Time for Spring

March is such a tease. One day it’s 50-F degrees and you’re outside with jacket unbuttoned. The next, there is seven inches of snow on the ground and you’re scraping ice off the windshield…again. Daylight lengthens, blackbirds reappear, but that’s pretty much it for evidence of a changing season. What really shifts in March is the anticipation. You’re closer to spring now. You know that soon salamanders will be moving to breeding ponds, that the woodcock will wing its way to the neighbor’s field, that you’ll find skunk cabbage opening along the stream when the snow melts. And it’s all worth the wait.

Tips & Techniques– This piece was inspired by Welsh explorer-artist Olivia Tonge (1858-1949). At age 50, Tonge set off alone on multiyear trips to explore India and Pakistan. She filled 16 sketchbooks with an assortment of birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plants, juxtaposed with jewelry, food, people, and cultural objects. My takeaway is not to shy away from including a variety of subjects in your sketchbook. Paint what strikes you, especially if you are traveling! Push yourself to paint different textures and arrange different elements on a page. You’ll learn and improve your skills when you do and you’ll come away with an engaging record of your experiences.  

19 Comments on “Time for Spring

  1. Hello Jean, Another amazing piece- I love the watch too- symbolizing that time marches on??? Marjolein Bastin a Dutch artist often has objects in her nature art too, like garden tools and rain barrels, so cool. I was just thinking of doing a signs of spring piece- in the last 2 weeks we have had wood frogs breeding along with spotted salamanders and yesterday I saw my first Mourning Cloaks and Eastern Tailed Blue butterflies here in Virginia. I have been reading your old posts and want to thank you so much for sharing your techniques!!! Your work is so inspiring!!

    • Thanks Avery– Virginia is a good month ahead of us so I hope you enjoy sketching the unfolding of spring. It happens so quickly that putting multiple things on a single page can be a good way to capture different elements. Best wishes!

  2. Your sketchbook pages are a delight. Interesting comment about the “watch” (my favorite part of this sketch)-the previous comment mentioned the watch symbolizing “time marches on”. My thought about it was turning the clocks ahead. Whatever your meaning was, the painting is awesome!

  3. Your lovely image celebrates our “Spring Forward” tomorrow night! I can’t wait for spring, as we get another foot of snow in Vermont!

  4. Beautiful page and very inspiring message about including objects together with nature sketches! The clock is meaningful to me as my grandfather was always fixing clocks & watches. I have one of his pocket watches as a keepsake and sketched it once. I also like antique keys, European windows & doors. I’ll be looking forward to adding them to my sketches when they fit with my theme. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration!

  5. I love this -and love the lesson for today about mixing things together. I’m goin g to look up your explorer-I’ve never heard of her- and learn more. I often shy away from mixing things together on a page. Love your layout!

  6. Oh how I love this page! How did you discover Olivia Tonge? Is there a biography about her? I really found it fascinating to hear about her work and travels! And it’s fun to see how it influenced your thoughts on this page….the pocket watch addition is so cool!! 😀

  7. Love love this inspired collection of objects, man made and nature made all, of course, Jean made! What an excellent reminder to look beyond the obvious to inspire journal pages. This was a “duh” moment for me, and good to remember that journal pages are a wonder way to share memories and tell stories. Always always love your work, Jean!

    • Glad to help you to that “duh” moment…hopefully more like “oh, yeah” but either way, their are lots of stories and memories to be captured between the pages of your sketchbook.

  8. This page is so inspiring.! So much happens this time of year! Not to mention as you did, the constant fluctuations in the weather. As soon as March 1st arrives each year, my mind goes into Spring mode! Seeing your sketches here makes me anticipate springs arrival all the more! Beautiful! Just beautiful!

  9. Wonderful sketch, Jean! I love how you encourage us to expand our ideas about what our sketchbooks can look like. I also love Olivia Tonge’s work. I wish the Natural History Museum of London would publish a book of her work. She’s one of several artists featured in two of their collection books, but I think she is deserving of one devoted entirely to her sketchbooks.

  10. Hi Jean, I just found an enchanting book that reminded me of your work. It’s called “The Lost Spells”, by Robert Macfarlane & illustrated by Jackie Morris. The text is wonderful & the watercolor nature illustrations are fabulous.

    • Hi Melissa- I have their book The Lost Words, which is also fabulous. It’s about words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior dictionary…all nature related. I haven’t seen the Lost Spells yet, but will look for it. Thanks!

  11. Pingback: Time for Spring

  12. I’ve never heard of Olivia Tonge – what an interesting life that must have been! I’d love to see her sketchbooks. But I have yours, and that is always a treat. A salamander and a pocket watch! Who would have put those two together? Terrific! 🙂
    p.s. All I had to do was google her….

    • Thanks Linda, glad you looked her up— hence the salamander and pocket watch! I love seeing what she put together in her sketchbooks and thinking about her travels.

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