Want to Get Started Painting Watercolors Outside?

Do you want to paint outside? Maybe you’re thinking of visiting a park, forest preserve, or your own backyard, and do not know where to start?

Here are some basic inexpensive supplies to get you on your way…
(click on picture for link)

You will need:

1. Travel watercolor pan set.
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2. Watercolor Sketchbook
Canson Artist Series Watercolor Books

3. Watercolor Brushes
Royal Langnickel Soft Grip Golden Taklon Brush Sets, Round Set of 5, Short Handle, Set of 5

3b. OR Waterbrush
Niji Waterbrush, Mini (12 mm Tip)

4. Water Bottle

5. Cup

6. Paper towel or cloth

7. Pencil

8. (Optional) Micron Pens
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen

9. Camping Chair if no place to sit.

These are the supplies I use myself when I’m out in the woods. I place them all in a backpack with necessary snacks!
Remember to also consider the weather. The better prepared you are for the elements, not only with your painting experience be pleasant, but you will last longer outside. Here are some seasonal items to think about.

For Winter:
Waterproof boots
Waterproof winter coat
Hats, Gloves, Scarf
Long underwear
Hand and Feet warmers
A hot drink in a thermos

For Spring/Rainy Days:
Waterproof (not water resistant) Raincoat with hood
Rain boots

For Summer/Autumn:
Sun hat
Suntan lotion
Bug spray

Another important note: When going out alone ALWAYS text or tell someone where you are planning on going and when you plan on returning. I make it a point to always text my husband before going out. It’s better to be safe.

art supplies

Get outside and have some fun!!!

Waterfall Glen in Watercolor Pencils


The air is heavy with humidity, the sun hot on your skin, but the rushing sound of water provides a cool comfort as if there’s relief within touch. And there is.
The heat did not seem to bother the monarchs flitting in between the leaves of the tree next to the falls. Their wings so thin, light illuminates through orange patches, just like stained glass. They glide, swirl, and swivel among green, dancing high on tree tops.
The heat didn’t bother blue damsel flies either. They dash quickly on the ground in and out of sun and shadow creating sapphire flashes of light. Gems on wings.

Those are the beauties that make heat bearable and me come back for more.

On this day I had a picnic with a friend at Waterfall Glen, part of the DuPage County Forest Preserves in Darien, IL. I forgot my watercolor travel bag and only had access to watercolor pencils…something I rarely use. But change is good. It’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone and practice with different medias.

Try changing your style up a bit and see what happens. Playing is fun.

Let’s Paint a Field of Queens VIDEO

(Quick 6 minute speed demo)

Queen Anne’s Lace is my favorite weed. When I was a child, I grew up next to an empty lot in the city and in the summer time the field was dressed in lace. Tall laced flowers dancing in the breeze, some as tall as I was… they became my friends.

So when I came upon a field of Queens in the forest preserve, it instantly took me back. I knew I had to paint that field.

I hope you enjoyed the free step by step demo on how to paint a field of Queen Anne’s Lace with watercolors and I hope you enjoyed the little bit of nature tucked into the video.

On Lake Whalon Watercolor


My kayak glides on the water, like a feather does carried by the wind. I drift along the shore of a tiny green island.

A killdeer stares me down not moving an inch. I tempt my fate and move in closer. We are just 4 feet apart. Still in a staring contest, I study his bright white and black collared neck. Suddenly, he paces along the shore. First left, stopping to bob, then right, stopping to bob. He is looking for a meal.
Another killdeer cries and flies away.

Swallows swoop and scoop the water just inches away from my kayak. Dragonflies dart in front of me. Floating ducks take off by flapping their wings and running on the water.

I feel as if I am one with both water and wildlife. Amazing.

Soaked Pine Watercolor


The air is sweet green.
It has been raining for two days and while most are scoffing, I welcome the rest.

A steady downpour puts me in a trance without me even realizing it. I stare at strings of rain like crystal beads against the dark of pine. Beating rain pelting the ground is rhythmic and before you know it, I’m worlds away.

The pine is happy in the rain, it supports two inches of new growth in the form of bright blue/green needles.
The birds in the pine are happy as they are still singing constantly in the rain.
And I, the spectator in the rain, I am happy too.

The Song of Spring Watercolor


To enjoy the song of spring, it cannot be played on an iPhone or any other artificial electronic device. That would be an insult to your ears.

To see a male rose-breasted grosbeak look you in the eye and hear him bicker at you for being too close to his turf is a very intimate moment.
To feel a warm whiff of air gently shake May apples, quiver bluebells, and hear their friction on grasses surrounding them is sacred.
To hear the squawk of 3 blue jays flying above your head at great speed, only to catch a quick glimpse, is like having secret sparkly jewels in your pocket.
And that one lonely chorus frog, in a muddy stream, who solemnly sang to himself…. well… he wasn’t alone. I considered myself blessed, grasping his tune in my heart.

This is the song of spring.
I thanked the Father for being saturated in His love.

Nature is healing. Technology cannot compare.

Song of Spring

Soft Spring Watercolor

I think it’s finely here.

Spring has made a very late appearance in Chicago. Last week we had snowfall on several days. There are no leaves on the trees and it’s almost May. The birds are confused and so are the trees.

But this morning was glorious.

So quiet… so soft… and the wildlife is busy.

The tree in the backyard is against a blue/yellow sky. Two sparrows are going in and out of the birdhouse. Mom and Dad no doubt. The daffodils lazily hang their heads. Chipmunks scamper underneath and a woodpecker in the distance, so far away that it made a gentle drumming ring in the air.

