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

Artistry of the Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds hide their nests of woven sedges, grasses, and cattails deep in marshes, wet meadows, and swamps. Females weave the structure low to the ground, finding perfect hiding places to lay their eggs and raise young. Sometimes several females will nest in close proximity and even share the same mate. Because of their wet locations and perfect camouflage, I have never found a blackbird nest in the field. The ones I’ve seen and painted are from natural history museums and nature centers. Sometimes they are recently collected and sometimes, as with… Read More

On My Desk

I should never have opened the seed pod. My desk was already littered with a growing fall collection, art supplies, field guides, and books I hadn’t put away. But it had been years since I opened a trumpet vine’s bean-like pod and I had forgotten what the seeds looked like. Of course, as soon as I split the case I remembered, just in time for an explosion of paper-thin seeds to scatter everywhere, as nature intended. I can also attest that the tiny round seeds of the yellow foxtail successfully dispersed, and… 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

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

Mushroom Rains

It has rained nearly every day for a week straight. This is not good if you like summer or swimming or outdoor dining or if you want to cut the lawn every now and then. It’s not good if you like painting outside or if you want your watercolor paints to dry inside without using a hairdryer. What all the rain and humidity is good for is mushrooms. They are fruiting like gangbusters in a myriad of colors, forms, and variety. I went out to sketch them during a blessed break in… Read More

A moment in the shade

After a hectic week in which I did no artwork, it was a pleasure to pick up my pen and paints and sit under two old maple trees to sketch wild columbine growing in the shade. The nodding delicate flowers, like tiny silent bells, are a welcome sight in spring woodlands and gardens. The flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and hawkmoths to feed on their nectar, while the leaves serve as a host plant and food source for the eggs and caterpillars of the duskywing butterfly. A child could well imagine fairies… Read More

Fortunate Find

How many mushrooms can claim to have multiple websites, several online forums, numerous books, and various t-shirts dedicated solely to singing their praises? If that isn’t enough, how about an annual festival? The answer: only one, the morel. I didn’t know this until I stumbled upon a sizable patch of morels in our back woods this week. I knew they were morels, but until I went looking for more information on their natural history, I had no idea that they were such a highly prized and elusive delicacy. Because they cannot be… Read More

Spring Gems

When you think of spring, what colors come to mind? Though red is not typically on my list, there are several species that wear shades of ruby and garnet that sing out amidst spring’s palette of greens. I went looking for Jack-in-the-Pulpit in a nearby nature preserve and, though I found a few, it was the display of red trilliums on the forest floor that was in its full glory. The following day, the rose-breasted grosbeak, one of my favorite migratory birds, returned to our yard. The male’s beautiful deep red breast… Read More

Needing Green

It’s a perennial theme come March: the need for green. The hunger usually drives me to visit a greenhouse for a day of warmth and chlorophyll. Barring that this year, I’m stuck with my houseplants. A poor substitute, to be sure, but it’s nice to paint something that isn’t brown for a change. Tips & Techniques– How do you know when you’re finished? That question was posed to me by one of my class participants last week and it gave me pause. I have an intuitive sense about it, but the question… Read More