Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Robert Burns Day and his poem "To a Mouse"

I hesitated to put this study up, it's nothing gross to a naturalist, a dead mouse. Some people would say "oh, gross!" but all through time, man (scientists and artists in particular) has learned by studying from dead creatures. I love animals and things of our natural world and have a great respect for them even when dead. This mouse was very beautiful and being the curious naturalist that I am, I studied it, sketched it and painted it. It's fur was soft and shiny, and it's tiny paws amazing. Someday I'm going to have some pet mice again, (had them when a teenager) then I can study and paint them all I want.
The top painting was done first with a light pencil gesture sketch then I used watercolors, his whiskers being added with a Chinese white watercolor and tiny brush. The bottom left study was done with a brown micron permanent marker and the right one was done with non permanent brown ink, that I touched with a waterbrush to create value washes.

And now about Robert Burns, he was a poet from Scotland and they commemorate his life by having a Burn's Supper on January 25th, there are formalities of speeches, whiskey toasts and haggis. Here's a link to Wikipedia to learn more about it.

And why I mention Robert Burns...Scottish poet? I heard a poem on Robert Burns day (Jan. 25th) and it was about a mouse and it went with my mouse study; here's a link to UTube to listen to a reading of his poem "To a Mouse".

I like that he calls the mouse lucky, because he doesn't look back at his past or worry about his future, he lives in the here and now unlike man. Sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, I'll look at my dog rolling in the grass, trotting freely around the yard and lucky you are! To be as simple as an animal and live for just this moment.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Hiking on my Land" 1-23-09

Today as the sun shone and the temperatures climbed to a balmy 30 or so degrees, I felt a very strong urge to just grab my field kit and go for a hike with Ginger. I notice whenever I go out field sketching or work on a painting in the studio, it's like having a visit to the therapist! I feel like I've just had some kind of adjustment, and all is right in my world! Troubles melt away as I stop to catch my breath and listen to the wind gusting through the trees. Today was no different. (click on any picture to see enlarged view)
First small sketch done with a micron 05 permanent marker, it's along the path that's called "Long Lane" on my farm. To warm up and to see if drawing with my fingerless mittens would feel comfortable, I did the top of a small oak tree, then turned and looked down the lane where Ginger was disappearing down, and did a quickly scrawled sketch. It's ok that it's not beautiful and meticulously drawn, I can remember the scene in my mind just be looking at it. Sometimes the field sketch can have more movement and show more excitement than a carefully executed studio drawing. I also find that being able to work loosely in the field keeps my studio painting fresh and lively looking.
Just me in my dad's old wool hunting coat that I treasure, using the fingerless mitten ok. I picked up this pair in England at a regular clothes store at the mall, I made sure they had wool in them, and I like the dark brown color (to hide the dirt of course silly!). At this point I think my fingers were cold, sometimes I worked with the top pulled back and sometimes closed. I'm using a waterbrush here and watercolors, I put my kit in a new bag to try out, an over the shoulder binder type thing, but no room for apples or water bottles. Extra things had to go in the back secret pouch on the hunting jacket, made for carrying dead birds that the hunter (dad) would shoot. It's actually a handy pouch...I slid my sketchbook in there when I would get moving on my hike.
This is a page with a simple color study of the red bark on bushes and the little fern heads coming up through the snow. Their forms, almost silhouette because they're so dark, are wonderful to study.

