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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!

Visit with a Friend (black and white studies)

Trees at Nancy's - Inktense 'Ink Black' watercolor pencil

(Please click on the pictures to see them clearer, use the back button to return)

I had a chance to visit with my friend Nancy the other day and we sat on her back deck to do some sketching. We had a nice view; just behind her place is a small pond with trees on the other side. I was showing her how to do something simple by just using one watercolor pencil, the Inktense “Ink Black” by Derwent Pencils. I keep one in my kit always because sometimes it’s nice to just do a sketch with a waterbrush using this one pencil. The nice thing is you can go back over your black and white study with color after, the Inktense pencils will not lift off like watercolor can.  It IS a VERY intense pencil, go very lightly at first and see what it does when you wet it. I started with the simple border as kind of a warm up, just draw a line around your page then use your waterbrush to wet it. To get it to look like mine, keep your brush ‘inside’ the line with the tip always touching and rubbing the line, letting the color run into the wetness left behind from the brush.

Sketch your scene lightly, trying to do most of it before you wet it. Once you wet the paper you’ll have a hard time adding more lines because they will be very dark and intense! If you need to just touch your waterbrush to the tip of the pencil to pick up more ink, then use your brush to add it to the sketch. Test how dark it is on a piece of scrap paper before you touch your sketch, this will help you avoid mistakes. I really like the look of this, sort of like an old antique picture.

Sketch of Cullernose Point from the south

Here’s a sketch I did in England last year, along the coast of Northumberland, of Cullernose Point as viewed from the south. I had my sketch journal with me (OF COURSE!!) and because we wanted to keep walking, just sitting a bit and doing a sketch with no color worked well.  I used my waterbrush and especially like how the clouds came out.

Alnmouth, Northumberland -water soluble graphite

Alnmouth, Northumberland -water soluble graphite

Now I thought I’d add this one too just to show how nice it can be to do non color studies. This was done with water soluble graphite, not the colored type, just plain old graphite color! We were at Alnmouth, Northumberland England; a beautiful coastal spot! I did it in my tiny sketch journal which was so much fun to use! It was a wonderful experience to stand on the hill at the coast and capture the scene forever in my memory. Please read my post about it here to see the wonderful photos I took that day! I loved being there and can’t wait to go back for more! I love, love, love England!

I hope you enjoyed my little ‘non color’ sketches, as I said they’re a great way to capture a scene without the worry and time of adding color. And thanks to my friend Nancy for a nice visit! (ps. I photographed lots of dragonflies at her place and two of them were new for me!) I created a really nice print and greeting cards in my shop, see the links below! I love the dark grey background with it.

Make your own card at Zazzle

When you see this print in my shop (below) don’t be scared by the price! It shows you the huggest size but can be ordered as a 16×11 for only $11.20 too!

“Muncaster Castle Day Three, The Owl Centre” 9-10-08

My third day at Muncaster was so full, I did two posts to cover it, this is the second half!

The following pictures are all from the World Trust Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle on September 9th in the late afternoon after a busy day filled with hiking and exploring the castle. At the end of my day I walked around the owl yard and sketched a little…I was quite tired so I didn’t sketch too much! It was raining gently so I limited myself to a few brown watercolor pencils and watersoluble graphite pencils, a brown micron pen and a sepia micron pen. I listed the owls of England on my sketchbook page; Long Earred Owl, Short Earred Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, White Breasted Barn Owl.Above is a Buzzard that is being brought out to take part in the Bird of Prey show they put on everyday behind the castle.

This is a Buffy Fish Owl, they have a funny sort of look with their ‘ears’ flopping out to the sides many times.
This is a Mackinder’s Eagle Owl…the Eagle Owls are some of the largest owls in the world. I just love the sleepy look of this bird…I really want to do a painting of this one!
This gorgeous bird is the Oriental Bay Owl; I just love it’s patterns and colors! I feel another painting coming on!


This is a video of Red Tailed Kites flying around in their pen. Such a beautiful bird, it’s centres like this one that help educate people about Birds of Prey so they won’t kill them in the wild or take their eggs.

“Two Barn Owls”

In this post I bring you two owls, both are Barn Owls but look very different. The first is a sketch of a Barn Owl from the United States, the typical light heart shaped face and brown markings on the feathers. I think the same species is what you see in the UK, but theirs are slightly different in color or size. I need to research this further! (a note from me…I did put this up in a post back in August, but this shows it scanned in much clearer and the framed version.)

I used watersoluble graphite (graphitint) color pencils to do it, and a waterbrush to blend and make washes with the drawn lines. The property I like about watercolor type pencils is how you can leave the drawn lines if you like, it give a certain texture. If you don’t like that, just rub it a little more with the brush tip and it will all go to wash. The original sketch is only 2.5″ x 3.5″ big; it’s already been sold but I do have mini framed prints of it available, note cards and 8×10 handsigned prints.
The original sketch is only 2.5″ x 3.5″ big; it’s already been sold but I do have mini framed prints available (shown below), note cards and 8×10 handsigned prints.
This owl below is an Ashy Faced Barn Owl, an owl I never heard of until I visited the Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre in Northumberland England. The owner let me take pictures of their owl, telling me it’s an uncommon bird even in England. It’s a young owl, you can see some of the down poking out from the feathers still. It’s dark face contrasted by it’s golden feathers were fascinating to look at! I looked it up in my two huge owl books and can’t find it in there, time to research this one more also!

