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Watercolor Paper Testing - Part 2

Hello and welcome back for Watercolor Paper Testing – Part 2! My last post I had done some small tests to get started, and explained about the fall I had. Well I’m pretty much healed from that and getting back on track.

Hello there!

Hello there!

First I want to say, if you just go by what I say worked for me, it might help you decide on a paper you’d like to use, BUT WAIT! I highly recommend doing some testing of your own, you can follow my example or try new things on your own. I made a list of the techniques I was most likely to use and then did a simple, similar picture on all of them. I used 11 different papers, all ordered from Jackson’s Art Supply, my test sizes varied from about 5″x6″ to 3″x 6″, so they were small. It took me several days, of sitting down when I could, to work on each test criteria.

1.First label all your test peices of paper with what the paper is, the weight, type etc. One nice thing I ordered was the St. Cuthbert’s Mill sample pack of seven different papers; it only cost .50p and the peices were large enough to really play around with. Each of them was fully labeled too.

2.Make a list of the techniques you want to test on notebook paper; I will include my criteria list below. I decided to do one character (snail) on each and a simple dirt path, green bushy background and a sky with clouds. The sky allowed me to do a big simple graded wash, drop water in for clouds, and test by lifting with clean wet brush.

Clouds

Clouds

3.Do one technique at a time on each one in succession. This way you’ve got the same colors mixed, and can use the same brushes to compare how they go on each paper. Write down what you thought after each thing you test or you’ll forget. I did this on note paper then after I was all done I wrote them down on the back of each paper test. So years from now you can dig around and find them you’ll know what’s what.

OK, here’s my list of criteria I tested:  (all done on dry, unstretched paper)

  1. Can you trace through the paper using a black ink line drawing underneath? I traced different snails on each one.
  2. Does pencil erase easily?
  3. Wash layers- do they stay or lift too easy when new layers go on? Tested in bush areas, ground and sky (I wet paper with a brush first for this one).
  4. Lifting- do dry watercolors lift off when you rub/lift using damp brush and paper towel? On each I lifted a tree shape, like “stems” in the green bushes. Then on most I also lifted some of the dry blue sky.
  5. Dry brush technique. Mostly the bushes and some ground areas on each.
  6. Draw with dip nib and ink. I drew each snail with dip ink and nib, going over the pencil lines I traced.
  7. Scratch wet paint areas to see if dark lines appear. You’ll see some thin lines of color in the bushes, these were made by scratching into the wet paper where paint was laid down.
  8. Color pencil on dry watercolor areas, how do they go on? I mostly did this in the bushes around the snail, some on the ground using dark browns.
  9. Permanent ink pen, ease of drawing on paper? Used to outline each snail and some details on the ground.
  10. Clouds on damp blue sky, drop clear water on and some lifting with paper towel.
  11. In general how does paper take the paint?
  12. (other things you may want to test that I did not: using masking fluid, scraping off dry layers of paper with sharp knife, dropping salt on wet paint, whatever you may usually do when painting)

Please click each picture to see it enlarged.

Testing ability to trace through the paper from my drawing.

Testing ability to trace through the paper from my drawing.

This is my simple set up for tracing I used on this project, (sorry for the dark picture) it’s a clear plastic flat “scrapbooking” type container. I like using these containers to hold my illustrations and lately have been using one as an easel/drawing table. I put a peice of rubber shelf liner underneath it, and can tuck reference photos and drawing stuff inside. I hold the top up with different sizes of masonite or plexiglas depending on the angle I want; here I used plexiglas so it lets more light through. I put a strong little lamp behind it on the table and set my drawing that I’ve inked in black on top. Next you lay your watercolor paper on top and trace! *Note- I taped a carpenters pencil along the bottom to keep papers and boards from sliding off, it works pretty good for now. *Note 2- you can also trace using a bright window; tape your inked drawing up and then your watercolor paper on top. Use light pencil lines, don’t score into the paper, you’ll want to erase most of your lines anyways so draw light!

Now I’ll post pictures of each sample and tell what paper it was along with what I thought about it. Prices listed were at the time I bought them. Click on pictures to see larger.

Beginning sample for watercolor paper test.

Beginning sample for watercolor paper test.

