Jean Mackay

Schodack Landing, New York
Jeanmackayart (at) gmail (dot) com

I am an educator, writer, artist, and naturalist—but not always in that order. I grew up in Troy, New York, traveled widely in my twenties, and set down roots not far from where I began.

What draws me in? As you can see from my sketches and paintings, most of my work is about nature, and I’ve long used art as a way to take a closer look at what’s around me. Sketching is a powerful tool for understanding and finding our place in a much wider world.

In recent years, I’ve also been drawn in by the way art can capture small moments of everyday life. The pages of my artist journals include drawings of travels, meals, family foibles, and seasonal cycles, alongside salamander migration or dragonfly sightings.

Thanks for being drawn in by what you see here…and do add a comment to share your thoughts!

All images on this site are © of Jean Mackay.

No rights of reproduction, nor any rights to the paintings/images, unless permission is granted by the artist.

93 Comments on “About

  1. Jean, I love your artistic point of view ! Thank you for sharing your art and insights. Quite a talent, you are. Please post more!

  2. This is beautiful! How nice to have your artwork in one easily accessible place–thank you for creating this blog. We have always loved seeing your art and now we can keep up to date with the new additions. The fact that you write so well enhances the paintings. I don’t know how you fit so much into each day. We send love and congratulations.

  3. Hi Jean. Thank you so much for thinking of me and forwarding me the link to this page. You are such an amazingly gifted artist – I love everything you do. Please let me know how I can purchase some of your prints. Also, and I know you’re going to love this – maybe it will remind of our college days – the plural of metamorphosis is metamorphoses. FYI.. Just saying. Love you. Tammy

  4. Jean: This is some beautiful art and inspiring thoughts–love it! I hope you & the family are doing well. I miss our (long ago) summer lunches. Love! Frank

    • Hi Frank! Thanks for checking in! I miss our brief get togethers too! Thanks for being part of my early ramblings into the heart of the American wilderness…I wouldn’t be where I am today without that.

  5. A dear friend ours in Belgrade, Maine shared this site with us. My wife and I have a life long love of plants and the environment in which we all exist. The exquisite drawings, coupled with neat, concise and emotion- packed observations of detail are clearly the result of someone who really “tunes in”.
    I love this!

    • Thank you Roy! I am in Maine this week and, as always, very grateful to be here. I will be sharing some art from my time on the coast soon!

  6. Jean, your work is breathtaking! It is inspiring me to keep painting and to keep trying to understand the world around me through little moments in life – which sometimes seem to matter just as much as the entire world.

  7. Wow Jean – Your talent never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for sharing your artwork, your creative perspective, and your inspiration with all of us.

  8. I feel very lucky to have such an amazing artist in the family and always look forward to seeing what is next for you. I do love your dragonfly art.

  9. Jean your work is just stunning! Do you teach classes or can you recommend where one even begins to start learning such a wonderful hobby? I live in northern NJ and would travel – parents live in Lake Sacandaga.

    • Hi Jill- Thanks! I teach workshops locally on occasion and I’d be happy to try to meet up when you visit again, but in the mean time, you might check with a local arts center or nature center to see if they offer any classes. I also recommend that you just keep drawing! Try subjects that are relatively simple– maybe seeds, acorns, leaves, and other founds objects in nature to start. The more you draw, the better you’ll get.

  10. I love your work and journal! I have so many questions! What sort of sketchbook do you use? Did you at one point study calligraphy in some capacity? I ask because your scoll is lovely! Thank you for sharing your skilled work!! Very inspiring!

    • Thanks Tam- Ask away! I’ve used all sorts of journals over the years- Moleskin, Strathmore, Canson Mixed Media– but I’ve been using Stillman & Birn Beta and Zeta series sketchbooks for the last year or two and I really like the quality of the paper and binding and the size of the books. I don’t have formal training, but I have been practicing calligraphy and studying various letter forms and illuminated letters for a very long time. One reference I especially like is “The Art of Calligraphy” by David Harris. I took at peak at your blog and enjoyed your sketches. Glad to provide a little inspiration!