This tiny painting was done exclusivly with watercolors and a tiny brush, it measures 2.5″ x 3″. The original has sold but I have tiny framed prints (shown below) available and note cards. Just email me to inquire: mary@marymcandrew.com

“Sunrise Studies” 12-3-08

The sunrise was just too beautiful to ignore. While I was making my morning coffee, I kept looking out the studio window at it. Knowing how fast a sunrise will change, I ran and grabbed my camera (literally!) to catch some photos. All the fantastic colors can bloom to unbelievable brilliance, then it can fade as the sun comes out so bright you can’t look, or it will slip behind clouds.

After taking some photos, I then grabbed my watercolor pencils and worked very quickly to sketch out some colors. I used watercolor pencils, watersoluble graphite and inktense watersoluble ink pencils with my waterbrush to blend and wet them. These are all Derwent brand pencils I used. I played around with drawing on the paper wet and dry when I did the trees. At first I drew them on dry…then ran the brush over bringing out the darkness of the color, but it also washes it out or softens it. Then I tried drawing the trees on wet paper and they were dark and intense from the start. This is good for trees in the forground. You can use both methods to your liking.
(Below) I liked this one better, though it’s more simple, the colors are so pleasant. When I do a sunrise sketch, the colors shift very fast so I work on the large color impressions and cloud patterns, then try to work from memory. This leads to a lively painting but don’t be surprised if you look at the photos you took at the time and they look very different!

“Saw Whet Owl” water-soluble graphite (October 2008)

I did this little sketch (5″x5″) in October, but wanted to post it before too much time slips away! I did it while waiting for my car to have it’s oil changed, at a small dirty table in the car garage waiting room. I used water-soluble graphite pencils in three softness’s and a waterbrush to wet it. I really am having fun playing with these pencils, they’re new to me. I did most of this sketch in one hour…finishing it up at home. Hope you like it, I’ll have note cards and prints of it available.

My England Adventure 2008 – “The Flight There” 9-5-08

Well, I’m finally home from my big adventure in England and Ireland! I have so much to share about my hikes, the people I met and of course my sketches and photos. It’s taken me awhile to get back on track with the time changes and catching up on things around the house, paying bills etc. That’ll never change!

This is a sketch done while waiting at Gate 6, Buffalo Airport, it’s watersoluble color pencil. Oh it was so cold, the air conditioning was on too high. I wrote a note on my sketch, “I’m glad for my wool hoodie I made”. For my trip I designed a nice pull over wool hoodie, lined with cotton, it came in handy on the flight. I could pull the hood up to help block out the noise, light and keep warm. My flight leaves at 5:40pm.Backing away from the gate at Philadelphia airport, on the way to Gatwick airport in London. It should take 6 hours or so. I sleep a little, it was nice and dark. At 1:33 am (my time) I woke and saw the sun coming up. It was almost surreal because we floated above the clouds and the sun colors were below…while the stars were still up in the dark sky. I could see the Big Dipper, it was odd because we were above it more than I’m used to. (I learned in England they call it the Great Plow, I would point to it and say…”oh, look at the big dipper!…I’d be corrected and told that it’s the Great Plow.) I pulled out my sketchkit, my pad, watersoluble colorpencils, waterbrush and my little reading light. I hung the reading light on the collar of my hoodie and did my sketch by it’s light only. The whole plane was very dark and quiet, everyone was sleeping. I felt like a kid awake in bed at night with the little light on, trying not to wake anyone else!Oh what a trip it turned into, I had to wait so long in line at Gatwick that my plane for Newcastle upon Tyne left without me! After waiting a few hours while they looked for my misplaced luggage, I had to catch a train, then a subway, then another train all the way up to Newcastle. Needless to say I was exhausted when I hit the other end. There was extensive flooding in Morpeth nearby and the trains weren’t running, lucky I made it! Below is a picture from the plane, as we come over England…Oh gosh I was excited!Well, I’ll try to get more about my trip up soon. I’ll start with my adventure at Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass. Keep checking back to read about it all…better yet, leave your name in the box at the right and you’ll get an automatic email when I do.

“On the Road” Watersoluble Graphite 8-9-08

I brought my small art kit with me while on a road trip to the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Sterling NY. , of course I wasn’t the driver! I experimented with drawing with my new graphitint watersoluble graphite pencils, They are colored but not as intense as watercolor pencils. I did the drawing then wet it with my waterbrush, this brings out the intensity of the colors. You can manipulate the values this way and if you like, work back into the drawing wet or dry. They’re very interesting and I am looking forward to trying them for more drawings. I took a couple pictures of them with my tiny digital camera, since I’m nowhere near my scanner, forgive the not so great color and clarity!
The “Barn Owl” measures a wee 2″x2″! It was a bit challenging to do with the bumpy road.

