Monthly Archives: September 2008

Let’s Paint Pokeberry Poison!

On the Little Red Schoolhouse trail, I found Pokeberry! Pokeberry is a weed that has a hypnotic bright fuchsia stem and beautiful berries, but do note that Pokeberry = poison to mammals so do not eat!!! The toxins found in the leaves, stem and seeds can cause death…which is why our painting will be called, Pokeberry Poison.

Here is a picture of the plant:

It may be hard to see against the background, but our pokeberry plant has intriguing autumn leaves, holes and all.

Let’s paint it:

Step 1: Make a sketch with 01 Black Micron Pen. Be loose, keep your lines open, don’t enclose every shape…it just looks better and makes your painting lighter.

Step 2: I’m using Derwent Inktense Pencils, a permanent watercolor pigment in the form of pencils, activated by water. Today we only need a few colors; apple green, deep indigo, violet, fuchsia, sherbet lemon, and sun yellow. Remember when you were a kid and played with those painting coloring books, where all you needed was a cheap brush and some water? This is similar, but you have to make the picture now.
Hot dog! How much fun!

Step 3: Filling in with some more color, remember to leave some white space for breathing room. The Pokeberry plant was really intense with color, so don’t skimp out on pure bright pigment for this painting. Most of the time using such colors together would make you nauseous, but for this time of year it is fitting.

Finally, the fun part! Add water with a clean brush. Make sure to clean your brush every time you move to the next color, so you don’t create mud. Keep your colors fresh! I also took a 05 Black Micron pen and made some more defining lines around some leaves and berries.
I also want to talk about the importance of bug holes. Bug holes keeps it real. Nobody is perfect and our imperfections makes us unique. Perfect people are scary because you know something is not right…nobody is perfect. An imperfection tells a story and everybody has an interesting story. Don’t leave imperfections out of your painting!

This original watercolor painting, Pokeberry Poison is 4.5×6.5 and is matted (antique white) to fit a 8×10 frame.

It is available for $40 plus free shipping.
Click here to purchase. You do not need a pay-pal account.

I hope you enjoyed this demonstration!


Little Red Schoolhouse Fun

Today was a nice day to visit the Little Red Schoolhouse of Willow Springs, IL. There is a lot of construction going on around here, a two story educational building is being built right next to the schoolhouse. Parking is a little limited, but still manageable. I am a little concerned about the new siding of the schoolhouse, it’s not red, but burgundy or wine colored. The Little Burgundy Schoolhouse???

Growing a few feet from the schoolhouse, I found some beautiful aster. I’m not exactly sure which kind….I’m guessing Flax-Leaved Aster, only because my Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers book has a similar picture with variate heads of yellow and purple just like mine. I think I’ll have to do a sketch of this soon!

Here we can see how the heavy rains have effected the trails. There is still some flooding by the bench. This lookout oversees Long John Slough. The lily pads are turning a mustard color, for autumn is clearly here. I welcome it and so does my little friend:

Can you spot my little friend? He was very brave to let me creep up for a picture!

I hope you enjoyed the Little Red Schoolhouse hike for today. Remember, autumn is here and gone in a quick flash, if you want to enjoy the season do it now. Don’t put your hike off for another day, before you know it the leaves will pass…they won’t wait for us!

Let’s Paint Crawdad Slough!

This is Crawdad Slough, part of the Palos Division of the Cook County Forest Preserve System. Crawdad is a pothole filled with water, small but beautiful. There are no designated trails from this spot, but on the first day of Autumn, I could not resist stopping in to admire the beauty of the fall color that are starting to emerge.

So let’s paint it:

Today I am using pastels on wallis museum grade pastel paper. Because I’m on location, I didn’t bring my brush or turpenoid for an underwash, so this painting is going to start and finish completely dry. First, I like to draw in my landscape by sketching it with a pastel pencil…doesn’t matter what color it is because it will be covered up real soon. I use Gioconda 36 count pastel pencils….36 mouth watering colors, O how I love to smell them in the tin box…don’t laugh.
Anyway, after you make a light sketch start on top with the sky and make your way down. I like to paint the far distant trees in a blue shade to show depth. Remember, the further away something is the cooler the color should be, also it should lack detail. Two good tips…no charge.

Next, I began to block in the shapes of some closer trees. Don’t make the great number of trees scare you when painting. It use to scare me a bunch! Make it simple and think only in terms of shapes not trees. The viewer will translate your shapes into trees latter, so take the pressure off. Variate your shapes with slightly different shades of green and autumnal colors.

Here I added distant grasses and green water. Not only is the water reflecting the green of the trees, but do you see that florescent light green line on the surface of the water? That is beautiful algae! It really was that bright color…no joke! I love it.

Finally, we paint in the foreground and add some highlights. I absolutely love cattails. Can you tell which direction the sun is facing by looking at my cattails? Yes! The sun is setting on the left, which means I’m facing North. That’s some good Girl Scouting skills right there! Anyway, the foreground is loaded with color, detail, and movement.

This painting is titled, First Day of Autumn 14×11. It will be made available on the landscape page and probably on display at the Little Red Schoolhouse Art show October 5th, see the schedule page for more information.

Hope you enjoyed the first day of autumn at Crawdad Slough!

Lucky Squirrel

This morning I had a visitor! Look who came by to my neighbors yard:

It’s a beautiful hawk!!! I took this picture right out of my dirty window. He sat on top of that swing set for a really long time, just looking left, looking right, up, down, and turned his head all the way backwards to look behind him. No doubt he was looking for breakfast, or was he?

In this picture you are witnessing a very lucky squirrel. I thought for sure I was going to see a pursuit, but nothing! Not only that, but two more squirrels walked under the hawk completely unaware that their predator was right above them! The hawk just sat there and watched them! Maybe Mr. Hawk just had breakfast or could it be that the hawk sensed me in the window and was cautious about making his move? Anyway, the hawk flew off and left some very lucky squirrels.

I’m guessing he was a Cooper’s Hawk. Common year round to the Chicago area and willing to visit neighborhood feeders for food. He did have a rounded tipped tail with black bands. He was beautiful!

How Birds Cope

After three straight days of non-stop rain, we received almost 7 inches in my area and twice+ that amount further north. The streets were beginning to flood and so was my neighbor’s yard.

My neighbor has two pole mounted feeders that he religiously fills everyday at 5am. I am grateful. I don’t wake up at 5am and I’m not that obediently self disciplined. I do however benefit from is labor! The feeders are about 20 feet from my window, so I enjoy watching the birds even when I’m too lazy to fill my own.

The birds were completely matted down with wet feathers. Poor things. They were soaked! I wondered how the birds find relief. How can they cope with three straight days of rain? Do they get sick? I’m not sure. It was interesting to watch, as they were feeding from the ground they tried real hard to avoid the puddle…walking left, then walking right, walking around the rim, picking seeds. Many were shaking their feathers like a dog shakes it’s body when completely wet, too bad it didn’t really help.

This is the last of the rainy day sketches. Today and the rest of the week we are guaranteed sun and warmth. Good news for the flooding and for the wet birdies too!