To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sketch Pages from My Sit Spot

I promised to show you some sketch/journal pages in my last blog, but before I do that I'll set the scene again. Here's the view from my Sit Spot:This scene is from my chair, looking down across a long meadow, with a fairly steep downhill slant. Although it's nearly invisible, my house is behind the trees at far right.

And here's a sketch/journal page showing the little sand chair I use (a short-legged, webbed aluminum frame designed for basking on the beach). Click on any image to get a larger view.

I've been going out for an hour or so every day, at different times, just to see what I can see. You'd think it would be boring, just sitting there looking around, but I find I am usually quite content for an hour or more, and it's often only the mosquitoes that drive me away.

I concentrate on watching for movements: birds, insects, lizards, anything that moves; sniffing the breeze for scents (deer, up close, smell like a barnyard!); watching the weather and noting the breeze direction and how it knocks down showers of madrone leaves; listening to the birds ~ alarm calls will likely alert me to incoming fox or bobcat (or bear) long before they arrive. The birds don't announce fellow prey animals like deer or squirrels, though.

In case you're wondering, the orange trees on my sketch pages are madrone trees. They have green leaves year 'round, and have smooth bark which is lime green when it is new, then "tans" to a lovely sienna or cinnamon color. Right now, at the end of July, they have tanned about as far as they're going to, and they'll soon start to peel, revealing the gorgeous new green "skin" underneath. The golden leaves you see are ready to drop, in mid-summer, because the new leaves are big enough to take over the photosynthesis.

The deer on this page were sketched quickly as they were passing through, but that was only possible because I've drawn deer so many times that I have a mental template for "deer" in my head that I can pull out of the bag whenever needed. I didn't even consider drawing the trees while the deer were still visible ~ they're not going anywhere, so they were drawn later. The color was added with watercolor pencils while I was watching TV the next night. But I decided I like it so much with just the cinnamon browns that I may not paint any more on that page. Maybe.

Sometimes it is very quiet, with nothing much happening, then I reach down beside my chair and pull up something interesting to draw. On this page, I didn't realize there was a tiny cricket on the vetch until I was well into the sketch.

Bugs, beetles, flies, bees, and other denizens of the woods occasionally offer themselves for a portrait, as well. Whenever I receive such an invitation to draw, I grab it. They may not stay for long! It helps to have a mental template for insect legs, and a general idea where they attach underneath, to allow you to get it down before the little critter makes its get-away. Actually, a nice see-through container might be useful for drawing insects. A magnifying glass would also be useful.

Be Prepared. I have a little pump bottle of mosquito repellent and reading glasses which I leave on the log next to my chair. On days without a breeze I tuck a mosquito net under my arm as I go out the door (mosquitoes can be really pesky when there's no breeze to blow them away). I keep something else important at my Sit Spot, too. But you'll have to read the sketch pages to find out what it is.

So far, I have created thirteen pages, and I know for sure that I have only dipped the tiniest tip of a toenail into the amazing pool of possibilities in that one spot. What insects will present themselves for a sketch? What kinds of lichens live there, and why are they mostly only on the oaks, not the madrones? What wildlife life will come by as I sit silently? From my studio window (from which I can SEE my Sit Spot) I've seen foxes, bobcats, skunks, bears, pileated woodpeckers, squirrels, deer, wolf spiders, goldfinches, juncos, rufous-sided towhees, Steller's jays, and any number of other creatures passing by. No reason I shouldn't see them from my Sit Spot if I'm just sitting there waiting for them.

I'm thinking that I might also draw progressions: a wildflower in bloom, then its mature seedpod or seeds, etc. Fawns now are about 24" at the shoulder, but I'll draw them as they get bigger, as well, if I stick to my plan. If I continue to draw through the seasons, what a record I will produce!

[BTW, to create a mental template of something you expect to be drawing frequently (like deer or bug legs) all you have to do is practice. If you don't have the genuine article in front of you, practice from photographs. After a few sessions and an occasional refresher if necessary, you can create your own set of mental templates. It's sort of like investing in a set of paints or colored pencils or pens you regularly draw with ~ and just as important.]

I'll try to blog some sketch pages from my Sit Spot every now and then.

See you later ~ I'm off to my Sit Spot to journal and draw!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Can You See Me Now?

Well! That was An Experience! I haven't had such a great time in years! As soon as I had gotten my latest journal uploaded (Kauai ~ A Beachcomber's Sketchbook Tutorial) I left for camp.

For a whole week the Raccoons (that was our group of adult nature bootcampers) tented in a mountain meadow, crept through the woods in camouflaging mud, rotten log debris and ashes; followed the beat of a drum blindfolded at night; learned how to make fire with a bow drill; made cordage (string); learned to walk (relatively) silently in the forest, and lowered our stress levels several notches. And now we are Fox Trail graduates, still merely on the lowest rung of the woods lore ladder!

We slept in tents; ate in the dining hall; circled the campfires for breakfast and dinner (all campfires were started by bow drill); learned forest lore; shared secrets; and experienced a remarkable sweat lodge. One of our most valuable experiences happened every morning before breakfast when we each went to our own special Sit Spot to sit silently contemplating a beautiful mountain meadow and the surrounding forest as the sun came up.

