Monthly Archives: April 2010

Jack in the Pulpit Sketch

Happy Earth Day! My gift to you? A Jack in the Pulpit sketch…

Jack in the Pulpit watercolor sketch

I live in the Midwest which is not a very exotic place, but this plant, although native, is very exotic to me. I love the shape and the stripes it possesses. It is most dramatic where I found it; in a woodland setting amongst last year’s oak leaves which were scattered about the forest floor. What a wonderful encounter!

Here is the actual photo. These guys were pretty small, maybe 6 inches tall. I found them at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs, IL.

Miracles are unfolding all around us and I am blessed to have found some.


Oh the Blessings of Spring Sketch

spring birdhouse watercolor sketch

The redbuds flaunt above,
While the bluebells boast below.
As if a competition, a race to allure the viewer…
I the observer, I reap the benefits.
Standing in awe, with nothing to match,
I am swiftly humbled.
C. Kane

Today, I had the opportunity to visit Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, formerly known as Camp Sagawau. What a dramatic scenery taking place as we speak in the forest preserves right now. At this spot, a birdhouse hangs from a branch on a wire, in the midst of a splendid spring display.  It stopped me in my tracks.

Is this scene the definition of spring? I do think so.

Demonstrating climax throughout the year, it is but two brief seasons: spring and autumn. I will not take for granted the mysteries displayed, but will soak in all that surrounds me and trap that memory for all of my existence.

Let’s Paint a Spring Trail!

This is going to be a step-by-step demonstration on how to do a watercolor sketch.

Sketches are quicker and looser than paintings. It’s great to make a sketch when you just want to get the main idea down without a ton of detail. You can easily take your watercolor journal and watercolor paints on the trail with you while hiking. This sketch however, I did at home from a photo:

Here is my reference photo. What a beautiful spring day we have here, after a very long winter it is eagerly welcomed.

Step 1: I taped my cold press watercolor paper down and made a drawing with a #2 pencil.

Step 2: I always like to start at the top and work my way down. For the sky, I used manganese blue. For the purple trees I used permanent rose and a yellow-green for highlights on the green trees. They started to mix and melt together and I don’t care. I really like this actually because when you look into the far distance colors do blend together! This is an example of being “loose” with your sketch.

Step 3: Next, while everything was still wet I painted some green trees with sap green watercolor paint.

Step 4: When things start to dry paint more trees with sap and the field. There were a few patches of a red/brown color in the field, I used country brick and just made splotches. Remember, this is just a sketch…I’m not looking to be exact.

Step 5: For the trail, paint the inside with Naples yellow, but paint the outside of the trail burnt sienna. Leave a lot of white space to represent bright light and leave a little breathing room. When a watercolor painting has no white space, it feels “heavy” and dull.

Step 6: In this step paint the fence with a mixture of raw umber and indigo blue. The lightest part should face the sun, a more concentrated mixture with less water can be painted for the shadows. I also used raw umber for the trees and twigs in the mid-ground of the painting. 

This is a close up of the two little girls that were on the trail. I am guessing they were sisters. The taller one grabbed the hand of the smaller one and made sure she hung on tight. It was very cute.
I used a very small rigger brush for the figures. In my original reference photo, the girls had blond hair, but with the amount of yellow I already painted in my sketch I felt brunettes would be better. Remember you are the artist, you have an artistic license and you can make changes if you like.

Step 7 Final: Here is the final piece. I added darker shades to the purple trees and green trees by adding a little indigo blue to my original paint colors. This day was very sunny and because of that many tree shadows fell across the trail. For the shadows I mixed blue and crimson and a touch of raw umber.

“Sisters on a Spring Trail”

After a long winter, I was very happy to capture this spring moment in a watercolor sketch.

Spring Woodland Wildflowers

Spring wildflowers are in bloom right now on the forest floor, but you have to hurry for they do not last long. Why? Spring wildflowers are short-lived because during the beginning of the season, the tree’s leaves are not developed which allows much sunlight to penetrate the forest floor. Once the leaves mature, the forest will become shaded and growth will not be tolerated. By the way, as soon as the tree’s bud begins to explode with growth (and they just started to, these last few days) it will not take long to hide the sun. So hurry!

If you cannot get out, for whatever reason…I will bring the wildflowers to you!

Spring Beauty


Dutchman's Breeches

Squirrel Corn

Siberian Squill


I hope you like these little spring wildflowers! I’m thinking this weekend we will do a step-by-step wildflower painting!

Happy Spring!

Turtlehead Lake Birds

Oh boy do I love spring when the birds return! It’s so exciting to see a bird you have never seen before or one that you haven’t seen in nearly a year! Well, that’s what happened when I visited Turtlehead Lake in region 8 of the Cook County Forest Preserves yesterday evening.

My first thrilling sight was a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks. They were located in the grass at the end of the parking lot, right in the beginning of the orange trail. One had the most beautiful song and the other was pacing back and forth next to the singer. It almost looked as if it was trying to get the attention of the other meadowlark. At times the attention getter would lift in the air, beat its wings in mid-air and land again. No pictures, sorry.

Next we have a male Yellow Rumped Warbler:

Not the greatest picture, but you get the point.

Next, I believe I have a tiny Ruby Crowned Kinglet:

This little guy was tiny and flying very quickly from twig to twig, not resting for more than 2 seconds. It was frustrating trying to get his picture.

My meadowlark will stay here for the summer, but the warblers and kinglet will move on, only migrating through for a short time. I’m sure glad I had the chance to see them!