Out of Season

Usually, I would bring you beach finds in summer, when freshly found and still holding a hint of sea and salt air. But here they are in November, a collection of small treasures that I pulled out for my latest Drawn to Nature class. I used them to illustrate ways to record discoveries and layout sketchbook pages when out exploring. Like a puzzle whose picture is revealed only when complete, these types of pages are built piece by piece and end up capturing a particular place or moment in time. So, though out of season, I hope this brings you a sense of wonder for the sea and for the otherworldly creatures that live in its watery depths.

Tips and Techniques– Unlike a precise natural history illustration, this type of page often requires you to sketch quickly, especially if you are working with time constraints, challenging conditions, or objects that you can’t collect. Practice doing small sketches where you try to capture what you are looking at in two to five minutes. Draw the basic shape and some of the darker values. You will soon find a flow as your eyes begin to really see and your pen or pencil meets the paper. This practice will prepare you for working in all kinds of settings and conditions and add a freshness to your work that you simply can’t get when working from photos.

21 Comments on “Out of Season

  1. I never tire of looking at your work. You have a way of capturing the details and feel of whatever you are sketching. I appreciate this reminder of summer as we look forward to a week of cold weather!

    • My favorite walks are on the beach shoreline where I find unusual marine life, empty shells, small pieces of driftwood, rocks , carcasses from formarmarine life and other interesting debris. They become my objects to draw during the cold wet winter months. Your sketches are slways so delightful. Thanks so much for sharing

      • I bet you have some great finds since you live close to the ocean. I am fascinated by what washes up in different seasons, too…though I rarely get a chance to walk the beach in fall and winter.

  2. Hi Jean,

    I just finished watching “Where the Crawdads Sing”, on Netflix. I’d read the book last year. I think you would enjoy it.


    Lisa Damian


  3. Hi Jean, How very effective to use the two egg cases to span the center of the sketchbook—-their shape and juxtaposition keep the eye moving so it doesn’t register the seam like a more stolid creature like a whelk might. I learn with every page you share. I just completed a Carolina Wren nest with four eggs that uses so much of what you taught me about eggs and nests. It was a failed nest. So sad. Now I can go out, put it on the old stone wall, and let Nature do with it what she will.

    • Hi Judy- Nice to hear from you. I like to find something that will lead the eye through the page and the egg case was just right. I’m glad to hear about your nest. I’m working on a robin’s nest now as a gift. It’s nice to take my time with it and hopefully it will turn out well. Take care!

  4. Just a beautiful spread. i am in awe of how pleasing your illustrations are. Thank you for your tips on this one, but try as I might, I can see the objects in front of me when I go out or stay in to draw, but I can’t capture it. I’m always frustrated by my efforts, even at my old age, yet the desire is still there. Maybe I should do your class, but frankly, your illustrations are extraordinary!

    • Thanks Jo! Have you tried starting with something simple? If not, you might want to try something with a simple shape– an acorn or simple plant. I’ve had a lot of practice training my hands to capture what I see. Keep at it! I may offer a free program in December…I’ll post about that soon.

      • Thank you Jean, for your prompt and encouraging reply. I will admit I have more success when I keep things simple (eg one autumn leaf). I would love to learn from you and your online courses. Often the geographical time differences between Pacific time and Western Australia make for very unsociable hours for me, so an on demand course would be the way to do in my case. I’ll keep a watch, and thank you again for sharing your beautiful gift.

      • PS: I’ve just bought your sketchbook, albeit targeted at younger than me. I will still learn heaps from it, I’m sure. 🙂

  5. A beautiful layout Jean illustrating fascinating sea creatures and their homes! Have you ever opened up a skate egg case? I wonder why they wash up on shore? The ones I’ve discovered in the past don’t look damaged or opened in any way? I’ve always been curious. Thanks for sharing ….. the channel whelk egg case is a new one to me. Very cool.

    • Hi Barb- When the fish hatches out it leaves the empty case behind. The smaller threads you see hold the case to seaweed or other substrate, but when they wear out or break free the case may wash up on shore. The case is initially quite pliable but hardens and shrinks as it dries out on the beach. I wish I had several of them, but I just have the one.

  6. I like the way the whelk tucks in with the mussels and the sea urchin. There are things I remember from the east coast and haven’t seen in ages, like the whelk, skate egg case, and horseshoe crab – oh, and the whelk egg case – I remember puzzling over that when I was young! But then the sea urchin, limpet, and sea stars are things I’ve only seen over here. Interesting! Very pleasing pallette, too!

  7. Your depictions of the ocean and the things we can find in it are never out of season for me. Love the color variations.

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