Tag Archives: long john slough

Sketch Class Results March 2012


A little cold and a little gray….but that didn’t stop our fun at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center Sketch Class!

I saw a notification on the Illinois Bird List website that a pair of Osprey were building a nest on the platform in Long John Slough, so I was very excited to tell the group and see it for ourselves. We did spot the Osprey and nest with binoculars. We also observed one flying above the Slough. Oh YES! Birding excitement in the morning!


We decided to face south and sketch the new nature center building from across the slough. Each one of us found a comfortable spot and got to work. Alanna has found a bench that serves as a table too! Good idea!


Michelle’s mini tripod chair is light weight and can be carried anywhere. Got to get me one of these!


Katie and I choose the cold wet ground where we can spread our art table all over the place. Dirt is fun. Way fun.


Ce Ce and Sue made wonderful sketches but had to leave early. It was so nice to have them along!

March_31_LRS_012 Photo by Alanna

Photo by Alanna.
The rest of us painted as much as we could. There was a lot of moisture in the air and our watercolors were not drying. We decided to finish at home.


Here is our work in progress.


This is my finished sketch. Spring is about one month early in my area. I love the redbuds, however I am concerned how early everything is developing.


No class is complete without a short hike (optional). The redbuds are beautiful but are the insects ready? This is my way too early spring concern.


We also found some Dutchman’s Breeches which are also out about one month early.

That was the theme of the day, cold but beautiful! The next class is Saturday, April 28th. Hopefully it will be a tad warmer.


Sketch Class Results Jan 2012


The cold realities of winter did not hinder our love for art and nature. All eager participants showed up bright and early on this frosty January morning, ready to get to work play. We did however, agree to sketch from inside the nature center as the wind was fierce and the wind chill was in the teens.


Here is the class studying the frozen Long John Slough. We talked about the different colors you find in the distance and the foreground and the beautiful colors hiding in the shadows on the slough.


The class did a wonderful job of representing the slough and as a result produced a moment in time, freezing it on this frozen day, and took home a lovely piece of artwork. I’m very proud of each one.


Here is a close up of my sketch. I try to enforce the rule of there being no rules. Our artwork may not look exactly like the real thing, but that’s okay. We are capturing a feeling not a photo.

Katie and Michelle

After class a few of us agreed to a winter hike. Here Katie and Michelle are bundled up and ready to go exploring!


How blessed we were to have a fresh inch of snow cover every single limb and tiny branch the night before. I think to myself, it is no magic (although it looks like it), the Father places every snowflake in its ordained position with care. I am truly thankful and in awe.


We stopped on the Black Oak Trail to study the shadows and listen to the tiny trickle whispering from the pond. This very much feeds our soul and renews our spirits…a much needed rest from a hectic work week.

Don’t let the cold stop you. The next class is Saturday, February 25, 2012. If the weather is too cold we will sketch from inside. I am however always willing for a hike afterwards!

Sketch Class Results March 2011


Oak Tree - Little Red Schoolhouse

25°F  cloudy, cold, windy

We take a short hike on the White Oak Trail before we paint, even though it is terribly cold with a persistent wind, we desperately want to connect with nature. In search for Spring Beauty wildflowers we come up short, instead we find a partially frozen stream with razor-sharp shards of ice and geometric frozen patterns.

It is officially spring, but where is spring?

That’s okay, we are nature diehards.
We cannot grab the sun and pull it closer. We cannot take our fingers and pull up those awaiting spring wildflowers. We cannot invite the dragonflies and call up the frogs and turtles….we can only wait on the One who can…with hope and reverence and no complaints we wait. (well, we try not to complain…he..he..he)

This day we decided to concentrate on a particular oak tree along Long John Slough. Transfixed with the beauty of just the trunk, we celebrated it by making a quick watercolor sketch. Briefly when the sun peaked out, we quickly noted bright green moss color on the trunk and casting shadows as well.


sketch class March 2011

We decided to keep warm and sketch from inside the educational center after our hike.


Class artwork: Michelle, Chris, Alanna

Here is a collection of our beautiful oak tree watercolor sketches. Quick and loose was our goal, I think it only took us about 45 minutes.


Oak tree watercolor by Chris

We will not be detoured by cold temps even though our high is supposed to be 50°F.
But hey, with Chicago weather, we can always expect some snow in April…right?!? Bite my tongue!

Sketch Class Results November 2010


The free November sketch class at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center was a hit! As we took a short hike around the slough, we noticed something not seen last month. Can you find it in this picture?


HOT DOG…it’s a beaver lodge!!! Wow! Look at that structure. Beaver lodges can be made up of sticks, mud, grasses, and rocks. Sometimes you may find many lodges in a row, that’s called a beaver colony. Could this be one? Do you see that patch to the left of our beaver lodge? Is that the beginnings of another lodge in the form a colony? I don’t know. I will keep watching. Did you know that an entire beaver family can live in one lodge? That explains the enormous size. What terrific structural engineers, to design such a space which will keep them warm in the winter and protect them from natural enemies! Welcome beaver family to Long John Slough.


Alanna's artwork

Alanna’s exceptional sketch of November on the Slough. Great job!


Michelle's artwork

Michelle’s whitty watercolor of the November slough with beaver lodge. Awesome.


Chris' artwork

My interpretation of the slough in November with beaver lodge. Watercolor and micron pen.


To tell you the truth, we weren’t as brave as it may seem…look…we painted from inside. Can you blame us? At 9am, our Chicago weather left us with only 23°F!?! We’re crazy for nature, but not insane! 

We had a wonder time enjoying nature and making a little souvenir sketch for us to take home. Maybe you can join us next time on January 29th?

September Sketch Class Results


Alanna, Chris, Jackie, Michelle

Our little group grew! Here are the September Sketchers at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center: Alanna, Chris (Me), Jackie, and Michelle. One love, nature; One mission, sketching! So here we go…Let’s Paint Nature! 


We hiked the Black Oak Trail half-way around Long John Slough, until we all agreed on a location we wanted to sketch. At this spot, two chickadees stopped on the fence post, one lingered a bit and allowed us to watch him as he ate. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee, Chick-a-dee-dee-dee”, he called. 


Jackie Sketching

We settled in and found comfortable spots to sketch. Meanwhile, three white-breasted nuthatches visited us above our heads, hopping up and down the tree trunk. One stuck his bill in the bark, searching for insects, and knocked down little pieces of bark. One of which landed on my painting! 


Alanna's watercolor sketch

The great thing about going out as a group is that even though we are looking at the same thing, we all have different perspectives and different styles which produce some amazing pieces of art! Here is Alanna’s watercolor sketch, a wonderful representation of the day! 


Michelle's watercolor sketch

Michelle, a budding new artist, painted this precious watercolor…what great work! 


Jackie Sketch 1

Jackie decided to bypass watercolors and make a charcoal sketch. What a great idea, you don’t have to paint watercolors, you can use whatever medium you like! This sketch is of a tree stump behind the fence. 


Jackie Sketch 2

While we were painting, Jackie had enough time to make sketch #2. Sitting along side the trail, under the canopy of changing leaves and busy birds, what a wonderful memory she captured on paper. 


Chris' Watercolor Sketch

Here is my watercolor sketch. Can you find the chickadee which stopped to sing to us? 

We all had a wonderful time sketching in nature and recording our love through art. Maybe if you are in the area, you would like to join the next free sketching class, Saturday, October 30th!