Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Hiking on my Land" 3-26-08

Today I couldn't resist the sunshine, it was a 'balmy' 40 degrees so I took my field pack and told Ginger we're going for a hike! She, of course could barely contain her excitement! If you click on any picture you can see the enlarged version, and read my actual notes. There were Red Winged Black birds calling from the tree tops and some Turkey Vultures sailing overhead silently. I sketched a tree with a hole that lookes perfect for something to have a nest in, I'll have to watch this spring.
The second page is further out, in "The Maze", a place on my land where I cut all these paths that intersect. It's a great place to explore. The sketch at the top of the page was done first with permanent marker then I used Derwendt Inktense watercolor pencils and a few Prismacolor wc pencils; I noted the colors used on the page. I noticed the buds on the trees coming forth...like pussy willows...all soft and grey, but smaller. I did some sketches on both pages, very small.
The next two pictures show me holding my sketchbook. Now it's impossible to take a picture of oneself while both hands are occupied, I told Ginger I wish she could take the picture! So, first picture shows my hand holding the pencils and sketchbook at the same time.
The second picture shows me drawing with the wc-pencil and holding the waterbrush at the same time. The small buds I painted using the watercolor pencils and a small watercolor brush. The waterbrush gets frustrating, it's a bit large and the water amount is hard to control.





The next 'cute' picture is Ginger fetching a stick, she was bored while I was setting up my supplies for a picture so I had her play fetch.




The next picture is of my field bag with the contents laid out. I numbered them so I could describe what they are. 1)watercup attached to strap 2)sandpaper block 3)watercolor pencils 4)sketchbook 5)watercolor field set 6)natural sponge 7)paper towels 8)square magnifier 9)eraser 10) slide holder for composition 11)retractable knife 12)watercolor brushes 13)tiny tripod 14)pepper spray 15) various pencils, pens, waterbrush 16)palette watercup 17)biscuit treats for Ginger 19)garbage bag to sit on.
Then there's a picture of the ice and bubbles, I had to stand in water to take it and YES, my boots leaked! Even with the plastic bags my sock got very wet and squishy! Oh the adventures of a Naturalist Artist!
Then there's a picture of a fern head ...I love these things. Then a picture of the 'tools of the day', my sketchbook, watercolor pencils, waterbrush, watercolor brush, and permanent ink pen. The last picture is a Turkey Vulture that flew over, I know it was checking us out! It circled, riding the updrafts, and kept coming back over us. I'm really surprised I could catch a picture with my tiny camera.
I hope you enjoyed the walk with Ginger and I, "Come Walk With Me" again soon!

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Saw-whet Owls" 3-24-08

Well, I finally had time to work on some small sketches in watercolor of Saw-whet owls. I did them in my small 5.5" x 8.5" Raffine sketchbook. I was inspired by the Owl Prowl I went on with the Buffalo Ornithological Society on March 15th. I did get some good photos to work from, but haven't printed them out yet. These were done from very small pictures in field guides and a book I picked up on birds of prey.
I experimented with lifting color that I didn't like...on the first owl (top first page) I had painted his eyes too close together. Now I'm a perfectionist, I thought, "I can leave it and just start another and call it practice"...but NO...so I wet the eyes, rubbed with my round brush, and pressed a clean paper towel on it, I repeated this over and over until I lifted a lot more than I thought I'd be able to! Then I let it dry and repainted it.
The little one under it I first drew with permanent ink first then colored it with watercolors. The page looked a little boring so I loosely painted green around the edges.
Page two, the owl on top came out nicely. I say that because as I started it, I didn't like it very much. If I wanted to take more time and make it more detailed, I would add white to the face feathers with a guache or used liquid frisket to block it (retain white).
The little owl at the bottom is actually very tiny, it's straight watercolor with no preliminary pencil drawing just like the others. It was so small I had trouble doing his pupils, they should be a tiny bit smaller so his eyes look wide open.
I really liked doing these little owl sketches! I love it's coloring and it's wide bright orange eyes!
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Friday, March 21, 2008

