View Full Version : My Nature Notes & Sketches

07-13-2010, 10:01 PM
Well, here it is. Finally! Yes, I'm the worlds slowest drawer but I got there eventually! I hope this comes out because its a new computer and resizing the photo was a nightmare as I can no longer use my favorite editing software! :crying:
That being said, here is the beginning of my journal. It is a 5x8 Moleskin Watercolor Journal. Pencils used are Derwent Studios but I hope to experiment with different pencils as I go on including many different Derwent pencils.

My first picture is of an old willow tree at our local park. It is also one loved by my Mum so thought it would be a good start to my new journal. :) It has such character! I worked from a photo which I took in the morning sunlight in May. The tree was covered in yellow catkins which shone a lovely gold in the sun. Fresh green grass and new Spring growth was seen everywhere. Hope you like it :-)

The Old Willow
5x8 Moleskin Watercolor Journal
Derwent Studios

Lastly - one thing I was not happy about with this picture in the end was the last part of the title "The old willow". (Other than my untidy hand writing!) I moved it around the picture on top of tracing paper before writing it on the page permanently with a sepia pitt pen. I decided where I preferred the look of it, but after it was done wished I had placed it in the lower left corner!! So this really bothered me. Should I have placed it lower left to make it better visually or placed it where it is, or a little lower? Any C/C regarding the placement of "The Willow" title & date welcomed. This is all still a learning experience for me! Other than this I was happy with the picture and will always remember the morning walks past this old tree with my Mum! :)

07-13-2010, 10:10 PM
Hi Rachel!

Glad you decided to take the plunge! What a lovely spot you have drawn and painted for us. I especially love the great texture in the sky and water and also in the shadow pattern on the grass. The colors are just lovely, too.

I'm sorry you are not happy with the placement of the title. I hope you will be able to let it go, so you can enjoy your lovely work every time you look at it. I can't say whether it might have been better placed in the lower left or not, but to me, it looks just fine right where it is. And by the way, I think your handwriting is pretty neat.

Very nice work! Hope to see more.


07-13-2010, 10:30 PM
Thank you Jean for your kind words :) I'm slowly "getting over" the title placement! I know after a few days it probably won't bother me so much. Lessons learned I guess! As for my handwriting... I know I could improve on that! Maybe when I'm not so nervous with the other pages it will be better. I think once I get a few pages behind me I won't fuss so much! :D

07-13-2010, 11:07 PM
Rachel, this is beautiful! I see no problem with the placement of the title. It's easily read and doesn't diminish the painting at all. It would also have worked in the lower left, but I'd have done it smaller if I placed it there so that it balanced well within the space.

The painting is gorgeous. The tree is quirky and unusual in its shape, you captured its interesting character and the golden catkins are so luminous. One thing that helps push them forward is that band of darker, more distant trees at the back. This is a spectacular beginning to a nature journal I'm going to enjoy following. Well done!

07-13-2010, 11:43 PM
Robert - thank you! I definately agree with what you say regarding the willow title, having done it smaller had I placed it in the lower left, and that was my plan had I put it there! I also "intended" writing it in a smaller size where it is now but somehow it got larger than I was planning on! Thank you for you opinion on that! Keeping my writing smaller throughout the rest of the journal is what I intend to do!
Thank you again for all your comments, I listen to them with the utmost respect!!! This was actually my first landscape piece in cp other than a really quick sketch one before and really enjoyed doing it! I plan on trying some others in the future, but I would also like to learn how to work faster than I do. And I will try not to let months pass before posting something new! :D

07-13-2010, 11:46 PM
That was a terrific sketch to start your journal with. My favorite part is that wonderful shadow. I think the placement of the lettering is just fine, and your printing is much neater than mine. Nice work!

07-13-2010, 11:56 PM
Thank you Michelle! I really enjoyed doing that shadow! That and the water, they were fun! :-)

07-14-2010, 12:24 AM
This is a wonderful little drawing, I love it. The foliage especially is great. You could digitally remove the title and print it out for framing, it would look great hanging on the wall I'm sure.


07-14-2010, 01:50 AM
Love it!!

