November’s Nest

I spy the nest in a thicket at the edge of the field. There’s no way to reach it but to wade in. I follow an old deer trail that takes me part way, and then battle brambles, thorns, and waist-high goldenrod stems to reach the prize. Unlike many nests at this time of year, this one is still quite intact. Whoever wove it did a beautiful job. Tips and Techniques– I always do some research about my subjects, especially nests. Like identifying birds, identifying nests requires a process of elimination. At… Read More

Out of Season

Usually, I would bring you beach finds in summer, when freshly found and still holding a hint of sea and salt air. But here they are in November, a collection of small treasures that I pulled out for my latest Drawn to Nature class. I used them to illustrate ways to record discoveries and layout sketchbook pages when out exploring. Like a puzzle whose picture is revealed only when complete, these types of pages are built piece by piece and end up capturing a particular place or moment in time. So, though… Read More

Blue Mussels on a Rainy Day

October in Maine: a gift. As lovely and as simple as blue mussels on a rainy day. As steady as the ocean lapping on shore, loons calling their lonesome cry from the expanse of blue. As surprising as a pair of kingfishers rattling in flight across a cove. As beautiful as flames of crimson and gold maples and burnt sienna salt marsh hay glowing in the sun. Today, I send you the mussels. More gifts to come.

Not the Last Afterall

Whatever happened to posts about birds or flowers or trees? There will be more of those to come, I promise. But first, just a few more mushrooms which, as you will see, were worthy of paint. First, the pear-shaped puffball, whose smoky spores release when gently squeezed. And then the inconspicuous tannish-brown clitocybe. Who would have thought lavender gills would be hiding underneath that unassuming cap? Tips and Techniques– Use your sketchbook to try a variety of artistic approaches. Part of what’s keeping me going on mushrooms week after week is not… Read More

Until Next Year (maybe)

Okay. This is it! The last of the mushrooms for 2022. I don’t think I can paint any more, try to identify any more, read any more. I must clean my desk and turn a new page! But then, who knows, I haven’t gone outside yet today to see if anything new has come up. Tips and Techniques– For this page, I thought it might be fun to try something different and just take a top down view of mushroom caps. This gave me a chance to look at patterns, texture, and… Read More

Mushroom Time

After 48 hours of rain earlier this week: BOOM, it’s mushroom time. I’ve been cataloging mushrooms in our yard for several years (2018, 2020, 2021, 2021) and I am constantly amazed by the number and variety that appear. Most come up under a small grove of oaks along our driveway, but a few show up in the lawn, or in piles of mulch. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a much larger network of underground thread-like filaments called mycelium. This network is either breaking down and recycling dead stuff, feeding on weakened… Read More

In the Shoal

The thrill of being at the beach is not only experiencing the ocean, it’s also about never knowing what you might find. While treasure hunting last weekend on the south coast of Massachusetts, I was hoping for perfect shells or shorebirds, but instead found beautiful purple and silver colored fish recently washed up on shore. The fish were small and not long dead, one here, two there, all told, about ten as we made our way along the beach. Later, while swimming nearby, huge shoals of these same fish moved all about… Read More

Beach Chicks

Unless you live near the coast or visit frequently, there may only be a few times in your life that you will get to see hatchling shorebirds scampering at the surf line. I count myself fortunate to have visited the coast of Massachusetts last week at the perfect time to see piping plover chicks. Running around on stilt-legs, the tiny puff balls were foraging at the water’s edge, already managing to avoid getting swamped or stomped on by beachgoers. These birds were at least several days old, though piping plover chicks can… Read More

If you build it…

Since we moved to our house five years ago, we’ve been converting several areas that were formerly maintained as mown lawn to meadow. This is the first year that wildflowers and milkweed from seeds sown and scattered are blooming and it’s a delight to see butterflies, bees, and dragonflies take notice. A monarch caterpillar was our best resident to date, and I’m glad I sketched it before it either became a juicy meal for a lucky bird or crawled off and hid itself to begin its transformation. Alas, it has been a… Read More

The Promise of Summer

With the solstice officially marking summer this week, the season of plenty is here to celebrate. Many birds have already fledged one brood and are now sitting on a second clutch. Depending on where you live, songbirds may even have a chance to raise three broods. I say, thank goodness for second chances. Let the wrens try again after their first nest was disturbed by a bear. Let the robins lay perfect blue eggs and hope the jays leave them alone. Let all this new life surround and fill us during the… Read More