Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Treeline Oil Pastel" 7-26-08

5" x 7"

This is a little oil pastel I did while eating breakfast on my back deck, I started it the other day and finished it today. Done on canvas paper, I laid down the first layer by drawing sky color and grass and then scrubbing lightly with a bristle brush and mineral spirits. I then sketched in the tree trunks as thinly as I could in greys and light browns. I added clumps of light green for the leaves and then added darker green under to make them stand out. I put the grass colors on, and the dry grass color, which I then used the rubber pastel blender to drag the grass up into the green. I also used the rubber blender to smooth over the tree trunks, this helped to get rid of the canvas texture.
The sky was laid in darker colors at the top and lighter towards the bottom, I put white very heavy where the clouds would be, then I was able to blend into the cloud with sky color a bit. This was all a very 'back and forth' process, I thought it was finished then picked up another color and added leaves, then added back to the sky, and so on. I used a paper clip to scratch grass into the field, and then my initials into the painting.
I used my tiny Olympus camera to take pictures of this so I could upload it with my laptop. This is to test how I can update my blog while I'm traveling, so far so good!
Hope you enjoyed todays updates!

"Watercolor Moon in the Middle of the Night" 7-21-08

Sometimes it's hard to be an artist. Let me explain, I have been thinking about how much I want to try to paint the moon at night, in the dark using a tiny light. I've never done it before so the other night when the moon was streaming through my window, I had to get back out of bed and go to the studio to get my paints!!'s difficult to be an artist, but fun!! For the above painting I used liquid mask to block the moon, which I don't use much but wanted to play with. Then I worked wet into wet with the colors. Now keep in mind I said before I wanted to work in the dark so I could see the moon still, so I took a tiny reading light and clipped it onto my neck collar of my t-shirt. (Um...did anyone ever tell you artists were kind of nuts? haha) I pointed the light down at my painting, it was a neat experiment.
Above you can see my tiny watercolor kit I put together. On the left is a pack of assorted brushes that I cut the handles down on so they are smaller and fit in my field bag, above that is the reading light. In the center is my field kit of watercolors that I have tucked into a tiny Altoids tin, I use the lid for mixing my colors. Above the kit is a plastic vitamin bottle that I use for water; I like this container because I can get my brushes down into it for swishing around, but it also fits in my waterbottle holder that I can put around my waist for field work. And next to all that, on the far right is a new little invention of mine, it's a tiny cigar case my friend Mark gave me. I told him I like little containers to play around with for field stuff....I know, I sound like a little kid! Well....if you don't think creatively and play, you don't think of great ideas!
I cut up little squares of watercolor paper to fit inside the cigar case, it holds about 14 sheets of paper, I also put in some bristol board to play with. The sheets measure only 3 1/2" x 3"....kind of fun to work on if you keep it simple. I then took two paper clips and bent them so they go over the edge and hold down the paper while you work. You can see how tiny the kit is as it fits right into my hand! Below is the tiny moon painting I did, I like it!! For this one I didn't use liquid mask and it show the moon for how it really was, it wasn't full like I showed above.I hope you enjoyed my post about my experimental moon painting! Remember I did it in the dark, it was fun! I will bring this kit with me when I travel to England and Ireland and play around with it. Please let me know what you think and leave me a comment!

"Hot Painting Day in July" 7-10-08

It was a very hot day when I decided to scoot outside to do a quick little painting. I used my a square sketchpad because it's a fun change. The painting is only 5"x5" big. I first sketched with a micron pen then I used my tiny watercolor kit. Because the day was so hot, it dried very quickly as I worked. I like the stroked look of the sky, it gives it movement.
Of course Ginger had to be right next to me! She was smart and hide from the hot sun under the table! I stood at the picnic table and put one foot up on the seat, resting my sketchbook and arm on my knee.
This little painting is of Birds Foot Trefoil, it grows wild here and there in my, ahem...kind of wild yard! It has lovely little yellow flowers and it's called 'bird's foot' because the pod cluster that grows looks like a bird foot. This flower grows in Europe and that's where it came from, now quite common here. The painting is a bit pale because I painted it in full sun, it got hard to look at the white paper after awhile. I used a little trick to make it go faster, I held the flower so the shadow fell onto my paper and then drew the stem lightly with a pencil. Then I was able to just look at the flower and work on my drawing, fixing the details and proportions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Common Toad" 7-8-08