Vivien Maloney
07-14-2010, 01:59 AM
Beautiful little drawing! The shadow of the tree is gorgeous! I think the printing is ok where it is. If you moved it to the left-hand corner it would be too intrusive. It's a personal choice really. I have a huge issue with where to put my signature every time I sign a painting and I'm never happy with it, but no-one else seems to notice. Looking forward to seeing more sketches from you.

07-14-2010, 03:59 AM
Why not go the whole hog and add a sentence at the bottom explaining how this is your mum and yours favourite tree? This would balance out the title.


07-14-2010, 04:08 AM
Rachel - The Old Willow is BEAUTIFUL & such a perfect memory piece for you to keep forever. The placement of the title is absolutely fine & looks great!! Don't beat yourself up about it (i do the same thing when writing things & notes & titles on my pages, after i've done them i wish i hadn't - but i also think about how i enjoy reading what people have written on their pages and hope people will feel the same about mine) So don't stress about it, all round stunning picture.

07-14-2010, 06:21 AM
I agree with the others, beautiful drawing and a great start to your nature sketches! I think the writing is fine there aswell - "The Old Willow" on the sunny strip between the tree shade and the water, quite fitting actually. Bottom left would have worked too I think but it's also fine like this!

07-14-2010, 01:50 PM
Wow - thank you all for your positive comments, very much appreciated!

David - thank you. And yes, Some day when I get a new editing software I will do just that, if only to be able to print it off for some cards for friends or something!
Kevin - thank you!
Viv - I guess the writing could have gone in both places, like others are saying. I think i'm over it now lol! The rest of the book I don't think i'll worry so much over!
Doug - I thought of that too but then decided to just keep the front page simple. The rest of my book will have more writing in it describing each thing, but I figured this first page is for my Mum and she knows its special! Plus I don't think I dare add anything else to it for fear of messing it up completely lol! :lol: Thank you for your comment! :-)
Tania and Alylah - thank you both for your lovely comments!:)

07-14-2010, 02:00 PM
Beautiful tree, gorgeous shadow. And such a wonderful memory. Working in CP is always going to be slower than other media. It's just it's nature. The title where it is balances out the whole. It's just fine.

07-14-2010, 02:10 PM
Thanks Debby! I have to keep telling myself that cp is slower! I know I'll get faster someday... :-) It amazes me how the time flew by when working on this, and others i've done. I look up at the clock and 4 hrs has disappeared - poof! Time flies when you're having fun!

07-14-2010, 04:40 PM
Wow, Rachel! This is really beautiful. And what a great opening page for your new journal! I too have a new watercolor moleskine and I've done a bit or work in it. Left the first page blank so far until I decide what to put there. I am in north cnetral Texas too, Fort Worth. Glad to see someone from close by. Keep up the great work!

07-14-2010, 04:40 PM
Wow, Rachel! This is really beautiful. And what a great opening page for your new journal! I too have a new watercolor moleskine and I've done a bit or work in it. Left the first page blank so far until I decide what to put there. I am in north cnetral Texas too, Fort Worth. Glad to see someone from close by. Keep up the great work!

07-14-2010, 04:52 PM
Rachel - what an absolutely beautiful tree. Characterful yet so gentle with strength and delicacy at the same time and beautifully composed. I'm amazed how you did this with watercolour pencils. Wonderful start.

07-14-2010, 11:26 PM
Dena - thank you! I like the little moleskin so far but have lots more to experiment with in it!
NC TX to huh? Great! Bedford here :-) Thanks again for your comment and look forward to seeing more of your work :-)

Xina - Thank you for your lovely comments also - however, this was all done in Derwent Studio pencils, not their watercolor range, although I do have the D. Watercolor pencils i've not yet experimented with them, (They just arrived this week!), but that is one of the reasons I got the watercolor moleskin, so it would allow me to do some light watercolor pencil work as well as regular CP. Thanks again! :) - PS - My grandparents on my mothers side are also from Wales! :-)

07-14-2010, 11:36 PM
Rachel, what a great start! I think you have done a lovely first page and I, too, like the way you have done the shadow of the tree. You can spend as little time or as long as you like with cp's that is the beauty of them - endless possibilities for the outcome! Your sketch is full of light and uplifting. Isn't it wonderful to let go of time and just draw - I lose whole blocks of time that way :)

