Saturday, March 31, 2012


Here's a little something I did this afternoon.

The shell upside down didn't go as I had hoped.  Couldn't get the curve and angles right so my box turtle shell took on more of a true open box shape (as I roll my eyes).

The upright shell went a little better for me.

Neither shadow would I brag about (I hate adding shadows) but I did try.  It's not so difficult if on a small scale but the shadow area was large and my lack of confidence or hesitancy in application really shows (at least to my eyes).

The shell is one my son found checking out the property on our 4-wheeler the first time he came out to see the place.  My family is always bringing me things or taking photos of subjects they think I might be interested in.  :-)

Although sad what the empty shell represents, it does remind me of one of my favorite animated movies - Ice Age 2 or 3 - that I can sit and watch over and over.  There's a scene where a dinosaur type tortoise has an untimely death leaving his shell vacant for another.  That's where I came up with "Vacancy" for the subject.

Mini Ink and Wash Sketches

I have this little "Handbook" about 3 1/2 x 5 1/2" closed.  I keep this in a little home-made fabric pouch a special friend in the UK made and gave to me when I visited her two years ago.  (Thank you Clare) 

The little Handbook is the Maroon one you see.  The black is a small sketchbook.  I carry a couple Tombow marker pens, pencil, eraser, Rotring iInk pen, cartridges, waterbrush, and folded up paper towel.  Sometimes I'll switch those out and carry a small set of watercolor pans, travel brush, waterbrush, pencil, eraser, and watercolor block.

The other day when I knew I'd be sitting at Toyota service center for awhile, I braved it out and took this "kit" and actually worked a little sketch in ink and wash.  I don't normally do anything like this in public. Too squeamish; however, now and then I will try hoping to break free of this fear.  (I still prefer working in the comfort and privacy of my home.)

The sketch leaves a great deal to be desired but it is special to me simply because it meant I broke out of my comfort zone.  And believe me.....I was nervous!!!!  I made sure I didn't look around to see if the other people in the waiting area were watching me because if I made eye contact, I would have folded the lot back up and done something else (like read).

Although not intended, the lady in the pay window looks like she's talking on the telephone.  One of those happy accidents I suppose.  The hanging sign to the far right of the window was actually on another wall.  I just placed it there to fill the empty wall area.  It's an actual welcome sign but placing it where I did brings to mind that it should say... "Thank you, I'll take your money now."  :-)

It's been awhile since I've used the Rotring pen and I was having problems with it.  It would skip.  But I managed through that.  As I was applying the waterbrush, I made the mistake of hitting the outlet with a little too much water.  I forget just how strong this ink is and one has to be cautious when using waterbrush.  Oh and learn.

Going back to earlier in the day and before I went to the dealership, I had a few minutes as I waited before leaving the house.  When I decided I was going to take my sketching gear, I pulled out the Handbook and did a quick sketch of outside my window.  This for me was a good start to want to do more.

Once I get started with something like this, that itch continues and I ended up working another sketch while watching TV later in the evening.

This is of our fireplace.  I think I did more listening to the TV than watching because I was so focused on what I was doing.  No pencil work at all forcing myself to take care practicing observation skills while I worked.  The more I worked with the Rotring pen, the more sparing I became with the water.  The brush needs to be damp rather then wet in areas with heavy ink application.

One final mini sketch I'll share with this post was done yesterday.  We were experiencing scattered storms off and on throughout the day and evening.  If the weather is not too bad or blowing in under the porch, I will sit outside.  During one of the storms, I grabbed this little kit along with my watercolor palette and did yet another ink and wash sketch (with a splash of color).

It's of a resin based rock water fountain we purchased years ago from Lowes.  When the pump went out on the fountain, we just never replaced it.  It sat empty for the longest time and an idea hit to have holes drilled in the bottom and use it as a planter.   This sits down below the front porch just on the edge of a "point" where the woods meet the lawn.  I have a planter to one side of it.

