working hard on my children’s book illustrating projects so my nature sketching has been pushed aside a bit. So this is my way to keep from getting too rusty and it just feels so good to study something outside using my sketching. Have you been wanting to sketch more?

Stay tuned, next post is the finished Mouse Family watercolor! yay!

Thanksgiving Day 2012

Today, before I started cooking our Thanksgiving Day dinner, I popped outside for some air. I’ve been trying to walk laps around my yard for exercise but today I brought my lonely field sketch kit. It’s gotten ‘dusty’ from non use and how great it was to refresh with a sketch. I did this small, quick sketch of a tree covered with Wild Grapevines. (Click pictures to see clearer.)

Quick sketch of wild grapevines all over a tree.

 As I was drawing/painting, I noticed that the vines on the right (in the sun), were best drawn by showing the darks around them. By painting the dark areas the vines showed up. And on the left side they were best shown by making the vines themselves dark and the space around them light.  Opposites on each side of the tree they clung to. Hmm…might be something poetic here but haven’t gone with that inspiration yet.

The tree was absolutely choked with vines!

You can see the tree was choked with vines but they were so graceful looking, swirling around and in and out! What a good hiding place for critters when covered with leaves.

Yes that’s me sketching, wearing my Dad’s old Woolrich hunting coat and my fingerless mittens.

I got a picture of me sketching, wearing my Dad’s old Woolrich hunting coat that I love as it makes me think of him. He loved to be out in the fields in fall hunting birds with our Brittany Spaniel “Red” and in winter he’d don this coat with it’s matching trousers and go deer hunting. I remember going with him to ‘run the dog’ in fall, to get Red in shape and work on training. I loved going with him! I’m also wearing my fingerless mittens which later I took off, along with the coat because it was so nice and warm in the sun! I wear my sketch bag crosswise over one shoulder and my camera strap over the other.

Such blue skies!

I thought it was going to be colder. The sky was clear and blue, I love looking up at the tree tops like this. There were a few Chickadees flitting around keeping me company.

Get Outside and Sketch!

And there’s my final words! “Get Outside and Sketch!”

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you don’t celebrate it, I hope you still had a good week and got outside for some fresh air!

Watercolor Studies of Moss on Trees

It’s been a long while since I posted! I’ve been busy with packing up and also selling things in my house for my eventual move. Wow I didn’t realize I had so much STUFF! I was also busy with my eldest son’s University Graduation, which was in Washington DC. and afforded me an entire day at two fine art galleries that would blow your mind. Well it did mine! I’m going to post about that visit next I think!

moss study in watercolor, of same tree

 Back to the moss now…  I did these studies in March (click pic to see detail) when it was sunny but still chilly and actually quite nice to be out on the land. Trees were still working on their buds; leaves, grasses and wild plants were all just coming up through the dead, wet leaves of winter. But everywhere I looked there was gorgeous moss growing on all the bases of my trees. I have very wet land and there is no shortage of moss!

I did these studies because of a little story I made up about a mouse…and I needed to do moss studies. Wow, a great excuse to go out and paint!! haha. This first study (above) I did the same tree twice; sometimes I do that, the second time going faster,  more bold or just trying a different technique. For the one on the right (the second study) I stepped back and just looked at darks and lights of the green, also tried to do the bark quicker. I’ve left a good amount of clean paper because I may be able to use it later to add in some characters or more trees.

moss study in watercolor on tree in Aspen Hall

The study above I was really happy with! I went to Aspen Hall, a special place on my land that my boys and I used to go to, and I picked this one tree because the moss had a different hue. When the mosses are ‘blooming’ or sporing (?) they have little rusty brownish reddish heads that come up on hairlike stalk. If you get in close you can see them; it’s these that give the moss a sort of rust patina on top of the green.

I firmly believe if you want to paint something right, the more you can study and understand your subject the better. You don’t have to scientifically understand all about it, but get up close and really look at it’s parts, ask yourself what those parts are maybe. I find the more you do this, the more you SEE, you will get really good at seeing details you would never have thought about before! That’s my two cents!

