Monthly Archives: August 2008

What Am I?

UPDATE: Based on some unscientific web-surfing research, I’m pretty sure this is a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth! Here is some info and a few pictures.

Whatever this thing is, it’s huge! Maybe the size of a small hummingbird or large butterfly. It’s huge, scary, but fascinating! I’m guessing it’s some kind of moth. It has the markings of a bee, but way too large. I asked my Mom to take these pictures, which she happily did…until it CHARGED at her! He, he, he…funny now!

Here is a close up of the back. It was about 6pm at Lake Katherine of Palos Heights, IL, when this picture was taken, I don’t know if that helps any. If any smart person out there in cyberspace can share some knowledge…I would be very thankful!

Thank you!


Sky Over Maple

I had maple syrup over my pancakes this morning….this picture is the sky over Maple Lake yesterday.

Maple. Yum.

This picture has good composition and may be a painting one day. It might seem easy enough, but paintings with limited colors are surprisingly challenging. If a painting can’t rely on colors to make it successful, then the composition better be pretty darn good to hold the viewers interest! This picture just might have what it takes….we’ll see!

Let’s Paint Maple Lake East!

Let’s talk about the importance of using a sketch book before we paint.

Using a sketch book on a regular basis is good practice. Practice, practice, practice is just what I need. I can tell how rusty I get when I try to paint after not drawing for several weeks. YUCK! When I keep up on my drawing, I’m always amazed how the level of frustration goes down and good pieces of art are produced.

Once upon a time, I made my own nature sketch book…but then a year ago I discovered the wonderful world of blogging! I stopped sketching and started taking pictures so I can post about them on Chicago Nature Lady, just about every few days. While I still love to blog, I realized my sketch book has suffered. Now, I blog a little less and sketch a little more! Balance is the key.

Yesterday I went to Maple Lake East, part of Chicago’s Cook County Forest Preserve System.

This is what I saw. It was a beautiful day with people enjoying some fishing off the pier. At this spot I saw more nut hatches at one time than I have ever seen before! There were several darting from oak tree to oak tree, making sounds and keeping a watchful eye on me! I also saw and heard two blue jays and watched sea gulls skim the water in flight looking for dinner. I was really interested in that pier, so I decided to sketch it…

Here is how it came out. Not 100% exactly like the photo, but that’s OK, It will always remind me of how it looked while practicing my drawing skills! I used watercolor and pen and ink (micron pens). I like to note the date, time, weather conditions and what I see and hear right on the picture.

When keeping a sketch book, don’t be concerned with neatness or accuracy. It is meant to be done quick. Go easy on yourself! Oh how much fun!

Let’s Paint Goose Lake Prairie!

Remember this photo of Goose Lake Prairie? Let’s paint it.

Here’s an early tip: Get a nice glossy, large reference photo, of real good quality before you try to paint. I only paint from my computer screen when I absolutely have to. My screen is really small and my eyes bug out from that bright screen even if I dim it. Now, my home printer never has color ink because nobody will refill it, so I found a little trick…..upload your photo to, pick a nice size (at least 8×10), choose a glossy finish, pick which Walgreens to pick it up from, and pay when you get there….and it’s only 3 bucks! The best thing is, if you’re in the mood to paint they can have it ready in one hour! For some reason, we have a Walgreens on every block…just like McDonalds, so picking up a print is super convenient for me. Now, Walgreens is not paying me a thing to advertise their store, but when I know a helpful trick that works, I like to share it.

The only other thing I would advise is to put your photo in a protective clear sleeve before you start to paint. You’ll be surprised how fast you can damage the photo from a dot of turpenoid or water! I’ve done it plenty of times.

First, we make a nice under painting. I chose to crop the photo which I decided at the last minute. I realized my focal point was the white herons and the black soil, if I painted all those grass blades, the viewer might be distracted and frustrated. Let’s make viewing art pleasurable, real life is distracting enough! Notice I didn’t use a ton of pastels in the first step, actually I could have used less and would have been just fine. A little turpenoid goes a long way.

Next, with a cheap 1″ paint brush, we dip it in some turpenoid and spread the pastel around. Remember we are using Kitty Wallis paper, it allows us to get it wet without falling apart. Nice bold amethyst color anchors our painting. Good beginning.

In the third step, we overlap with more subtle colors. In the sky first, distant trees and grasses next, and then in the water.

Here comes the fun part. Move the surface of the water with your finger! Blend it horizontally from side to side. Don’t cover up all of the bold amethyst color or your painting will feel heavy.

Finally we add our heron friends and an island of grasses. There were four herons that day, but an odd number of objects is always safe to use in artwork, it makes it more interesting. Don’t forget their little white reflections in the water too! Oh yeah…just like your trees should have “sky holes”, don’t forget your grasses should have “water holes”, they need to breath too.

This painting is titled: Prairie Oasis, and is 14×11. This painting is a gift for my mom, who is also a nature lover and it will always remind her of our fun adventures at Goose Lake Prarie!

Man Made Beauty

Ooooh Ahhhhh!

My trusty digital camera took this kick butt picture of Buckingham Fountain in Downtown Chicago a few nights ago. What a summer sight! Every Wednesday and Saturday night, the city provides fireworks at Navy Pier which can be seen from Buckingham Fountain. Last Wednesday, my family, some neighbors, and a bunch of neighborhood kids took the train downtown to experience this summer time treat. Not only can you enjoy fireworks but the fountain displays in several illuminated colors as it rhythmically spays in tune to some fantastic American songs!