Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sketch Class Results Lake Katherine March 2013

We gather to cleanse ourselves from a stressful week by sketching nature. To be fully present in this moment, under the sun, in full view of the wildlife, and to slowly breath in the crisp air, is no small event. These few hours are precious as we collect the images of this day in our mind, to sustain us through yet another stressful week…


This month’s sketch class was held at Lake Katherine. After walking around the lake in search for Mr. And Mrs. Swan couple (we did find them), we chose this location of a peaceful red bench under a group of pines.

photo by Alanna.

Some of us decided to use the rocks as our desk.

photo by Alanna.

While others relaxed at the edge of the lake.

photo by Alanna.
(Alanna, Christine, Connie, Jan, and Becky {Donna not shown})

Which ever way was comfortable, we all came to same conclusion…beautiful artwork inspired by nature.

photo by Alanna.

Here is a closer look at our terrific souvenirs. Our objective is not to critique the artwork, but to just enjoy the process together.


This is a close up of my watercolor and black Micron pen sketch. I decided to add Mr. Swan even though he wasn’t in my view…he had his own agenda for the day!


We did catch him though, along with his partner and the mallard clan. I look forward to the cygnet (baby swans) in the future that this couple will bring forth.


photo by Alanna.

And NO sketch class would be complete without a hike! We decided to take the trail right under Harlem Ave and walk along the Cal-Sag river. Even though it is stillllllllll in the 30’s (hello? where is spring btw?), there was no wind and the sun did warm us up!

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to join us, click here for the MeetUp site link.

I hope you enjoyed our sketching and hiking adventures!


Winter Cemetery Watercolors

Push aside your homework/chores/work reports and come away with me for a bit to a place of peace, where the living are quiet and respectful and the dead…well…they’re quiet too.


In the wintertime, there’s nothing better than a heavy, dark, snow filled sky, where the sky is darker than the ground in the middle of the day (I love when that happens).

If you find yourself far from the woods, with only little time to spare and desperate for some quiet time, I suggest the cemetery. It’s the perfect place to be alone when needed. I think the cemetery is beautiful, especially in winter.


I like the scale in this watercolor.

The cemetery where I did this watercolor (from photo), has many deer which roam around looking for food. You can also spot many different kinds of birds. Every time I’m there, I just happen to hear and see a male cardinal. Maybe it is the same one?

Yesterday’s big snowstorm in Chicago gave me the desire to paint these peaceful winter watercolors, where the snow blankets the ground and all is quiet.

Ok, now back to work….boo.   😦

Let’s Paint a Warm Winter Field and Tree Pastel!

I don’t know what it is about an open field with few trees, but I just can’t get enough of them! Maybe it’s the open expanse of the field and the sky together, making you feel free or perhaps the feeling of looking far into the distance causing you to ponder the distance in your own life? Who knows. I just like them. So let’s see how to paint a field using warm soft pastel colors…


Step 1: My pastel paper is tinted dark gray and feels like sand paper. I’ve had it for so long, I honestly cannot remember what brand. My paper size is 10×8. Make a simple sketch, with the horizon line 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the paper. Next sketch in some distant tree lines (scalloped edge) and two young trees in the foreground. I used pastel pencils to make my sketch.


Step 2: I always start on top and work my way down. This is a dry pastel painting, meaning there is no underwash. This painting is small enough that I do not need to. Starting at the top paint the sky with dark (R 506,7), medium (R 570,7), and light blue (R 570,9). I am using Rembrandt and Unison soft pastels and will note Rembrandt as R and Unison as U.


Step 3: Blend with your finger. Go right over the trees, it doesn’t matter we will fill it in later.


Step 4: Make some distant trees in the background. My trees are two colors: first a medium brown (R 409,7) and then a purple/brown (R 538,8). Keep the top of the tree line scalloped and uneven. Gently smudge the top of the tree line into the sky.


Step 5: On this day, the sky was mostly cloudy and had a peach color far in the distance. So that is what we will paint, using Unison soft pastels now, paint the horizon a peach color (U Orange 11), the middle of the sky a light lavender (U BV 1). Blend with your fingers lightly.


Step 6: We are going to go even lighter in the sky with another layer of very, very, light lavender/blue (U BV 8). Blend with your finger in circular motion like puffy clouds. Oooo, the sky is looking real nice so far!


Step 7: Now the clouds in the sky are never just white. There are many colors swirling around, like pink, yellow, purple, blue/gray. So here and there we are going to add touches of pink (U Red 18), yellow (U Orange 18), and light lavender (U BV12). Blend with your finger.


Step 8: Now we are going to work on the field. I used three colors, first a dark purple/blown (R 538,7), next a tan color (R 231,3) and lastly a nice russet color (R 411,7). I love all of those yummy warm winter colors!!!


Step 9: Let’s work on the trees now. I used a Carbothello pastel pencil navy (1400/760)


Step 10: After I get the basic shape of the trunk and branches, I like to hit it with some amazing “pop” colors. The color of the sun on the trunk is (U Orange 3). I also used purple Carbothello pastel pencil (1400/385), and just a hint of moss green (R 626,5).
Highlight some grasses in the field with a mild yellow color.


Step 11 Final: Lastly, add some individual grasses in the foreground green/gray (R 202,3), and red (U Red 9). Then make a shadow under the trees with purple (U BV5). And you’re done!
This image may look a little different color-wise, because I scanned in the original painting instead of taking a picture.

“Deliberate Solitude”

To purchase a greeting card or print click here.

To purchase the original pastel painting click here.

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step instruction on how to paint a field and winter tree using soft pastels!