07-14-2010, 11:55 PM
Hi Jackie! Thanks so much! Glad you liked it & liked the shadow too! That shadow really was very satisfying to do. Its funny how you can work your way through a piece and come to parts that you think will not be so interesting, yet turn out to be the most fun! I felt like it was bringing the tree to life the more I worked on it! I couldn't believe how the time flew by! Hey - its stops me from getting the munchies and before I know it, its dinner time!! I agree that with the CP's I can tinker a lot too and sometimes just have to tell myself to stop! A little bit more here, a little darker there... ooooo that color would look nice here.... by the time I look up dinner time has been & gone, I've forgotten to eat and its time for bed! :eek: Yea... gotta love it! :D

07-15-2010, 01:35 AM
:thumbsup: Yep! I can sooooo relate to all of that :evil:

07-22-2010, 10:25 PM
OK - so I really needed to chart all my pencils, as its not something I had got around to doing until now! I really enjoyed doing this! It's amazing what you learn from your pencils / paints by doing little swatches of color, how they vary in feel, how they change by adding water, sometimes just a subtle difference, other times dramatic. So here they are in order from the BACK of my moleskine watercolor journal, with the odd little doodles here and there. Its nice to finally have them all in one place so I have a reference to keep for the future. I do love looking through the colours! I thought about doing something other than just simple patches but in the end I didn't bother as I just wanted to get them in there without too much fuss or taking years doing it!!! :lol:

Starting with the Derwent Studios on the very back page with their names on the back cover page...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Jul-2010/197692-dstudio1b.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Jul-2010/197692-dstudio2b.jpg

Followed by Derwent Coloursoft...


Berol Verithin...


Derwent Drawing...


Derwent Metallic...


Derwent Graphitint...


And finally Derwent Watercolor...



07-22-2010, 10:28 PM
Your swatches are so cool! I love the little pictures you did in the corners of the pages.

07-22-2010, 10:51 PM
Thanks Debby! The little doodles were just that! I was just playing with the pencils and having fun! I put water droplets on the water soluble pages, and a quick sketch of one of my thimbles on the metallic page. I did that in the "Gold" (dry) and it has a lovely sheen to it which can't be seen online. I've collected thimbles for 31 years now! (gosh I feel old lol!). I didn't do so good a job with the water on the metallics, I should have used the brush in a different way to make it a little smoother, but I learned from it so thats OK! The gondola on the watercolor page is terrible, but I had fun with it and was just testing out one or two colours. I think my favorites, besides the Studios, would be the Derwent Drawing. I love the colours in these and its more in line with the type of things i'd be attracted to drawing in nature, so i'm looking forward to doing more with these in the future. Thanks for looking :-)

07-23-2010, 07:20 AM
This is fabulous!!! you have such patience - i know i should do this, i started with my 72 Coloursoft, but didn't make it all the way!!!

Thanks for showing us these - it's such a help when you need to use them. are those the new formula derwent watercolour pencils??

07-23-2010, 11:15 AM
Thanks Tania! I don't have all that much patience but I just really got into doing these... once I found out how I was going to do them, how many patches per row and spacing between etc etc... then it was enjoyable! After the first few pages the rest went much quicker because I knew what I needed to do.
Yes they are the new formula watercolor pencils, with the dark blue barrels. I really like them! I only used enough water to drag out the color... I could quite easily have blended away any pencil strokes with more water / swishing of the brush or made the color richer with more pigment laid down. Here I just did a medium pressure with the pencil and knew I could go much darker if needed. I hope to do some more with pen and wash, after seeing Roberts fantastic examples! I'm completely new to watercolour! I'd love to be able to do some small landscapes with them, although i've never done any landscapes other than that Willow at the front of the book! Thats all new territory for me so it will be interesting! :-)

07-23-2010, 12:13 PM
Wow! You have quite an arsenal of colored pencils! You did a great job on your color samples.

07-23-2010, 02:19 PM
Great idea to put the color swatches right into the journal. Your title page is stunning!

07-23-2010, 02:38 PM
Michelle - I can be a little shopaholic when it comes to art supplies! I think i'm done for a while though! Thank you :)

Jamie - Thank you so much! :)

07-24-2010, 01:00 AM
Rachel, these are fantastic color swatch charts. I've been systematically putting all of my watercolor swatch tests like this into the back of one large Moleskine, but while I have charted every colored pencil I own - I have no idea where the charts are unless I start going through several old sketchbooks. I tend to chart them when I first get them and then if I fill the sketchbook, that's where the chart lives.

