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.
Today this tree is covered in white. It looks nothing like this painting. Perhaps there are a few less leaves as well after a gusty winter storm arrived in Chicago yesterday. It is perceived differently today than it was when it was not dressed in white, sporting gorgeous colors. But it is the same tree.
Why do I paint so many trees? Because they’re all so different. Each one, unique. Even when I view the same tree in a different manor, a whole new world opens up.
For this tree I used traditional watercolors and watercolor pencils. The background sky is watercolor pencil and also the fiery crimson color in the tree. The crimson gave it just enough punch to make the whole tree stand out.
Here is the full painting. Another perspective, looking totally different than the first but the same tree. How can we look at nature differently? Can we get a different perspective?
The bottom of this tree had a fresh cut in its trunk. There was water near by, so perhaps this was the beginning of a beaver chew. Interesting fact about beavers… the reason why their front teeth are orange is because they have a layer of iron, giving them the strength they need to chew through trees. Fascinating!
Back to perspective. If you’re are artist hiking in the woods on these gray winter days, in a creative slump, try to look at things differently. Zoom onto something and inspect it. Take a small chunk of a big picture. You’ll see things differently and have your inspiration in no time.
The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.
I have the most amazing job ever. I’m a naturalist who has the privilege of teaching people (mostly children) about nature in my area. I give presentations on wildlife, hiking, host nature themed birthday parties, etc.
The other day I hosted an animal encounter with the theme of rabbits. During this presentation I gave facts about rabbits, introduced the attendees to our resident rabbit, and gave a step by step demonstration on how to draw your own rabbit. It was a great success.
Most of the LPN audience on this site are adults, but I thought it would be helpful to pass this demonstration on so that you may use this with your children, your homeschool class, or maybe you’re just a really cool adult who wants to have fun! So let’s go!!
This drawing is easy peasy, anyone can do this!
Step 1: This is a 9″ x 6″ piece of watercolor paper. Using a pencil, draw an oval the size of an egg on the left side of the paper.
Step 2: Draw a larger oval the size of a cell phone connected to the first oval.
Step 3: Draw a circle the size of a quarter and place it at the end of the body.
Step 4: Now draw another oval on the back of the head.
Step 5: His ear needs a buddy, so draw another half oval connected to the first. This ear is on the other side so you cannot see the whole ear.
Step 6: Now let’s draw an eye the size and shape of an almond.
Step 7: For the nose, draw an upside down triangle.
Step 8: Draw three dots for whisker holes.
Step 9: Draw the back leg. Start at the top and make a weird S shape and connect the end to the bottom of the body near the tail. This is the most difficult part of the whole drawing. So look! The hardest part is behind you. Great job!
Step 10: Pretend you’re drawing the base of a tree trunk and draw a leg near the front of the body.
Step 11: He needs another one on the other side, so draw a partial leg connected to the one you just drew.
Step 12: Draw an inner oval on the large ear.
Step 13: In this step you’re going to erase some lines: his neck, on his two facing legs, his tail, and part of the large ear at its base.
Step 14: With a waterproof marker (I used a black Sharpie) outline your rabbit profile.
Step 15 FINAL: In this step color your rabbit with watercolor pencils. After you are done coloring, take a clean wet brush and move around a color. Each time you want to go to the next color, first clean off your brush, dab it on a paper towel to get the excess water off, and touch another color moving around the pigment. In this step I also made a circle around the eye and left it white and I drew in some whiskers with a .05 black Micron pen. Make your rabbit whatever color you want! Be creative!
Those are just some really fun facts about the rabbit. I hope you enjoyed this free demonstration on how to draw a rabbit!
I couldn’t time this if I had tried…just days before Halloween.
My son and I went for a hike at a local forest preserve. He found this species trying to cross the path, a female marbled orb-weaver (aka pumpkin spider).
I wont lie. Spiders scare me….but isn’t she a beauty?!?
Right now in October, marbled orbweavers are on a very important mission: laying eggs in a silken cocoon. A cocoon can contain hundreds of eggs. Next spring, the immature spiders will emerge. Good luck little guys, sleep well this winter.
Notice this female is missing a leg on her right side.
Profile view and photo I made the sketch from.
Happy hunting on your hikes! May you find all things big and small.
It’s so much fun to hike in the woods and find mushroom treasures! You never know when you’ll find them or what types you’ll find…that makes it exciting!! When you do find them, why not paint them? Spend a few minutes with me as I show you how to make a quick watercolor sketch of a flat top mushroom on the forest floor.
Mushrooms are extremely important to our ecosystem. They decompose matter (dead trees, leaf litter, etc.), breaking it down so that said matter eventually becomes soil. In doing so, valuable nutrients are released and reused. Not only do mushrooms help organic matter become soil, but their tiny roots help aerate the soil creating pores, allowing oxygen and water access to the soil.
I hope you enjoy this free step by step demo on how to paint a flat top mushroom using watercolors.
The way loss of autumn leaves is not a reason to fret.
The way nakedness of tree is no cause for alarm.
The way color drains from grass is not a concern.
The way summer birds disappear is not anguish.
For hope in things unseen is faith.
And the tiniest of faith shifts barriers.
When I can’t feel You, I know You are there.
When I free fall, I know Your net is near.
For Your promise is a reason for confidence.
Your love is cause for security.
Your guidance is steadfastness.
And Your strength is unfailing hope.
The cottonwood wasn’t angry, I was.
Just the day before I had gotten into an argument with an in-law which was totally taken by surprise. I held a rational conversation as long as I could until I had to remove myself from a room in my own home. It’s best to walk away than regret words you cannot take back.
Like a turtle that retracts into its shell for protection, I run to nature for comfort. My deliverance: the woods, my diversion: painting.
Sitting off trail on the forest floor, licking my wounds, I spot the cottonwood.
The leafstalk is flat on the cottonwood, creating violent individual waves from leaves in the gentlest of breezes while reflecting sparkles of yellow light, like gold glitter. It held me captivated.
Painting the cottonwood, slowly, methodically, watching the colors blend, the water run, healed my frazzled nerves. It kidnapped my mind from troubles and nursed me back to health.
The therapy, was it nature? Was it art? Was it the Great Counselor sitting next to me? Was it all of these working together?
On a dark forest floor, this mushroom was found. Almost comical upon first glance, as it is the size of a basketball… hence the name giant. These puffballs can grow full size overnight. And my National Audubon Society Mushroom Field Guide states that an average size giant puffball can contain 7 trillion spores.
It is always exciting to find these treasures in the forest.
♪ ♫ ARE YOU READY FOR SOME AUTUMN?!? ♫ ♪
It’s coming! Autumn is around the corner and right now you can enjoy its pregame show. I decided to tailgate at the forest preserves and here is what I saw…
These warm days and cool nights are preparing the trees for a dazzling finally. But there’s so much to enjoy right now! I can taste autumn in the air. It seems like every year, autumn escapes me because the season is so short. Do you feel this as well? This time I’m soaking in nature, savoring every last drop.
As I walked up to this hidden algae covered pond, I scared a great blue heron who in turn scared me as he slowly flew away.
I hope you have a chance to get out and experience this season’s morph as the living plants give their last hurrah!