Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Moon Meanderings" 12-15-08

It was a full moon a few nights before, so tonight as I saw the glow of the moon trying to come to fruition behind the clouds...I was hopeful of some good moon gazing. such luck. It started to show promise as I saw a curious yellow glow in the clouds, so I grabbed my tiny Altoids watercolor kit, my reading light and very small watercolor field kit.

I set up in my bathroom where it's extra dark when the door is closed and tried to paint quickly in the dark. I didn't have anything to put my piece of paper on, so I held the little thing in my hand and the watercolor kit also; it was not a great set up but I was in a hurry!

Yes, it was quite dark, I could hardly see the colors I was using but I wanted to really see the moon and didn't want the distraction of the light. So as it slipped quickly away behind a dark veil of clouds, I just painted from memory and it was ok. It's only after when you turn on the lights and let the colors and wetness finish their 'melding' that you'll see what you've got. It's kind of fun! This one is only 3.5"x2.5" on watercolor paper.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Muncaster Castle Day Two" 9-9-08

Today was my second day at Muncaster Castle. I've uploaded a video for you to listen to at the end of this post, don't miss it!

I was invited by Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington to visit he and his wife Philida for coffee in the morning at the castle, they are the couple who own the stately castle. How wonderful does that sound? I was also invited to bring my sketch book and my prints to share with them. Patrick had to meet with the woodsman who oversees the property so Philida, a wonderful person to share time with, and I sat on a silk covered couch in the library and enjoyed hot tea. We chatted about my artwork and the castle. The picture below shows some of the library, it was filled with wonderful paintings, antiquities and memorabilia. I like the miniature chairs on the table. Since it was before the general public was allowed in, I was left to wander freely about the library on the 'other' side of the rope! I wish I had a whole week to spend wandering around and drawing the interior of the castle.
Below is a little painting I did while up on the balcony of the library. The library is round and if you look up you'll see there is a balcony with iron railings that goes all around it way up above. Well I was given a big old ancient key and told that I could use it to unlock the door to the balcony at my leisure! I did go up there and it was a little scary, you had to watch your step, the floor boards were old and the ramp around was quite narrow! But I'm adventurous...I wanted to explore! About the little painting, I had my painting kit on my waist, my small field palette, little bottle of water, small brushes and held the sketchbook while I worked. I set some things on the window sill and looked out over the valley through the very old and very drafty windows. It was blowing up a gale and very chilly outside, so I was glad to be in. This is a cherub statue with more antiquities and wonderful stained glass. I was walking down the stairs, a wide expanse of marble...and tourists were milling about with wonder in their eyes, and appeared Patrick. Patrick is a talented poet bard...and not shy. He stood on the stairs of their castle and recited one of his wonderful poems to all the visitors. He is genuinely interested in all who visit his castle!
Another view out a window in the great hall, everywhere you turned there were beautiful things to look at.

Then I picked a window just outside the billiard room to draw. I was in a narrow hall way outside it, so people were walking by, but I stood up as I drew this with my charcoal pencils, a stiff brush and tortillion. It was so chilly, but one of the ladies that worked at the castle, Candy, brought me hot tea! How nice was that? Very nice!! The perspective on this window was tricky, you have to remember when drawing NOT to draw what you think, but what you SEE, in the end it will (or should) come together. It's funny how when you stop to draw other people stop and look, wondering at what is so interesting! I like the way the blustery clouds came out through the window.
This last photo is from the Tapestry room and shows a Tudor carved fireplace, it commemorates the victory over the Spanish Armada. I just loved looking at all the carvings throughout the castle. I really do wish I had more time to draw what I saw, but relied on taking photos to use later for drawing.
This is a video clip taken at my window sill which overlooked the owl yard...every morning I was greeted by the song of a European Robin singing.

"Sunrise Studies" 12-3-08

The sunrise was just too beautiful to ignore. While I was making my morning coffee, I kept looking out the studio window at it. Knowing how fast a sunrise will change, I ran and grabbed my camera (literally!) to catch some photos. All the fantastic colors can bloom to unbelievable brilliance, then it can fade as the sun comes out so bright you can't look, or it will slip behind clouds.