Although yellow and purple flowers (pansies) are actually in the fountain, taking yellow to the ink turned green and purple would not have I touched it with a bit of red.  The color is very subtle so not sure you will be able to view on screen.

These little journal books make it easy to do a 2-page spread and working small comes natural for me :-)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Feeding the Squirrels

It is amazing to watch squirrels as they jump from tree to tree and scurry up and down the side of tree trunks.  We have many and it's a site we've not seen too much of until we moved into this house.

With the bird feeders, we've had a few problems with squirrel raiding the seed and damaging the bird feeders.  So next step was to purchase baffles which so far has helped.....well not at first with one of the feeding stations.  That one sits out a couple feet from two trees and I watched with amazement as one squirrel went out on a branch making it lower and then jumping onto the flat feeder.  Needless to say we removed those branches that could be used as a bridge for easy access.  So far no further issues.

But loving to watch the squirrels, we decided to put out special squirrel feeders.  We found one out back loosely attached to a tree stump so Terry did a little repair and moved it to the front yard where we could sit and watch from our windows (rooms we live in most) and from the front porch.

Not satisfied with one feeder, Terry took scrap 1x4 pieces of wood and built two of his own as shown on the right page.  He'd seen a single seat and table variation and decided to make them with two seats.  Basically for looks and our enjoyment because squirrel are territorial and don't share.  I can't imagine ever seeing two sitting across from one another :-)  He has one sitting in the back yard on top of a cut down tree that stands about six feet high.  No signs of squirrel eating the corn........probably because our dogs frequently go out back.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Family of Mushrooms

This is one subject I so enjoy painting.  Mushrooms are everywhere and in various shapes and sizes.  This is a little watercolor sketch I did last night before going to bed.

Within the "family" can you tell which is the "father" of the group?  To me one stands out as being rather proud or "macho"  (Not something I planned......just looks that way to me seeing on screen)

I've been having fun "dancing" the brush tip around for making foliage.  Each time I come back from a painting slump, something changes with my painting abilities and results.  Not sure if that's a normal process?   Growth maybe?  Something like growing stages children go through?  Maybe it's forgetting bad habits and picking up better ones?  :-)

First Greens of the Season

As Spring approaches, the first deciduous greens to appear are the briars or brambles.  They are everywhere.....from ground to hanging over branches.

As I took a piece from one of the shrubs growing, I came across these two lonely berries.  I didn't know briars produced berries.  Bet the birds love them and why I couldn't find others around.  

With my moving out to the country, I'm coming across and learning so many new things.  And it's so peaceful!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Beginnings

This is what Spring means to me.............New Beginnings; New Life

Thought I would do a 2-page spread of various buds I've come across as I walk around the house.

The lily was a mother's day gift from last year given to me by my son and his wife.  It was in a standard plastic pot and after my son built two planters for outside, I decided to put the lily in one of the planters.  I had no idea if it would survive the winter or not.  Lucky for me, it did (maybe because we had such a mild winter?).  Several of those burgundy stalks are popping through the soil.  I can't wait to see it bloom.  It was gorgeous last year and I can only imagine with the added stalks what it might look like this year.

Our small leaf rhododendrons were gorgeous when they first bloomed.  Unfortunately they were short lived due to the freeze we had the other night.

In the front yard is a single white cherry blossom tree.  What a nice surprise when it bloomed.

From what we have seen so far, there are three small dogwoods scattered around the front.  One we almost cut down sitting at the edge of our driveway we were afraid we would hit.  We had no idea what kind of tree it was until it started to bud.   Glad we delayed ......... it stays :-)

In the back are six young fruit trees.  Two peach, two apple, and two pear.  Only the peach trees bloomed.

Handmade journal of Fabriano Artistico 140 lb Cold

Daniel Smith:  Quin Rose, Sap Green, Raw Sienna, Perm Aliz, Cerulean Blue, Peryl Green, Bt Umber, Fr Ultramarine, Bt Sienna, and Cobalt Blue.

