Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Workshop Wednesday

I'm taking a workshop with David Rankin. We are sketching on iPads using the Paper 53 app, then using this image to create a traditional watercolor painting. 
Yee ha!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stewardia malecodendron

My coworker has this southern native tree/shrub growing on his property and brought a cutting to work for me.  It sat on my desk several days before I had the opportunity to make a sketch.  So long so that it was now or never, as the blossoms were starting to fade.  I decided to use a Pentel brush pen for the line work.  I love the calligraphic marks this tool makes. I added watercolor to the finished line work.

I love this addition to my Stillman & Birn journal that I've dubbed 'my book of trees'.

Did you know:
• Stewardia or Silky Camelia is a small understory tree/shrub mostly found growing along the coastal plain from Virginia down to Florida and over to Louisiana and even into east Texas.
• It's an uncommon tree but has a large range
• Favorite growing conditions include rich wooded bluffs, ravine slopes and creek banks

For more information about the Stewardia, please click here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Turtle Tuesday - Eastern Box

I arrived at the office this morning to find this sweet little Box Turtle in a dishpan on the conference table.  My co-worker wasn't in the office at the time, but he was on campus.  He must be the reason this little one is visiting.

Now far be it from me to ignore the opportunity to sketch a turtle on a Tuesday!  I chose to sketch it using the Paper 53 app, as next week David Rankin will be on the island conducting a workshop in which we will use the iPad/Paper 53 app in the morning and then create a watercolor from our sketch in the afternoon.  Can't wait!

Did you know:
• There are two species in the United States; Eastern & Western (Terrapene ornata)
• A key characteristic of box turtles is their hinged plastron (bottom of the shell) that can be shut completely to exclude predators.
• The Eastern Box Turtle is the only land turtle found in the state of North Carolina and is the 'state' turtle

For more information on this turtle, please click the link on 'did you know' above.

Atamasco lily

I keep a journal at work.  Sadly, it doesn't get a lot of use. I ran across it the other day and found that I'd not posted this quick sketch made of the atamasco lily. 

I remember sketching the lilies in the field and then adding color and lettering back at the office.

Sepia Micron pen and watercolor pencils in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon journal.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Field Sketch Friday - Mayapple

At long last, spring weather has arrived!

Last Friday, I made my way to a special area on Spring Island called the Trillium Garden.  It's an amazing piece of property where spotted trillium, atamasco lilies, bloodroot and mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum, naturally decorate the landscape. This year, as part of my job, I will be illustrating the plants found here and creating a map of the area.  My illustrations will be used to create outdoor signage and a brochure about the area.

I must say my field sketch looks more botanical than sketchy.  It took 10 minutes for the pencil sketch and I was finished with the watercolor portion in 35 minutes.  I'm not a fast painter by any means.  I paint a bit, wait for that to dry, look off into the wilds and relish in the moment, and then pick up the brush again.  I was in the zone for sure.  How could you not be sitting amongst the atamasco lillies with the soft breeze filling the air with their lily scent?? 

This is a squirrel's eyes view of a mayapple.  Yup, I was on the ground for this one.  Not an easy thing in the lowcountry given the chiggers and ticks!  I have an old vinyl table cloth that I carry with me to lay on the ground.  I spray it with Off.  My pants are tucked into my socks and my shirt into my pants.  I spray Off around the tops of my socks and waist band.  It's called war......

This piece is not finished yet.  I want to add a 'crow's eye view of the mayapple to the page.
You'd never know that this plant even had a flower when standing above it.  They have 2 wonderfully shaped, large leaves. I took photos so I may finish this indoors, as I brushed one tick off of my arm (they fall from the trees) while painting this. I then found another under my shirt when I returned to the office! 

I love sketching and painting plein air - even with the challenge of bugs.  I don't always have the time to complete a piece, but if I can at least sketch it live, and then add color from a reference photo, I still feel the magic of the plein air moment as I work within my original pencil marks.

Did you know:
• Native Americans had many uses for the mayapple.  However, only the very ripe fruit is safe to eat.  All other parts of the plant are poisonous. The ripe, egg shaped fruit will be yellow and kind of wrinkly.
• Other 'local' names for the mayapple include: wild lemon, hog apple, Indian apple, duck’s foot, umbrella leaf, and wild mandrake though it is not related to the old world mandrake, Mandragora officinarum.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring Azaleas

I so love when weather and time cooperate so Rob and I can go off to do what we love most.... he, golf.  I know..... hard to guess my passion isn't it :)  On the other side of the trees is the golf practice range where Rob is happily wearing himself out.

Here are images showing the process.  This spread is in my 5x7 Stillman & Birn, Zeta Series journal that I call 'My Book of Trees'.