After taking some photos, I then grabbed my watercolor pencils and worked very quickly to sketch out some colors. I used watercolor pencils, watersoluble graphite and inktense watersoluble ink pencils with my waterbrush to blend and wet them. These are all Derwent brand pencils I used. I played around with drawing on the paper wet and dry when I did the trees. At first I drew them on dry...then ran the brush over bringing out the darkness of the color, but it also washes it out or softens it. Then I tried drawing the trees on wet paper and they were dark and intense from the start. This is good for trees in the forground. You can use both methods to your liking.
(Below) I liked this one better, though it's more simple, the colors are so pleasant. When I do a sunrise sketch, the colors shift very fast so I work on the large color impressions and cloud patterns, then try to work from memory. This leads to a lively painting but don't be surprised if you look at the photos you took at the time and they look very different!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Muncaster Castle - Day One" 9-8-08

Imagine the most beautiful valley you can. The mountains surrounding the valley are covered with rusty reds of Bracken changing color in the fall, and rich, deep greens from the excessive rains and some parts have exposed rock face a pink tint in certain light. Now imagine a perfect winding lazy river meandering across it's deep valley and the view from where you stand is so perfect, you can see for miles down it's center, the distant mountains turning blue with the atmospheric mists. Now you look up and realize there are Buzzards (Hawks) flying up the valley, floating on the drafts that carry them.
You turn and look just behind you and there is a great castle, standing like a strong old soldier. This is Muncaster Castle, built in 1258 partly on Roman foundations. A Roman coin from AD380 was found there!

So, onto my adventure! You can see below I'm standing on the road that winds around the castle, sketching the view of the valley. My art kit is strapped to my waist, at the ready to grab my waterbrushes or pencils, and my backpack with extra supplies in case I need them, including my 35mm camera, rain pants, extra art suppies and snacks.
Below you can click on my sketchbook page to read the notes I wrote. I talked about my first English Breakfast, and my first impression upon seeing the castle. I was surprised when I turned the bend and saw it, wow! The color scribbles on the page are just that, I was testing out colors there for another sketch.Below, here I am now sitting at the top of Cannon Bank, the castle is right behind me again. I did the small watercolor below the picture, working with my little travel palette. It's from this bank that every afternoon they feed the wild herons...more on that later.
The "Eskdale Valley and Muncaster Bridge"
Below is a view of the back of the Castle, I'm now headed up the hill for a walk into the expansive woods. There are 1,800 acres with the property, I think that'd keep me busy exploring for awhile!

This is a great shot of a back door into the castle, what a great drawing this will make!
Everyday they hold an owl demonstration behind the castle, with the birds being flown to educate people about them. I think this might be an Eagle Owl.
I added this picture just so you could see (and enjoy) the fantastic wing span of this beautiful bird.
Here is another page from my sketchbook, not too many sketches here, but lots of notes about what I was seeing. I then headed into the Owl Center they have on the grounds to take pictures. I listed the owls I photographed for further reference.
Next..well you gotta eat sometime! I sat and had a most enjoyable hot lunch after all that exploring. There is a phenomenal cafe on the property with so many choices. I tried the carrot and marrow soup because I never heard of marrow and it's an English vegetable. It was great!
I have notes on the page about meeting the owner of the castle himself! Please read it and see!
As the day wound down I took an adventurous walk down the hill along a path that I had no idea where it went. All I know is it went down and I was curious to see if it got anywhere near that gorgeous valley? I had my trusty L.L. Bean rain hat with light in the brim so I could see if it got dim, and with the surroundings always noted, I began. The photo below shows the 'picture perfect' top of the hill path, this is a painting waiting to happen!
The path meanders down from there...crossing a noisy little brook on a wooden bridge, and many large stone pavers.
I made it all the way to the bottom and walked off to the left following the path. It ended suddenly at a big metal gate and the view I had was wonderful, yes it was my valley floor I was looking for! There were sheep grazing in the distance and as the light faded I did a small sketch with my watercolor pencils. It was getting chilly and hard to draw as my hands were stiff, I saw a bat flying overhead and then....the clock tower bell tolled 8 times...eight o'clock, time to pack up and go before it gets dark suddenly and I can't find my way back!
I don't have a picture or drawing to tell about the last adventure of the day but it was exciting. After dark, I grabbed my 35 mm camera and tripod and headed outside. It was pitch black and not a soul was about, absolutely quiet! I wanted to play around with getting some photos of the sky, it was just full of stars! I heard a deep hooting from the owl pens just near me in the owl center, I imitated it and then...I heard the same call answer but not from the pens...but from up the hill in the woods!! How cool is that?! I tried to imitate it as best I could and we called back and forth.
After this I walked down to the side of the castle that looks over the valley. In total blackness I sat on the same bench that I had sat upon that day, listening to the sounds of the night. I heard a very large bird (of prey) give an alarm call from the woods below. If I hadn't ventured out at night, I would have missed so much!
Please come back for the next post about Muncaster, I have so much more to tell!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Peregrine Falcon" watercolor