#6 and #2 Rounds

Crab Apple Cuttings

This is a little sketch as a memory to the freeze we just experienced after two weeks of summer like weather encouraging trees to blossom.  With the 24 hour warning, I took some cuttings hoping they would continue in a vase of water and go into full bloom inside (like forsythia do).  Not sure they will as the indoor air is so dry but thought I'd give it a try just the same.  I figure the freeze probably did a number on the buds on the trees....although I'm still not sure as I can't tell yet.  The buds are still there but whether or not they will open up into full bloom is unknown.   I know the freeze zapped our rhododendron bushes.  All the flowers turned brown.  Also did a number on our fruit tree flowers.

When working the vase, I tried the exercise from the Right Side of the Brain getting both sides mirrored.  I think as I moved towards the bottom, my brain shifted because the vase looks a bit wonky.  There's always next time :-)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scarlet Elf Cup - Page 2

I've been so intrigued by this fungus that I wanted to paint some more - showing the various shapes I stumbled across when I was clearing the path of wood and rock.

These fungi and branches were buried under leaves keeping them moist and hidden from the sunlight.  They were a brilliant red color.  Some had bits and pieces of leaves and bark sticking to them or resting inside the cups.

This is a continuation on the right page of my journal book.  Everything is the same as the last one except that I didn't mix the New Gamboge with the red pigment but instead glazed at the end to give the red some added life.

Now.........had I planned, I could have made the two pages work together as a 2-page spread.  Unfortunately and my norm........I didn't think about that but instead just dived in painting.

Here is the two pages together.  Had I actually planned the two pages together, I should have had the branch on left pointed in towards the right page.  That to me would have made the two pages flow better together.  Oh and learn!  

As I look at this, I could have added a little splattering just to make it look more interesting.  Of course I can still add that at any point if I choose.

Another Discovery - Scarlet Elf Cup

With our weather being absolutely gorgeous for near two weeks, we've been spending a lot of time outdoors doing various things.  One of the tasks I've taken on is clearing paths through the woods that I can walk without tripping over rock and/or fallen trees and branches.

As I was moving a clump of branches, I discovered these really neat looking "cups" attached to the dead wood.  I've never seen anything like this and had to look it up on the internet. 

This is just a sampling of the several cups I found.  This one was the prettiest of the bunch with a full round cup shape. 

Taking the branch back to the house so I could study it more, the exposure to the sunlight dried it up within several hours.

As you can see, I used a little artistic license in the coloring of the branch.  It was actually dingy gray, brown and black with some mold on it.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Crab Apple Leaves and Buds - In Watercolor

Last month I did a sketch and simple watercolor of dried up berries I found on a twig from one of two trees in our front yard.  We had no idea what they were at the time but we do now..............Crab Apple trees.

These trees are loaded with buds close to opening up.  Unfortunately, we may not get the opportunity to enjoy their fabulous show this year........we are in for a HARD freeze tonight with no way of protecting the buds.  Chances are the freeze will kill them off.   I've brought three limbs in and placed in a vase to see if they will force open like forsythias do.  I'm keeping fingers crossed this will work.  I'd really like to see what they look like in full bloom.

Here is where they are at right now with the buds...........thought I would capture this before the freeze gets them.

One of the things I find interesting is the fact the leaves are green with red or burgundy.  Some are just  green whereas others have the red tones mixed in.  Makes for a beautiful complimentary contrast.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chewed Up Rhododendron and Rock - Watercolor

This finishes the last two pages of my Handbook sketchbook that was started almost a year ago. 

I chose to capture one of the rhododendrons where several leaves have been chewed on by bugs (probably caterpillars).  And the last page is of a rock my husband came across that has these patterns embedded.  I don't know if lichen or what these might be.  You can't rub them off and seem like permanent patterns of dark green dots.  The side has moss growing on it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tree within a Tree and Daffodils

Used to be I would only sketch from photos.  I'm not sure when I went through the transition but I've been finding myself sketching more and more 'on the spot' or 'live'.  At least for stationary subjects.  I'll stick with photos for wildlife and people.  Painting is still done in the comfort of my home as I've not crossed that barrier dealing with the elements (weather and bugs - although I bet might produce some interesting effects).