A beautiful fuzzy budding bush, close up

On my walk I took a few pictures (of course!!) Here’s a few beautiful, soft buds on a bush. Don’t they look like those fireworks that explode outward? There’s such symmetry in the unopened bud, like a pine cone and the opened ones are irresistible to stroke to feel their softness.

Here's a snail keeping company with the tiny frog eggs

And then there were frog eggs in the wet lane, some tadpoles that had hatched and a snail friend on top of them all.

This could be the mom or dad of those eggs!

I see countless Leopard Frogs while I walk, all jumping this way and that as I come along the lanes. This was a big one so I assume an adult that overwintered and had something to do with those eggs! Now (at the end of May) I go walking and see many young frogs leaping into the wet areas of the paths, new frogs of the year!

A male (American) Robin has his crest raised while looking at me

This male American Robin was in “Pasture Lane” as I walked, he has his crest raised like someone with big eyebrows would lift them to look at you! He’s on alert.

This is a typical pose for robins, with wings held slightly hanging

Here he is again, it’s a good pose to show you how they typically hang their wings a bit. He’s still looking at me you can see!

Well I couldn’t resist adding a few more pictures from my walk, so here they are:

Two beautiful Mourning Doves, watching me from a high branch.

A beautiful setting of moss, grasses and dried leaves on a tree.

And here's my view looking home, along "Pasture Lane", a very wet but ALIVE with creatures lane!

I hope you enjoyed my moss studies and nature pictures from my day out. Please leave me a comment or ask a question, I love getting comments! I promise to TRY to put aside packing for planned sketching time everyday and get back to my posting here!

Some of my pictures link to my Zazzle Shop, please have a look around as I put many photos there that aren’t on my blog.

Springtime Walk and Lane with Arched Branches

This walk was on April 13, 2012, all around on my land checking on how things were doing now that spring is well underway.  (please click pictures to see larger)

"Lane with Arched Branches" watercolor and ink

I did this watercolor study while standing in the lane, looking ahead through the natural arch formed by this one bush or small tree. Over the years as I would walk under it, I’d trim off branches hanging down right where you walk, so it formed a natural arch. The branches on top reach straight up like suckers do. I actually did most of it on one day then another time I was out I added the ink.

The first snail I met this year!

Now you can meet some of the critters I met on my walk. The first was a snail sliding along on this piece of dead grass floating in the water. I noticed this before on snails like this, his body color is blueish! Cool.

The second snail I met was this flat shaped coiled one.

Here’s a totally different kind, this one’s shell makes a coil but flat. Can you see the paler band of color at about 9 o’clock? Everything from there to the lip is new growth just from this year!

I took him home and he decided to come out to explore

Well, yes, I did tuck him into a little baggie I had with some of the water from where I found him! I stuck him in my pocket and brought him home to look at closer. I thought I’d have time to sketch him but when I realized I wouldn’t I released him right away.

Looking up to the spreading grandeur of this old oak!

Now here we are in “Oak Lane”, so named because of the very old, very huge oak trees growing there. They were probably planted some 200 years ago by the original owners of this farm as a land boundary. I love looking up at them as they tower over me, and marvel at how many years they’ve been looking down at people before me even. There are so many critters living in, on and under them!

Way up high this squirrel's tail was hanging out of it's hole.

When you’re out walking, if you keep your eyes open and maybe more importantly, stop sometimes and just stand still to listen and look, you may be surprised at what you see. As I was admiring my oaks and listening to birds I caught sight of something way, way up high, moving. It was just a stirring but it caught my eye; turns out it was a Grey Squirrels tail left hanging outside his/her hole!  How funny it was, just blowing around in the wind like a flag put out on a porch. I think it was sleeping!

This is the first butterfly of the year for me, the Mourning Cloak

Then all of a sudden in a flutter, a Mourning Cloak butterfly appeared and landed not far from me. It was sticking to the open lane where the sun was. Everytime I got too close it flew off but I was patient and followed it along, and the last shots I got were the best because I think, it was tired and didn’t want to fly as much. After that I left it alone, thank goodness for digital zoom!

I hope you enjoyed this little walk and my watercolor study. Stay tuned because I have some more posts in the works! And as always please share my blog with friends and visit my Shop at Zazzle where you’ll find TONS of my nature photos and artwork on all kinds of products.