The photo above shows a leaf I found in a tiny birds nest that was tucked into a tangled bush. It's small things like this that if you take time to notice the subtle beauty your enjoyment of the natural world and simple walks would be much more memorable. This leaf is a simple shape, but I love the mixture of subtle colors, there's a promise of green there that makes me think of spring, it's almost as if the green was frozen from the fresh times of summer. The pattern of the veins and cells is really something too, the wet sheen on it's surface reflecting a cool light.
Then turn the same leaf over and it's a whole other leaf! This side has a network of raised veins showing, like fine meshwork netting and the contrast of the color of vein to leaf is at once noticed. The fall like colors are not showing on this side. When you pick something up, turn it over and explore everything about it; if you draw it, you will study it deeply, noting it's every interesting detail. Sometimes this is good to do once you get back home and can sit in the warmth and take time to study it.
Here's another nest I found that almost looks like it has an ice cream scoop for an egg waiting to be hatched by the warm spring sun. (It'll have to wait awhile still!) Walking in winter is a good time to look for birds nests, just look at bushes or trees for clumps of dark areas, usually made by leaves and small branches. It's fun to look closely at them, how the tiny branches are laid criss cross and woven, and imagine two birds picked up ever single twig and made that. Some nests are tiny things..some larger and could even be for grey squirrels. I don't ever disturb the nests...I feel they are there to be used somehow by other creatures, mice, bugs, etc. and I just let it alone. I will carefully pull some leaves out of a nest to see what the cup might look like.
Now this page has notes you can read, but I'll explain a bit more. I went to a part of my land that has huge old oak trees on it, and one in particular that is dead. This dead tree had all kinds of funguses growing on it and was great to study.
I learned something new that I didn't expect, there was an interesting type of fungus growing on the underside of all the large branches. It was a beautiful natural yellow with some orangey colors in it, but very muted. The funny thing was I noticed the snow beneath it had yellow spots following the branches, NO Ginger didn't do that! haha...but as the snow piled on top of the branches melted, the yellow color in the fungus was dripping down to the ground. I wonder if the Indians or settlers used that as a color for something?
Here's a close up, if anyone can help me identify this I'd be grateful. I looked it up in my mushroom and fungus books but can't find it specifically.
This fungus is as far as I can tell, a "Redbelt" shelf fungus. I did a painting in the field while looking at it and looked it up when I got home. (The painting is below). The odd thing was, as closely as I thought I looked at this, I still missed something interesting. When I got home and uploaded my photos, I noticed on some close ups there were little blackish bugs crawling all over the place!! Ewww....I have to admit, I like studying bugs, but the idea that there were bugs all over this fungus and tree and I didn't know it kind of made me uneasy! But the fascinating thing was that there were bugs out doing their thing in the middle of the winter! You would be surprised at what you'll see on a mild winter day!At this point, at the end of my hike after being out two hours, my toes were frozen and getting numb. This is when the idea of hot cocoa creeps into my mind and Ginger's happy face asking, "Can we go home yet?" starts to distract me.
This last page I finished at home while drinking that hot cocoa; the tree and fungus I did in the field. I brought home a stick with neat fungus growing on it, the leaf I photographed and a dead leaf. This stick was very interesting to look at under a magnifying glass, the black fungus was shiny and the rose colored had a velvety sheen almost. I made a stab at identifying the rose colored as Hypoxylon Fragiforme, any experts out there can verify this? I added color notes too so you could see what paints I used.
I hope you enjoyed our hike today in the winter chill! Sign up your email in the right column to recieve updates when I post new things. Happy Hiking!

Monday, January 19, 2009

"English Wetlands" 1-19-09

Today I painted this miniature watercolor of some wetlands in England. It measures only 2.25" x 4.25", yes it's a wee tiny thing! I have some pictures from England I want to work from sitting on my kitchen table; so this morning as my oatmeal and coffee got cold, I did this little painting.
Here's a picture of one of my tiny travel kits, this one is set up with my 'Altoids' watercolor kit. I have small watercolor brushes that I cut the handles off of so they are short and fit in my kit. The watercolor kit or box is stuck into a metal pencil case that I can use to mix my colors and hold the paper and watercup at the same time. It's a great little set up, and I like keeping it handy at the table. I did the Snowy Egret in the last post using this kit, but just drew with my inktense watersoluble pencil, not watercolors.
This painting will be up for sale soon in my Fine Art Gallery Blog, please email me if you'd like to make an offer for it unframed, ready to mail!

"Snowy Egret" 1-17-09

This is a miniature painting of a Snowy Egret done in Inktense Watersoluble Ink Pencil, black. It's very small, 2.25" x 3.25" and I used just water and a small brush to wet the pencil as I worked. I wanted to keep it fresh looking with pencil scribbles showing and blotches of ink. I like the dynamics of that, reminds me more of nature sometimes rather than a perfectly and meticulously painted peice.

When you work with inktense pencils you can either rub at the lines with a wet brush to eliminate the pencil marks or brush lighter to leave them there. Also if you draw on wet paper be forwarned it will draw very dark and quite permanent! The properties of these pencils are such that if you let the worked area dry it will be more permanent than watercolor pencils or watercolor. You can work over it without lifting the colors. I enjoy their boldness and the mixture of water media and dry media.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nature Sketching and Painting Classes

Indoor or Field Classes

Join Naturalist Artist guide Mary McAndrew in sketching, painting and experiencing nature through art.