I added a few darks and descriptive copy once I returned home.

We are thick into pollen season.  For you in the North... hang tight.  Spring weather will arrive!

Monday, March 31, 2014


Sunday, I found a Dogwood to sketch.  What caught my eye as I stood beneath the tree was how the sunlit blossoms looked against the Carolina blue sky.  I love how delicate and wispy the branches are that reach up for the sky.  The white flowers are not really flowers, but are called 'bracts' that come out of the tiny cluster of yellow flowers. The bracts are four large petals-like objects.  Today they were dancing around in the 20-30 mph wind gusts.  Luckily, I was in a somewhat sheltered spot. 

I stood while sketching the branch with a Pentel Brush Pen, then sat below the tree to add color to the sky and leaves.  I stood once again to see the subtle shading on the flowers.  This page is part of my Journal of Trees - a Zeta Series Stillman and Birn journal.  Love this paper!

Did you know:
• The Flowering Dogwood is an understory tree which means it grows beneath taller trees.
• The fruit of the dogwood is called a 'drupe' - a fleshy fruit with a single seed.  They are shiny red and can grow up to a half inch long.
• Many birds and animals eat the fruit.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Memory Sketching - Canada Geese

Saturday, Rob and I had the special treat of visiting a local private plantation.

The owners are great stewards of the land and take special pride in and care of the wild animals and birds that reside there.

We were treated to a tour of the plantation via a gas powered four-seat cart.  Owner Kathleen is in her golden years and a spitfire.  She hopped right in behind the wheel and off we went.  It was a gray afternoon, the temperature finally in the high 60's, but with a threat of showers.  It started to sprinkle shortly after we started, but the good Lord knew I needed to see the land and views I hope to paint in the future.  We pressed on and the rain drops subsided :)

Oh my, I am smitten with the land, marsh and wildlife we saw. The above sketch was burned into my memory and I sketched it the following day.  They have a flock of Canada Geese that return each spring (the geese must winter in Florida!), breed and raise their young.  We saw one gosling and two other nests being incubated.  When we came upon the nest above we had a good chuckle. The goose was trying it's hardest to be invisible.

I am truly blessed to have a standing invitation to return and plein air sketch and paint on this plantation.  Stay tuned for more lowcountry sights!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Field Sketching Friday

Friday, my co-worker/naturalist, Kristen Marshall Mattson and I led a nature journaling workshop for members of Spring Island.  What a great way to start the day!   Walking through the woods, examining plants, sketching our finds, adding details, learning new things both art and nature related.  YUM! None of us wanted it to end :)

Did you know.....
White flowers are pollinated by moths? (the flowers show up better at night)
The purple flowers of wild ginger is pollinated by beetles?
That a hollow tree can still live and thrive as long as the outer 'living shell' is not compromised?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Couldn't Resist

It was a lovely day in the neighborhood.  Spring bursting everywhere. Our golf course was filled with players.

I took a bike ride, it's basket filled with journaling supplies.  What would I come upon that I would just have to paint?

Along the way I found a house under construction.  I love walking through new construction.  This one drew me in as the view from the back looks over the 17th tee box and the marsh beyond. 

I toured the house. The view from what seems to be the sun room...... well, let's just say it was speaking way to loudly for me to ignore :)
It was hard to choose between this view and the one from the second floor that looks out over the same scene.  Hmmmm.  Will I trespass again?   Perhaps the owner will be more understanding if I gift them a sketch :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Magnolia and Pines

A week ago we treated ourselves to a visit to Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island, SC.  Sea Pines is the oldest plantation on the island and the dream child of Charles Fraser.  There are three public golf courses and two private.  Of the three public courses, the most famed is Harbour Town Golf Links where the PGA's RBC Heritage Golf Tournament is played in April. 

The club house for the two adjoining public courses; The Marsh Course at Sea Pines and Heron Point, is in the process of rebuilding. They recently reopened the practice facility so we thought it would be a great Sunday excursion to check it out.  Rob brought his clubs - I, my trusty rolling art studio.... my bike; "Blue". The bike trails in Sea Pines are wonderful, and this at this time of year, uncrowded.

I had no painting destination in mind.  I just headed off on the trail that runs between the courses to gather my inspiration. That's when I came upon this lovely, eye-level magnolia branch right beside the bike path.  I viewed the possibilities, then rode on.  It called me back.

My Stillman and Birn Alpha Journal propped nicely on the bike's basket.  I clipped my Expeditionary Art Pocket Palette  to the journal and started painting - no sketching with pencil first, I just wanted to feel and capture the end of the limb with paint. I laid in shapes lightly with paint.
And, this is where Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade.  It started to sprinkle, I checked the radar on my phone and decided I'd better pack it in and took a reference photo.