Yesterday between rain showers I walked around the outer perimeters of the house to see what might jump out at me to sketch. 

One is the tree trunk that looks like a tree growing within a tree.  It's one of two outside the front of the house that produces berries of some sort.  Won't know what type of tree it is until flowers and leaves appear.

The other is a clump of daffodils (and other) growing from a mound of dirt on the side of the house.  It looks like previous owners may have had containers or pots with bulbs and tubers and just dumped them here in this area.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tulip Tree Discovery

This time of year is difficult to tell what many of the trees around might be.  We know there are hickory trees as the nuts are everywhere on the ground.  Haven't seen much in the way of acorns but there may be some oak......time will tell.  We have two trees in front of porch that have dried berries but until we see some leaves it's hard to say what they might be.

One type of tree we discovered finger like pods/cups high up on the branches.  10 trees so far we've counted but may be more.  Surfing the internet I've been able to identify the type tree......a tulip tree.

On left page is an actual example of one of our trees.  The way the trunk branched is what caught my attention.  And on a few of the higher branches were the dried seed pods/cups.  My imagination can go wild viewing shapes like this. 

The right page is from what I've been able to learn about the tree and what to hopefully expect with leaf and flower.  I do wonder if we'll really be able to distinguish the flowers from the leaves considering they too are green and so high up into the trees.  And who knows, there are various varieties so maybe the flowers will be different.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wood Splitter Axe in Stump

Today is an absolute gorgeous day with sunny skies (not a cloud can be seen) and mid 70 temps.  Decided to take a stroll around the property just to enjoy being out and getting ideas to add to my art journal.

This stump is located in front of one of two sheds on the property.  Original owners used one of the sheds to store cut wood.  This stump has what looks like an old wood splitter axe head embedded in the stump.  We've decided to leave that "as is" for looks.  Just adds to the landscape :-)

Side Note - I will be glad when I'm through with this sketchbook as I'd like to get back to using one with regular watercolor paper.  This Handbook paper surface is not real great with any sizable watercolor wash as it streaks (especially noticeable in the large shadow).  One definitely cannot achieve a nice flat wash even prewetting the area.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Moss and Ellipse Practice

This is today's practice....

Left side is playing with moss using different pigments and the right page is where I'm practicing with cylinder/ellipses that I struggle with.  (I see where I used the wrong term on my page........ooops)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Planting - Altered

After viewing the sketch on screen, I realized the plant looked a bit suspended in the pot.  I have added darker bits to help anchor the plant and darkened the left side of the pot (as you view it) with some blue down the side and into the grass area a bit.  The pot looked rather flat before.  Hopefully it appears a little rounded now.

One of the things I have to work on is always wanting to go back and 'fix' something.  That's when I can get into trouble over-working a piece.  Although I managed to refrain from doing too much "fixing" of this sketch, I see where the pot is off around the top area (perspective) and I see areas I could darken to give more depth.   The moss also didn't turn out as I was hoping and find myself tempted to try and fix that too.  Then there's the..............I could go on and on...

BUT, one of my personal goals is practice in capturing the essence or concept quickly without going back over areas.  Get it down first go and move on hoping it helps with my fickle confidence level and maintain a fresh spontaneous look to my work.

Are we ever satisfied??? 

New Planting - Watercolor Sketch

Another quick watercolor sketch capturing the 'before' planting of a forsythia bush we just purchased.  We purchased two of these shrubs to add to the landscape.  The bright yellow of the forsythia and the daffodil are absolute welcomed sites announcing Spring.

One of the biggest attractions of this shrub is it's wild look when growing.  I'm not one who likes to prune or shape trees but rather leave them to grow in their natural state.  The long reaching limbs and bright yellow flowers just seem to light up an area.  In ways helps to cheer up and warm one's overall being (at least what it does for me).

This is the completed two-pages in my book.  You will notice I did it again where I painted yesterday's blue bird on the right page and painted on the left page today.  It's a habit I can't seem to break.

