Tag Archives: sketch

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.

Ice Fishing on Herrick Lake Watercolor Sketch

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Cold weather, dark gray skies, and the occasional flurries might put many in a gloomy mood. It will force some to stay locked in their houses, giving them an excuse to watch TV for hours and hours.

Then there are the adventurers….
Some extreme adventurers laugh at weather conditions, drill through ice, and sit for hours waiting for that bite. Some weaker adventurers (like myself) laugh at weather conditions just the same, but sit in a nice warm car and sketch extreme adventurers at play. He, he, he.

Winter is truly beautiful, even on the most gloomiest of days. It makes me happy to be out even if it means I have to sketch from my car to keep from freezing. I can appreciate the beauty of nature just the same looking through the window.
Maybe you can try it? If you feel as if you have cabin fever, get in your car and drive to the nearest forest preserve or cemetery. Just sit for 15 minutes and look for interesting things. Can you spot birds? Which way is the wind blowing? Follow the sway of branches. Notice the shapes of dried weeds….they’re all so different. Try to write down what’s going on or maybe even create a little poem. In just a few minutes your mood will suddenly be uplifted.
Goodbye cabin fever.

For the Love of Winter Trees

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Winter brings out the true character of a tree, exposing every branch, every twig. It reveals the very essence, divulges hidden secrets, and leaves you in a trance as you try to follow one branch with your eyes…from the trunk to the very tip of its tiniest twig. It’s a challenging maze and no two trees are the same.

It is perhaps that challenge of recreating the spirit of the tree on paper which brings me so much joy, but I can only fully understand it in the wintertime. Exposed and silent, it confesses that spirit and somehow I feel as if I’m communicating with its Creator.

That is the mystery of art. Although done in solitude, you are not alone. Your creativity begins a conversation with nature and with God and the best part is, they speak in return.

This apple tree had the setting sun turn selected twigs a golden yellow, while others blushed with rose, and yet a few had a cobalt glow. A downy woodpecker feasted on the suet cake at the feeder, filling up before twilight. That’s the story it told me.

On another day, I chose to study this mulberry tree by drawing in graphite with branch pencils my daughter gave me for Christmas.

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Neat pencils! It’s like I’m drawing a branch with a branch.

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This winter mulberry tree has a hard lean to the right. Most of it’s branches grew from the right side. To the left of the mulberry tree is a thick evergreen tree. There is  struggle for sunlight, resulting in the mulberry’s shape and that’s the story the mulberry tells me.

Let’s go out and paint nature, but more importantly let’s hear the stories nature is trying to tell us. Enjoy.

Return to Retreat CITW

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It is time once again.
I felt it stir within, an urgency to go back. A time to retreat.
As I grow, I am more in tune with my body and emotions. With the weight of work and family obligations I needed a time out. Silence is what I crave, giving me the ability to hear my own thoughts and process them. I get so little of it normally, so it was time to go back to Christ in the Wilderness for a solitude retreat.

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This time I stayed in the hermitage called, Mariglen. It has a fascinating view of the land and it’s a very popular spot for the birds to visit. You can read last years visit if you wish here, here, and here, when I stayed at the Paul of Tarsus hermitage.

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It may seem to some that staying at a place like this throws you into the dark ages, as there are no TV’s, cell phone service, and no WiFi. But oh, on the contrary! Being in the “dark” here contains more light than the brightest lifestyle back home, with all of its empty technology enticements.

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For the silence at CITW not only lets me hear the wing beats of birds, but I can also hear them cracking seed in their beaks. My soul craves this.

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Time on the trails gives me perspective. I ask God lots of questions and it’s quiet enough to hear some answers. Last year I pondered much on my past but this time it was more about my present and who Christ is to me.

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He is the Light, the Life, and my Hope. This is what He whispered to me in the wilderness.

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I also discovered other mysteries on the trail, like these bones most likely from a coyote. If you look close enough you can see fur, underneath the bones, closest to the grass.

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And on one of my nights I was indulged with this cloud bow. Great treasures are all around, even in the sky.

It was with a heavy heart that I had to leave, but when the time is right I will return. I know I bring home with me a little piece of this Peace, I am never truly far from it.

Autumn Harvest Watercolor

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There are miracles in just about everything.
For example, think of the growing process in which these gourds and pumpkin developed: From a small seed by which itself is useless, but with the right combination, a combination we cannot materialize with our own human hands….sunlight, oxygen, soil, rain, in just the right amounts… not too little, not too much, can produce the most amazing fruits. Those fruits are beneficial to us, to nourish us, and bless us.

I want to view everything around me as a miracle and not take anything for granted. This way of thinking kills the negativity that creeps into one’s mind. When we choose to be thankful, when we choose to think positive thoughts, we choose to have a good day.  And then guess what, somehow the day is good.

These gourds and one pumpkin gave me an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and blessing, especially because of the company I was in, sitting with a dear friend. I painted with brush in hand and thankfulness in heart.