But you're right about what doing the charting does. Once I've used each of them, my hands remember their feel. I love the small drawings you've done next to the swatch tests. Those are great!

And I think the next time I do CP swatches, I'll try to keep them all in the same book. Maybe even go back and do them all in one of the hardcover ones so that I know it'll still be in that place.

07-24-2010, 04:07 AM
Great job Rachel - You must be my long lost twin - I have loads of pencils too - you have some I don't and I have some you haven't got there :) If we got together we could open an art shop of our own LOL!

07-24-2010, 05:05 PM
Thanks Robert! If I ever get any more pencils (like I NEED MORE!!) then I do plan on keeping them all in the back of this book. You've been doing art for so much longer than I have, and have tons of sketchbooks i'm sure, not to mention art supplies! I'm sure it would take you quite a while to re do all your charts for all of your supplies! It would be cool though, having one book for all of them!

Jackie - :lol: I do like the Derwent range! I think if I ever got another set the next ones would be the pastel pencils. I'm so bad... :D

07-24-2010, 11:54 PM
I love your old willow picture, Rachel. Willow trees have a sad sort of beauty...Have you heard of the Asian folk tale of why the willow tree is sad? In Japanese folklore, the weeping willow is a story of a woman whose lover went away and she promised him that she will wait for him forever. She kept going to the spot where they said goodbye and where he promised he would meet her in his return. Her lover never came back and she turned into a tree called the weeping willow....so sad :(

I think I read too many storybooks when I was a child...I hid in books then - stories were safe places for a child to hide in....

07-25-2010, 01:27 AM
Rachel, I do have lots of sketchbooks and supplies. It is a really good idea to keep all the charts in one place. If I do that, what I should do is get a mid-size wirebound one with hard covers and dedicate it to that -- so that I don't fill it up with sketches and have plenty of room for more charts if I get new supplies. I could do the same thing with one of the less expensive brands of watercolor books and keep that going indefinitely too. Thanks for a really good idea!

I really like the Derwent range and want the pastel pencils too.

Deb, that's a great story. I thought it would be something like that, some story of lasting grief. I used to hide in books as a kid too. Why people think of childhood as happy and easy is beyond me. But I think people who hide in storybooks to deal with it grow up to be creative, deep and interesting.

07-25-2010, 07:04 AM
nice sketch of the willow and you have a lot of pencils!!! l can never resist art supplies either!

07-25-2010, 09:28 AM
Deb - I had not heard of that story, thank you for posting that here! I too loved to read every minute I could get, while all my friends were out doing so called "cool stuff" i'd much rather be in a library with my head in a book!

Robert - well I want to see all YOUR charts too if you do end up putting them all into one book! That i'd love to see! Especially if you had a watercolor based book so you could also use your paints! I bet you could fill a book with your supplies! :lol:

Vhere - thank you! Now I just need to use them more.... its hard even now when I keep spending time outside gardening!

07-25-2010, 11:53 AM
You're very welcome, Rachel...I thought reading was "cooler" than what other kids did.

Deb, that's a great story. I thought it would be something like that, some story of lasting grief. I used to hide in books as a kid too. Why people think of childhood as happy and easy is beyond me. But I think people who hide in storybooks to deal with it grow up to be creative, deep and interesting.
See, Rachel...we grow up to be creative, deep and interesting! :clap::thumbsup::angel: I wouldn't disagree with that, Robert. :)

I know, I am having way too much fun with the smilies...:lol: <---of course.

07-25-2010, 07:00 PM
Deb LOL oh why not! :lol: And YEAA... I agree, we ARE cool and creative, deep & interesting!!! :cool:

07-27-2010, 09:52 AM
Yay for artists!!! :clap: Guess who had too much coffee this morning? :D

07-27-2010, 09:54 AM
LOL! No such thing as too much coffee....!

07-27-2010, 10:06 AM
ha ha glad to meet another caffeinist...I do my best paintings on coffee!

...and on that note, I better get to painting before the caffeine wears out! Have a great day, Rachel!:wave:

07-27-2010, 10:08 AM
You too! Off to get my second cup.... :D

07-27-2010, 10:15 AM
Hi Rachel,

Great first sketch! And also nice to see all the Derwent color patches. Good job!