  11. So happy to have discovered your work, via Shari,s blog. I can’t find where to sign up for your site. I confess to being cyber challenged, please sign me up.
    Thanks, Bobbie

    • Hi Bobbie- Glad you found me! Welcome! Look on the main page for the site– in the right hand column you’ll see a box that says “follow.” Click that and add your email to sign up. — Jean

  12. My best walks are along the beach at low tide when all the interesting sea creatures are uncovered exposing themselves twice a day during the summer months. The water is warm and the marine breezes smell wonderful. Your sketch is lovely; many of Maine’s sea animals are the same as those in the Northwest waters.

    • Yes– you could have written this post with your comment– except the water is COLD in Maine. Maybe someday I’ll get to explore at low tide in the NW.

  13. I’ve been to the Maine coast only once and it’s charming with lots of interesting coves to explore. Our beaches have lots of logs, driftwood, sand and rocks, shells from dead sea life, glass and assortment of debris.

  14. It was a joy and blessing to meet you at Audubon Camp last month. Your beautiful art and journals have inspired me to revisit my love of drawing and calligraphy, which I stopped doing a long time ago. I was in the Raptor/Rapture Session that ran concurrently with Arts and Birding, however second only to banding the juvenile osprey, you are the best take-away from that magical week at Hog Island.

    • Sandie- That is the sweetest note! It was a pleasure to meet you and I’m so happy that I provided a bit of inspiration– I hope you do find your way back to drawing/calligraphy. Should you ever want to share some work with me, I would love to see it. My e-mail is above. Im also happy to recommend some books that may be of interest and further inspiration. All the best!

  15. Jean — this is the first blog I’ve ever followed. You are amazing — love your artwork, such a range — quirky to intimate detail! Welcome to Connecticut, there’s plenty of new material for you to delve into here!

  16. I have no art training but I would love to create sketch books like yours. Is the workshop in VT full? Please let me know if you are going to do any other workshops.

  17. Hi Jean, It was such a pleasure to spend the day with you in Vermont. Seeing you and your beautiful journals in person was wonderful. I hope you can come back and do it again at the Landgrove Inn sometime next year. Thanks again for the inspiration. Claudia

    • Thanks Claudia! I’m so glad you enjoyed the workshop– I did too! I also enjoyed looking at the paintings on your website– beautiful work! I’d love to return to VT next year…would you suggest the best way to connect with the Landgrove Inn?

  18. Very inspiring blog. I love it. Thank you for sharing your art. I am going to follow you and look forward to reading your posts.

  19. Hi Jean and thanks so much for dropping in on my brushes with watercolour – much appreciated. And congratulations too on you work – It treads the line fabulously between freedom and meticulous – really superb!

    • Thanks John. I loved your paintings and if I could paint landscapes I would want them to look like that. Glad we’ve been introduced to each other’s work through Doodlewashed.

    • Thanks– glad you like it! I sort of fluctuate between wanting to be very precise and wanting to be loose, so you’ll see both styles here.

  20. helll jean, thanks for sharing your art i love this stuff ( i am a writer/poet) and would love to get back into watercolors but chemically sensitive any words of wisdom or knowledge 🙂 if u have no worries thanks again for this beautiful blog, donna marie

    • Hi Donna Marie- Thanks so much! I don’t know much about chemical sensitivity; it would seem that watercolors would be among the easiest art supplies to handle since they are water based and you aren’t really touching the paint. Looks like you have a good creative outlet with writing/poetry– keep it up!