While walking in the woods at Stiglmeier Park in Cheektowaga, NY, I happened upon a toad...almost stepped on the little guy (girl?) because it blended in so well with the dead leaves on the woodland floor. I took pictures, usually very hard to capture a frog or toad because the just don't sit still while you focus etc....they have other ideas! Above is a little tiny sketch I did after I caught a few pictures, noting the light stripe and other markings which helped me identify him later. There are so many toads and frogs for me to learn!
Later I sat late at night and drew this sketch above, from a photo with a micron permanent ink pen. You can see, I didn't start with pencil drawing, I just drew in a sketchy manner to block in his shape. Sometimes I like the looseness of that look, some pen lines showing at the end of the drawing. You can also hide unwanted lines by adding the dark lines for background.
Here I added a light wash in watercolor of yellow ochre + sepia, just a touch. I was careful to leave the light stripe and light areas of his body, and add more wash layers to the darker areas.
Here you can see, I added green by mixing olive green + a touch of sepia to dull it. The brown spots are sepia and permanent rose. The background is prussian blue + ultramarine blue + black. To make his bumps or warts stand out a bit, I tried to use the tip of a very small pointed brush to outline them a little with the brown. Then some spots were just painted with the watercolor, which made a softer looking wart than one that was drawn with ink. When I was finished I felt I should have made his mouth or nose, stick a out just a little more, it looks a bit short...but it's done.
These are pictures I took of the little in the woods. Hope you enjoyed looking at my little sketch and the pictures. More on that walk later....

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Allegany Nature Pilgrimage" (Thunderocks) 6-1-08

Well here I am the last day, the last hours of my time at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, spending it at the most beautiful place I found all weekend, Thunderocks. Before I left the park I drove up by myself to visit this wonder I kept hearing about, wow! it was well worth it. You drive up the hill, make a left turn at the four corners and just ahead, very easy parking and you are right there. It's quite accessable for everyone.
The whole area is a bit unique as it was untouched by the glaciers so I've been told. The rocks are enormous, some as big as houses, and what a great place to bring your kids to let them marvel at this natural sight! (and climb a little!) You can see I'm wearing my binoculars and my sketchbag, I also had a video camera with me and took some nice videos. The little clip at the end is just with my tiny digital camera.

Here you can see a family climbing up, which helps to show the immense size of the rocks.

I just love the dapple effect of the sun on the rocks. It'd either be a painters dream or nightmare. The views are gorgeous, but the sun dapples ever moving and disappearing.

Though the ground was well worn around the rocks, there were still many pockets of wildflowers and ferns. I saw Clintonia, Wild Lily of the Valley, Star Flowers, and ferns.

Another beautiful view, showing mosses, ferns and trees. I'd love to sit up on one of those big rocks in the middle of the night and just listen to everything around me. I wonder what the Indians thought of these rocks? Did they use them as landmarks? Climb around on them as children too? Who knows.

This one reminds me of a green waterfall~ so lush!

I took the time to do a really quick little sketch before I left. You can see I put notes about a bird and bird song on the page. Below a short, corny video clip for you...but what can I say? I loved being there and didn't want to leave!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Allegany Nature Pilgrimage" (frogs, salamanders, and snakes) 5-31-08

A quick post here, to show you some more pictures from my Allegany weekend. Actually all these pictures are from the all day hike I went on led by Tim Baird, it's his hands holding the slimy salamander and the snake. We were walking right along and this little guy almost got stepped on in the dirt road, so well he blended in with the leaves and dirt! It's a Wood Frog, I had to really move quick to catch some pictures of him! What I love is his 'robbers' mask and the way the stripes on his legs line up when he's crouched, it breaks up his body form so he blends into the ground better. It sure works! I'll definitely be doing a painting or drawing of him.

