What lies ahead

I cracked open a new sketchbook this week: blank pages stared back. Who knows what will become of them? Pieces of life, seasons, artistic experiments, birds, experiences, memories. It seems fitting then that my first page records a journey. These are quick sketches made while driving from Connecticut to Maine, pulled together with text about what I was listening to in the car. I wasn’t really sure where the pages would go when I began. With each stop along the way, I added something more. Built over time, the page, like the book itself, is… Read More

Sketchbook and a Pen

There is something really satisfying about going out with the most basic of sketch tools: paper and pen. I love the flow of lines, of ink on the page, of forms taking shape. These magnificent old beech trees were perfect subjects. I found the first one late Sunday afternoon on the banks of a river and the second two days later in a cemetery. It took me about an hour working on site to make each drawing. Back at home, I couldn’t resist adding a touch of color to to the page. What… Read More

Beautiful Beginning

When I am drawing a bird’s nest, I am always mindful that the birds who built it have given me a beautiful beginning. The woven strips of bark, grass, pine needles, twigs and finer nesting materials lend themselves to lovely lines. I love rebuilding the nest on paper, strand by strand, picking out patterns and adding darks until the bird’s creation takes shape again in ink. I plan to add watercolor to this, but I thought I’d share it now to give you a sense of this beginning stage.

The Christmas Letter

Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Father Christmas Letters and an antler I found one Christmas Eve, I began writing letters from Santa to my children in 2004. When my sons grew too old for such things, there was a lull in the letters—until three years ago, when I passed on the antler with a letter to my neighbor’s young boys. The letters are among my favorite Christmas traditions and so I am pleased to continue it for another year and to share the fun more widely here with you. Click to view… Read More

Home Grown

It’s very satisfying to grow your own tomatoes. Not just cherry or grape tomatoes, which are fine, but full-sized Brandywines or beefsteaks. While other gardeners have been harvesting their tomatoes for a few weeks, my late-maturing heirlooms are just beginning to ripen. And I suppose that’s good. The slow yield has given me one or two to eat and more on the vine to paint. This page is a bit of an experiment. I recently bought a new fountain pen—a Lamy Safari—and I tested it with a deep blue-gray waterproof ink from… Read More

Nest & Eggs

Yes, this is a completely unseasonal piece given the temperature outside (36F), the snow and barren branches, and the fact that the wood thrush that made this nest is far gone to Central America for the winter. Still, it’s good to remind myself in the year’s darkest days that we are riding on a fantastic, revolving planet– which, after a little more travel around the sun, will bring us to spring once more.

Grown Wild

I came upon this sugar maple while hiking at a nature preserve and was quickly drawn in by its spreading lower limbs. Consider what a rare thing it is to see a tree like this. In nurseries and residential yards and farm fields alike, lower branches are commonly lobbed off— for aesthetics or safety or ease of mowing underneath. Grown wild, this beauty’s lower limbs stretch improbably far outward and upward. With most of its leaves already lying in a carpet of orange and brown on the ground, it was easier to see… Read More

Coming Full Circle

1969. Forty-five years ago, an enthusiastic young birder named Scott Stoner found and kept watch over a red-winged blackbird nest in a field near his home. When eggs and parent birds disappeared one mid-June day, he took it. Scott mounted the nest to a piece of cardboard, signed his name, dated it, and put it on display in a nature museum in his basement. He was 12 years old. Three weeks ago, I found Scott’s nest. It was still mounted to that piece of now-yellowed cardboard, tucked away in a long-forgotten cabinet… Read More

Searching for Dragonflies

OK, I admit it…I’m a dragonfly geek. While most people enjoy a boat ride or swim at my mother’s summer cottage, I’m often out rowing around in the hot, mucky backwater shallows in search of dragonflies. Sketching them is a highlight of my summer. Dragonflies are exceptional flyers, which makes it particularly challenging to identify and sketch them in the field. But, like birds, dragonflies perch for short periods, often returning to the same spot between patrols. Some species perch longer than others and the position in which they perch– horizontal, at… Read More

Resilient

I love the sheer mass of this old cottonwood, towering above younger trees in my neighbor’s abandoned field. Less than a year ago, its hollow trunk still supported most of its aging, weighty limbs. But summer storms recently brought a good portion of the giant to the ground. At first sight, I was struck by its brokenness in the late day sunlight. Only later, I realized my shortsightedness. Trees, like people, can weather many storms—their character often enhanced by years and trials. Sending greenery skyward, they go on living—aged and scarred, but… Read More