Mary McAndrew (716) 741-4544

Come explore nature with me as we work indoors or out from real nature subjects and photos. Whether it's a weekly class or one day workshop we’ll learn drawing from life techniques that will improve your artistic skills in the field and how to draw from photos in the studio. We'll learn how to identify subjects in nature and how to draw them. We’ll learn foundation drawing skills and how to use pencil, color pencil, watercolor pencil and watercolors. I’ll also introduce NEW materials on the market (water soluble graphite and the waterbrush) and how to use them. This is a fun class that will teach you how to capture nature on paper and help bring your skills to a new level.

I can offer my class to your group, whether it's school children or retirement homes, everyone loves my classes and has a good time learning! Please call me if you'd like to talk about the possibilities of what we can arrange.

What we’ll do in class:

  • Create your own Nature Journal (mostly for field classes but we can do this for indoor class also).
  • Create your own Art Kit.
  • Work with pencil, color pencil, watercolor, watercolor pencil, ink, watersoluble graphite.
  • Learn how to do studies of plants, flowers, birds, leaves, trees, clouds, name it!
  • Identify local wildflowers, plants, birds, trees and more from our sketches using field guides.
  • Introduction to landscape drawing and painting
  • Learn basic drawing skills– value, shape, texture, gesture, shadow and light
  • Learn how to see “Simple Shapes” + use “Comparative Measurements”.

my email:

Adults and Children Welcome in ALL my classes!!

email me to inquire, I'd love to talk to you about our next adventure!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Rydal Water and Cote How B+B" 9-11-08

After a long night time drive from Muncaster, I arrived at Rydal Water and settled into my room at Cote How Bed and Breakfast. I had only one day to explore as I spent an extra day under Muncaster's spell. I spent the entire day hiking, taking photos, sketching, talking to people and video taping. Every few steps I had to stop and exclain "wow"..."oh!"..."beautiful!"...I couldn't stop taking pictures. I wish I had a week so I could really go out to draw and paint. I'll do work from the photos in the studio and try to return there perhaps to teach a class as we hike around the lake?
After a wonderful breakfast at the Cote How b+b, I came down a path and this is the view of the lake as I approached. The day had a promise of rain; I had my rain gear in my backpack, some snacks bought on the way to Rydal, bottle of water, and extra art supplies. My video camera was hanging from my waist in handy reach, 35mm around my neck, and my art kit hanging from my waist also. Umm...I felt a little like a pack horse but believe me I tried to keep it light! I always try to not carry too much, my back just can't take it.

Sometimes the path veers away from the lake but always followes along through woods and over hills. Every gate I came to was set in a different scene, mood and lighting. I saw wooden gates and metal, all attached to ancient stone walls with lush green moss on anthing that wasn't moving!

Once I got out and walked next to the lake, I did a really quick sketch looking across to the other side. I put color notes on the sketch and wrote about some nice walkers I met along the way.
Another gate, this one is for the cows who are lazily lounging along the lake. I put a video clip at the end of this post that shows this view with the wall. Can you see the other side across the water? That's where I'm eventually headed, this hike today will take me around the entire Rydal Water lake. one said the hike was super easy! This is one part of my walk that took me up the mountain on the other side of the lake. Sometimes I was following a dry creek bed for a path.
After that part of the hike I smartly decided to sit and have lunch, maybe it was a cover so when people walked by they wouldn't notice my heavy breathing! haha...I sat and did a micron pen sketch of the gate on the path. I added notes about color and things so I could remember later if I do a painting. Just as I finished the sketch my favorite little European Robin landed on the gate! I had to sketch him in.
I'm on the other side of the lake now...looking back and down the valley at the sheep in the fields. They were everywhere, wandering about even on the paths were I was walking.

Along the way I met all kinds of nice people, this is a group of photographers from Scotland. I knew they'd be friendly if I chatted with them, I have friends in Buffalo who go shooting and they love talking shop. As we talked standing along the valley stone wall, a friendly European Robin came and started looking for handouts. One of the group put some crumbs out and we became instant friends with the little bird! Here's a picture taken with my tiny camera on zoom, not so great for clarity, but it works!
I love when you're hiking along and if you keep your eyes open, really take notice of what you see, you may see something almost underfoot, literally! I was chatting with an older gentleman while up on the far side of the mountain, a good thing to do to catch your breath. I pointed out a dung beetle crawling along on the ground. I took lots of's just great to look at later and notice all the cool things you don't see at the time. His feet had long 'toe' parts, his antennae were a beautiful color with several parts to it, his legs a gorgeous deep purple. When I looked at him from above he was just like the ancient scarabs the Egyptians used in their jewelry. Ok..yes, he's still a dung beetle, as I studied him...he crawled directly across the path and found..umm...dung! I spared you the picture of that!
This I did while up at the highest point, looking down at the b+b I came from. I stradled a cold, damp stone wall and tried to sit on my coat. I had to hang one leg over the side towards the valley, it was a pretty big drop off. People passed by and I just tried to do my best with my small set of oil pastels, smearing the clouds as the weather changed and mist came in.