This sample has no number because it’s a scrap peice of watercolor paper I grabbed and for each technique I gave it a go on here 1st as a warm up! If you’re worried about messing up your paper don’t be afraid to loosen up on some scraps first! this helped me to think of what techniques I wanted to try.

#1 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Millford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#1 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Millford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#1 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Millford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White. 22″x30″ sheet = £ 4.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .82p. (all papers with blue type on them are from the St. Cuthbert’s Mill sample pack) 1. Traced through well enough, a bit rough. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes went on great, no hard edges. 4. Lifting dry color- this paper worked well. You can see the little ‘tree’ stem area in the green bushes, that was done by lifting, and at the top in the sky.  5. Dry brush was good, rough areas in bushes. 6. Ink and Nib- went on well, a bit rough but good. 7. Scratch test-worked but wasn’t very strong, may need to try more. 8. Color pencil- great, bit of texture. 9. Permanent ink pen- ok, a bit rough for long drawn curved lines (snail shell). 10. Clouds- worked well, soft edges. 11. Paper took the paint really well, nice texture on ground edges, blue sky washes even.

#2 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, HP White

#2 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, HP White

#2 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, HP White. 22″x30″ sheet = £ 2.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .42p. 1. Traced through very well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on blotchy or patchy, layers hard edged. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well, see ‘tree’ shape and tiny cloud at top. 5. Dry brush-ok, not bad but a bit blah because of paper smoothness. 6. Ink and Nib- went on well, smooth. 7. Scratch test- worked. 8. Color pencil-good. 9. Permanent ink pen- very easy to draw with, smooth. 10. Clouds-Interesting, with water dropped in it formed harder dark edges, which I could have softened with lifting, but it was neat.  11. Was harder to float washes, paint colors got patchy.

#3 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#3 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#3 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White. 22″x30″ sheet = £ 2.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .42p. 1. Traces well, tiny bit rough. 2. Erases easy. 3. Washes- great, easy to add water to. 4. Lifting dry color- did well. 5. Dry brush- worked really well. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, tiny bit rough. 7. Scratch test- worked ok. 8. Color pencil-good. 9. Permanent ink pen- good, a bit bumpy for drawing. 10. Clouds-excellent! Soft edges were perfect and harder edges on bottom edges looked good. 11. Paper took paint nicely.

#4 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, Rough White

#4 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, Rough White

#4 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, Rough White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 2.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .42p. 1. Traced through well enough, a bit rough. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- layered well. 4. Lifting dry color- worked rather well.  5. Dry brush- pretty good, rough areas in bushes and ground. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, a bit rough. 7. Scratch test-worked, a bit pale. 8. Color pencil- not as good, a bit too rough for me. 9. Permanent ink pen- well, a bit rough. 10. Clouds- worked well, wash went on nice, made clouds really well. 11. Paper took the paint really well, nice textures too.

#5 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, HP High White

#5 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, HP High White

#5 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, HP High White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.60, 9″x12″ cut peice = .72p. 1. Traced through well. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on nicely. 4. Lifting dry color- ok, not as easy as others, lifting small patch on blue sky was bad.  5. Dry brush- worked great, rough areas above bushes. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, a bit bleedy. 7. Scratch test-worked really well. 8. Color pencil- worked well easy to draw on to paper. 9. Permanent ink pen- great. 10. Clouds- worked well, I put clouds on with a bit too much water. 11. Paper took the paint well.

#6 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#6 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#6 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.60, 9″x12″ cut peice = .72p. 1. Trace through-a bit rough, not as thin, can trace but not as easy. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on really well. 4. Lifting dry color- not so good, soft edges.  5. Dry brush- worked great, rough areas in bushes and ground. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, not too bad. 7. Scratch test-worked ok. 8. Color pencil- worked well, especially for rough textures. 9. Permanent ink pen- very well. 10. Clouds- worked well, nice and soft, blue wash went on really well. 11. Paper took the paint really well.

