Ahhhh…To live like this one…basking in the sun without mind of time. There’s no room for a watch on his stubby little leg. He sees no second hand, therefore ticking cannot be heard in his ears. It is such a healthy state to be in, without regard to time. I feel most whole when I am in this state, unimpaired and able to connect with nature.
This turtle looks like a yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta), but they are not from my area. It is possible someone released it. Or it is possible it is a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) with a strange yellow formation on the side of its head.
Whichever type of turtle it is, I can learn from it: To take life slow and be in the moment.
I simplified this watercolor sketch by removing the complexity of the drift wood. You can do that when you paint because you make the rules.
The rain hits my window and I give it my full attention.
It does not come in a rude, forceful manor,
Rather humbly, as soft as it can.
Like a missionary quietly in the background,
Who doesn’t want credit,
Who doesn’t want accolades.
I notice you, rain.
I know the good works that you are doing.
Now, to my chipmunk friend (Tamias striatus)…
The one stealing sunflower seeds out of my bird feeder…
I see you too.
I hope the seeds fill your belly.
May the seeds be your food and the rain, your drink.
My hikes never cease to provide surprises, even some half buried in the snow. On this cold winter day I found amber jelly rolls. Amber jelly roll (Exidia recisa), is a fungus that grows on downed twigs and limbs. Beautiful blobs of jelly they are, chilling on frozen branches on the ground.
An interesting fact about these jelly rolls: they can dehydrate and re-hydrate. The dehydrated jelly fungi looks dark black and flat. As soon as the atmosphere provides moisture they will plump back up.
Here is another fungus I found on my hike. I do not know the species. It is flat with slightly ruffled edges. Perhaps it’s a type of parchment fungus?
Sometimes, winter takes my breath away. At this moment in time, ice encapsulated every twig. Winter never looked so elegant. It’s easy to love spring. It’s easy to love summer. Their flashy blooms of all things petaled, makes it so. But winter? Her allure is quiet, in the most refined way.
A Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) came by to say, “Hello.” In return I fed him suet. I quietly sat contemplating his woes. They are many, for while he ate his breakfast it was a mere 8°F.
He ate alone and used the pine tree in my backyard for cover several times: grabbing suet, flying to the pine, returning to grab more, then taking cover in the pine, repeat. While he was at the suet feeder, he paused to look around. He knows he’s prey. He needs to be careful. Not scanning your surroundings can be costly.
While he braves the predators, he must brave this cold too. Some strategies this cleaver little nuthatch has is to use his tiny little muscles to puff up feathers, creating a warm pocket of air from the warmth of his body which can be 102-107°F (Lawlor 1998). Another strategy is shivering, but this comes at an enormous energy cost. The high fat content in the suet can provide such energy but only for so long. Another reserve he has is to drop his body temperature way down when he is inactive. This allows him to conserve his energy.
In all his struggles he is provided for, in this moment. So am I, I must remember. And very blessed to have this visit with him.
Lawlor EP. 1998. Chapter 8: Birds. Page 150 in Discovering Nature in Winter. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
Are you one to despair on a gloomy day? Does the weather hold you as a prisoner in your own home? Please, let me charm you on the joys of a rainy day. Yes, joy.
The forest is alive, even without leaves on the trees, with the deafening sound of pelting rain. It vibrates and echos all around me. The icy rain pelts the frozen ground but is warm enough to melt the last remaining snow.
I am alone with the wet trees. I feel like a child again. Is it a good idea to be walking in the cold rain after recently recovering from a cold? Probably not, but that’s what children do… throw caution to the wind in favor of fun. And I’m having it. I feel alive. As alive as this forest.
I play in the rain and I paint with the rain. The above watercolor painting was done with the rain. After my walk, half soaked, for my raincoat did not cover my legs, I sat in my car and painted one layer, then held the painting outside the window…. let dry, painted another layer, then held the painting outside the window, painted the final layer, and again asked the rain for help. The rain obliged and created lovely drips and blooms. I am so grateful.
Let the rain entertain you and play a soothing sound…
Then look around and see every limb dressed with strings of diamond rain drops. Take your hood off for a second and feel a cold wet kiss on your cheeks. Feel alive.
Happy New Year to all my art and nature friends out there! May 2019 bring you peace, creativity, and definitely moments to make you feel alive again. GO get them!
Winter isn’t deprived of beauty.
Yes, color is a little more drab but really, beauty is still all around us… you must look a little closer. Where winter is weak in color, it makes up for it in texture. There is texture to be seen in every inch of every step you take in the woods. Winter weeds can be found on the edge of the trial, in a prairie, or even along side of the road.
There is a certain irresistible allure to solemn winter weeds. They stand as attractive architectural pieces once beaming with activity: growth and pollinators. Attractive like dilapidated barns you find near old country roads, once beaming with activity: production and purpose. You cannot help but stare and imagine what they looked like in their heyday.
Some of these attractive weeds still hold fruits and seeds at this very moment in the depths of winter. They wait. They wait for winter to loosen its bite… for seed to have hope.
Dried arrangements are beautiful and no watering required!
If we look close, we can see that the Queen Anne’s Lace has some fruits on the inside of the umbels. Up close, the fruits look like Venus fly trap plants. Fascinating!
And if we look closely at the foxtail grass, they still have a few seeds attached.
Winter can still be an exciting season for nature/art adventures. Try to find the textures all around you and see what you come up with. And don’t forget to record what you find in your journals.
The setting sun beckoned my company for one last moment. The clouds declared a mood, consecrating these last seconds. I was ordained a devotee. Such was my walk at dusk.
This painting was inspired by a gorgeous sunset just the other day. You would not believe how easy it is to paint this scene. You can do it yourself in just a few steps. Let me show you!
Step 1: Draw 3 birch trees in pencil starting almost at the bottom of the watercolor paper and all the way to the right side. Next, take a .05 black micron pen and outline the trunk, some branches, and the lenticels (black horizontal marks on trunk) of the birch trees. Or you can use any permanent black tip marker.
Step 2: Take a wax resist stick or white crayon and color over the birch trunks. Why are we doing this? Because our paper is white and we are going to paint over the trees and we want our trees to remain white. The paper I used is hot press, so it is smooth and works well with the wax resist stick. Using a wax resist on cold press paper (textured) may not cover the entire trunk. To know the difference between hot press and cold press paper click here.
Step 3: Using cerulean blue, paint the clouds in the sky in a big “S” pattern.
Step 4: Paint a few cad yellow patches. This is actually the sunset sky peaking through the opening in the clouds.
Step 5: Take some cad orange and apply it near the horizon. I also took a small amount of that orange and added it to the middle yellow patch. While both are still wet touch the very bottom of the orange and yellow patches with very little alizarin crimson. Let them blend together.
Step 6: Using cerulean blue again, paint the bottom of the page under the trees (snow) and paint under the middle sky opening.
Step 7: Using iridescent watercolor medium, paint over the snow. You can only see this if the paper is tilted… you can clearly see it in this picture though.
Step 8: When everything is dry, take a smaller Micron pen, .03 or .01 and draw in some fine twigs.
Final Step 9: After taking the masking tape off, continued the twigs right off the paper with the Micron pen.
Here is the reference photo. The moment that inspired me on that dusk, evening walk.
This painting is so quick and easy, that I made several more. It was fun to change the sky and add different colors to see which I liked best. I cannot decide, I like them all!
I hope you enjoyed this free step by step demonstration on how to paint winter birch trees at sunset. To see more step by steps click on this page.