Back to the practice range I went.  Of course the sprinkles let up.... so I laid in more color while Rob finished hitting golf balls on the range.  I also practiced fast sketching, trying to capture Rob's different positions.

Once home, I finished the third set of leaves.  Today, Saturday, I was able to add the formal title.

The colors in my palette are M.Graham waterolors that include warm and cool primaries plus sap green, nickel azo yellow and quin. rust.

Warm:  naphthol red, ultramarine blue and azo yellow.  Cool: quin. rose,  anthra. blue and hansa yellow

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Little Different Nature

Had the good fortune to take a portrait sketching workshop with Miriam Durkin this week.  

I've not worked with charcoal in over 30 years, nor have I spent time sketching portraits in the classical style during this time.  Miriam has a great way of teaching.  I'm pleased with my first efforts done Monday.

On Tuesday, I started working on a more challenging pose.  I called it quits at lunch - think I used all my energy and enthusiasm up on the first portrait.  Bring on the paint.  Tired of charcoal.

This is all part of my challenge to sketch more people in 2014.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Little Sketch Here a Little Sketch There....

Jumpin' Joe! Where has the time gone!  Guess I went into unintentional blog posting hibernation.  I really have been sketching, though.  Nothing glorious as time has been tight, but sketching none the less.

Here's a look back through my books and iPad Paper 53 journals from the end of December until today.

This is a tiny journal I made from some scrap hot press paper.  It's an accordion fold book with 2 more spreads to fill.  I'm filling it with walks taken around our neighborhood and other destination walks around our town.

I love keeping a journal in my purse.  I use it to capture all types of on-the-go activities.  It's a little Moleskine with the very thin paper that really doesn't work well with watercolor.  I have a very carefree attitude when I use it as it's very hard to control the results.  Not to mention, a lot of the entries are of our special dinners out.  Rob is very patient about waiting to eat his food while I sketch away.  I've become very speedy with my ink sketching.  I paint while I'm eating.
This iPad/Paper 53 sketch took place during the Super Bowl.  I love watching football, but this game was painful!  Grizz was laying beside me on the sofa.
Yum, out to eat again for our anniversary.  Love the Skull Creek Boathouse.

Finally finished the Spotted Trillium sketch on my iPad.  I wish you could see the Trillium Garden on Spring Island.  There are thousands of plants blooming now - all courtesy of Mother Nature.  Part of why I've been so busy is that one of my new projects at work is creating art for signage and a small brochure about this garden. Exciting times at work.  I'm a bit worn out when I get home each evening, though :)

And last but not least.... Today Rob and I did our annual trek to the Gullah Festival on Hilton Head.  It's been a perfect February day. Lots of sun, not much wind and actually got up into the low 60s!  Unlike yesterday where the wind blew 40 mph all day long.  Thank goodness the temps were in the low 50's.  We are now official weather wusses.  No living back up north in the winter for us!

This is my new purse palette that's the size of a business card case from Expeditionary Art.  I've filled it with M. Graham watercolors.  Loving it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Trillium and Birds

My coworker/landscape ecologist brought a potted Trillium into the office for me to sketch.  I was going to start the process of recording the blooming cycle with traditional materials, but then got the hankering to try it on the iPad using Paper 53.
I didn't spend time mixing the correct greens, but focused upon trying out the different tools and the effect they would achieve.

I'm happy with the start.  Next week I'll add one more plant that is emerging from the soil.  Then I'll play with the background a bit.

Today, I'm playing with capturing some birds at the feeder.  The first step was to add a background color.  Then, using the pencil tool, I sketched some shapes in.  The third step was to subtract the green from the birds.  My goal is to provide images of the different steps.  Hopefully I won't get so involved that I forget to save the steps :)

Happy weekend!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Until a few weeks ago, the term EcoTherapy hadn't crossed my path.  However the practice of EcoTherapy has been with me for a long, long time.  It's the main reason I promote Nature Journaling!  Get out into Nature as much as you can and sketch, make notes, paint and observe the wonder of Nature. You will bring a balance into your life that will refresh and renew your spirit.

For me, the next best thing to being out in the field is watching birds at the feeders. I do urge you to try this pleasure.  I have trouble leaving for work some mornings as I get so wrapped up in watching the birds!  Oh, to have a full day of this pleasure :)

I keep a journal just for my birdwatching.  It sits on the kitchen table or counter along with binoculars, Sibley bird guide, mini palette, waterbrush, pencil, pen and micron pen.  Pictured here is my new mini palette that is the size of a business card case.  I purchased it from Maria Coryell-Martin of  Expeditionary Art.  I'm using limited palette colors by M. Graham that include: Hansa Yellow, Azo Yellow, Quin. Rose, Naphthol Red, Anthraquinone Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Quin. Rust, Nickel Azo Yellow and Sap Green.  The journal is a Stillman and Birn, Gamma (100# ivory paper) - just delicious to work in!