This is the Handbook sketchbook that can handle various mediums.  I like the paper surface OK for painting; best for graphite work.  I'm almost finished with this book and I think I'm going to return to using the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.  My favorite is still The Langton watercolor spiral but wish it were easily available here in the states.  The Langton Prestige is OK but I prefer the other.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eyeing his next meal

Today is such a gorgeous day!!!  Lots of sunshine and mild Spring temperature of 64 degrees.  This is my kind of weather!

Earlier watched a male blue bird swoop down from a small tree snatching something out of the ground.  Not really sure what it was but he definitely found himself something to eat.

Thinking about that moment, I decided to do this little sketch and included mealworms I know they like.

This was sketched in my Handbook sketchbook with a #5 round and Daniel Smith pigments - Cerulean Blue, Fr Ultramarine, Raw Sienna, Bt Sienna and Paynes Gray.

Doodling with Watercolor

Whenever I find myself brain-drained or mind-boggled, I often resort to painting trees.  It happened to be one of those days where I wanted to paint something but I just couldn't decide on I decided to play by doodling and comparing tube greens.  And in that order even though not showing as such in my book.  I have a strange habit of starting on the right page and later going back to the left page if not a 2-page spread.  (Sometimes leaving the left side blank unintentionally and discovering that days or weeks later.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick Practice - Legs

This is an area I feel I need lots of practice.  I find bunched up areas and folds in fabric rather difficult; and,  depicting bends in legs challenging straight on or from behind the person. 

This is quick watercolor sketching using just one pigment - Daniel Smith Lunar Blue.  Didn't quite do its magic on this paper as I've seen happen on other paper surfaces.

My favorite set of legs are the baby's in the right upper corner :-D

Rhododendron of Some Sort

This is a small leaf version of what I think is a Rhododendron.  It sits on the side corner of the house near the basement door.  The leaves are a purplish green (which I couldn't get mixed right) and the buds are smaller than what one sees on the larger leaf Rhododendrons.

This was a learning experience for me.  Basically what didn't work (just one of those times when nothing seems to go right).  I couldn't get the leaf color mixed to suit this reference plus I struggled for some reason on the buds.  Couldn't get those sections down right.  I ended up splashing some red to hide my mishaps.

Another issue I ran into was results looking dull and flat.  I tried to lift out color to depict sunlight hitting the leaves and began feeling frustrated wanting to go back in to correct.  Basically I started fidgeting and over-working the piece so I called it quits and wrote my notes.

Ending results looks like this poor shrub needs some TLC.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rustic Camping Area

One of the things we fell in love with when considering purchasing our new house was this campfire area previous owners set up.  We love the natural made benches from split logs.  Just goes along with the overall rustic feel of living out in the woods surrounded by nature and wildlife.

This has always been my dream - living out in the country away from all the business and chaos normal for  towns and cities.  I was born in Alexandria, VA and brought up in Springfield right off the main DC metropolitan beltway where bumper to bumper traffic, buildings, large upright complexes (both residential and business), and people everywhere was the norm.  As the years went on I found myself moving further and further out away from this city living.  Now at age 55 I am finally living on top of a mountain surrounded by acres and acres of woods and natural springs.  Neighbors being 4-legged creatures and birds.........................and my son and his family off across the field on the other side of a line of trees.

More on the Hickory Nut

Thought I would paint a reference sheet about the hickory - showing more about the nut and also a little about the foliage. 