This is a watercolor study I did to as a demonstration for my fall Nature Sketching and Painting Indoor class that just finished up. I used it to show the stages it took to make a simple study, step by step, layering washes, values etc. Posted below are the steps it took to make this 5"x5" study head, be sure to click on pictures to see larger views! Enjoy!

Detailed sketch - Shown below, first I started with a light gesture sketch of the shape of the bird, then rechecked placements of things and refined details.
Darkest Darks-This is one approach to watercolors, start by laying in your darkest darks and blacks. If you start with a confident sketch it should work out fine, when you work this way you set out from the beginning with a defined dark end of the value range. You can then judge all other values against it as you paint. You won't have to go back and keep "pushing" your darks to make them pop.
I also painted the eye, being carful not to touch the highlight area, black for the pupil, and brown put into the wet black for the iris. (I think I put my reading glasses on for this step! haha).

Below I started to lay in more darks of the cheek, as my brush was drying out I would 'sketch' areas I wasn't sure about...just to start to lay in some value so I could see where I wanted to paint. Color Wash-Here I laid in a bluish grey, ultramarine and black thinned with water. After it dried I laid in some small lines for feathers.
Changeing the drawing- A pale yellow ochre wash on skin of eye area and nares. A wash over the eye highlight to tone it down and soften it. Here I also made a decision about the beak, now that I was putting values down, I thought the beak looked a bit too heavy. So before committing to paint, I erased! I reworked the curve then I painted keeping all areas soft and blended slightly.
Feather details-I brushed on more feather details here, laid in more darks with repeated 'feather' strokes to top of head and all around eye. Nice spotty look at right edge, I like when the watercolor can been seen for what it is, it gives it a looseness. See the photo below for this step, just repeated tiny strokes.
Yellow of beak and eye-Here I laid in the yellow on the nares and eye area, and it's completed!

Please visit my shop to see it on many items, including prints, glossy note cards, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, ceramic tiles, postage stamps, mugs...there's so much! You'll also see my other birds of prey paintings there!

"Saw Whet Owl" water-soluble graphite (October 2008)

I did this little sketch (5"x5") in October, but wanted to post it before too much time slips away! I did it while waiting for my car to have it's oil changed, at a small dirty table in the car garage waiting room. I used water-soluble graphite pencils in three softness's and a waterbrush to wet it. I really am having fun playing with these pencils, they're new to me. I did most of this sketch in one hour...finishing it up at home. Hope you like it, I'll have note cards and prints of it available.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Journey Across Northern England 9-7-08

This is about my first day in England and the drive across the country through the Lake District to Ravenglass, West Cumbria. Forgive me for not having sketches for this entry, I kept busy with my camera recording what I saw, and being so exhausted it would have to suffice. Everywhere I looked, all was new to me and exciting, so the camera clicked away! Let me tell you about my travels with the photos below.

