Category Archives: Chicago

Hearth in the Woods – Watercolor Sketch

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In the Midwest where chill reigns for a quarter of the year, you will find a solemn hearth if you’re lucky in the midst of the woods. Not every preserve has one, but when you happen to spot one, it’s like a treasure. This one is located at Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, IL.

On this day, I only wish I had wood and permission to start a fire, like I did a few years ago at Heller Woods.  Click here to see photo.

Instead of seeing the warm glow against the oak trees, I will settle for the warm sounds of nagging nuthatches with their nasally, “heh, heh, heh, heh” keeping me company in those oaks.

How is their sound warm, you ask?
It keeps me there a minute longer, no matter what the temperature, and suddenly the cold disappears.

Ice Fishing on Herrick Lake Watercolor Sketch

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Cold weather, dark gray skies, and the occasional flurries might put many in a gloomy mood. It will force some to stay locked in their houses, giving them an excuse to watch TV for hours and hours.

Then there are the adventurers….
Some extreme adventurers laugh at weather conditions, drill through ice, and sit for hours waiting for that bite. Some weaker adventurers (like myself) laugh at weather conditions just the same, but sit in a nice warm car and sketch extreme adventurers at play. He, he, he.

Winter is truly beautiful, even on the most gloomiest of days. It makes me happy to be out even if it means I have to sketch from my car to keep from freezing. I can appreciate the beauty of nature just the same looking through the window.
Maybe you can try it? If you feel as if you have cabin fever, get in your car and drive to the nearest forest preserve or cemetery. Just sit for 15 minutes and look for interesting things. Can you spot birds? Which way is the wind blowing? Follow the sway of branches. Notice the shapes of dried weeds….they’re all so different. Try to write down what’s going on or maybe even create a little poem. In just a few minutes your mood will suddenly be uplifted.
Goodbye cabin fever.

Goldfinches in their Winter Wear Watercolor – Free Download

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Goldfinch feathers molt into a drab olive green/brown color for winter. Many people upon seeing them assume they are looking at sparrows. Not a few believe goldfinches migrate for the winter because they no longer see that bright, brilliant yellow signature color. Not so! They’re here in their inconspicuous attire still seeking thistle.

In case you cannot find them this winter, as my Christmas gift to you, you may copy this artwork by right clicking on the watercolor above and selecting “Save image as”.
Merry Christmas.

Winter Goldfinches

Actual photo of very hungry goldfinches outside my very dirty window. He, he, he.

Fern-like Frost

Fern-Like Frost outside my clean window. Here is proof of the magic of winter… One can zoom in and study patterns in the frost for hours. Well, I sure can!

May your holidays be filled with peace and love.
Christine

Let’s Paint a Winter Storm at Night!

The Chicago area has been hit by two significant snow storms since winter started. I love snow. Not only is it soothing to watch as it descends, but it dresses the winter trees in their formal attire. How beautiful. Each and every one dazzles.

So, let’s paint a winter tree during an enchanted nighttime snow storm!

I do not have a reference photo but the technique will work with any deciduous winter tree.

Step1_Winterstorm

Step 1: Draw your tree on a 140lb coldpress watercolor paper with a pencil. My paper size is 6×9. The focal point is the tree itself so in the composition law of thirds, I wanted the tree to fill 2/3 of the paper.

Step2_Winterstorm

Step 2: Using masking fluid, paint where the snow would land on the branches. I covered the tops of almost every branch. Let completely dry. If you do not wait until it is completely dry, you will ruin your brush. You can make sure it is dry by lightly touching it after about 10 minutes.

Step3_Winterstorm

Step 3: We are going to paint the sky wet on wet. Using a 1″ flat brush with clean water, wet the paper in the area of the sky and the tree. Brush right over the dried masking fluid. Make sure you do not skip around and leave dry spots. When the shine on the paper disappears, paint ultramarine blue on top and bottom of sky and mauve in the middle. Let the colors blend and touch. You’re literally laying down a few brush strokes and stepping away. Do not over work this.
While the paper is still wet, sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on the paper and let completely dry. When dry tilt your paper and discard the salt.

Step4_Winterstorm

Step 4: Paint the tree starting at the bottom and work your way up. I used a medium round brush. If you look at the base of the tree I started with a mixture of sepia and ultramarine. As I work my way up, I added mauve to that sepia/ultramarine mixture, then viridian green, lastly at the top alizarin crimson.
Using a small round brush, paint in smaller branches repeating the colors we already used.

Step5_Winterstorm

Step 5: Rub the masking fluid off with your finger. Paint shadows under the tree using the same sky color on top.

Step6_Winterstorm

Step 6 Final: Using a small round brush paint a light mixture (meaning less pigment and more water) of prussian blue where the snow touches the branches, making a fine line. This is the shadow color of the snow on the tree.
When everything is dry, take a #3 black micron pen and draw tiny branches/twigs coming from the small branches. Outline the trunk and main branches of the tree to make it stand out.

I hope you enjoyed this free step-by-step demonstration of how to paint a nighttime winter snowstorm.

If you would like to purchase a greeting card ($4.95) or archival print click below. Thank you!
Art Prints

Nature in November Watercolor Sketch

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Green Valley Forest Preserves
32°F mostly sunny, brisk wind

When my nerves become anxious and I recognize that prickly, edgy feeling in my spirit, I know it’s time to distance myself from society. It’s my adult time-out. One I most willingly take.

I escape to a little corner of nature where I am actually alone. The chill in the air is welcomed, even though I’ve been spoiled with unseasonably warm weather in my area, that has now passed. The brisk wind makes my cheeks red and tells my flesh it’s back to the business of winter.

As I stand under the cold sun, I hear that familiar creaky trill of sandhill cranes. I look up and scan the sky. I know I’m looking for tiny specks, as their call is much louder and larger than their bodies, considering the height at which they fly, but for the life of me I cannot locate them. I’m glad I’m alone, for a stranger would have thought it odd, this human just standing still staring at a blank sky…no matter, I so desperately wanted to see them it would have been worth the embarrassment. My attempts fail. That’s fair. I will permit nature to have this mystery.

Walking on the trail I notice several galls on dried goldenrod. They are numerous. I love these “imperfections” in nature. The goldenrod with galls are actually more attractive to me than without. I inspect the gall and find a pin hole near the bottom. Escape route?

Just then I hear rustlings above me in the tree. I ignore it for a while, supposing it’s just the wind. But no, it is not the wind. It is a red squirrel. On first inspection it is as if he is eating dried leaves still remaining on the tree. He grabs it, places it in his mouth, crunches as he chews, while crumbs fall from his mouth to the ground. Why is he eating leaves, I wonder? However, I squint my eyes and realize, those aren’t leaves, but dried maple seeds…clusters of them. And that was the rustling I presumed was the wind, dried maple leaves scraping together by the vibration of the red squirrel climbing from branch to branch. He continues for quite a while. Eat on my friend. Winter means business.