  21. Thanks for sharing your awesome art, I aspire to have your coloring and drawing skills!

  22. Hi Jean congratulations for your beautiful and inspiring work! I love your Journals they are lovely, some of your drawing remind me the book of Edith Holden “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady” 😉 I discovered you on Charlie Blog Doodlewash and I enjoyed your Feature. Charlie is a nice friend and a wonderful artist. My name is Carolina and I am an artist designer I love to express my creativity with different mediums beside watercolors. I hope that you will visit my Blog sometime and since then Cheers! I follow you now so I wont miss your next post 😉 Carolina

    • Thanks Carolina- Glad you found me through Charlie’s Doodlewash feature. Hope you continue to enjoy what you see here– I’ll visit your blog to see what you’re up to.

  23. Thank you for sharing! Beautiful work. Learned of you through fellow art journalers (is that a real word? 🙂 in the Bloomington (Indiana) Watercolor Society. Feel a kinship…

  24. It’s so nice to have stumbled upon your site!! Your work is absolutely gorgeous (I am an artist and naturalist at heart, too). I look forward to connecting more and seeing more of your artwork!! x

    • Hi Desiree- Thanks for poking around my site. Sounds like we have some nice things in common! Glad you are sharing your creative wisdom and inspiration with others. –J

  25. I’ve just been scrolling through your posts and everything is absolutely beautiful. I’m a nature fanatic and am simply amazed at your drawing skills.

  26. Lovely site, Jean – Nature and art go hand in hand IMO, I bet you find springtime very inspiring, I know I do!!! Think I will follow you and see where you lead me! 😉

  27. I just found you through the Nature Journal Club on FB, so happy that you posted there and linked your website! I’m about to move to the east coast (MD) so maybe I can even take a workshop sometime!

    • Hi Katheryn- I’ll look for your work on the NJC site. I enjoy seeing what’s posted there…only found that site a few months ago. Thanks for being in touch! Good luck with your move!

  28. Jean, I met you at Hog Island last year and followed you around even though I was taking the Raptor Rapture program. I was completely enthralled by the art work being produced with your program there. I am also in New York, more down state. Please let me know if you offer a workshop near your home. It’s about 2 hours away and I would love to take a class with you.

  29. I just love your drawings they are just awesome. Such a blessing and marvelous talent.

  30. Jean, I was checking WordPress to see if how my blog’s doing and caught your most recent post on my reader. Hmmm. Why/when did I add this excellent sketcher/journaler to my list? I lived in Troy, NY for a year when I was in 6th grade…not a likely connection, tho interesting. In going back thru your posts, I remembered! March of this year – 100 people sketches in a week, and Marc Taro Holmes! Or checking further, perhaps Facebook thru Roxanne Stead. Whatever – a thrill and pleasure to explore your blog this evening!

  31. Beautiful beautiful. I love the latest Flight that you posted. Just love it. I’ve been wondering which sketchbook you are using? I searching for suggestions.

    • Hi Leslie- I am using a Stillman & Birn sketchbook with Beta paper. It’s hardbound, but comes in soft cover and spiral bound as well. I’ve used lots of different brands over the years and really like this one for the quality of paper, construction, and size.

  32. Hello! I really love your style and I am curious about the possibility of commissioning a piece of work as a 70th birthday gift for my mother.

    It would basically be the combination of your hummingbird piece (words plus the bird) and your recent Dogwood piece. As my parents love Dogwoods and hummingbirds.

    Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Amber- Thanks for reaching out! I’d like to get some more information so I can consider the commission and make sure I can deliver what you want. Let’s be in touch via email.

  33. Oh, my, how timely! I leave for Kllarney, Ireland in 2 days on my first international art workshop (2 wks). The trip leader sent our group your post on Ireland and I’m psyched. My watercolor journey started 2 years ago with sketching and a desire to create journals as yours. Slowly sketching morphed into painting with less sketching, mainly because I’m also as passionate about painting larger works. Your work is exquisite. I’ve taken from Shari Blaukoph and am scheduled for next year with Brenda Swenson, but today you are my new inspiration.

