Monthly Archives: October 2010

October Sketch Class Results


October 30th was another free sketch class at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. A short hike took us to the location the group decided to sketch. It is of an overlook on Long John Slough.

This autumn morning we had a crisp temperature of 44°F, little wind, and full sun. Along our hike we accidentally startled a great blue heron who was resting along side of the slough. When we came too close, he flew inches above the water, with his graceful wings almost touching the surface, to another location along the water. When watching the great blue heron take flight, it’s as if time slows down and his wing beats are in slow motion. Just breath taking.
We also spotted a group of Juncos. Juncos migrate to my area for the winter. I haven’t seen them since last winter, so I was very excited!


Student Michelle, gets to work on her sketch. The fence post makes a great support where we can rest our supplies.


artwork by Alanna

Student Alanna’s watercolor sketch is beautiful and captures the amazing autumnal colors and the crisp temperature of the morning.


artwork by Michelle

Student Michelle’s sketch also captures a beautiful crisp autumn morning in nature!


artwork by Christine

Here is my sketch, I decided to add more detail at home with my micron pen. Even though autumn is here and gone in a blink of an eye, this sketch will hold me over during the freezing days of winter. I can gaze upon my watercolor and remember such a spectacular morning in the company of fellow nature loving enthusiasts, ready to learn.


Our group grew when naturalist and artist Fred, stopped by to discuss nature and give us some artistic advice.

That’s when it hit me!

If you would like to join us but do not want to paint, that’s OK! You can hike, learn about nature, and just watch the step-by-step sketching process. Maybe you would feel more comfortable to try it later in your own home.

I also realised that sometimes life gets hectic and difficult and can zap the energy right out of you real quick, with damaging effects. In just the short three hours that our group was together, our internal batteries were recharged and our stress was left in the dust of the trails. Nature is therapeutic. And the sketch class is drug free therapy. Why not join us next month?


Free Watercolor Sketch Class Saturday


Student Jackie sketches nature

Just a friendly reminder that tomorrow is the last Saturday of the month and if you’re in the Chicago area, feel free to join me tomorrow at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs, Il, for a hike and a sketch from 9AM – 12PM. We will meet in front of the schoolhouse. Click here to see supply list. This is a free event, I’m trying to promote the love of nature throught art!

Let’s Paint an Eastern Bluebird!

The Eastern Bluebird is a beautiful bird that spends its summers breeding and living in my area before migrating south for the winter. They are not hard to find if you look in meadows and open fields especially if bluebird boxes have been set up there. The Little Red Schoolhouse has a few bluebird boxes in its tiny meadow right before the Black Oak Trail and Spears Woods also has one near the yellow trail. Right now however, the bluebirds have left the area and moved south.
😦 I am missing them already.

So let’s keep a piece of the Eastern Bluebird so that we can cherish it all winter long…

Step 1: Here is my reference photo. It is from the site, Paint My Photo, where artists upload photos and allow you to paint from them, copyright free. This photo was taken by Kathy Detweiler. What a beautiful shot!
This is going to be a pastel painting with a watercolor under painting. I am using a white 5×7 Ampersand Pastelbord. I made a rough sketch with vine charcoal.

Step 2: Holy Hot Tamales! Yes, that’s a bright red, but don’t worry, it will be covered up when we are done. I am using the compliment color red/orange, for a watercolor under wash. When finished I want my sky to be a green/blue color. Why bother doing this when most of it will be covered with pastels? I like this technique because it creates a deeper color, less flat when finished.

Step 3: Paint the branches in watercolor, I used purple. Now for the bird. Paint the bluebird’s back cobalt blue, the mid section burnt sienna, and under his belly a gray color. Let every thing completely dry.

Step 4: We are done using watercolors, when the board is dry, take a dark turquoise green pastel and fill in the sky. I am using Rembrandt pastels.

Step 5: With a lighter turquoise green paint the sky behind the bluebird. For the bluebird’s white belly, take the lightest blue pastel (looks almost white) and paint the belly, also paint under his eye. Where the shadow is on his belly, paint that light purple and blue. These colors should almost look light gray. For the main branch, paint that dark green and for the smaller branches paint those medium purple. Don’t cover the whole board, let a tiny bit of red show through here and there.

Step 6: Using pastels, paint the rust color a dark orange/brown. Layer with lighter orange colors and highlight with a yellow. Paint his back and head with a deep indigo blue pastel.

Step 7: Using the same light blue/gray you used on his belly (shadow), paint the top of his head.  When ever I want to get a really bright highlight or a really dark, dark color, I stop using Rembrant pastels and I switch to Unison pastels. Unisons are not as hard and feel buttery. The softer the pastel the easier it will be to grab onto the board. I took a very light yellow (almost looks pure white) Unison pastel and painted the left side of his belly and on the tail feathers.

If You Leave, I Will Follow - pastel

Step 8 Final: For the sky, take a light blue and paint behind the bird. Next, take a purple pastel and paint the main branch and a light purple and paint the smaller branches. For the bird, it might be easier to use pastel pencils for detail in the face. As long as the face is in detail, nothing else needs to be in focus, because it’s not really important. Take time when painting the eye and don’t forget that white reflection! Paint his leg a dark brown and highlight the top with a lighter red/brown.

“If You Leave, I Will Follow Bluebird”

This painting will be on display at the LaGrange Art Gallery in November. I didn’t know what to title this painting so I asked myself, “What would you be thinking if this bluebird landed in the tree above you?” And I answered myself, “If you leave this tree, little bluebird, and fly to the next one, I will follow you so that I can burnish in my memory your beauty and recall it for years to come.”

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step painting demonstration on how to paint an Eastern Bluebird!

Owl Moon Watercolor plus Sound


Owl Under Autumn Moon watercolor

Keeping with the spirit of Halloween, I painted a spooky owl under crescent moon on a cold autumn night. And for a little fun, let’s listen to him call….

(sound from CGEffex at

Isn’t nature fun?

Winter Tree Watercolors Plus Sound

Every time I begin a painting I ask myself, “What feeling are you trying to portray?” Do you remember the first time a chickadee surprised you on a tree branch? That instant feeling of delight? I want to capture that feeling and express it through the medium of watercolors or pastels. Or how about the cold blowing snows in winter?  What an exhilarating, magical feeling!

Then I had an idea…

If I can give the viewer two senses (sight and sound) instead of just one (sight) it will greatly advance their chances to really experience the art!


Blowing Winter Tree watercolor

Click the bar below to hear the howling winds of winter. (Sound by Jamie Swift of The Free Sound Project)


Winter Tree Under Moon watercolor

Are you chilled to the bone? Can you feel the snow hitting your face? Oh how much fun!

I know it’s a little too early for snow, but I painted these little watercolors in preparation for the Holiday Art Show at the LaGrange Art Gallery coming up this November.

Now for the other senses (smell, touch, and taste). Can I ask you to hold a piece of ice and eat an ice cube for touch and taste while viewing the paintings? HA HA HA!!!! Just kidding!