This first one is the view I had upon waking on my first day in England. It's outside Alnwick in Northumberland, (Northeast England) a gorgeous countryside just bursting with fresh greens of all sorts and rolling hills. I had a hot cup of tea with a biscuit, parted the curtains and there you go...lovely. The stone structure across the street is a bus stop.
The next picture shows a view from the other window, looking down the street. The mist hung heavy across all the houses in the tiny village, you'd never know there were very tall hills just behind the houses! I love the mystery in the roofs disappearing into the fog.
The next picture below is just outside the door, I went for a walk with my host Major Bullman and his very old dog "Bracken". It felt good to shake the travel fog from my mind and breath some clean fresh air, I had to pinch myself to remind myself that I was really in England! haha...
Then my friend Gary and I set out to cross England to the Lake District. Along the way I saw amazing sights, beautiful lakes and views. The red fungus below is from our stop at Ulswater Lake; I haven't tried to identify it yet, but would love to do a watercolor sketch of it. It had the neatest golden thread all over beneath it, like spun gold fibres, a spiderweb that perhaps had pollen all over it? Or spores from the fungus?
This is a picture of a VERY tired me (!!) at Ulswater. You can see how much rain the area had been getting, the little islands behind me were under water!
This below is Ulswater, it was placid and peaceful, the sun was just coming out in spotlights upon the distant was so dramatic and inspiring!
This is a breathtaking area that we stopped to take in the view at, a valley near Brotherswater on the way to Kirkstone Pass. I just couldn't get over the prettiness of the view here, but it was getting late and we had far to travel still!
The view below is an unbelievable place, looking down the Kirkstone Pass towards Lake Windemere with the woodland around Hawkshead in the distance. If I remember right, the b+b and pub here are at the highest point in England. (I'll check on that!) I joked with my friend that we should have a pint of beer here just because of this! But alas, we needed to press on, can you see the darkening of the sky?? We still needed to cross some mountains to reach Ravenglass on the West coast.
Below is a stone wall, a stone wall you ask? Why? Well I found it interesting that as for many things, when you take the time to notice, there is an art and beauty to it. Gary explained to me that those who build the old style stone walls, with no mortar, all have their own style when they create. This one shows the rows of flat stones laid in between the big round ones, a mark of this wall makers. I snapped this picture out the window while Gary was asking directions!
We stopped here at a cafe parking lot with a great view, as you can see! Here we're looking down Hartside Pass in Cumbria, towards the Solway Firth. You can see the Irish Sea and Scotland in the distance! That ribbon of road is where we would drive next...a long and winding road. You can just see a tiny white cottage on the right side, that is an open cottage for travelers who may get stuck in bad weather. It makes me wonder just how bad the weather gets here? But I like the idea of the shelter for travelers.
Well I guess that's it for this entry! Next will be sketches and paintings from Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass!

Friday, October 24, 2008

My England Adventure 2008 - "The Flight There" 9-5-08

Well, I'm finally home from my big adventure in England and Ireland! I have so much to share about my hikes, the people I met and of course my sketches and photos. It's taken me awhile to get back on track with the time changes and catching up on things around the house, paying bills etc. That'll never change!

This is a sketch done while waiting at Gate 6, Buffalo Airport, it's watersoluble color pencil. Oh it was so cold, the air conditioning was on too high. I wrote a note on my sketch, "I'm glad for my wool hoodie I made". For my trip I designed a nice pull over wool hoodie, lined with cotton, it came in handy on the flight. I could pull the hood up to help block out the noise, light and keep warm. My flight leaves at 5:40pm.Backing away from the gate at Philadelphia airport, on the way to Gatwick airport in London. It should take 6 hours or so. I sleep a little, it was nice and dark. At 1:33 am (my time) I woke and saw the sun coming up. It was almost surreal because we floated above the clouds and the sun colors were below...while the stars were still up in the dark sky. I could see the Big Dipper, it was odd because we were above it more than I'm used to. (I learned in England they call it the Great Plow, I would point to it and say..."oh, look at the big dipper!...I'd be corrected and told that it's the Great Plow.) I pulled out my sketchkit, my pad, watersoluble colorpencils, waterbrush and my little reading light. I hung the reading light on the collar of my hoodie and did my sketch by it's light only. The whole plane was very dark and quiet, everyone was sleeping. I felt like a kid awake in bed at night with the little light on, trying not to wake anyone else!Oh what a trip it turned into, I had to wait so long in line at Gatwick that my plane for Newcastle upon Tyne left without me! After waiting a few hours while they looked for my misplaced luggage, I had to catch a train, then a subway, then another train all the way up to Newcastle. Needless to say I was exhausted when I hit the other end. There was extensive flooding in Morpeth nearby and the trains weren't running, lucky I made it! Below is a picture from the plane, as we come over England...Oh gosh I was excited!Well, I'll try to get more about my trip up soon. I'll start with my adventure at Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass. Keep checking back to read about it all...better yet, leave your name in the box at the right and you'll get an automatic email when I do.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Swallow Hollow" Iroqouis Wildlife Refuge 8-12-08

What a day I had at the Swallow Hollow nature trail, part of the Iroqouis Wildlife Preserve. The above photo was just one of the many beautiful scenes I saw that day; the trail follows the water in a nice loop, sometimes going through woods, mostly near the marsh or some natural looking water canals. Much of the trail is a boardwalk to keep you up from the very wet ground, especially after such a rainy summer!

