Monthly Archives: June 2009

English Plantain Weed Sketch

OK, so my obsession is nature. When I find something I’m not familiar with I sketch it and then I diligently seek out information on it. I cannot rest until I learn. So when I found this (and I never think it is unique or rare, I just don’t know what it is…), I tried to find the answer myself.

Here is how I identify things I’m not familiar with:

  • type a detailed description in google images
  • find the closest one that resembles it
  • re-research that particular subject (name) to verify
  • look in all of my field books for that species
  • bingo

English Plantain watercolor sketch

This is a weed growing in my yard which I will not let my Son mow over. I’m pretty sure it is an English Plantain , a common weed. This morning there was a sweat bee exploring the head of one with the most petal shoots.

Everybody can learn in this fashion! It doesn’t take a 40K college bill to educate yourself (in America, we have to go bankrupt trying to get an education). If you see something and you want to learn about it…do a little free research. If you are determined enough…nothing can stop you. Find ways to make it happen. If you are passionate enough nothing is going to stop you!

english plantain watercolor close-up

So after not knowing what the heck this was, with a little free research I discovered it is an English Plantain weed, which is “alien” according to my Peterson Wildflower Guide, which means it is “Foreign, but successfully established in our area by man, or as an escape.”

Welcome my little alien, to my yard! Even though you are common now and many scientists already know who you are…I just discovered you today! I really like you too!


Plume Moth Sketch

This morning I walked out of my house to go to work and just look who greeted me with a good morning surprise!

It’s a plume moth! I think it is a Cnaemidophorus rhododactylus Plume Moth, but if you can’t pronounce it like myself, than don’t worry about it!

Well, I was so excited that he came for a visit…and I never think anything is by chance…but a scheduled blessing (yeah, it happens), that I decided to study him the best way I know how…sketch him!!!

plume moth sketch - watercolor

It’s amazing how intimately you can learn something if you just try to draw it. Even if you think you can not draw, but love science, just try sketching your subject. You will have to look over every inch very slowly. Talk to yourself in you head, for example ask yourself: “Where are his darkest/lightest features, what markings or spots characterizes this species from another, where is the light coming from, where is the shadow casting, what is that shadow color…blue? purple?” You will be amazed at how well you become acquainted. The next time you encounter your subject, maybe years later, your memory will recall the information thanks to the few minutes you spent drawing!

Let’s Go Fishing Sketch

Let's Go Fishing Sketch, Centennial Park - Tinley Pk, IL

I did this sketch a few weeks ago and forgot all about it. It is from a sunny afternoon at Centennial Park of Tinley Park, IL. This man shown here is enjoying some fishing beside the willow trees. He did not know I was a few feet away sketching him during his chosen past time.

This sketch reminds me of my Grandpa Rich, who is my most favorite fisherman ever. Today my Grandpa is in his 90’s and in ill health. He is the reason for my love of nature. He took me hiking, camping and fishing just about every year of my childhood.

On my first fishing experience when I was very, very small, my Grandfather took me to a Missouri state park lake. I caught a bass (I think) and he made such a grand deal over it, I felt proud. As we drove towards the exit of the park however, I looked at my fish in the cooler at started to cry. I was thinking of the fish’s feelings and didn’t want him to be in pain or on my dinner plate. My Grandpa suddenly stopped the car in the middle of the street and asked what was wrong. At first I wasn’t going to tell him because I thought I would disappoint him but then I confessed. Instead of telling me I was “silly” or yelling, he quietly took the cooler, left the car in the middle of the street and walked to the lake to release him. That is why my Grandpa Rich is my favorite fisherman.

The next few years I “got over it” and was not opposed to fishing but I never ever forgot what Grandpa Rich did that day. He didn’t reason with me or tell me I was ridiculous (which I was), he just considered my feelings before his own and that’s how he lives his life today always considering others before himself. How powerful grandparents can be in the lives of their grandchildren, look at me I’m remembering this story 30 years later!

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly

Look what greeted me in the parking lot of Walmart!

Isn’t he beautiful??? He/She is a Halloween Pennant Dragonfly, named for its festive Halloween colors (yellow, orange, brown). He flew right over my head and landed on this car antenna.

I was in the store for about 45 minutes, when I returned to my car he was back again on the same car. Man, he really likes that antenna! Maybe we will have to do a sketch of him!

Let’s Paint a Baby Robin!

Oh Boy! Remember the photo of the little baby robin that we took last week?

Let’s make a little painting of him so we can preserve his cute baby features. I decided to use Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils for baby robin on hot press 140lb. paper. I’ve never had much luck with watercolor pencils because they always seem to hold the scribble lines. I don’t really like that. Anyway Cathy Johnson, a wonderful artist, teacher and writer, recommends Albrecht Durers for their “buttery application” and wonderful soluble quality (less scribble lines). For the most part I like them, however apply too much water to some of the colors and you lose most of the color!
So let’s get started….

Step 1: Make a sketch on hot press 140lb. watercolor paper in pencil. I’m never concerned with exact # of feathers or their placement. Don’t stress yourself out with all that information. If I want a photo I’ll just take a picture…wait I did already…ha, ha, ha!

Step 2: I started with the bright yellow of his beak adding orange and brown to suggest depth inside. Next I took a dark gray color and sketched in his head and neck. Using medium blue and dark blue I drew on top of the gray. Remember to leave some white space for breathing room. Don’t go crazy and cover everything! In these few steps we are just drawing we are not applying water yet.

Step 3: Moving my way down and not using water yet, I am applying more colors in layers. Think lighter first and then darker after with white paper peeking through for the brightest light. I love his russet color belly.

Step 4: Oh hear comes the fun part! Take a clean wet brush and touch your lightest colors first. Important note: clean your brush several times!!! Do not touch one color and then the next without cleaning your brush, you will create mud.

Step 5:Now, I’m not satisfied with the contrast of my baby birdie, so I need a few more layers. Only do this when your first layer has completely dried. Sometimes you can layer with the same color and sometimes layer with a different color. He’s coming along now!

Step 6:Background….dun..dun..dunnnn! I know many of you struggle with backgrounds. How do I know? It’s a really popular search on search sites. People are not sure, “Should I do the background first? Should I do it last? Should it be detailed? Should it be simple?” Don’t stress over it! I usually do my background last but that’s not a golden rule. Sometimes I think, let me concentrate on the main subject first, because if I really screw that up, I won’t even have to worry about a background! Ha, Ha, Ha!
I also usually do not have a detailed background because I do not want it to be too distracting and take away from the subject.

In my photo little baby robin is on the ground with a whole bunch of maple seeds, leaves and such. I think it is too distracting, baby robin is too delicate to have all that “noise” in the back. I will do a simple brown background. It’s so simple I only used two colors, light brown and dark brown drown. Just lightly scribble it in and wet.

Baby Robin Love original watercolor

Step 7 Final: Here he is all done! I finished him off with a black micron pen to bring out his features. I know his color is a little exaggerated, he really wasn’t that blue…but I think the bright colors reflect his young personality. Young and fresh.

“Baby Robin Love”
image: 6.4X4.5
off white mat outside dimensions: 10×8
no frame
I will pay for shipping and tax!

click here to purchase.  It will take you to my available watercolor page.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how the little baby robin was made with watercolor pencils!