How do you get your EcoTherapy?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Frost was on the pumpkin mid-week. Today's high 75! Silly wrabbit weather :)

Plein air practice of clouds and trees with Paper 53 app on iPad.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wishes For You

Wishing you holidays filled with joy, family, friends, love
and festivities....

May the New Year bring you
and prosperity

Peace be with you

This is the upper half of our Christmas tree, recreated on my iPad using the Paper 53 app.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Quick Watercolor Sketch

I have a great office at work.  It's actually a converted two bedroom cottage.  There is a small kitchen and an all purpose dining living area that's now used for meetings.  The bedrooms are offices. My desk is in one and our Landscape Ecologist (LE) has the other.  The cottage is off and away from the flurry of the Nature Center that houses the rest of our staff.

Another bonus for me is Karl's (LE) love of vegetation, be it grasses, trees, shrubs or flowers.  He's a native plant aficionado and always shares information about what's in bloom on the island where we work.

Now that the members are back and we are in high season, work days are quite busy.  The other day Karl came in with some beautifully colored leaves.  "I decided to bring some fall color into our space since we can't get out to enjoy it" says he.

Big trouble..... I've deadlines but so need to paint this lovely surprise! I'm happy to say I accomplished both :)  While my lunch was heating up on the stove, I sketched with my waterbrush and tiny travel palette that contains six pigments: aliz. crimson, aureoline yellow, quin gold, ultramarine blue, peacock blue and opera in my Stillman & Birn Epsilon journal.  Took a break to eat then back to paint. Total page time: 15 minutes.  So great to start the afternoon fresh from an art and lunch break :) 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Autumn Smiles

Every Autumn when Bradford Pear tree leaves start to turn, it's automatic smile time for me.  They have such great designs!

This still-life was painted one year ago today. How time doth flee!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bird Feeder Joys and Wild Turkeys

I'm so excited!  Our feeders are once again in place and the birds have found them. We are coming up on our second winter in this house.  I didn't want one more to go by without the joy of watching birds right outside of our window.

I've designated a Stillman and Birn Gamma Series Journal to record feeder notes and sketches.  I'm in heaven :)  Every spare moment I have on the weekends is spent at the kitchen table, looking out the window observing bird antics and sketching.  Sketching supplies include a pencil, Micron pen, waterbrush, watercolor pencils, a Sibley bird guide and binoculars. 
To read my notes, please click image to enlarge - this will work for all of them.
 So much nature happening at my window.  All I have to do is sit back and watch :)
In early October, Rocky Raccoon discovered the feeders.  He finally figured out how to shimmy up the pole and raid the feeders.  Now, every evening I bring them in.  In the morning the birds hover at the window, looking into the kitchen.  I'm in big trouble.  They are hungry and it's not even winter yet!  Cha-ching, cha-ching!

Our neighborhood has a flock of turkeys.  Actually, the flock consists of a hen and 17 poults.  They visited the back yard off and on over the summer.  The poults are as big as the hen now and they, too, have discovered the feeders. They can certainly make a mess out of the mulch. 

They are brazen..... coming right up to the sliding door.
Our Dudley is not quite sure about the whole thing :)

Today, I was able to sketch while standing right at the window.  This requires patience as the birds are always moving.  Up to this point in my life I haven't had many dealings with wild turkeys, especially this close.  As I sketched, I noticed that they have a protrusion on their head between the eyes.  What's that called?  What is loose skin on their neck called?  Why do some have more feathers (very short but there) on their heads and necks?  I so love questions raised by looking close at a subject when sketching.  Off I went to my collection of bird books.  Please click on my journal pages to get the answers :)

I urge you to get your sketch books out and sit close to a feeder.  You'll come away quite refreshed and peaceful.  Great food for the soul.  And, remember.... this is your journal.  This is where you practice observation and trying to recreate what you see.  Accurate sketches may not happen right away, but over time you will see your progress.  One of my goals is to practice the camera technique.  That's when you view a bird pose, close your eyes and don't open them up until you turn your head to face your sketch book.  Then sketch what you saw from memory.  I'm having a bit of trouble with this.  Most of my trouble comes from not trusting myself.  The tufted titmouse on the first image is sketched using this technique.  'Oh well!'  Next time :)