#7 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, Rough White

#7 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, Rough White

#7 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, Rough White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.60, 9″x12″ cut peice = .72p.  1. Traces through well-a bit rough. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- very good. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well but not with sky color.  5. Dry brush- worked great, rough areas in bushes and ground. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, a bit rough. 7. Scratch test-worked ok. 8. Color pencil- worked well, especially for rough textures. 9. Permanent ink pen- well but can be bumpy. 10. Clouds- blue wash went on well, clouds did really well. 11. Paper took the paint really well.

#8 Canson, Moulin du Roy, HP

#8 Canson, Moulin du Roy, HP

#8 Canson, Moulin du Roy, HP 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .62p. 1. Traces through really well, feels thinner. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- beaded up a lot, wouldn’t go on in some areas! 4. Lifting dry color- worked very well, even on the sky patch.  5. Dry brush- worked ok to good. 6. Ink and Nib- draws well. 7. Scratch test-not great. 8. Color pencil- worked well. 9. Permanent ink pen- nice, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- worked well, don’t get too wet, it gets blotchy. Paper towel lifts easily because color doesn’t soak in too fast. 11. Paint beaded up at first then was ok.

#9 St. Cuthbert's Botanical Ultra Smooth, 140lb

#9 St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth, 140lb

#9 St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth, 140lb full sheet = £ 2.20 (slightly smaller than the others), 9″x12″ cut peice = .55p. 1. Traces through really well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- a bit patchy in areas. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well.  5. Dry brush- worked well. 6. Ink and Nib- ok, a bit bleedy. 7. Scratch test-ok to pretty good. 8. Color pencil- worked very well. 9. Permanent ink pen- nice, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- worked well, color lifted well, clouds a bit hard edged. 11. Paper takes paint ok to well.

#10 Royal Botanical Society 140lb, HP

#10 Royal Botanical Society 140lb, HP

#10 Royal Botanical Society 140lb, HP 22″x30″ sheet = £ 4.70, 9″x12″ cut peice = .94p.  1. Traces through well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on nice. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well, a bit pale on sky patch.  5. Dry brush- worked well. 6. Ink and Nib- works fine. 7. Scratch test-worked well. 8. Color pencil- worked well. 9. Permanent ink pen- great, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- blue color went on nice, clouds went on very well. 11. Paper takes paint very well.

#11 Arches Aquarelle, 140lb, HP

#11 Arches Aquarelle, 140lb, HP

#11 Arches Aquarelle, 140lb, HP 22″x30″ sheet = £ 5.40, 9″x12″ cut peice = £ 1.08. 1. Traces through very well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on well. 4. Lifting dry color- worked really well.  5. Dry brush- worked well. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok to good. 7. Scratch test-worked well. 8. Color pencil- worked very well. 9. Permanent ink pen- very good, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- blue wash went on well, clouds lifted with brush and paper towel. 11. Paper takes paint nicely.

That was the last one! Whew! You can see this kept me busy for awhile. A few of the papers didn’t take the paint nicely at first, they beaded up or skipped areas. For those papers I think I would try wetting the paper first and stretch it, then see how they act. Or just take a larger peice and really wet it then play around on it. After I did the tests I wrote the price per full sheet on the backside, then figured out how much one cut 9″ x 12″ peice would be, depending on how many you could get out of a full sheet.

So what’s my verdict you’re wondering? I have to admit it’s still hard to say! For the price and how they performed for me, I have four I want to explore further.

  • Saunder’s Waterford HP High White- seems to work well, price moderate but a bit more than the others I liked.
  • Bockingford CP (NOT) white- worked well, rougher than what I’m used to, very affordable
  • St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth- love the smoothness, low price, worked well but sometimes patchy, need further testing.
  • Moulin du Roy- I want to test some more, because it beaded up, but I like the feel of it and the price.

On the ones I liked I draw a little star and fill it in with really bright golden yellow, so it’s easy to spot when I’m digging in my folders.

PLEASE DO leave some comments about the paper you use and why you like it!! It would be great for everyone to share some ideas and papers that work for them here.

Happy Spring everyone, springtime posts coming soon!

Happy Spring from our village in Northumberland, England!

Happy Spring from our village in Northumberland, England!