I'm pretty sure this is an Eastern Newt, the adult stage of a Red Eft, the common little red salamander you see in the moist woods. They are a very important part of the food chain in the forest and I think protected, at least in some states. I think everyone should be aware of them and try to keep them from harm to help keep their numbers up.
Here Tim is holding a tiny Ring Necked Snake, it looked like a bit of wire laying on the road, he's got good eyes! The belly of this snake was a pale yellow. I looked it up in my "Audubon's Familiar Reptiles + Amphibians of North America", it says that it grows 10-30" long and can have a yellow, cream or orange neck ring and a yellow to red belly. I'd love to see a full grown one. It's a docile snake that will curl and show it's belly when frightened, also emitting a foul musk.
Well, only one more entry to go about my Allegany weekend, until then I hope you're enjoying the pictures! I did a few little paintings yesterday and today and will put them up soon.

"Allegany Nature Pilgrimage" (moss, lichens, fungus, dragonflies and moths) 5-31-08

This is a continuation of my weekend at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage at the end of May. This post I have some pictures of fungus, lichens and moss from the non flowering plants hike I took led by Alice Brown.
This is a fungus I've seen growing on my land in Clarence Center NY, in the Adirondack mtns. and at Allegany. It's a fungus I identified as Trametes Versicolor, the common name is Turkey Tail, so named because of the variable bands of color. I've seen it in all seasons which makes it kind of fun to look for, check dead trees and branches on the ground etc. I read on a website that a tea can be made from it and that it's used to fight cancer and hiv. Don't quote me on that but it's what I read, I do know that mushrooms can be very good for you. I wouldn't recommed going out and eating these mushroom book (Simon and Schuster's Guide to Mushrooms- Excellent Book!) says that it's inedible because of texture.
This is a flat fern type of moss, I don't know my mosses yet so if someone can help me out here. I have to look for a good field guide, you know...tall, dark, handsome! really, the kind with pages is fine!
This is a picture of mosses on the side (type?) and in the center is a type of lichen, foliose type I think. I've always liked the cool color of the green patina copper gets when it's out in the elements.
Then there was the night I was headed to bed, enhausted from all the hikes and early mornings, but saw this show-stopping Luna Moth! Wayne Gall had a simple white sheet up each night with a really bright light to attract all kinds of bugs. I never imagined I'd ever see a Luna Moth and there it was! Wow! It caused quite a bit of excitment. I definitley have to do a painting with one of those in it. Notice the large.
This is a page from my sketchbook, just some quick sketches of the dragonfly talk led by Jeremy Martin. Below is a picture of a dragonfly that just came out of the 'Exuvia', or shed skin. That's what I did the small sketch of above. I have written in my sketchbook that I took a picture of a Springtime Darner...maybe that's the type below.
Well as I said, not too many drawings on this Nature Pilgrimage...I needed the whole following week to stay there and digest all that I learned, and go back and sketch things. Be sure to check my post about Thunder Rocks coming up!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Allegany Nature Pilgrimage" (Birding and Bird Banding) 6-1-08

This is another 'catch up' post about the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage at the end of May. This post I put up pictures of birding hikes and the bird banding demonstration along with a video clip of the demo.
This was the very first nature hike I went on the whole weekend, it was led by birding expert Frank Gardner. We wound our way through some beautiful woods by a stream, to me it looked like a 'Faerie Haven'. It was considered an advanced bird walk because most of the identification was by bird song. We kept hearing a Blackburnian Warbler up in the trees...ok, this is one of those birds that I'm dying to see. If you remember I did a little painting of one in my sketchbook this winter, click here to see it. Well, I had to leave the hike a little early to catch another hike that was starting soon, guess what everyone in the entire group saw after I left? A Blackburnian Warbler came down to take a bath in the creek!! Oh boy...they teased me a bit because I made such a big deal out of wanting to see one!
This is the 'All Day Birding Hike' I took with Tim Baird as the leader. I was worried that we'd be hiking all day long and I wouldn't be able to do it, but it was actually very pleasant as we took several cars and drove to different locations in the park, then walked. This is a page from my sketchbook, click it too see all my notes on the different birds I saw or heard. I put a little dot in front of birds I heard, and a check mark for ones I saw too. I did a tiny sketch with water-soluble graphite of the lake and hills from where we stood by the lodge, Allegany Park's main office. The water-soluble pencils are by Derwendt and I just love them. You can do a simple sketch when you're in a hurry and just worry about the values, use a water-brush to wet it while you're standing there. In a later post I'll put up the sketch pages with complete lists of every bird and flower that I've seen here and in the Adirondack Mnts. Believe me it's long!!
This is at the bird banding demonstration on Sunday morning. If you've never seen a banding demo please make sure you try to some day, I had no idea it'd be so fascinating! The above picture shows Jerry blowing on the breast of a yellow warbler to expose the breast. It's a way they check for a brood patch or check the general weight of the bird for health.
To catch the birds they raise fine nets up in the early morning and leave them up, the birds fly into them and get tangled but not harmed.This is a hummingbird in the hand, amazing!
Here's a Chestnut Sided Warbler that Jerry is holding, it's amazing how they hold the bird by the upper legs, above the joint I think, and it doesn't hurt it. I've included a video clip, you'll see how casual they are about holding the birds, and get a good look at Bob McKinney holding a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Jerry is holding a Catbird, though he seems extremely casual about holding it, believe me they've done this thousands of times and no birds are injured. A funny trick Bob would do with the kids, when he was ready to release a bird, he'd carefully lay it on it's backside on top of someone's head. Then the bird would get it's bearings and fly was really neat! You'll see Bob measuring the bird, blowing on it's breast to look for a brood patch and then he unceremoniously plops it into a tumbler to put it on the scale for weighing. With smaller birds he used an empty pill bottle! Up above on my double sketch page you can see a tiny sketch I did of the Cuckoo in the tumbler. Enjoy the video!!

