Tag Archives: oak tree

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.

Sketch Class Results March 2011

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Oak Tree - Little Red Schoolhouse

03-26-2011
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.

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sketch class March 2011

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

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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.

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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!

Let’s Paint Some Acorns!

Do you know that nature never ceases to amaze me? How often I hike, how often I notice things around me and it seems that I always discover something new…something different. I hope I never run out of things to discover. I hope I never learn everything. I never want to be a know-it-all.

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On a simple hike, I found some red oak acorns. One in particular stood out, as it had a tiny hole near the top. I propped this acorn up with a white wire so that the hole was front and center.

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Step 1: This is going to be a graphite and watercolor sketch on illustration board. With a 4H graphite pencil make a loose sketch of the acorns. Don’t forget the shadow of the acorns. If you do not include shadow, it will look like your subjects are floating. Settle down little acorns, we do not need you floating in air!

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Step 2: Now, because this is a graphite sketch we do not want to cover that up completely, the watercolors we use will be minimal and almost dry. First, I took a lemon yellow and painted the entire big acorn, skipping the section where light was touching. Next I took an bit of orange on a dry brush and painted the medium acorn avoiding the part where light was the brightest. When everything was dry, I painted a thin sap green glaze on the large acorn and the acorn cap on the bottom right corner.

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Step 3: This step is subtle, that’s because I do not want to cover the graphite. I like graphite and I want to see it. In this step I took some orange watercolor on a dry brush and painted the medium acorn top and acorn cap.

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Acorn and Insect watercolor and graphite

 Step 4 Final: I made another dry layer of sap green on the large acorn and sienna on the medium acorn. With ultramarine blue, I painted shadow on the sides of the acorns and top. When everything was dry, I took a 4B graphite pencil and outlined the hole and “scales” on the acorn tops.

What is best part of this story? Well, I sketched my first acorn and had had to leave unexpectedly. When I returned to finish, a thin white film was covering the hole of the medium acorn. Oh! Maybe I missed that? Was that there before?

I took a sharp knife and scrapped off the white film covering the hole.

As I finished my painting, about 20 minutes later I noticed another white film covering the hole. What the heck? There’s something inside!!! It is actively trying to cover the hole!

Holy cow!

Alright, I’m sorry Mr. Larvae, I must saw your home open and inspect what is going on inside.

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No acorn nut inside, but pulp and a tiny acorn weevil larvae. Funny, I carried this insect at least a mile back to my car. Safe in my pocket and had no idea.

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Hello my friend. Did a bird cause the hole in the acorn, trying to get you out? To have you for dinner? No, the hole was probably made by a female acorn weevil, who flies up to the acorn in the tree and drills a small hole, laying an egg inside. The larvae feeds on the nut and after the acorn drops, leaves the acorn through the hole. It then digs into the soil to overwinter for a few years before emerging as an adult to mate and make more holes.

I released this larvae in my garden. Best wishes to him. I needed to uncover the secret and discover something new. Nature never disappoints.