Monthly Archives: July 2010

Sketchcrawl at Little Red Schoolhouse

Today was the sketchcrawl at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. We had a very small group (2 people), but small is good when learning how to sketch and that’s exactly what we did, went out, picked a spot and did a sketch step-by-step. Here was our view:


This is Long John Slough. We liked the shape of the trees and the color of the sky and clouds.


Here is Alanna, my first non-internet student! We had a very enjoyable morning, as crickets, birds, and cicadas sang to us while we painted.


Slough Artwork by Alanna

Here is a beautiful sketch by Alanna. I think she did a very nice job, well done.


Slough Artwork by Chris

Here is my sketch. You may think that we just painted birds in the sky to include some wildlife and give our scene more excitement, but no, those geese flew at that very spot while we painted. How cool is that?


How can you beat such a beautiful inspiring view? Painting in nature is truly good therapy.

After we were done, we decided to walk the trail. We encountered lots of wildlife, including a monster…


This crawdad was HUGE (6 or 7 inches) and was standing in the middle of the trail ready to attack! He wanted to eat me, I can tell…


I saw it in his eyes! We barely escaped with our lives. (LOL)


On a happier note, this swallowtail butterfly landed on a tree, right by us and allowed us to take some pictures. How blessed we are.

My friend Sharon was going to be at this sketchcrawl and was looking forward to this day. I am not sad, nor will I be depressed, and let it discourage me from painting for I know that she was with us and that all things work for the good of those who love God…

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28

I wish to thank everyone for your kind comments about the passing of my friend. They really comforted me during a trying time.


Let’s Paint a Butterfly

This post and painting is dedicated to my beloved friend and artist companion, Sharon, who was taken away too early in life today, 07-26-2010. She always encouraged me in my art adventures and was one of my best cheerleaders.

Sharon also had incredible talent in art but had trouble finding time to settle down and paint. You may remember last December when I issued a ticket to a friend who was not practicing. That was Sharon and we had a good laugh. She did serve her ticket by the way, she came over and we painted and had lunch together. I will cherish those memories forever.

Sharon was the friend from work who brough me autumn leaves from her neighbor’s tree because she knew that I am insane for autumn and love colored leaves. She always put others before herself and constantly thought of ways to make their life better. I will miss her unending optimistic character and bubbly personality. Working 9 hours a day together, we became family, seeing each other more that we saw our own families at home. We had no idea she was sick until it was too late.

I take comfort in knowing she is in heaven and is seeing colors that we have never seen and cannot even describe. I hope she is using them in her paintings…I can’t wait to see them. [tears]

So, let’s never slow down with our talents and keep on painting and learn how to paint the question mark butterfly…


Here is our reference photo, a question mark butterfly at Papoose Lake in May 2010. How can you tell a question mark butterfly from a comma butterfly? Look at the right wing near the top, there is a marking that looks like a little dash – that’s a question mark marking. The comma does not have this mark.


Step 1: Make a sketch. I am using pencil on cold press watercolor paper.


Step 2: Mask out a thin outline at the tip of the wings using masking fluid, let dry. Paint the top half of the butterfly cad. yellow, the middle light red, and the bottom sepia. I let the colors touch and blend together, that’s OK. Let dry.


Step 3: Paint the body using sap green and a tiny bit of the light red mixture so that the green is not too saturated.


Step 4: When every thing is dry paint spots using sepia and maybe a touch of red. Don’t worry about being perfect with your spots.


Step 5: Continue to make more spots and cover thicker portions of the lower wings with sepia.


Step 6: Wet the background and paint a free splotchy background. I chose different shades of purple by mixing alizarin and cobalt. Purple represents passion and I thought it was fitting for the theme.


Step 7 Final: When everything is dry, remove the masking fluid from around the wings and clean the edges by using a clean wet brush. Outline with micron pen if you choose.

“Sharon, Be Free”

The original painting is a gift to Sharon’s sister. Her sister who has incredible sorrow also has incredible medical dept as Sharon did not have health insurance.
High quality, acid free prints of this painting is available on Fine Art America. 100% of the proceeds made from this print will forever go to Sharon’s sister to help pay for medical expenses.

Art Prints

Thank you.

My Favorite Artist

Charles Burchfield © Time Inc

Charles Burchfield (April 9, 1893 – January 10, 1967), was an American artist who enjoyed painting nature. He didn’t just paint nature, but he had a very successful way of painting nature with emotion by inventing his own symbolism. When you look at his artwork you immediately experience what he was feeling as he painted. Some of his nature paintings depict happiness, sadness, scary times, melancholy,  and euphoria.

"Night of the Equinox" (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Here is a short video c/o The New Yorker on-line, with some of Birchfield’s work.

I read a biography that as a young artist trying to sell paintings, people often overlooked them because they looked, “depressing”. I think he really loved nature as it was; thunderstorms, gray skies, pouring rain, or winter blizzards. That’s not depressing, that’s exciting…and beautiful! 
Another trait of his that I can relate to is that he didn’t like to travel. He had anxieties about being out of his element and away from his family. I understand.

Gull Sketch


Centennial Park Gull sketch

Last week I made a visit to a local retention pond, turned park and made a quick sketch. Centennial Park has a paved walking trail and a pier. The pier had several gulls and even though they are not my favorite birds (I call them parking lot rats or flying rats), I painted them anyway. 

I started on the right side of the sketchbook and made a pencil sketch before painting. On the left side I decided to paint without a pencil sketch. Sometimes that can be scary because you don’t know how things should look before you start, but that can also be a good thing because sketches tend to be more loose when not penciled down. 


up close gull sketch

Here is my little rat with wings. I kind of like him. I like him much better at Centennial Park than in the parking lot of Jewel. 😉

Grand Opening Little Red Schoolhouse Educational Center

The Little Red Schoolhouse of Willow Springs, IL, had its Educational Center grand opening today! I worked as a volunteer and was able to experience this great event up close! 


Mounted Police

Here we have one of two mounted police protecting the area. This horse had the most amazing crystal ice blue eyes…very cool! 


Native American Blessing 1

 Because this was built on tribal land, a Native American preformed a blessing with incense. 


Julie's speech

Director of the Little Red Schoolhouse speech. 


Todd Stoger speech

 Cook County President, Todd Stoger’s speech. 


Cutting Ribbon

 Here we go folks! The moment we have all been waiting for, two years actually! The ribbon is about to be cut with gigantic scissors. 


Ribbon Cut

Ribbon Cut!!! YEAY! Let’s go inside! 


Inside lower level

Here is a view inside, looking at the lower level. An indoor pond containing snapping turtles with windows to view what sits on the bottom greets you as your enter the lower level. 


Inside wildlife cages

Here we have 2 of 3 wildlife cages; screech owl and kestrel. These birds are injured and live at the center taken well care of by the staff. 


Native American Wigwam

Here is a Native American Wigwam, which is a dome shaped home. You can look inside and see how a typical wigwam was set up. 

Today was a fun and exciting day at the Little Red Schoolhouse. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend a visit to explore the new educational center, the original schoolhouse, and walk the beautiful trails. The best part…it’s FREE! FREE! FREE! Where can you go for free now a days?!?