"Allegany Nature Pilgrimage" (Wildflowers) May 30, 2008

Well where to begin? This is a very late entry about my weekend at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, May 30, 31, June 1, 2008. I wanted to make sure I share it with you because it was such a fantastically wonderful weekend filled with great people and plenty of new things to learn about nature. I've decided to break it up into several posts so it's not too long. This one will be about the wildflowers I saw. Below is just one of the fabulous views in Allegany State Park.
I feel giulty for not having more drawings, but let me explain what it was like. From Friday until Sunday you could show up for hikes or classes lead by experts in their field, all day long! There was one after the other, some at the same time, it was so hard to pick and choose which I wanted to go on. I filled 13 pages in my sketchbook with notes about birds, flowers and plants! We were constantly walking as a group so it was very hard to draw, the small amount of sketching I did was while I was walking! have to watch the ground so you don't trip! haha...

This page of my sketchbook shows a drawing I did while on a guided birdwatching hike. It was lead by Tim Baird of Salamanca, he's a retired science teacher who knows more about birds and plants than anyone I know! He has such a wonderful casual manner when you ask questions about everything you see....well um...that was me! I asked him about everything I saw! He was so patient!! haha...must be the teacher in him. Most of the flowers, plants and birds I learned about this weekend were from his walks. Thanks Tim!!
Dwarf Ginseng, shown in the little sketch above, a pretty little woodland flower.
I learned about this flower on a wildflower hike led by Mary Alice Tock, down by the lakeside. It's Cinquefoil, cinque (5) as in five leaves, five petals slightly heart shaped. Mary told us some things to look for when identifying wildflowers: 1. color 2. shape of leaves 3. # of petals 4. arrangement of leaves on stem, and how they're connected to the stem.
This is Clintonia, a woodland lily, also called Yellow Corn-lily or Blue Bead for the fruits it bears. I took this picture up at Thunderocks on my last day...more about that amazing place in another post!
This is Golden Alexander, shown in the sketch I did above while walking. It has a complicated flower head like Queen Anne's Lace, I forget the technical term...I'm sure someone can remind me in the comments.
This very pretty flower is Golden Ragwort, looks just like something that'd be growing in your garden.
This is Star Flower, found in the woods also, like a hidden gem just waiting to be noticed.
And this is a very well known wildflower, Trillium. I was lucky to catch sight of it in bloom here and in the Adirondack mtns.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"Golden Eagle Watercolor" 7-7-08

I just finished this 12" x 15" watercolor of a Golden Eagle yesterday. I started it a few months ago and then put it aside. I used watercolors and a few touches of permanent ink pen. I wanted to leave the edges looking washy so you could definitely see that it's a watercolor, and therefor keep some of the freshness. I stroked the feathers on directly with my round brush to show the pointy shape that the Golden Eagle has to his feathers.

