Spring Unfurls…Fast

I anticipate spring’s arrival for most of February, March and April, eager for its fresh greens, new life, and abundant sketching opportunities. It arrives slowly at first, with skunk cabbage, red-winged blackbirds, and daffodils. But by mid-May, it takes off like a rocket and I can’t keep up. I’ve been sketching and painting in snatches of time—10 minutes here, half hour there—due to an especially hectic work and family schedule this month. Here are a few of those snatches:

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The carriage barn at the first home in America of artist John James Audubon in Mill Grove, PA. Click to view larger.


Robin’s nest on the visitor center porch at Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut. Click to view larger.

Outdoor Canvas

I’ve been creating a new perennial garden this week, which has left little time (or energy) for painting. Still, I had to sneak in a page of plants to record what’s going in the ground. I love taking the plants out of their containers and seeing the roots all wound round or tangled. I could get lost sketching them in detail, but then my garden would still be sitting in pots. So I am content (for now) to use my yard as an outdoor canvas, and to sketch with soil and plants instead of paint and paper, knowing that this garden will provide inspiration for many future paintings.Outdoor Canvas

Why Sketchbooks Work

“The reason that sketchbooks work is that they don’t count.” –Craig Frazier, illustrator

The beauty of a sketchbook is that it is simply that: a sketchbook. It’s a place to do what you want as an artist. It is ideas and experience and creativity and experimentation crammed between two covers. One blank page after another, it becomes something extraordinary when filled earnestly and honestly. Yet, in the end, it doesn’t really count. And that is a beautiful thing, too. There is no price tag, no commission, no gallery wall waiting for it. It’s just for you…and so, it is one of the freest places for an artist to make a mark.

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This page was an experiment in capturing dogwood blossoms using “negative painting” techniques. I like the effect and look forward to trying it again on higher quality paper. Unfortunately, the pages of this spread came stuck together with a bit of glue seepage at the gutter, so it’s pretty rough there.  But, it’s just my sketchbook, so it doesn’t really matter.

Bluebird Post

It’s no wonder the bluebird is associated with happiness. This lovely thrush is a harbinger of spring, chattering its warbled song as soon as the days start to warm. I have had the good fortune of seeing and hearing bluebirds frequently over the last few weeks. And whenever I do, I can’t help but feel grateful for its brilliant flash of blue and notes of good cheer. Thoreau was right: the bluebird carries the sky on its back—and glimpsing it is one of the simple pleasures of spring.

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A little more about this journal page: I love this quirky fence. Made of old bed posts by my friend Camille, it makes a great backdrop for her country garden. I was short on time and drawing fast directly in ink, so I didn’t quite get the proportions right. Maybe that was good. I didn’t fuss much with the painting either, which gives it a loose and casual feel…much like the garden and fence. Drawing and text were done with Micron 02 pen with a couple of washes of watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Beta journal.