Butterflies and Chocolate

Stepping from 4֯ F outside into a 75 ֯ F conservatory filled with flowering plants and fluttering butterflies is a wonderful treat on a winter day. I met up with two artist friends at Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory for an afternoon of sketching, followed by a visit to Richardson’s Candy Kitchen in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. What a winning combination: friends, art, butterflies, and chocolate. Painting in the conservatory was more overwhelming than I had imagined. Butterflies were everywhere, in nearly constant motion, and the place was crowded with visitors. Although the butterflies… Read More

Revisiting the Southwest

Can a painting evoke a place, a memory, a moment in time? On a cold winter’s day, this piece certainly gave me a chance to revisit a trip to the Southwest that my family took a few years ago. During a long day hike at Arches National Park, we were surrounded by towering sandstone walls and incredible rock formations. After the first two miles, the crowds thinned and the trail became primitive, with steep climbs and descents. At times, we were alone in that wild expanse of sandstone and sky. A rare… Read More

New Year’s Bouquet

The New Year is ushered in by overcast skies and a misty dampness hanging over woods and fields. I go out in search of something interesting to sketch, hike along a wet meandering stream, up through an old grove of white pines, and wind up in a field of waist-high goldenrod. By this time, the mist is beginning to spit, and the bleak daylight is fading. That’s when I see the New Year’s bouquet stretched out before me. Tight flower-like goldenrod leaf clusters, the result of tiny fly larva that stunt the… 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

In the Field- November

The neighboring field is thick with goldenrod, thorny wild roses, tangles of bittersweet, and tall grass. Most of it hasn’t been cut back in more than five years. A small grove of white pines gains ground each season, as do a few oak, cherry, and walnut trees along the edges. The slow transformation from old field to woods is well begun. I don’t usually roam into the field until the goldenrods have been matted by snow, but when I spied this nest, I waded in. In addition to this sketch, I brought… Read More

Back in the Game

I haven’t sketched outside in weeks. First I was sick, then tired and recovering, then making up for lost time getting our house ready for winter. Suddenly, daylight savings time took my evenings and November’s sunshine grew thin. So, despite yesterday’s chill and plenty of weekend chores, I headed out with sketchbook in hand and a vow not to return until I had something on paper. Here you go…a simple sketch that puts me back in the game.  Tips and Techniques- Getting out of a sketching habit is like getting out of… Read More

Seeds for the Next Generation

Autumn is the season of trees here in the Northeast. It’s not only the vibrant foliage that makes it so, but also the magnificent structure of trunks and branches revealed as the leaves fall. And then there are all those seeds dropping to the ground—so much promise for regeneration; so much sustenance for wildlife preparing for winter. This piece celebrates that promise, while also marking the one-year anniversary of the release of The Nature Explorer’s Sketchbook. In many ways, the book is my attempt to sow seeds of wonder and enthusiasm for… 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 Last Golden Light

The field next to our property is in its full glory lately. Bees are buzzing in the goldenrod, asters are blooming in shades of white and purple, and tiny orange jewelweed dots the greenery. Numerous walnut trees border the field and frame the view. The chest high thicket is so dense that I won’t be able to walk in it until January, when the stems are brown, brittle, and matted from heavy snow. But for now, it is at its best, especially as the sun descends in the late afternoon, casting a… Read More