Later...some months I should say!... I sat down to finish it, he's been waiting around too long for me! So I just looked for what needed to be made darker, stronger shadows under feathers to make them start to pop a little. I worked on the eye, the most important part of any painting I feel, I added more golden color then lifted out some highlight area with a damp brush, then when it was dry I carefully scratched out a tiny highlight with a razor blade.

I will have prints available of this painting, without the shipping:
note cards = $5 each (8.5"x5.5")
8x10 hand signed print = $20,
matted 8x10 print = $35,
I'm not sure about limited edition prints yet, I'll wait and see about them.
Please just contact me if your interested, I can take credit cards or personal checks. The original painting will also be available, not priced yet or framed.

A bit more about the Golden Eagle, when I was in college I worked as a zoo keeper in Binghamton, NY at the Ross Park Zoo. My favorite area to work was in the aviary; it was up in the woods on the mountain. Each bird had a cage, of course they weren't big enough, but the zoo has made huge improvements over the years, as so many zoos have done. I never forgot the Golden Eagle(s), there might have been two? All the birds of prey they had were brought there because of injury, some wings, some eyesight. The eagles were huge, and yes, their feathers on their head and breast were more 'pointy' than other birds. It was only at feeding time that I didn't really enjoy it, their diet was fresh killed rats from the lab over at SUNY Binghamton. Ok, Ok...I won't go into details here!...but being a zookeeper wasn't all fun and games!

A little more reminiscing...last night I watched a old movie musical called "The Pied Piper of Hamlin" I like old musicals!!...anyways...I noticed the feather the pied piper had in his hat was a very long, black and white striped feather. I never noticed it before, but now it popped out at me, it's a "Lady Amherst Pheasant" feather! We had several types of exotic pheasants also in the aviary at the zoo, one of my favorites was the Lady, so beautiful! I should do a painting of that one!

Perhaps when I go home for a visit I can do a sketching and journaling day at the Ross Park Zoo where I used to work. It's a really nice little zoo, if you're in the area go visit and tell them I sent you! haha...they won't remember me but it'd be fun. PS. I should mention that they have an amazing little aviary now where you can walk in amongst the birds! It's beautiful, has water features, plants, birds everywhere..some hiding, it's very well done!
Please leave me comments below, I'd love to hear from more of you, as I have readers dropping in from around the world!!

"Oil Pastel Sketch of Northumbria"

This is a 5" x 5" little sketch I did with oil pastels from a magazine cover about Northumberland, England. My friend in Northumberland sent me these great magazines so I could get to know the area a little better, as I'll be visiting it in Sept this year.
The difficulty in the sketch was just that it was so small, but I want to do more on a 5"x5" format so I can get a collection that would look nice hanging together. To do details I used a razorblade to cut angles on the ends of some of my crayons...and used it also to scratch off details on the house. You can especially see it where I signed my initials.

Hope you like it, I can't wait to get there personally and so lots of nature studies and landscapes!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Iroquois Nature Refuge" 5-25-08

It's a gorgeous day! 65-70 degrees, sunny and breezy. The first journal page is done with watercolor pencils and a waterbrush...I found it hard to get the greens I wanted.
A gorgeous bird, the Black Tern; I took so many pictures of them swooping over the water, with their very elegant coloring. The other picture is a bit more sad but shows the real life of nature, it's a Red Tailed Hawk being chased by Red Winged Black-Birds because he's stolen a youngster from the nest! I saw him land into the tall grasses on the marsh, and noted the huge commotion of the Black Birds. When he took off I figured something was up, and sure enough he was carrying a chick.

I spotted this little butterfly in the field as we walked and I've narrowed it down to two butterflies-either the Pearl Crescent or Gorgone Checkerspot...anyone help me with an ID?

This painting was done with watercolors. I used my little watercolor kit that's tucked into a tiny "Altoids" tin if you can believe it! I'll have to post a picture of that soon.

Some bird photos I took, two of a male Tree Swallow that was sitting by it's nest box. A picture of a Song Sparrow on the left, and a Swamp Sparrow on the right.

This flower was drawn with a micron pen then colored with watercolor. I had to wait till I was at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage (more on that later!) to indentify it, showing it to some wildflower experts...they told me it's a Evening Lychnis.
Click here for the link to Iroqouis Nature Refuge.