This little landscape measures aproximately 4″x5″ and is of the road we traveled. It was a great day for clouds, the only problem I had was making the line on the road. The set of pencils I bought has no yellow. You can notice that I made little color tests along the margins of the drawing.

“Allegany Nature Pilgrimage” (Birding and Bird Banding) 6-1-08

This is another ‘catch up’ post about the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage at the end of May. This post I put up pictures of birding hikes and the bird banding demonstration along with a video clip of the demo.
This was the very first nature hike I went on the whole weekend, it was led by birding expert Frank Gardner. We wound our way through some beautiful woods by a stream, to me it looked like a ‘Faerie Haven’. It was considered an advanced bird walk because most of the identification was by bird song. We kept hearing a Blackburnian Warbler up in the trees…ok, this is one of those birds that I’m dying to see. If you remember I did a little painting of one in my sketchbook this winter, click here to see it. Well, I had to leave the hike a little early to catch another hike that was starting soon, guess what everyone in the entire group saw after I left? A Blackburnian Warbler came down to take a bath in the creek!! Oh boy…they teased me a bit because I made such a big deal out of wanting to see one!
This is the ‘All Day Birding Hike’ I took with Tim Baird as the leader. I was worried that we’d be hiking all day long and I wouldn’t be able to do it, but it was actually very pleasant as we took several cars and drove to different locations in the park, then walked. This is a page from my sketchbook, click it too see all my notes on the different birds I saw or heard. I put a little dot in front of birds I heard, and a check mark for ones I saw too. I did a tiny sketch with water-soluble graphite of the lake and hills from where we stood by the lodge, Allegany Park’s main office. The water-soluble pencils are by Derwendt and I just love them. You can do a simple sketch when you’re in a hurry and just worry about the values, use a water-brush to wet it while you’re standing there. In a later post I’ll put up the sketch pages with complete lists of every bird and flower that I’ve seen here and in the Adirondack Mnts. Believe me it’s long!!
This is at the bird banding demonstration on Sunday morning. If you’ve never seen a banding demo please make sure you try to some day, I had no idea it’d be so fascinating! The above picture shows Jerry blowing on the breast of a yellow warbler to expose the breast. It’s a way they check for a brood patch or check the general weight of the bird for health.
To catch the birds they raise fine nets up in the early morning and leave them up, the birds fly into them and get tangled but not harmed.This is a hummingbird in the hand, amazing!
Here’s a Chestnut Sided Warbler that Jerry is holding, it’s amazing how they hold the bird by the upper legs, above the joint I think, and it doesn’t hurt it. I’ve included a video clip, you’ll see how casual they are about holding the birds, and get a good look at Bob McKinney holding a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Jerry is holding a Catbird, though he seems extremely casual about holding it, believe me they’ve done this thousands of times and no birds are injured. A funny trick Bob would do with the kids, when he was ready to release a bird, he’d carefully lay it on it’s backside on top of someone’s head. Then the bird would get it’s bearings and fly off…it was really neat! You’ll see Bob measuring the bird, blowing on it’s breast to look for a brood patch and then he unceremoniously plops it into a tumbler to put it on the scale for weighing. With smaller birds he used an empty pill bottle! Up above on my double sketch page you can see a tiny sketch I did of the Cuckoo in the tumbler. Enjoy the video!!

“Marsh Wren and Wood Thrush” 4-26-08 + 4-30-08

I’ve told you before I’m not the kind of person to waste time when I’m waiting around. Well, I started this sketch of a Marsh Wren while sitting in Regal Cinema waiting for the live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera to begin! I put my sketchbook, a mechanical pencil and a small book with photos (it’s listed on my sketchbook page) all in my purse. It was kind of low lighting but I was able to get it started, then later I finished the details. I hope I can see one in real life soon, I’ve heard their songs on bird tapes and it sounds so beautiful, like something from Walt Disney!

The Wood Thrush just happens to be one of my favorite birds, oh how I love hearing them sing when I’m near the woods! Especially near evening time. This one I did using Graphitint Watersoluble Pencils, they’re watersoluble graphite. I only have two colors to experiment with, cocoa and chestnut, this one being chestnut. I really like these pencils and have to pick up some more to play with. You can sketch then wet it to make washes or bring out the vividness of color, then rework into it wet will give you VERY intense value or rework over it when it’s dry. It’s a lot of fun to play with and I love working in monotones. See three of my Goddess paintings on my website that show this…Autumn, Twilight, Etain. Someday I’ll do a finer painting with these watersoluble pencils…ahmmm…when I have more time!!
I’ve added a short video clip that I took while hiking on May 7th, you can hear a Wood Thrush singing as I point it towards the trees. (no, you won’t see any birds, just hear them!). ENJOY!!