Monthly Archives: January 2011

Jan 2011 Watercolor Sketch Class Results


It is mild, there is no wind, and we are at a sweltering 30°F.
After weeks of cooler temps, this is a heat wave in the Chicago area. So mild that the gang decided to sketch outside instead of inside! Yesssss! We are nature diehards! I had a vile of vodka to mix in our water to prevent freezing, but we didn’t even use it. Bring it nature…bring it!

We take the Black Oak Trail and inspect many animal tracks in the snow. I brought my Animal Tracks of Illinois book by Tamara Eder, so we can identify individual species. Some tracks had tail marks, some tracks had drag marks, and some without. It was a real challenge but we did identify a few.

We are teased by many brave birds that get closer and closer, spying to see if we have food. The chickadees are the bravest getting within arms distance. Are they the bravest because they are the fastest? In all we record:

  • chickadees
  • blue jays
  • red bellied woodpecker
  • white breasted nuthatches
  • cardinal
  • juncos
  • tufted titmouse


We stand on frozen Long John Slough, with fish at the bottom, frogs and turtles buried in the mud below, looking south at the beautiful amber color of a winter field, wanting to sketch while we are all connected to nature. It works….we connect.


Nature even provides us will free easels. We don’t have to pay $200 and carry one around!


Alanna and Michelle are hard at work, braving the elements, to take a piece of nature home with them.


Due to the cold temperature, our watercolor paper was not drying. We had to stop this far and finish at home.


Winter Field LRS Sketch Class watercolor and micron pen

Here is my final, finished at home with watercolor detail and black  micron pen.

I hope you enjoyed January’s free sketch class results. If you are in the Chicago area, why don’t you join us for the next one on February 26, 2011?


Romantic Valentine Watercolor Sketch


Love Sketch - watercolor and black micron pen

Oscar loves Piggie forever…or until he rips the stuffing out.

This is my dog’s favorite, most beloved, toy Piggie. Well actually, this is Piggie #2, for he loves his Piggie toys so much that he loves them to death. As you can see Piggie is not bright pink like he use to be, but now supports a gray crusty belly. This is the result of much doggie love slobber. Ewwwww.

Happy Valentine’s

Free Watercolor Sketch Class Saturday


Nov 2010 Sketch Class - Michelle, Me, Alanna

Do you want to learn how to paint in 2011 but don’t know where to start? Or maybe the dollars are a little tight and you don’t think you can afford a class? Well, have no fear….Free Nature Watercolor Sketch Class is here!!! WHOOOOO HOOOOO!

That’s right! It’s time to start our monthly sketch class again. This Saturday, January 29th, I will be at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs, IL (25min SW of Chicago) from 9am-12pm. Click here for a supply list under “Class #1” and also for an address to the schoolhouse.

Dress warm, if the weather is mild, we will take a short hike to get connected with nature and see how much wildlife we can spot. Most likely, we will sketch from inside the new education building. Let’s Paint Nature!

Let’s Paint Twilight Winter Landscape!

This is a picture I took last winter at the Orland Grasslands. I think it was about 4:30, just before dark. Something about this scene caught my eye, maybe it was the openness of the field or that lonely moon looking down.

Winter is wonderfully quiet. Do you ever escape to a place just to be in peace and quiet? I do. Winter, even though cold, offers perfect silence more than any other season. I like to just stand for several minutes and hear nothing. I think silence in itself is a blessing. Many people are afraid of it. I know one person who has to sleep with their television on or they can’t go to sleep. I know another person who cannot sleep without the radio on. Both individuals wish they could sleep in silence, but cannot. To be at peace and comfortable in total silence is a blessing. Anyway, that’s what winter at the Orland Grasslands is like. If you’re quiet enough you may just hear nature whisper to you. So let’s paint this “Twilight Winter Whisper” landscape in pastels using a watercolor underwash.