"Owl Prowl" 3-15-08


On Saturday, March 15th, I went on an "Owl Prowl" with the Buffalo Ornithological Society. We started at the Niagara Airforce base..looking across the field (through chain link fence) trying to spot a snowy owl. All we saw was a coyote..looking for some lunch! Then we drove all over Niagara county, pulling over sometimes to look at Snow Buntings or Horned Larks. The stops were so quick that you'd no sooner pop out of the car, and they were ready to drive on again! I didn't even get to see the Horned Larks to add them to my list.
We tried to spot a Great Horned Owl on the nest, but I think with so many people walking into the woods to see it, it got spooked. A few crows were chasing it around in the near by field. We left right away so it could return to it's nest. The photo of shadows on the snow is from the woods where the nest was. I just loved the dried golden leaves with the cold shadows on the snow.
The big disappointment of the day for me was that I had no time to what-so-ever to stop and do sketches! We were constantly on the run. I seriously hope to do some small watercolor sketches from the photos of the Saw Whet Owl.
The next stop was to see a Short Earred Owl that was known to roost in a pine tree next to a house. (see the picture of the owl with the dead branch in front of it) It was quite difficult to see without the experienced members pointing it out. When he did fly off, I was amazed at how large his wings were!
The next photos are of the Saw Whet Owl...oh that was exciting! We went to see it roosting in a pine tree at the Wildlife Preserve in Gasport. I read in the field guide that these owls will roost in the day and be very docile, it's true. I was amazed at how it didn't budge with all these people photographing it, talking quietly, creeping around. The darker picture of it I took while laying on my back in the snow! Well, sometimes to get a good shot, you have to be creative! Lucky I had my snow leggins on that day. What I find interesting, is if you look at the owls markings, his head blends in with the pine needles. His breast is heavily streaked and you'd think this would make him stand out, but no, it 'broke up' his profile, made him sort of disappear. It was really amazing how hard it was to see him at first. I was about 15' away and had to look very hard, I looked for his shape to stand out from the tree branches around him. Once you had him spotted, if you moved to get another view, even just two feet, you'd lose him again. Everyone struggled with this and I thought it was pretty interesting, as we are all experienced birders! By the way, this is a tiny owl, measures 7" and that is from head to tail tip! He's a very cute little thing! I will definitely be doing some kind of painting of him.
The last little picture is on our way home, taken at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. As we came out of the woods where we viewed the owl, the sound of the Canada Geese was deafening! Wow! We had to pull over and just experience it firsthand, you can see in the picture they were swarming...the sky was alive with them. The picture reminds me of a Vincent Van Gogh painting, I can almost see the curls in the sky of where the geese are flying together...it looks like they're moving when you stare at it. Maybe I'll do a painting of that too. I hope you liked the photos, sorry there's no sketches, I'll have to work on some soon. There is a small video clip of the group also...
Don't forget I have nature sketching classes starting in May, email me for more info. I'll be teaching at the Burchfield Nature Center, Reinstein Woods, and at three nature centers in Clarence. mary@marymcandrew.com
video

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Snowshoeing on My Land" 3-6-08

Today I felt like I just had to get out of the house! There was a bit of snow on the ground so before winter weather leaves us completley I decided to go snowshoeing with my dog Ginger. I decided to leave all the colors behind (watercolors, color pencils etc.) and just bring some non permanent ink, micron permanent pens and my waterbrush. I really like sketching with a NON permanent pen because you can create some nice effects with a little water and a brush after. You can rework or redraw on top of it after to add details or more value. The ink I'm using is called Brilliant Brown by Pellican. I put it into an expensive little Rapidograph pen, it has a very fine tip for details. The ink is nice though it gets a bit 'pinkish' when you wet it, but I still like it.
Page one of my sketchbook I talk about wearing my dad's old hunting coat, oh I love that coat but mostly because it makes me think of him! When we were kids he'd dress up in the red plaid overalls and coat and chuckle like Santa! We'd all laugh!
The sketch shows a little deer path across my field that the foxes have been using. Then I used 'comparative measurements' to draw an exact size of the track. This is something I teach in my Nature Sketching classes. The branches were rubbing in the wind and they sounded like frogs calling!
The picture of me I took myself! I experiment all the time with my camera, this time using my trusty Olympus FE230. I hung it in a tree, on a branch, by it's little strap. I turned it on, and checked to see if it was pointed in the right general direction and then set the auto timer. Once you set it RUN!! and get in the picture. Then you can check to see if it came out. I was lucky and this one came out first try! haha...