    • Hi Lee- What a wonderful note. Thank you. How fortunate you are to have two weeks in Kilarney! The national park is beautiful and will offer all sorts of fabulous opportunities for painting. It was high on my list of “if I make it to Ireland again, I’d go back to…” Thank you for the high compliment. Any time I’m mentioned alongside Shari Blaukoph or Brenda Swenson is an honor. I’d love to know who your instructor is for your upcoming workshop and where you’re from. (Feel free to email me if you’d like to have a more private exchange.) It sounds like your passion for watercolor has led you to exceptional people and places. I hope Ireland proves to be that for you! I am certainly grateful for the sketching opportunities I had there. And, just a thought, you might bring a small umbrella so that you can have a bit of cover should it start to rain on your sketchbook. You may be able to hold it and still balance your book and pencil or pen. Wishing you a wonderful trip, lots of learning, and great sketching!

  34. Hi Jean, I really enjoy following your posts and love your art. What size and type of art journal do you use? I have tried several different types and am still looking for one that works well for me. Any ideas are welcome. Thanks

    • Hi Eileen- I’ve tried all sorts of sketchbooks too and a lot depends on what materials you prefer using. I am using Stillman & Birn beta and zeta sketchbooks and have been consistent with them since 2013. I like the way the paper takes both watercolor and ink. Strathmore watercolor sketchbook paper has more texture to the paper, Moleskin watercolor sketchbook paper is thinner and a bit frustrating with watercolor. I haven’t tried Handbooks, but I know other artists who like those. Keep at…hopefully you’ll find one that suits you!

  35. Hi Jean — I’ve been following and enjoying your work — and I’m grateful you share it with the world!

    I have a request. I’m getting ready to publish a book of poems — Field without Fences — and have been eying a couple of your pieces for illustrations.

    Flock in Snow — March 2, 2018 entry
    Along the Roadside — January 12, 2018 entry

    Could I purchase rights to use all or parts of these pieces in the book?

    Thanks and best to you and Dan —
    Robin Boyd

  36. Jean, I just discovered you thanks to the page in Watercolor Artist. I love your thoughts and paintings & sketches. You are very inspiring. Hog Island sounds divine. I look forward to viewing more of your thoughts & work.

    • Thanks Pamela! And welcome! I’m glad you found your way here. I assume you are a watercolor artist— please don’t hesitate to ask questions or leave a comment on what you see here. —Jean

  37. How do I go back to previous posts — several days or months? Thank you!

  38. Thank you for a great class last Saturday in Westport. I’ve been attempting pen& wash sketchbooking for awhile and you brought it to life. I like your formula for layout on the pages.
    Looking forward to your next WAG class.

  39. Dear Jean, Thank you for your incredibly beautiful book. Your artwork is amazing and your words are inspiring. When Jerry saw it he had a big smile on his face and started to reminisce about what a talented art student you were, that you especially liked doing pottery, participating in Big Brothers and Sisters, making posters for the Yorker Club for Sister Mary Smith… Jerry remembers saying, We all need to get back to the earth.
    Thank you again for your generosity.
    Donna and Jerry Salata

  40. Pingback: Drawn To Class | Own Your Encore

  41. Just stumbled on to “Drawn In” Beautiful work. I’ve been educating myself on Blue Herons that led me to you site…Sketching from videos is a fantastic idea and your WC sketch of Herons is really beautiful with energy….alive…I’ve written down the name of the journals you use. I think I’ll give it a try….And If you don’t mind, I’m curious too know what pens you use….

    • Hi Ron- glad you stumbled onto Drawn In. I use Micron pens with archival permanent ink size 02 and 005, black ink for most of my work. I like the 005 for fine feather details when drawing birds. Enjoy your herons!

  42. Hi! Love love your art work and especially about Vinalhaven. We have a place in Old Harbor and go there every summer. I’m currently on PIE (Partners in Education for the school and community) Just wondering if you would be on VH this summer and would you like to participate as a guest artist speaker or would like to give a workshop. Please let me know your thoughts, I think it would be wonderful.
    Thanks for your time and take care,
    Mary Lou Upton

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