This quick sketch was done on the fly...the weather was changing and I was a little worried about how long it would take me to finish my hike. I did take pictures so I could do a little color study later, if I can I'll post it.
And this is the last page of my sketchbook for today that I wrote while at the Badger Pub. After my hike I freshened up at the b+b then walked the back path to cross over the bridge to the pub. The dinner was excellent and when 9pm rolled around, we were invited to go out back of the pub to watch the badgers get fed! I counted at least nine of them! It was really cool, my only experience with badgers was when I was a zookeeper, his name was Boris! You had to keep a shovel between you and him to keep from being nipped!
I hope you enjoy the video clip below of the lake from my hike. It was a fantastic walk that has filled my memory with wonderful things. I hope you come along with me on the rest of my journey in England!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Muncaster Castle Day Three, The Owl Centre" 9-10-08

My third day at Muncaster was so full, I did two posts to cover it, this is the second half!

The following pictures are all from the World Trust Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle on September 9th in the late afternoon after a busy day filled with hiking and exploring the castle. At the end of my day I walked around the owl yard and sketched a little...I was quite tired so I didn't sketch too much! It was raining gently so I limited myself to a few brown watercolor pencils and watersoluble graphite pencils, a brown micron pen and a sepia micron pen. I listed the owls of England on my sketchbook page; Long Earred Owl, Short Earred Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, White Breasted Barn Owl.Above is a Buzzard that is being brought out to take part in the Bird of Prey show they put on everyday behind the castle.
This is a Buffy Fish Owl, they have a funny sort of look with their 'ears' flopping out to the sides many times.
This is a Mackinder's Eagle Owl...the Eagle Owls are some of the largest owls in the world. I just love the sleepy look of this bird...I really want to do a painting of this one!
This gorgeous bird is the Oriental Bay Owl; I just love it's patterns and colors! I feel another painting coming on!

This is a video of Red Tailed Kites flying around in their pen. Such a beautiful bird, it's centres like this one that help educate people about Birds of Prey so they won't kill them in the wild or take their eggs.

"Muncaster Castle Day Three, Morning Hike and Castle" 9-10-08

I started this busy day by meeting my host Patrick and spent the entire morning walking the property with him. We left my backpack in a tiny little room with a tiny door to the outside of the castle and a spiral staircase that went up. Here he is standing in front of the castle looking out over the valley.
Below is the view we had that morning of the valley below the castle.
We went out into the garden, then into the woods and followed many paths and sometimes left it for the woods, Patrick knew it all like the back of his hand. This 1800 acres was his backyard!
A beautiful magical path.
Above a most gigantic Sycamore tree, the trees here are old and immense. Their canopy spans huge areas that Patrick said was a problem for the Rhododendrons trying to get light from below!
Below Patrick showed me that to tell the type of Rhododendron you flip the leaves over and look at the underside! His Rhododendrons are from all over the world and he keeps records of all their growth habits, failures and successes. He is a true master gardener.
We wound our way up the mountain, sometimes catching a glimpse of the valley through the trees, and then before you knew it a gate appeared before us.
This is the gate from the other's called a kissing gate and is designed to keep livestock from pushing the gate open but people can easily swing it one way the back the other to allow them through.
Then I looked up and this is what I saw! The Irish Sea!! Wow, how amazing it was...this part of England looks out to the Isle of Man and past it Ireland. It was such a wonderful surprise to come out of the woods and an open expanse of beaches and water!
This is a road that leads to an old church on the castle grounds.
This is a view looking back down the terrace at the castle, it was extremely wide and immensely long.
This view is looking up the valley away from the castle, it gives me a chill even now to remember how it felt to stand there looking at such beauty.
These pictures of the paintings I actually took this morning as we prepared to leave the castle. Patrick had some things to attend to and I took some shots while I waited. I love portraits and these were incredible, some were by Gainsborough, Titian and Reynolds.
Just look at how dark and rich the colors in this man's face looks! I think he was a Pennington.