Watercolor Paper Testing

Since moving to England I’ve had to look elsewhere when it comes to buying my art supplies. Back in Clarence Center N.Y., I had lots of local choices for supplies, and I really miss being able to go look at and ‘feel’ things in person. Nothing beats feeling the spring of a brush on your hand or the roughness of a sheet of paper. Of course I ordered supplies online too, if you ordered enough it was cheaper, but it always helps to see it in person first and maybe test it out.

Where we live now there’s nothing close by, you have to drive to Newcastle for choice; so shopping online is more convenient. Last year I ordered some watercolor paper from Jackson’s (jacksonsart.com) online and was happy with the price and it came pretty quickly. I meant to write a post about my tests but alas never got the time, maybe I’ll post those simple tests later. This time around I ordered seven different papers but two I didn’t bother to test yet, they aren’t anything I would use for my illustration but I couldn’t know that until I saw them in person! I also ordered a sample pack of papers that are big enough to do tests on, I’ll include them in my next round of testing.

Here are the five I started testing:

1. Canson Moulin de Roy HP

2. St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth 140

3. Royal Watercolour Society HP 140

4. Saunders Waterford HP 140 High White

5. Arches Aquarelle HP 140

The Arches is the most expensive, but it’s the one I picked from my last testing, as working best for my illustrations. I’m hoping some of these cheaper options will be just as good so I can make it my ‘go to’ paper and get really familiar with it!

When my new full size sheets of paper come they mostly measure 22″ x 30″ or 56cm x 76cm each. I then lay them out stacked up on my cutting board and figure out the best way to cut them up to get the most sheets. I’ll draw a little thumbnail on scrap paper to figure it out, then mark the watercolor paper for cutting. So I cut the sheets, leaving a big chunk uncut, and some small strips.

 (click on pictures to see larger)

Test strips and my tiny field palette.

Test strips being worked on and my tiny field palette (lid is partly closed, those aren’t my paints!).

For this post I’m just showing you the little bit of testing I’ve done so far. I have long strips from each paper on which I did small quick sketches/tests. Next I will use bigger peices and do a small study to get a feel for the paper with my inks and color pencils added.

All 5 test strips together.

All 5 test strips together.

Above shows all 5 strips laid out on my scanner, they were only 1″ to 1 1/2″ wide so you can imagine how small the bunnies and owls were! The strips are numbered L to R 5,4,3,2,1.

5 Little Owls

5 Little Owls

For the owls I did light pencil sketch then drew with Sepia Pitt “S” permanent ink pen, then watercolor on dry paper, then some color pencil last. The color pencil was brown or black and used for shading areas. They all were just great for using the ink pen and color pencil showed up on the tooth of the paper. Good so far!

5 Little Bunnies in a row.

5 Little Bunnies in a row.

It’s always good to practice bunnies! Isn’t it funny how each one looks like a different personality? For these I did a light pencil sketch then watercolor for all the color. Then I used various brown colored pencils for shading and some outlineing and at the end, a touch of black Pitt permanent ink “XS” pen. Doing the tiny washes showed me I will definitely need to do washes on larger paper to really see how it behaves. I want to see if layers lift too easily or does it get blotchy?

On the owls and bunnies I was also trying out different color pencils, my familiar Prismacolors, Derwent Coloursoft and some new Derwent “Studio” pencils. The “Studio” pencils are harder than the pencils I’m used to, so they will hold their point longer but not sure if I’ll like them yet!

Back side of test strips, dip nib testing.

Back side of test strips, dip nib testing.

On the backside of the strips I did a quick wash, let it dry then painted some Bracken leaves. When they were dry I used my dip ink nibs to try out some new inks I ordered, I’m very excited about them so far! I tested “Magic Colour – Grecian Olive” and “Vallejo – Umber”, both are acrylic permanent ink and the Magic Colour is made in England (yay! or should I say hoorah!) I did get some special empty markers that you can fill with this type of ink, but need to play around with that more. What I need to test here is, how well do my nibs work on the papers? They were all smooth enough that I cuoldn’t see much difference, next time I’ll try them on semi damp paper for bleeding.

Test of lifting and color pencils.

Test of lifting and color pencils.