Very Little Green at Present

Looking all around I see a lot of gray and a lot of brown.  On several trees are whitish-green patches going up the trunk.  Not sure if that's the actual make-up of the tree or if it's a type of mold or lichen.  Amongst all this drab color stands out lush green moss growing on the base of some trees and on fallen trees and a few rock.  At this point, any green is a welcomed sight.  :-)

As noted on the painted example, we do have two spruce trees that look like Christmas trees that were purchased live and planted after the holiday.  There's also a couple of cedar up next to the house.  And off a bit into the woods is a lonely holly tree.  Really stands out considering nothing else in the woods is green.  I'm so used to living where there are abundant pines and cedars but not here on top of this hill.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blue Bird Dwelling

With the purchase of our new house opens a wide range of new subject material for me to sketch or paint.  This watercolor sketch is of a Blue Bird house positioned at the back of our house.  There are various styles one can build and this particular one is called the Peterson Blue Bird House.  What's kind of neat is the fact my husband's last name happens to be Peterson so it fits to the new home owner :-)

We've seen Blue Birds but normally sitting on top of a power or cable line watching the grounds for it's food to emerge.  They swoop down, grab their meal and off they fly.  Since we've moved into our new place, we've been watching a pair of Blue Birds check this bird house out and we believe they've chosen to use it for their nest.  Both take turns going in and out of the box while the other sits on the fence post or nearby in the brush.  We've not seen anything in their mouths to indicate building a new nest but I guess it's possible or maybe repairing what was in there already.

The box is quite weathered...........kind of a plain grayish look to it.  I've tried to maintain that overall grayish look while also using a touch of brown and gold for added interest.  Trees around are actually bare but decided to use my Artistic License to depict foliage rather than the bare limbs and more gray.

Hickory Nut

As I venture out around the property, I am amazed by all the hickory nut shells laying on the ground.  They seem to be everywhere.  What's interesting to me is the make-up or multiple layers of the hickory nut.  You have to wonder about the wildlife that has the perseverance and strength to open one of these up to get to the nut meat.  This can be one hard shell to crack.  My teeth hurt just thinking about trying to crack it like I would suppose some animals do to get to the meat.

From what I've seen so far, there's a green outer covering (green when it first falls off the tree) which is somewhat soft at first but hardens as it turns brown. This nut or fruit or whatever one calls it is larger than a golf ball but smaller than a baseball when it first falls from the tree.  This outer layer is made up of four parts that close around a hard shell nugget about the size of a filbert nut or acorn.  Once that is cracked and split in two, one finally reaches the edible part.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mystery Trees and Berries

Outside the front of the house we just recently purchased are two trees just a few feet out from the steps leading down from the front porch.  Hanging on higher branches/limbs are a few dried shriveled berries remaining from last Autumn.  They are deep brown almost black with a hint of red that can still be seen.  At this point we have no clue what these trees may be.  Maybe crabapple or possibly buckthorn ?  Hopefully here in the next month or so the trees will flower and reveal the mystery.

Simple Watercolor Sketch - Stubborn Leaves

Today we have Spring like weather that for me helps brighten and warm the soul.  Our weather has been like a roller coaster ride with cold and rainy one day, snow the next, followed by sunshine and warmer temperatures.  Projected forecast gives hope for mild weather to continue over the next 10 days.

The best part of today is sitting outside in the sunlight watching and listening to all the birds and watching the squirrels jump amongst the trees and play on the ground.  We have two type of squirrel I've seen - the gray squirrel and the fox squirrel.  Normal visiting birds are nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, tufted titmouse, cardinals, blue jays, crows (of course), downy woodpeckers, yellow finches, red-belly woodpeckers, and a real treat - the pileated woodpecker.  We have also been watching a pair of blue birds check out a bird house that sits in the back yard placed by previous owners to the house we recently purchased.

A few days ago we heard a lonely Robin and saw him bouncing around the ground.  He would call out but no response.  Each day I looked forward to seeing him forage the ground for worms.  This morning there were several Robins and their sight and song were extremely welcoming.  A true sign that Spring is here or right around the corner.

With these things helping to lift the spirits, I managed to do this very simple watercolor sketch.  All around are bare trees just waiting to spring to life.  Some have brown leaves still attached that never dropped to the ground.  I have no idea what type of trees these are or why they don't drop their leaves.  Living in the woods is a new experience that really makes me smile inside :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recent Trip to Florida

Haven't felt much up to doing anything this past month.........been a bit rough between closing on new house, trying to move and then unexpected trip to Florida and more sad news upon arriving home.

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