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

Adirondack Birches

If you have never been to northern New England in the fall, you must put it on your bucket list and go. Blazing red and orange maples, yellow birch and aspen, and russet beech trees, set off by evergreens paint an extraordinary canvas. This is just about the end of “peak” season, as rain and wind subdue the palette each week. I consider myself lucky to have seen New York’s Adirondacks in a blaze of glory this weekend while at my nephew’s wedding. What a treat—on both counts.

The Gift of Magnolias

How we covet the first big flowering of the season! An explosion of white against still-gray trees. “…The whiteness is a gift.Soft, and slow, it openson the limbs. Watch it so.”— The Magnolia, Richard Lambert Magnolias are among the most primitive flowering plants, dating to 90 million years ago. I like to think of them blossoming among dinosaurs and, millennia later, emperors and ordinary folks in their native Japan. We should have a holiday to celebrate them, or at least a picnic under a canopy of petals. Tips and Techniques- I must… Read More

Spring Begins

Before it unfolds in a grand show of color and song, spring is all subtlety. I go looking for it first in wetlands. There, blackbirds returning from the south are greeted by last year’s matted cattails and the reddening stems of dogwood. The odor of skunk cabbage is pungent; its maroon streaked hoods emerge from the mud, hiding small flowers that feed newly awakened bees. I sketch skunk cabbage every year, but this time I also discovered a patch of scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale), a leafless, hollow-stemmed primitive plant that has survived… Read More

Captivated

What is it about this giant old sugar maple that has me captivated? I painted the same tree last week, though from a different vantage point, but it still has a hold on me. So, I stand outside in the late day cold trying to untangle the jumble of big limbs. I work the branches and the spaces between them, piecing together how everything fits. I get lost in the lines, shift focus, keep going. Forty-five minutes later, my own limbs are growing stiff. I could go out tomorrow and begin again…. Read More

Dark Beauty

The sun fades quickly on December afternoons, dipping below the horizon not long after 4pm. Even after a lifetime of Decembers, it still surprises me how short these days are. But the silver lining comes once the sky begins to darken. Then, in the clarity of cold winter air, the bare branches of trees silhouetted against the backdrop of blue and pink, deep purple, and inky black create a singular beauty. These darkest days will soon pass, but while they last, I’ll cherish this silent and remarkable view. Tips and Techniques– To… Read More

Autumn Trio

More than half of the autumn leaves are on the ground now where I live, which means two things: lots of raking and beautiful colors littering the woods. It doesn’t take long for leaves to dry out and fade, so I have forsaken the rake in favor of the paint brush. A good choice, don’t you think? Tips and Techniques– Leaf “portraits” like this are a good way to practice painting skills. They force you to work on getting crisp edges, mix subtle color variations, and use both wet-in-wet and dry brush… Read More

Cloaked in Gold

I love the way autumn builds to its peak color, first slowly, then with bold strokes. The reds and oranges are showstoppers, but it’s the yellows that hold it all together. Birch, walnut, hickory, cottonwood, beech, poplar, aspen, gingko, sassafras—all yellow. But my favorite is the luminous golden leaves of the bitternut, which come into their own in mid-October and quickly sail away like so many paper kites in gusts of wild wind. Tips and Techniques– An all yellow subject is a bit tricky. The color is so light on the value… Read More

Golden Hour

At 5 o’clock, the sun was already low on the horizon, casting a golden light that would blaze for a short while more and then vanish. After eight hours at my desk, I quickly closed my laptop, picked up my sketchbook, and headed to a nearby preserve to immerse myself in what remained of a perfect fall day. I didn’t walk far before being surrounded by the colors of the season. Dark trunks of old sugar maples cloaked in a perfect glory of yellow, orange, green, and russet lined the old carriage… Read More