For the test above I did a simple wash of green and brown then while it was damp lifted color using a clean damp brush. Repeatedly wiping and cleaning the brush and dabbing the paper with paper towel, to help lift moisture and color. Then when it was dry I used color pencil to pick out the marks. The green area was just a quick area to try lifing color after it had dried. All did ok, the St. Cuthbert’s Botanical and Canson Moulin du Roy lifted the cleanest and brightest; though this might not be a good thing when adding washes, we’ll see when I do larger studies.

(c)wc paper test strips- bunny 1 re2One Happy Bunny!

(c)wc paper test strips- owl 3 re

PS. Just wanted to mention on a more personal note, one of the reasons I did tiny strips was because I injured myself and sitting in the chair to work just kills me right now. I fell and cracked a rib or two and definitely injured the muscles in my back! But what’s so unbelieveable is that I could do that in a muddy sheep field! I was walking alone along a very old line of trees in a muddy field. I thought, I need a stick so I won’t slip so much….I broke a long stick off a big dead branch on the ground then tried to break it again with my foot on the bottom. Well it still had quite a bit of spring in it and as it resisted I slipped and the branch kind of sprung and I got thrown back against the base of this huge old tree! AY CARUMBA IT HURT! The tree had huge rounded burly roots and that’s exactly what I slammed my side into. Wish I had fallen in the mud! So once I sat up, avoided crying and took inventory of what was working, I had to get up and walk 1.25 miles home. This included climbing over two or three slippery farm gates, muddy fields and a steep road home. I guess there’s not much you can do for cracked ribs but take pain killers and I hate doing that. So I have but avoid overdoing it and now am not taking much. It’s gettiing better and you’d think, “ah, I can’t walk much but at least I can sit and work in the studio”, well no, I can’t concentrate on anything other than small stuff! So, now you’re caught up on me, don’t worry I’m pretty healthy so I should heal quickly (she says!)

I’ll try to work on more testing of these papers and update you on that as I go.

(c)wc paper test strips- bunny 3 reThis little bunny says good-bye!

 

View from Lordenshaws, Rothbury

The end of May was very chilly here, wool sweaters and extra layers to peel off when the sun did decide to shine. Gary and I have continued our walks of course, especially when the rain holds off. Most of our walks are later in the day and we don’t have much time for me to sit and paint. But today we went with the intention that I’d sit and do a study of distant hills. Yay!

The view I painted was in this direction, looking up Coquetdale.

The view I painted was in this direction, looking up Coquetdale.

We had a ramble around on Lordenshaws, which is situated right next to the well known Simonside Hills, a favorite place for walkers. Lordenshaws is a much more gentle hill and an easy walk but still offering great views.

Here's the largest cup and ring marked stone at Lordenshaws with the marvelous view in the distance of Coquetdale.

Here’s the largest cup and ring marked stone at Lordenshaws with the marvelous view in the distance of Coquetdale.

I love that there are ancient cup and ring marked stones to see as you walk, made about three thousand years ago!

Here's more of a close up to see the rings and the 'holes' are the cup marks.

Here’s more of a close up to see the rings and the ‘holes’ are the cup marks.

This shows the markings or carvings a bit closer. It’s amazing to think of how long ago they were made and we always have a wonder about the people that made them. What were they like? What did they think of and what do the marks mean? No one can answer that for sure.

View I had of the hills and Coquetdale valley.

View I had of the hills and Coquetdale valley.

Though there are many views, I decided to paint this one, with Simonside being just to the left and the view of Coquet valley coming from behind it. I liked the distant hills with fields marked by lines of hedges and then the nearer farm fields just at the base of Simonside. (It’s very hard to see any detail in this photo, because the sun was in front of me getting low.)

Painting with cold hands as the sky constantly changed.

Painting with cold hands as the sky constantly changed.

I tried to get as much done as possible, then at home I looked at the photos I took on the computer, and tried to touch it up. It’s always best to get as much done in the field as possible, as the colors are never the same on the computer! The hard thing is when you work outdoors, especially in the chilly evening air, your hands get cold and your back aches…well mine does. So I try to work quickly.

Finished! "View From Lordenshaw's" watercolor, 5.5"x7"

Finished! “View From Lordenshaw’s” watercolor, 5.5″x7″

Here’s the finished painting, only 5.5″ x 7″, including the ring holes!