This is a picture of my new sketchbook cover, it's a sketchbook that I designed and made myself with a long format. I thought it'd be fun to put some pictures of my paintings on the cover, to show people I meet some of my work. I can add or take pages from the sketchbook as I want to.

This is the first page of my sketchbook from my day out. I stopped at a nice area in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area, Elizabeth Hilldurger Estate project. I was so happy to see two Great Egrets (or in my old Peterson guide American Egret) flying around. The one roosted in a tree far away, I tried to do some little sketches by looking through my binoculars.
The watercolor of the water scene I did using my little watercolor 'altoids' field kit and just a water-brush. It's pretty simple looking but I did it quickly while standing up.

This is me pausing to sketch along the boardwalk. You can see I have my art kit bag on my waist and a backpack with other supplies on my back. Almost all of what I draw, I draw while I'm standing and looking at things.
Along the way on my walks I usually meet some nice people who are curious about what I'm doing. I met a couple walking their dogs, Papillions...Pudgie is the puppy furiously digging the hole in the back...Max is the one gazing up at his owner. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get to keep me company in the house? I've seen them before and thought about it. Their owner told me Papillion means butterfly in french....well at least it's their names meaning, I guess because of how they look with their ears perked.

Next is another page from my sketchbook, click it to see it closer. I met a little Leopard frog along the way and did quick little sketches of him, then painted it at home using metallic watercolor paints. He really had a metallic look to his skin, so beautiful! At the end of this post you'll see a little video clip of him!

I saw many Harvestman spiders in the woods and did a sketch of one on a dying milkweed leaf. I also took photos so when I got home I was able to paint it with watercolors. I took step by step photos of the painting, perhaps I'll get to post it separately later.
I did some reading about Harvestmen Spiders, which are only distantly related to spiders, they are not venomous, lack fangs and do not bite. They use their legs to walk, breath, smell and capture prey! There are 5,000 species, about 235 known in North America, most are drab brown or grey, but a few are rusty red, mottled spots or have a stripe down their back. Now that I know that, I know I was lucky to see a rusty red one, and the one I painted had a mottled kind of dark stripe on it. One more interesting detail to keep my eyes open for while hiking! I hope you take a closer look next time you meet one.

This next page shows a light pencil sketch I did of the path, I also took some photos so later I could color it in. I haven't gotten that far yet! The mushrooms at the bottom of the page I went specifically to Swallow Hollow to try to find again and paint, I saw them there just a week before. I could use some help indentifying them if anyone has expertise in this area?? I have become fascinated with mushrooms and fungi...when you walk in the woods, just take a close look at the ground or on trees or dead logs, you'll be surprised at what you might discover! I've seen gorgeous yellow or orange mushrooms that I didn't expect. The picture of the orange mushroom I could use help identifying too.

I set up my stool in the woods and I painted this study from life. It was difficult because the lighting kept changing, first direct, raking light, then very dark shadows. As I painted a Harvestmen Spider crawled across my sketchbook, pausing over my painting to 'taste' the wet paint! Before I could get my camera, he crawled off down my leg....he being a spider that he was I helped him hurry off me! I don't mind them too much, but don't want them lingering. At least I can say, knowing they are harmless helps me not to react like Little Miss Muffet! Remember her story?

This is the last page from my outing...while I was in the field I sketched the tiny mushrooms in pencil...kneeling in the pine needles to gain a closer look. They're done at life size. Then while walking later I went over the lines with a sepia colored Micron Permanent ink pen. Later at home I printed out the photos I took of them and added the watercolor. I have found that when I do something in graphite pencil in the field, I get disappointed at how it will smear or fade with all the use the sketchbook gets, so I like to use my micron pens a lot to draw.

The while fungus is fascinating...they are hard to might just step right past them, but you have to be aware of everything and look everywhere when you walk. These are also drawn at life size, aproximately 2" tall and coming up like delicate white filaments from the forest floor. A mystery to me, if anyone can tell us please do.

The butterfly was a type I saw all day, following me it seemed, to see what I was doing in their woods? I sketched it in the field on a leaf, but later painted it from a photo. Can anyone help me with identifying it?

I added a short video clip of my meeting with the Leopard Frog along a sunny path, check it out!