Winter brings out the true character of a tree, exposing every branch, every twig. It reveals the very essence, divulges hidden secrets, and leaves you in a trance as you try to follow one branch with your eyes…from the trunk to the very tip of its tiniest twig. It’s a challenging maze and no two trees are the same.
It is perhaps that challenge of recreating the spirit of the tree on paper which brings me so much joy, but I can only fully understand it in the wintertime. Exposed and silent, it confesses that spirit and somehow I feel as if I’m communicating with its Creator.
That is the mystery of art. Although done in solitude, you are not alone. Your creativity begins a conversation with nature and with God and the best part is, they speak in return.
This apple tree had the setting sun turn selected twigs a golden yellow, while others blushed with rose, and yet a few had a cobalt glow. A downy woodpecker feasted on the suet cake at the feeder, filling up before twilight. That’s the story it told me.
On another day, I chose to study this mulberry tree by drawing in graphite with branch pencils my daughter gave me for Christmas.
Neat pencils! It’s like I’m drawing a branch with a branch.
This winter mulberry tree has a hard lean to the right. Most of it’s branches grew from the right side. To the left of the mulberry tree is a thick evergreen tree. There is struggle for sunlight, resulting in the mulberry’s shape and that’s the story the mulberry tells me.
Let’s go out and paint nature, but more importantly let’s hear the stories nature is trying to tell us. Enjoy.
Posted in art, Artwork, God, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor sketching
Tagged apple tree, art, Artwork, branch pencils, drawing, mulberry, painting, sketch, sketchbook, tree, watercolor, winter
Goldfinch feathers molt into a drab olive green/brown color for winter. Many people upon seeing them assume they are looking at sparrows. Not a few believe goldfinches migrate for the winter because they no longer see that bright, brilliant yellow signature color. Not so! They’re here in their inconspicuous attire still seeking thistle.
In case you cannot find them this winter, as my Christmas gift to you, you may copy this artwork by right clicking on the watercolor above and selecting “Save image as”.
Actual photo of very hungry goldfinches outside my very dirty window. He, he, he.
Fern-Like Frost outside my clean window. Here is proof of the magic of winter… One can zoom in and study patterns in the frost for hours. Well, I sure can!
May your holidays be filled with peace and love.
Posted in american goldfinch, art, Artwork, Birds, Chicago, Free Download, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, goldfinch, painting, sketchbook, watercolor
The Chicago area has been hit by two significant snow storms since winter started. I love snow. Not only is it soothing to watch as it descends, but it dresses the winter trees in their formal attire. How beautiful. Each and every one dazzles.
So, let’s paint a winter tree during an enchanted nighttime snow storm!
I do not have a reference photo but the technique will work with any deciduous winter tree.
Step 1: Draw your tree on a 140lb coldpress watercolor paper with a pencil. My paper size is 6×9. The focal point is the tree itself so in the composition law of thirds, I wanted the tree to fill 2/3 of the paper.
Step 2: Using masking fluid, paint where the snow would land on the branches. I covered the tops of almost every branch. Let completely dry. If you do not wait until it is completely dry, you will ruin your brush. You can make sure it is dry by lightly touching it after about 10 minutes.
Step 3: We are going to paint the sky wet on wet. Using a 1″ flat brush with clean water, wet the paper in the area of the sky and the tree. Brush right over the dried masking fluid. Make sure you do not skip around and leave dry spots. When the shine on the paper disappears, paint ultramarine blue on top and bottom of sky and mauve in the middle. Let the colors blend and touch. You’re literally laying down a few brush strokes and stepping away. Do not over work this.
While the paper is still wet, sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on the paper and let completely dry. When dry tilt your paper and discard the salt.
Step 4: Paint the tree starting at the bottom and work your way up. I used a medium round brush. If you look at the base of the tree I started with a mixture of sepia and ultramarine. As I work my way up, I added mauve to that sepia/ultramarine mixture, then viridian green, lastly at the top alizarin crimson.
Using a small round brush, paint in smaller branches repeating the colors we already used.
Step 5: Rub the masking fluid off with your finger. Paint shadows under the tree using the same sky color on top.
Step 6 Final: Using a small round brush paint a light mixture (meaning less pigment and more water) of prussian blue where the snow touches the branches, making a fine line. This is the shadow color of the snow on the tree.
When everything is dry, take a #3 black micron pen and draw tiny branches/twigs coming from the small branches. Outline the trunk and main branches of the tree to make it stand out.
I hope you enjoyed this free step-by-step demonstration of how to paint a nighttime winter snowstorm.
If you would like to purchase a greeting card ($4.95) or archival print click below. Thank you!
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, nature, watercolor painting, weather
Tagged art, Artwork, Christmas, free step by step painting demonstration, how to, how to paint, how to paint a winter tree, nature, night watercolor scene, nighttime painting, painting, snow, tree, watercolor, winter, winter tree
Green Valley Forest Preserves
32°F mostly sunny, brisk wind
When my nerves become anxious and I recognize that prickly, edgy feeling in my spirit, I know it’s time to distance myself from society. It’s my adult time-out. One I most willingly take.
I escape to a little corner of nature where I am actually alone. The chill in the air is welcomed, even though I’ve been spoiled with unseasonably warm weather in my area, that has now passed. The brisk wind makes my cheeks red and tells my flesh it’s back to the business of winter.
As I stand under the cold sun, I hear that familiar creaky trill of sandhill cranes. I look up and scan the sky. I know I’m looking for tiny specks, as their call is much louder and larger than their bodies, considering the height at which they fly, but for the life of me I cannot locate them. I’m glad I’m alone, for a stranger would have thought it odd, this human just standing still staring at a blank sky…no matter, I so desperately wanted to see them it would have been worth the embarrassment. My attempts fail. That’s fair. I will permit nature to have this mystery.
Walking on the trail I notice several galls on dried goldenrod. They are numerous. I love these “imperfections” in nature. The goldenrod with galls are actually more attractive to me than without. I inspect the gall and find a pin hole near the bottom. Escape route?
Just then I hear rustlings above me in the tree. I ignore it for a while, supposing it’s just the wind. But no, it is not the wind. It is a red squirrel. On first inspection it is as if he is eating dried leaves still remaining on the tree. He grabs it, places it in his mouth, crunches as he chews, while crumbs fall from his mouth to the ground. Why is he eating leaves, I wonder? However, I squint my eyes and realize, those aren’t leaves, but dried maple seeds…clusters of them. And that was the rustling I presumed was the wind, dried maple leaves scraping together by the vibration of the red squirrel climbing from branch to branch. He continues for quite a while. Eat on my friend. Winter means business.
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, hiking, nature, Nature Sketching, sketch book, sketchbook, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, dupage county forest preserve, green valley forest preserve, hiking, journal, nature, painting, sketchbook, watercolor
Weathered but strong for the moment
A safe space made by man.
Time and the elements will destroy
But God in the heart of man, a safe space forevermore.
For no force against can deploy.
My watercolor was made from this picture I took at CITW of a birdhouse on the fringe of a field with dried goldenrods still bobbing their heads in the breeze. It was peaceful to look at and I contemplate the story behind…think of the hands that made the birdhouse and the successful broods of birds now alive and flourishing because of this man made safe space.
Posted in art, Artwork, God, nature, Paint His Love, poetry, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor painting, watercolor sketching, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, birdhouse watercolor, God, nature, poetry, sketchbook, watercolor