More posts to come, it’s been such a busy summer I am far behind! Please sign up your email (upper right) to recieve notification of new posts.

Cheers!

(Belated) Signs of Spring

Ok, so I know it’s summertime so why am I talking about spring? Well I still have sketches and paintings to share that are from late winter and spring before I share my recent work. You’ll notice my winter and spring sketches were all quite small and not as much watercolor going on. As the weather warms up, and thus my fingers, I start to do more. Lately I’ve been doing some charcoal drawings too, but lets not get ahead of ourselves…spring first!

Watercolor of Edlingham Burn, in Edlingham village, Northumberland.

Watercolor of Edlingham Burn, February 10th in Edlingham village, Northumberland.

Above, here’s a small watercolor I did while sitting by the burn or stream that runs through Edlingham. The painting is just small, about 5×6″ or so, but good practice to paint the green trees and blue and brown water. Well actually the water is quite clean and clear, it just reflects all that’s above it! I really enjoyed the sun that day though it was still cold, so I finished the painting at home.

Fuzzy Buds drawing in ink

Fuzzy Buds drawing in ink February 17, 2015

I just love when native bushes bloom with soft fuzzy buds in springtime. They have little shiny, leathery looking caps that their fuzzy little heads push up as they swell to bloom. I brought some twigs in to draw; if you put them in water they look great and last awhile as you draw them.

I set up the jar of buds by the patio windows, getting some natural light to work by.

My set up for drawing.

I set up the jar of buds by the patio windows, getting some natural light to work by. I like sitting here with my porridge in the morning to read and watch the birds outside.

Painted with watercolor from live branches I brought inside.

Painted with watercolor from live branches I brought inside. February 17, 2015

I really enjoy trying to paint the soft look of the buds and also showing that they are white. You can’t (well I can’t) help but stroke them and think of how it feels like the ear of my bunny I had years ago!

One of many snowdrops, done in ink and watercolor.

One of many snowdrops, done in ink and watercolor. February 11, 2015

Spring here in England, wouldn’t be spring without the Snowdrops! They were everywhere and lasted so long, a real promise of more spring flowers to come. I had planned to paint a Snowdrop open, but ran out of time. I took a lot of pictures though so maybe in the future?

Sketch of a bit of Edlingham Valley.

Unfinished sketch of a bit of Edlingham Valley.

Here’s another from February; do you notice how small this is? It’s from one of my tiny 4.25″ x 5″ sketchbooks I like to use in the winter. (see pic below). It’s great for tucking in your pocket when you just might want to draw something interesting, and I draw while standing up so it’s easy to hold too.

Finished watercolor 4.25" x 5", view in Edlingham, Northumberland.

Finished watercolor 4.25″ x 5″, view in Edlingham, Northumberland.

Later I finished the color on the trees and grasses. As the page says, it was cold that day!

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, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small.

There’s the sketchbook I made, designed complete with a pen holder made out of duct tape!

The Vole Hole, watercolor, 4.25" x 5".

The Vole Hole, watercolor, 4.25″ x 5″.

Another tiny one, done on the backside of the sketch of Edlingham Valley view. Who can resist a tiny hole belonging to a vole or mouse? I know my husband’s cat can’t but neither can I for different reasons. I just have this little childlike vision of cute mice straight from Beatrix Potter coming out of the holes. I like to practice drawing these kinds of homes for future stories I may illustrate.

4.25" x 5" ink drawing of our ancient Sycamore.

4.25″ x 5″ ink drawing of our ancient Sycamore.

I did this sketch with the intention to study the wonderful colors that are on this tree. It’s an ancient Sycamore covered with lichens of many colors, mosses of green and the tree bark’s own reddish hue, just waiting (still) to be studied by my watercolors.

Well I think that’s all for this post, I still have lots of small spring sketches and watercolors to share soon though. Next time I’ll post some more photos too. I’ll be posting soon, stay tuned!

When Bananas Go Bad

A small chuckle for you today!

(c)color bananas re2

“When Bananas Go Bad” color

(Click for clearer view) I have to blame my Fiance for this silly thought, as we joked around about bananas going bad; then I jump right in and make it real by creating the characters! I scanned it right from my sketchbook and didn’t clean it up as I did below in the black and white.