Mornings like these are blessed. And the Father is trying to teach me during my periodic anxiety to: Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Those words do something… it ignites the flame of hope and strengthens my heart.

All will be well.

Let’s Paint an Easy Winter Landscape Free Step by Step Watercolor

This is Let’s Paint Nature’s 500th post! To celebrate, let’s post a free step by step watercolor demonstration!!! And let it be an easy on at that. Here we go….

This scene was taken from Knock Knolls in Naperville, IL. It will be a very simple watercolor sketch. When I want to do a quick and easy sketch, I sometimes squint my eyes to get an overall idea of color and shading on large sections of the painting. I also eliminate a lot of tiny detail. Here is the reference photo:

2.5.17 KnochKnolls16Stream
Reference Photo

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 1: With a pencil, draw a simple sketch. The horizon is 1/3rd of the way down from the top of the paper. To simplify, the background trees will be grouped together as a lump. Next we will only sketch 3 individual trees instead of all the ones we see in the photo. The stream is skinny at the horizon line but broad and wide at the bottom of the paper.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 2: Using cerulean blue, paint the sky and the stream. While the stream is wet, touch the bottom of the stream with cobalt blue. Let the colors blend by themselves. Don’t keep brushing. Just drop the cobalt blue by touching the bottom half of the stream and let the blending take care of itself.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 3: For the background trees, mix sepia and cobalt blue. Paint one big solid chunk of color. Let dry completely.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 4: We will paint the grasses. In winter when there is no snow, the grasses take on a beautiful golden amber color. For this step, paint the grass closes to the horizon yellow ocher and lime green. While wet, continue down with pure yellow ocher.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 5: While the grass area is wet, touch the sides closest to the stream with a mix of yellow ocher and cobalt blue. Let it do its job and blend into the grasses. This effect represents a bit of shadow.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 6: The two trees on either side of the stream was painted with a thin rigger brush and sepia watercolor paint. The left tree was painted with a mixture of sepia and violet. Don’t over stress about these trees. Start from the bottom, the large trunk, then work your way up with thin branches.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 7: Using a weak mixture of cobalt blue and water, paint the tree shadows streaking across the grass.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 8: In this step I used sepia to paint reflections in the water. I wish I used cobalt blue because the sepia looks too brown to me….so you use cobalt blue not sepia…okay? 🙂
I also used cobalt blue to make thin horizontal lines in the stream. This helps the viewer understand that this is water and not frozen ice or land.

Knock Knolls watercolor step by step

Step 9 Final: In this step, using your fine rigger brush, paint some grasses only on the bottom of the painting using yellow ocher. When that is dry, paint grasses using sepia. Take that same sepia color and paint a line where the grass touches the stream to define a separation. Next, paint some reflective grasses in the water, only on the bottom of the paper. Why? Because we only want to define a little bit of detail closest to the viewer and not the whole painting. If we detailed the whole painting it would be too much for a quick watercolor sketch. There are some things we just need to eliminate to reach our goal. Our goal is quick and simple. And I think we reached our goal with this one!

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step sketch of an easy watercolor winter landscape!

Male and Female Common Goldeneye Watercolor


Yesterday I went on a birding adventure at Red Oaks Nature Center with the DuPage Birding Club. Red Oaks is located adjacent to the Fox River and has an observatory deck right over the river, perfect for viewing waterfowl and migrating birds.

When birding, it is helpful to go with a group of knowledgeable people who know their birds. The Dupage Birding Club has such individuals who can identify birds by sound alone! That is very impressive.

A few pairs of Common Goldeneyes were entertaining us across the river. I enjoyed watching them submerge their entire body underwater to catch their meal. One birding member caught a picture of a female. I took a picture of her picture, which inspired my sketch.

Fox River Birding

Common Goldeneyes remain in Illinois for the winter. Do you see the female’s bill? The tip turns yellow for spring/summer…….. Shhhhh we wont tell her it’s not spring yet! Soon, probably in March, these ducks will leave and not return until late October/November.

In total we spotted:

  • 12 Canada Goose
  • 2 Mallards
  • 6 Common Goldeneye
  • 4 Common Merganser
  • 1 Great Blue Heron
  • 1 Bald Eagle
  • 2 Red Tail Hawk
  • 4 Sandhill Crane
  • 4 Gulls
  • 1 Mourning Dove
  • 1 Belted Kingfisher
  • 3 Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • 1 Blue Jay
  • 8 American Crow
  • 6 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 2 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 8 American Robin
  • 2 Northern Cardinal
  • 1 Red-winged Blackbird

Fox River Birding

The cold did not put a damper on our birding adventures. This day it was overcast, windy, and 35°F. Birding is quite fun and almost like a game…. you win when you spot a species and add it to your list. Every season has new birds. It’s a great way to get out of the house, not spend money, and enjoy nature!

Black Squirrel White Snow Watercolor


Black squirrels are not common in Chicago. I’ve only seen two in my lifetime, so you can imagine how jubilant I was to find one running in my own backyard. Happy like a little child.

Nature has that way about it….to make you young again when you least expect it. To catch you off guard and uplift your heart for simply being nature.

I want more of that.

The black squirrel is an Eastern Gray Squirrel or Fox Squirrel, with a genetic mutation called melanism. Melanin is the black pigment in the skin and fur. They seem to be more common in the north, in cold climates. So, not impossible in my area but certainly not common.

What a pleasant surprise!