Slow Painting

There’s a bias in urban and nature sketching for working quickly. The idea is to get the subject down while on location and to capture the moment, place, or experience. It’s a worthy practice and many people do it well, completing sketchbook pages with lovely drawings and paintings in an hour or two. But there’s also a lot to be said for working slowly. Careful observation and allowing time for a subject to resonate gives you time to figure out how best to approach it on paper. Sometimes I build a painting… Read More

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… Read More

The beauty of ordinary things

My father-in-law died this week at the age of 88. A gentleman always and a stalwart family man, Roger lived for the last 10 months in a nursing home following a serious fall and head injury which left him with significant memory loss. On a recent visit, my husband encouraged me to bring along my sketchbook, hoping that it might spark conversation that had nothing to do with the past or the future. Indeed, it turned out to be one of the loveliest visits we shared together. The pages – whether butterflies,… Read More

By the Numbers

Quick quiz: How many species of birds are regularly seen in the U.S.? Butterflies? Moths? How many can you name? Answer: There are about 800 regularly occurring species of birds, 575 species of butterflies, and a whopping 11,000 species of moths! While I can identify hundreds of birds, I can name fewer than 15 species of moths, a paltry showing considering the amazing diversity of night and day flying species. Assuming you may be as unfamiliar with moths as I am, let me share these three with you and, hopefully, spark an… Read More

Painting Natural History Collections

I had an opportunity to teach Painting Natural History Collections, a 1.5 hour online workshop during Winslow Art Center’s free Winter Bash last week. To my surprise and delight, more than 200 people from six countries joined in. How inspiring to find so many people interested in this subject! I’ve been poking around old museums specimens for many years and they have provided me hours of fascination, a wealth of painting subjects, and outstanding opportunities to expand my knowledge of natural history. I hope those who attended the session will now enjoy… Read More

The Collection

“I feel the need to fall in love with the world, to forge that relationship ever more strongly. But maybe I don’t have to work so hard. I have thought nature indifferent to humans, to one more human, but maybe the reverse is true. Maybe the world is already in love, giving us these gifts all the time — the glimpse of a fox, tracks in the sand, a breeze, a flower — calling out all the time: take this. And this. And this. Don’t turn away.” Sharman Apt RussellDiary of a… Read More

Gone. Forever.

Though the news this week that the Ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman’s warbler and 21 other species were classified as “extinct” may not have come as a surprise, it was nonetheless disheartening. I pulled several old field guides from my shelf and found these prescient passages: “When man appears, the Ivory-bill disappears. This is not alone due to the destruction of the bird’s haunts but the bird’s shy, retiring nature. Its days are numbered even more surely than are those of the forests it inhabits” (What Bird is That? by Frank Chapman, 1941). “Many… Read More

The Shimmer

Did you know that a group of hummingbirds is called a shimmer? Hummingbirds don’t “flock” together, the way many bird species do, so several names have come to describe them as a group. You can also call them a charm, a glittering, a tune, a bouquet, or a hover. Truth be told, I have only seen hummingbirds individually of late, but painting several in different positions seemed a better way to capture their movement, beauty, and vitality. Tips and Techniques– When you are painting birds, do you ever overwork them to the… Read More

A Magnificent Structure

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure, that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.” Albert Einstein Tips and Techniques— I sketched and painted this nest and quote as a demonstration for an online class that explores ways to capture the essence of a subject. While I find research and scientific information invaluable for field sketching, I also appreciate how a few spare lines of poetry or a quote can cut to the chase, helping to express what drew… Read More

A Host of Golden Daffodils

Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance… Wordsworth’s classic poem of daffodils, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” seems timeless. Who doesn’t appreciate a host of golden daffodils or, later, the memory of them fluttering and dancing in the breeze? They are in their full glory this week in my yard and I am enjoying the show. The trouble with daffodils– I can only imagine that Wordsworth’s poem flowed more easily from his pen than this painting sprang from mine. The trouble with daffodils is not… Read More