"When Bananas Go Bad"

“When Bananas Go Bad”

I think I prefer the black and white at this point, I think my colors got too muddy in the color. What do you think?

Sad Aster

Watercolor study of a white Aster in October.

Watercolor study of a white Aster in October.

Do you remember when I took that walk in November, hunting for acorn caps? Well I wrote about a little White Aster I came across, alone in the field. Here is what I wrote in that post:

“And one little Aster in the middle of the ‘Maze’, an overgrown field with paths I cut years ago. The white Aster looked up at me with it’s tiny little face, and asked if winter was coming soon? I told it to prepare and go to sleep before the snow falls. It was sad but missed it’s friends, as they had all gone, so it nodded it’s head and drooped a little in it’s tiny stem.”

(c)Aster 3

“Sad Aster go to sleep, before the snow falls cold and deep.”

At the time I saw it, I just saw a white Aster and thought about it alone there, but I didn’t give it feelings and talk to it. That was my creative mind putting my feelings onto a tiny flower and as soon as I wrote that paragraph a new character was born! Yes, as soon as I wrote that post I wrote a poem called “Sad Aster” and then I did some sketches.

(c)Aster 1

“Your friends are gone, the field is empty,
Where once they stood in numbers plenty.”

I’m quite pleased with the little poem and now will work on illustrating it, creating more of a character.

"..before the snow falls cold and deep."

“..before the snow falls cold and deep.”

I just thought it’d be interesting to share with you how one walk in nature, when combined with my emotions and thoughts, will sometimes evolve (in my mind) into something other people can relate to.

"Little Aster cold and white, Go to sleep this cold, dark night."

“Little Aster cold and white,
Go to sleep this cold, dark night.”

I wish I could share the whole poem but I guess I should wait until it can be published properly.

Worried little Aster

Worried little Aster

While I’m warm in my house, I hope she’s sleeping soundly out there under the foot of snow we got this weekend! 😉 Well for now I have to put “Sad Aster” aside while I catch up on some mice illustrations I started, it never ends….so much to do! I’ve also created some small needle felted animals in wool with wire armatures so they are pose-able, and continue to do small experiments with wet felting. One of these days I’ll open an Etsy shop so I can sell them, but for now I must concentrate on my illustrations!

PS. Don’t worry, it’s a happy ending for Sad Aster! 😉

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

“Snowy Lane in Northumberland, England”

 (Some of the images go to my shop where you can hover and see enlarged details)

Snowy Lane in black wax crayon colored with watercolor

Even though I did this sketch back in December, while I was in Northumberland England, I guess it’s appropriate now seeing as there’s been a return of snow there! This was their first snow of the winter and it fell quite heavy for a time, coating everything with that heavy kind of silent snow. I had a cold but peaceful walk up the lane and stopped at this view with the trees I always like looking at.  I did the sketch while standing to the side of the road using a black wax crayola crayon. The snow was falling on my paper as I drew and it made it hard to draw, not to mention drawing while wearing my fingerless mittens. It was later that I added some touches of watercolor.

A lovely gate along the way

I love the way this ivy covered gate looks and would love to do a painting of it. Problem is it’s someone’s front gate and with the house being just inside, they may think I’m being rude standing there staring at it.

The snowy lane so quiet under snow

This is one of my favorite views as the lane curves into the distance.  You can see this is the view I stood and sketched in my drawing.

Another view along the high lane

The trees stand sentinel as they’ve done for hundred’s of years. Many of the trees you see along a lane are just overgrown from old hedges that weren’t kept trimmed down.

The black faced sheep were quiet in the cold.

I love how the trees look in the back of the field and how peaceful the sheep were, just trying to conserve energy I guess. These ewes are probably getting fat with lambs in them now…can’t wait to see the little ones in spring!

The thick snowy hedge along the lane.

There are beautiful colors all around you even in winter!

I like seeing the leaves in winter; these were interesting with the red spots. Sorry the picture isn’t brighter but the day was so grey!

Just waiting to be put in a drawing!