Page two of my sketchbook (click to enlarge) shows a drawing of Ginger's footprint. I did this to compare to the other print I drew, and to show that a dog will have claw marks. The other print I couldn't see any. The other drawings on the page were done with a Graphitint water soluble pencil (cocoa). I like the color of this a lot! The clouds were high and puffy, I tried to draw them, but it was hard! Then I sketched a flock of geese going over, at first they sounded like yipping coyotes in the distance.





Page three I switched back to my rapidograph pen and non perm. ink. I found a tiny nest and on the page I indicated it's actual size by measuring with my pen. Then using my sketchbook, starting at the ground and going up I counted how many sketchbooks tall it was. Knowing the size of my sketchbook I was able to very closely estimate how far off the ground it is. 21". This is using comparative measurements in another way. The oak leaves are still hanging on, still pretty in their dry form.

The two photos (click to enlarge) are from my return walk home. The one shows a view of what it looks like when you hug a tree and look up! It's pretty cool!! TRY IT! The other is a view of Long Lane on my way back home. Ginger is actually up ahead in the bushes on the left, can you spot her? I have a video clip that I'm goint to attach, lets hope it works!
I really enjoyed sharing this walk with you, please leave me your comments and questions.
I have classes starting in May for Nature Sketching, please email me for more information mary@marymcandrew.com
video

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Clarence Nature Center and Escarpment" 3-3-08

Today after my trip to the pet shop...it was so gorgeous I had to swing by the Clarence Nature Center and then the Clarence Escarpment. The temperatures climbed to an unseasonable 63degrees or more. I had a hard time finding much to draw at the Nature Center, I think I was distracted by the awful noise from all the construction trucks! It was deafening especially because I was still nursing a headache...it didn't improve believe me.
I found some interesting tracks to draw and some beautiful hawthorne branches. I walked around the path and spooked two white tailed deer.

Next stop was the Clarence Escarpment, now there's a little jewel! The Escarpment is on Greiner Rd in Clarence just East of Goodrich Rd. You pull into a little paved area and just walk down the slope. There's water held at the bottom of the escarpment (cliffs) where you'll find waterfowl in breeding season and other assorted critters.


I found a wooden railing to sit on and sketched using my micron pen. I pulled out my field watercolor set and did a tiny sketch of the shadows in the woods. It's a relatively peaceful place here, you can hear the traffic a bit but you can also lose yourself just looking, drawing, listening, smelling and hearing. I say hearing because as I stood very, very still drawing the burrs...I heard a splash right near me and I saw a muscrat running along in the tiny stream! I let out a big "OH!" in surprise and it scared him, he dove under the water and disappeared!

Some local kids have found a good use for the ice as long as we have it, can you see the hockey net on the ice? It's not a deep area so at least it's safe for play. I can never resist the heads of the ferns, fascinating.
















As I painted with my field watercolors, I dropped the lid to my jar off the wood deck I was sitting on. Thank goodness the water was frozen, as I reached down to retrieve it, I got caught up in finding the most interesting forms in the ice! There is frozen life under that thin shelf of winter.

"Pet Shop Visit" March 3, 2008

Today I found myself at the mall, not usually where I find myself but I needed a haircut. So I decied to visit the pet shop because the last time I was there one of the employees had a gorgeous green boa snake wrapped around himself. I would love to paint it, but I learned he's no longer there, along with the snake! I'll have to go searching it seems for snakes. I remember when I was a zookeeper sometimes I'd get to walk around with a huge but tame boa constrictor wrapped around my waist. This was so people could touch it and I would talk to them about the boa. It was really cool.
So while I was there I pulled out my sketchpad and did some small drawings. Even with a nagging headache it gave me the idea that this would be fun on a day when I'm more in the mood! I thought it would be good to share with you all, it's a great place to see lots of animals up close for free. The goldfish were a kick, their eyes are soooo weird, like blobs or half deflated balloons. The frog I drew at life size, it was so tiny! I did the sketches in pencil then at home I used a simple writing pen that when it is wet, will run. So I was able to make it like a wash.