Thursday, March 19, 2015


Happy spring!  Yes, I know.  There's still a lot of snow on the ground and, for some parts of New England, more snow is coming tomorrow evening (I feel your pain, Kelsey!).  However, so many signs of spring have predictably begun right on time.  In my neighborhood the cardinals began singing bright and clear in the early morning about five weeks ago.  Chickadees followed soon thereafter and this morning I heard the drilling of woodpeckers as I left the house.  Can't see anything coming up from the ground yet but soon...

At the start if 2015 I decided that FORM was to be my focus this year.  I've been practicing shapes and proportions for so long that it seems almost second nature to me now.  Form is the next skill to master.  In my last lesson with Barry Van Dusen we practiced capturing form with quick gestural lines, finding the angle of the bird first then building the lines around that.  In the sketch above you can see how it works well for not only birds perched at a side view but especially well for the foreshortened view.  As a part of capturing form it is incredibly helpful to understand what the animal's structure is like underneath feathers, skin and muscle.  The page above represents about twenty minutes of work.  One could easily practice this each day.  Imagine what that could do for developing a sharp and quick eye!

Spring classes are coming up!  Please sign up for my newsletter to learn about my sketching and painting classes.  You can sign up on my website's homepage, bottom right.  I am so happy to get back outside with my sketchbook, paints and brushes soon after such a long winter of impossible weather!  Maybe our paths will cross...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reminiscing about Warmer Days

I do enjoy the New England winters.  I love to snowshoe and Nordic ski.  And this year I took up winter hiking.  With good planning (and a healthy dose of respect and restraint) the White Mountains in NH are a spectacular winter hiking destination.  But this winter has tested even the hardiest souls with some extremely cold temperatures and incredible winds.  I'm good for maybe one more snowstorm then Id like it all to melt away.  Slowly, so as not to overload the drainage systems.

Clouds Building   3 x 7" watercolor sketch from sketchbook   2014

So on this day I am remembering a warm and slightly humid day in Germany last summer.  I watched the clouds build throughout the day, to end with rain that night and the following day.  I remember the mountains of Austria, Germany and Switzerland all around me.  A lake heavily populated with sailboats carrying people on holiday.  Clouds, blue sky, warm green grass and a gentle breeze.  Absolutely lovely.  Reminiscing is good for the mind.  Just what I need to get through the coming weeks of March.  Some Cardinals in my neighborhood have been singing for three weeks, the chickadees have chimed in with their spring song, and I hear that Red-winged Black Birds have been spotted, too.  Soon the winter ducks will depart for northern breeding grounds.  The loons, who have spent the winter on the ocean, will travel inland to the lakes of New England.  I'll turn my attention to memorizing bird sounds and all the wonderful migratory birds that come through during New England's warm months.  And I'll find myself reminiscing about all the fun and cold air that winter offers.  So it goes...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dark-eyed Juncos!

Dark-eyed Juncos, a mostly winter bird for our area, are, in my view,  one of the cutest avian species.  Along with the Tufted Titmouse and the Marsh Wren, their shape and button eyes make them so adorable!

According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Juncos spend their summers on breeding grounds all over Canada and western mountains of the U.S.  We start to see them in New England around November and increasingly through December.  By January they can be seen flitting about our woodlands and backyards, often mingling with the Tufted Titmouse and Black-capped Chickadee in the north or Pine and Palm Warblers in the southeast.  Even on the coldest of days they're moving about gathering food not only to fill their bellies but as part of the warming process.  Full belly means warmer body.

The distinctive gray body and pink bill (that often looks white from a distance) make it very easy to spot a Dark-eyed Junco.  It looks especially striking against snow.  Being a member of the sparrow family they have a round compact body with a moderate-sized head (proportionally speaking) and longish tail feathers.  Like the titmouse and wren aforementioned the proportion and placement of the eye is the clincher to what makes this critter so darn cute.

Having twelve subspecies, the Dark-eyed Junco is considered a "polytypic" species.

No sketches today, sorry.  But here's a few links to some decent photos and more learning:

Spend a few minutes looking out your back door or windows today.  You'll be rewarded!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year!

Snowy owl on dune, PRNWR Jan. 2014.  WC sketch from personal photo.
For New Year's Day I went our birding early in the morning with a friend.  Unfortunately, our adventure was a quiet one.  I think we went out too early.  As the morning hours passed many more people were out birding and finding things.  One report of a prairie falcon on Plum Island  came in.  Despite our best effort, we weren't lucky enough to site it.

Conditions: 8-11am.  Bright sun, clear sky.  COLD, temps hovering in the teens.  And WINDY.

Location: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Salisbury State Beach and Hampton State Beach

Tidbit: Snowy owls are not migratory but, rather, they are nomadic.