 This is an old farm shed I always look at along the lane, it’s so old it’s actually fallen off it’s foundation and the sides are collapsed. I don’t usually want to paint old barns as some people do, but this with the trees, shrubs and grass with their colors in this shot, really attract me. I can see it as an ink sketch perhaps or chalk.

I hope you enjoyed coming on this little snowy walk with me. More sketches and photos from England coming soon.

Click the picture below to see a glossy note card I created in my shop for Christmas! I even wrote a verse for the inside!

Glossy Note Card with customizable text

Tiny Goldcrest

Today I saw a Goldcrest for the first time ever, but not the way I’d like to have seen it. This beautiful and tiny little bird flew right into the patio window while I was sat just on the other side of it.  I’m pretty certain this is the same bird at home we call the Golden Crowned Kinglet.

Tiny Goldcrest Studies in watercolor

 Poor little thing! I picked it up carefully with a paper towel and decided I’d do studies before putting it to rest in the field. I selected a nicely curled dry leaf to lay him on, it just seemed right for such a natural little creature. I sketched it out then added more detail then the layers of watercolor. I was fascinated by the tiny, hard black beak and little whiskers around it. The yellow crest was so beautiful, surrounded by black borders as if to hold the color in.

Goldcrest studies in ink and watercolor

The top drawing was done with permanent brown ink then I added just a touch of color. It’s amazing how long the claws are on such a small foot!

I hope to see a live one when I return to England, then I can do a painting from life! Much better I’d say!

“Golden Eagle Watercolor” 7-7-08

I just finished this 12″ x 15″ watercolor of a Golden Eagle yesterday. I started it a few months ago and then put it aside. I used watercolors and a few touches of permanent ink pen. I wanted to leave the edges looking washy so you could definitely see that it’s a watercolor, and therefor keep some of the freshness. I stroked the feathers on directly with my round brush to show the pointy shape that the Golden Eagle has to his feathers.

Later…some months I should say!… I sat down to finish it, he’s been waiting around too long for me! So I just looked for what needed to be made darker, stronger shadows under feathers to make them start to pop a little. I worked on the eye, the most important part of any painting I feel, I added more golden color then lifted out some highlight area with a damp brush, then when it was dry I carefully scratched out a tiny highlight with a razor blade.

I will have prints available of this painting, without the shipping:
note cards = $5 each (8.5″x5.5″)
8×10 hand signed print = $20,
matted 8×10 print = $35,
I’m not sure about limited edition prints yet, I’ll wait and see about them.
Please just contact me if your interested, I can take credit cards or personal checks. The original painting will also be available, not priced yet or framed.

A bit more about the Golden Eagle, when I was in college I worked as a zoo keeper in Binghamton, NY at the Ross Park Zoo. My favorite area to work was in the aviary; it was up in the woods on the mountain. Each bird had a cage, of course they weren’t big enough, but the zoo has made huge improvements over the years, as so many zoos have done. I never forgot the Golden Eagle(s), there might have been two? All the birds of prey they had were brought there because of injury, some wings, some eyesight. The eagles were huge, and yes, their feathers on their head and breast were more ‘pointy’ than other birds. It was only at feeding time that I didn’t really enjoy it, their diet was fresh killed rats from the lab over at SUNY Binghamton. Ok, Ok…I won’t go into details here!…but being a zookeeper wasn’t all fun and games!

A little more reminiscing…last night I watched a old movie musical called “The Pied Piper of Hamlin”…ok..so I like old musicals!!…anyways…I noticed the feather the pied piper had in his hat was a very long, black and white striped feather. I never noticed it before, but now it popped out at me, it’s a “Lady Amherst Pheasant” feather! We had several types of exotic pheasants also in the aviary at the zoo, one of my favorites was the Lady Amherst…wow, so beautiful! I should do a painting of that one!

Perhaps when I go home for a visit I can do a sketching and journaling day at the Ross Park Zoo where I used to work. It’s a really nice little zoo, if you’re in the area go visit and tell them I sent you! haha…they won’t remember me but it’d be fun. PS. I should mention that they have an amazing little aviary now where you can walk in amongst the birds! It’s beautiful, has water features, plants, birds everywhere..some hiding, it’s very well done!
Please leave me comments below, I’d love to hear from more of you, as I have readers dropping in from around the world!!