Four Tips for Sketching Outside

Just as the lovely irises bloom each year, the deer flies and black flies hatch. It makes misery of sketching among the graceful petals. I’m pretty sure this page was not worth the bug bites, but it’s all I have to share until I brave heading out again. Tips & Techniques– As much as I love sketching outside, I have my limits. Sometimes it’s just too hot, cold, windy, buggy, — (fill in the blank). But I have developed a few simple workarounds for sketching in challenging conditions. Hopefully, they’ll work for… Read More

Bluebird Days

I’ve been teaching “Painting the Colors of Spring” for the last few months, which has made me even more aware of the subtleties of color at this time of year. We started with earth colors back in March, took a deep dive into yellows and greens in April, and ended this week with an in-depth look at blues and violets. Right on cue, the bluebirds in our yard finished laying five pale blue eggs, the lilacs and violets are in bloom, and the sky was clear and bright all week. I treasure… Read More

Appreciating Old Apples

I just happened to be sketching this old apple tree at the edge of a large grassland field along the roadside, when a big Ford pickup slowed to a stop. A man got out and strode toward me. I knew at once he was the owner. Curious about what I was doing, and seeing my interest in his trees, he was eager to talk. He shared a 30-year knowledge of this particular piece of land, the struggles of farmers today, his commitment to raising grass-fed cattle, and quite a bit of personal… Read More


Spring bird migration is in full swing! There are new birds singing in the woods and fields around our house nearly every morning. I note the first sightings of songbirds as they return and what’s surprising is how consistent most birds are year to year, coming back on nearly the exact same date. The wood thrush is among my favorites, and it returns consistently on May 4th or 5th. Sure enough, it was singing out in the back woods last Friday morning. Today brought several species of warblers; I’m hoping that an… Read More

Stopping Time

There are times when I wish I could make time stand still. Like now. Now, when the buds of apple blossoms are tinged with ruby and pink. When tiny magenta flowering redbuds stand out against bright new green leaves. When passing bluebirds or goldfinches flash so brightly that their brilliance catches you by surprise. If I could stop time right now, I could paint it all instead of just these few lovely buds unfolding. Tips and Techniques– I’ve been struggling lately with whether to sketch fast and loose or slowly and carefully…. Read More


Spring ephemeral wildflowers are putting on a show right now. It won’t last long. These woodland flowers bloom for a week or two in April and early May when the sun reaches the forest floor. Once the trees fully leaf out, the show will be over until next year. Bottom line: see it if you can. Many of these flowers are tiny, delicate beauties; others are stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous. I count white and red trillium in the latter category and was thrilled to see both on a wildflower walk yesterday. Tips and Techniques–… Read More

A Moment in Spring

The changes come slowly at first: light in the morning, bird song, blossoming trees, ephemeral wildflowers in the woods. The Eastern phoebe wags its tail and sings its name outside my window, waking the world to the new season. Spring is the perfect time of year to note the incremental changes unfolding in the world. Like the phoebe, my sketchbook celebrates this moment in time, calling out the beauty and greening of the day. Tips and Techniques– You can make this type of page all in one go or over the course… Read More

Bright Spots of Yellow

This piece began a few weeks ago when I spied a mourning cloak butterfly basking on the ground at the edge of the woods. The adults of this butterfly overwinter hidden in tree cavities or under bark. I painted it on this page not knowing what I might find next. Over the last few days, forsythia has begun to bloom and a flock of golden crowned kinglets visited our yard, signaling the coming of warmer days and more buds, blooms, and returning birds. Bright spots of yellow– such a welcome beginning to… Read More

Lush, Green and Warm

The northern winter can start to feel long about this time of year, so I like to take a trip someplace warm and green to buoy my spirits and provide inspiration. I’m not talking about Florida or the Caribbean or Mexico, the destination of choice for many in February and March. No, I’m just talking about paying a visit to the nearest greenhouse. I met three artistic friends at the Lyman Conservancy at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. and, while snow blew sideways outside the glass, we enjoyed sketching for a few… Read More


Odd noises on the back porch woke my husband and I from slumber the other night but, too tired to investigate, we decided not to get up. The next morning, our visitor was all too clear—a swath of destruction lay scattered across the yard and a six-inch paw print marked the back steps. I figured black bears would wait until the snow melted and weather warmed before venturing out. But alas, we are all very much awake. Tips and Techniques– Don’t be afraid to be bold in your sketchbook. Zooming in on… Read More