I really enjoyed the fact that we never knew what was going to happen next. For instance, before going out to camouflage ourselves with mud, and to creep silently on hands and knees, toes and bellies through the forest, we were told only to wear something it was okay to get dirty. And HOW! Above is what I looked like all camouflaged (it is actually a photo of me Photoshopped to get me dirty). Alas, no one took pictures of us when we had mudded up, but the photo above is what the others looked like to me, so I probably looked about like this to them. Wow, huh? Kinda disappear into the landscape, don't I?

Did I mention that we then had to get clean by first plunging into a cold pond, then soaping AND rinsing in only 2½ gallons of sun-warmed water? It IS possible. Honest!

Learning how to make cordage from whatever fibers are lying around, including grass and bark, was fascinating. Here's some cordage I made ~ there is more than a yard of it there ~ and below is my journal page about Step 1 of making cordage ~ preparing the fibers.

A great deal more happened, but to tell it all would reveal secrets essential to the enjoyment and appreciation of future camp-goers to Coyote Trails courses. You'll just have to sign up for a class and experience it yourself!

Now I have established a Sit Spot in my madrone-black oak-ponderosa forest behind my house. I've set up a little sand chair between a dead snag and a tall stump (to soften my silhouette), and I've been journaling as I sit and observe. Here's the view down the hill and to the sides of my Sit Spot. The view in the photo is a full 180 degrees, forward and to the sides of where I sit. I'll show you a page or two from my Sit Spot Journal next time..

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Goin' Off to Camp

I feel like a little kid, getting my gear together to go off to camp!

This morning I uploaded my newest sketch journal tutorial: Kauai ~ a Beachercomber's Sketchbook Tutorial, which has consumed my time for the last several weeks. I'm very pleased with it, but I'm glad to finally get it launched, because now I can go play.

Recently I joined the Board of Directors of Coyote Trails School of Nature, here in Ashland, which on the 4th of July translated into riding on the parade float and howling like a coyote at frequent intervals (there's nothing like being in a parade to let you throw reticence to the wind and be a Wild Thing). On the advice of my friend Otie, at right, I decided I wanted to experience some of the courses they teach, at their forest camp on the mountain above Ashland, and I have signed up for a couple of week-long courses in nature skills.

Here's what I'm to learn in this first class (the Fox Trail Adventure):
  • how to build a stick and leaf shelter;
  • how to make fire with bow drill ~ without matches;
  • how to find safe drinking water in the forest;
  • stalking and methods of tracking;
  • nature awareness and observation;
  • how to move quietly in the forest without being seen;
  • ways of nature journaling;
  • understanding animal body movement and performance;
  • the philosophy of living with the earth
  • and the cultivation of the imagination and wonder
Wow! I will be a new woman! If you'd like to go visit the site, and maybe try this course yourself someday, here's the link. It's not just for kids -- they offer the same classes for kids and adults, but they don't mix the adults with the kids.

I've been checking things off their Supplies List, just bought a new tent I've been meaning to get for some time (whooeeee!) and I tried it out ~ on my deck. 3am I knew the 3" pad I was sleeping on was too hard, so I wimped out and came back in the house to get some sleep.

The next night I tried my 6" foam pad, which worked well enough that I made it through the night without too much waking up. Using a mattress is kinda old-ladyish, but I've no intention of disabling this faithful body any further than it already is!

Jesse loves the new tent, and has spent quite a bit of time sitting in its doorway looking out into the woods. Since he generally sleeps on my bed, I was hoping he could figure out how to nose in under the flap, but he couldn't quite figure it out. He yowled and complained, pawing fruitlessly at the flat, feet slipping down the nylon doorway, but he couldn't quite fathom stepping over the sill down there by his knees. Since there are skeeters out there, I couldn't leave the flap wide open for him, so in the end I had to shut him into the house so I could try to sleep

I think the Wild Things approve of my sojourn. Friday morning a perky little gray fox trotted past my studio window, casting a sly eye my direction before moving on into the forest. And night before last, I was treated to the longest coyote serenade I have ever experienced.

And then......night before last, two coyotes bark/yodeling from about 200 ft out in the woods woke me up at roughly 2:55am, embroidering a dream I'd been dreaming. I listened drowsily for several minutes, then realized that this was going on MUCH longer than their usual 1-2 minute song (especially since they'd been howling for quite some time in my dream) and I glanced over at the clock: 2:59. I listened in amazement for 14 more minutes, the last little yip trailing off just a few seconds before 3:13. That's at least 18 minutes of solid bark/howling (no, none of the barking was dogs), plus however long they were going at it before it finally woke me up. WOW.
(If you're not sure what a coyote howl sounds like, click here and listen to #1 and #3.)

So, with approval of my forest mates, I am finished packing and ready to go up into the mountains to the forest camp where I shall learn how to blend with trees, walk like a deer, and live like a Wild Thing.

Now I need to finish the list for the house-sitter, then I'm ready for my camping trip. The weeds I joust with every afternoon down at the nursery will just have to grow without me.

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

Related Posts with Thumbnails