Monthly Archives: August 2010

August Sketch Class Results

On Saturday August 28th, another successful sketch class was held at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in Willow Springs, IL. Why was it successful? Not for the size of the class, but for the experience we had; for the beauty we experienced and for nature, which surrounded us and reached out to enrich our soul. 


The first thing we noticed was the subtle signs of autumn. Just a few hints here and there, let us know what is about to occur. I can’t wait. Autumn is my favorite time of year. 


Here is the scene we decided to sketch. What caught our attention was the one single autumn tree across the slough. Sometimes I feel like that little tree, sticking out like a sore thumb, just a little different from the rest. That’s okay, it’s our differences which makes us unique. 

I’ll tell you a little story…a customer at work regularly picks up his order at my place of employment. He has a very unique and friendly personality and sort of resembles a hippy with long hair. Today, he picked up his order and I didn’t even recognize him, for he cut his hair and was wearing “professional” clothes and looked like every other person that walks through the door. Humf. I sort of miss the unique-ness about him. If it will better his career and he feels good about himself than I will be happy for him. But if he wants to look like every other green tree, than he will get lost in the crowd. Be yourself and be the orange tree. 


Here we are sketching at the look-out post over Long John Slough. I on the left and Alanna on the right, with brushes in our pockets, we are students of nature. 


Artwork by Alanna

Here is Alanna’s beautiful translation of early autumn on Long John Slough. 


Artwork by Chris

And here is my interpretation of the “one sticking out”.
A few notes I scribbled down: 

72°F sunny, no clouds

Hummingbirds (Ruby-throated) feed on the orange jewel weeds as they hover in mid-air. They need to fill up before their long trip back to Mexico and Central America. Busy filling up, they allow us to stand 6 feet away and respectfully watch in awe.
Two Great Crested flycatchers stop above the red berries. They carefully inspect us and quickly fly off.
One Swallowtail butterfly flies back and forth above the slough, as a snapping turtle pokes his head above the water.

Do you see it has nothing to do with how well we paint, but how much we learn. 


Here is the Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus). I am glad to have spotted you before your journey south. 

I hope you have enjoyed the August sketch class at the Little Red Schoolhouse. Maybe you are at work right now surfing the web and it put a little smile on your face, I’m glad. The next one will be Saturday, September 25th. Perhaps you can join us for this free event?


Sketch Class Saturday

Free Sketch Class at the Little Red Schoolhouse

“There’s nothing free in life.” Said the pessimist.

Just a friendly reminder, this Saturday is the next free plein air sketch class at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. If you are in the Chicago area and would like to attend, meet at the schoolhouse at 9AM. Unless specified, we are going to try to establish a regular date, every last Saturday of the month. Artists can paint as they watch me do a step-by-step watercolor demonstration or they can go off on their own and sketch what they like, returning to the education center at 11:30am to discuss art. 

For address and supply list, click here to view the class page.

Bookshelf Kitty Sketch


Bookshelf Kitty watercolor sketch


I recently purchased a new bookshelf. No sooner after I put it together and before I could fill it with books, my kitty claimed her own shelf. No books will enter this shelf, I will honor her choice. I suppose it is a cool surface, a tiny hide-a-way spot where she can relax. I understand.

After a hot summer of closed windows and central air,
A short reprieve has been granted.
Kitty on the shelf, mesmerized by blowing drapes,
Closes her eyes and sniffs the fresh air.

I love to watch her.

Nature Bookmarks Available

I love to read! Just about every night before bed, I try to get a few pages done. I also love painting! So I took the best of both worlds and combined them into one….introducing my new Nature Bookmarks. These bookmarks are like little pieces of fine art holding your spot. For starters, I’ve come up with 4 watercolor designs to reflect the seasons…

Spring Redbuds

Summer Blazing Stars

Autumn’s Show

Winter Pines along Creek

Each bookmark is printed on 80lb cardstock and laminated, also comes with a tassel. These bookmarks are prints and not originals, therefore the colors you see on the screen may not match exact colors printed out.


Bookmarks are $5 each or you can purchase all 4 bookmarks for $15. That’s getting one bookmark for free! Shipping and tax is included in the price. To purchase, see the new bookmark page of this site. They can make great teacher’s gifts for Christmas…OH…I said the “C” word and it’s only August!

Ok, in other nature news, the first week of the Weekly Sketcher art and phenology project has been published. One post will publish per week for 52 weeks. Each post has a sketch and description on the weather and surroundings at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. It is my little historical document of the seasonal changes from Aug. 2009 – Aug. 2010. It’s a bunch of fun to see changes from week to week, I hope you enjoy reading them.

Lastly, in nature news, I will be hosting a free Sketching in Nature classes every last Saturday of the month (unless specified) at the Little Red Schoolhouse. You can read class description and find a supply list on the “classes” page. The next one is soon…Saturday, August 28th! Join me with your sketchbook and learn how to make complicated landscapes into simple watercolor sketches. We are all beginners so don’t worry if you think you are not talented enough! Hope to see you there.

Seek and You Will Find

One of my favorite past-times while hiking in the woods, is to take pictures of the inside of tree cavities.
Oh how exciting!
I want to know what is inside, but I’m way too big to get in there. Who lives in tree cavities? Many different types of wildlife, I suspect. So when I’m taking pictures and sticking my hand in the hole, I’m looking for owls, or bats, or chipmunks, but not this…


Here we have a succulent tree cavity, which I spotted 20 feet off trail. It sparked my curiosity. I couldn’t hold back. Stepping around poison ivy….it was like gravity, I was drawn. Who is in there?


At home, I can zoom in on the computer and inspect the hole. What is that reflection in center? Are those eyes?


OH WOW! Look at this monster! If I only knew when my hand was in the tree, I would not have been as brave. To tell you the truth, it was probably more scared of the monster (me) that invaded his home, than I would have been of him.

Nature might not always be pretty, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Sometimes our own fears get in the way of beautiful nature.