Step 1: I am using an 11×14 Ampersand Pastelbord. Using a charcoal pencil, draw a light sketch of the landscape. Mask out the moon with watercolor masking fluid. We are going to use watercolors to cover the board. You can use some pastel colors and turpentine to make a wash, but I find that takes too long. Watercolors are quick and cover a lot of ground.


Step 2: Turn your board upside down. We are going to paint the sky first. Starting at the horizon line paint a strip of mauve and rose. In the middle I took more water and a touch of cobalt. Near the edge I painted rose, cobalt and ultramarine blue.


Step 3: When the sky is dry, paint the distant trees with sepia and Payne’s gray. Flick the edges into the sky to represent tree top twigs.


Step 4: Turn the board right-side-up. Paint the field in burnt sienna and the snow in a diluted cobalt blue. We are done with watercolors. Wait until everything is dry or cheat by using a hair dryer. Next up…pastels.


Step 5: Now comes the fun part! I am using Rembrandt Pastels. Take a medium purple and scribble just above the tree line. Do not cover every inch, you will blend with your finger and some of the watercolor color may show through. Next, add just a touch of medium-dark blue just under the rose color. In the middle, scribble some light blue. Using the same medium purple paint on top of the light blue and at the very top paint with the medium-dark blue around the moon.


Step 6: Over the rose color, paint with a light pink that has a peach tone to it. Blend with your fingers in a sweeping motion, just like the wind whipped clouds. This step may make you feel like a kid again, beware. 🙂


Step 7: Using a red-orange pastel, paint the distant field. Take a tan pastel and highlight the very top of the distant grasses. With the lightest purple there is, paint the snow the field. Paint touches of light blue in the snow as well. Blend with your finger.


Step 8: Using a yellow-tan pastel, make grasses sticking out of the snow against the dark patches. For fun, paint some red and purple grasses sparingly. Something really amazing happened at this point….the painting told me it didn’t need any more trees. Remember in our photo on the left hand side there is a group of trees that’s near the foreground? I was planning on painting them in, however at this step I felt the painting just didn’t need it and if I painted them, it might compromise the feeling of the painting.


Step 9 Final: After stepping back and reviewing, I noticed that my sky was way too stark. In this last step, lighted the sky around the moon with the same light blue as the middle of the sky. Blend. Using a light purple, paint the cloud next to the tree tops. Blend. Highlight the snow along the path with a very light pastel (almost white). Done!

Twilight Winter Whisper – Orland Grasslands

If you are interested in an archival print, you may want to view my selection of paintings through Fine Art America. They create prints, canvases, greeting cards and they can also frame if desired. To view this painting click here. To view all paintings available click here.

I am very thankful that God has given me this talent to paint and the ability to share my talents with you. Thank you for your visit to this site!

Woodpecker Hole Sketch at McClaughry Spring Woods


Unfinished Woodpecker Hole -watercolor

20°F  cloudy
McClaughry Springs Woods

Stopping by McClaughry Woods, you can’t even say that I went for a hike, but rather just an emergency stop for 30 minutes in nature. When I’m only allowed a little bit of time, I try to be silent and pay extra special attention to what is going on around me. I’m soaking it in at warp speed.

There is no wind. The woods are dead silent, covered in a blanket of white snow. I walk north from the parking lot to Mill Creek and can pick up a faint trickle sound coming from under the ice. Every ounce of stress held on from the beginning of the day, suddenly finds itself trapped under that ice, trickling down the stream. Good ridden.

I find a young dead tree with three starter holes made by a woodpecker, of which species, I do not know (maybe pileated, red headed, or red-bellied). Are you starting a home for yourself, or will another cavity nester take residence?


Covered in crusty mushrooms, this dead tree would make an excellent woodpecker home. I chose to sketch at home from this photo.


Unfinished hole #2.


Mills Creek. Winter’s grasp not only slows us down, but also has the frigid power to slow the creek down to a mere quiet trickle.

I hope you enjoyed this quick stop at McClaughry Spring Woods. Remember when hiking, to always bring drinking water, even in the winter time. Check out this line of Camelbak Water Bottles, very convenient for staying hydrated.