Vivien Maloney
07-27-2010, 03:32 PM
Wonderful pages of color patches. Great to have for reference. I would never post mine, they are great blobs and scribbles - your's are so neat!

07-27-2010, 04:13 PM
John - Thank you! I did enjoy that first sketch... but I REALLY need to start some more! :-)

Viv - Thanks! I'm so glad I got them done, been meaning to do it for a while and so just sat down and did it! I don't think it really matters how they look as long as they're functional! :)

09-17-2010, 06:34 PM
OK - I've been having scanner problems but HOPEfully this will work. I'm pretty late in posting this but oh well! I got the seed off the side of the road and planted it. The next Spring up it came and this is its second year, now with flowers and seed. :)


Sentsitive plant from life & photo.
Derwent Studios in Moleskine journal.

09-17-2010, 07:00 PM
Hi Rachel,

Glad to see you got another one done...! This is very nice. I like seeing botanicals, and I've done some, but many of them take more patience than I seem to have. :) Be sure to get some more up in this thread...!

09-17-2010, 10:08 PM
Rachel, love this little botanical drawing. Thanks for the details. I think I've seen this before, I remember playing with the leaves when I found one in New Orleans. It's very cool. Your seed pods on it are so delicate and well shaded, that's lovely. Cool you included all the different parts.

09-17-2010, 10:13 PM
Very cool botanical. Also love that you planted it from a seed you found.

09-18-2010, 06:35 AM
Yay Rachel! I like this very much - well done with the flowers and leaves. It looks similar to something we have here (not that I know what it is called!). Really glad to see you posting again :)

Joan T
09-18-2010, 11:09 AM
:thumbsup: Wonderful job on the old willow tree for your first page....just a super shadow!!! I am amazed by your color swatches. I would never have the patience to do that. Nice botanical sketch of the plant and the seed pod!

09-18-2010, 03:41 PM
John - thank you! I do enjoy the botanicals when I have the time to spend over them. I am going to try harder to get more done! I tend to be too detailed sometimes and that can prevent me from doing pieces, so i'm trying to work on things a little quicker and not be overly fussy!

Robert - I love playing with the leaves or watching them close when I sprinkle the hose over them! Thank you for your comments, I enjoyed doing the seed pods!

Debby, thank you! I love gardening too so had to plant it to see if it would come up the following spring, which it did! It just didn't flower last year, this being the first year :-)

Jackie - yeaaaa I know.... I NEED to get some more done LOL! There are lots of different species of sensitive plant, some flowers are yellow, white or pink. All are very cool! Thanks for your comments :-)

Joan - thank you, glad you liked the willow & plant! The color swatches were actually fun to do... maybe because its nice seeing all that color appear on one page!
Thanks all :-)

09-19-2010, 07:31 AM
We have the sensitive vine with pink flowers around here, although I think they must be much more rare than they used to be. It's been years since I've seen one!

Love your willow and your sensitive plant!!! :) The swatches are impressive, too. I need to do that!

09-20-2010, 12:48 PM
Leslie - thank you! The swatches really are very useful! So much easier to tell what the color will be like from the swatches compared to looking at the pencil tip!
I've seen the vine with the pink flowers also, as well as a small one that doesn't vine, but stays close to the ground, again with little pink flowers. Very cool. :-)

09-20-2010, 03:42 PM
They are cool, aren't they? I wish I could see more of them. I'm afraid they may be disappearing in my area!

09-20-2010, 04:55 PM
Thats always sad to see plants, especially ones you grew up with as a kid, disappear. My garden is certified with the NWF & Tx parks and wildlife as a wildlife habitat and I try to grow as many natives as I can as well as anything take grabs my interest! (I Seriously need more land!!). This plant is in a pot with a tropical Plumeria which I have to bring indoors during the Winter. It even survived the transplanting along with the Plumeria this spring into a larger pot! I'm going to see if I can find some more seed this Fall for other types, I'd like a pink one! :-)

09-20-2010, 05:11 PM
Wow, Rachel, that's wonderful!! Good for you! I hope you can find some pink ones to cultivate. :)

09-20-2010, 06:45 PM
That is so great you got your yard certified as a wildlife habitat. I think it's fantastic what you're doing, it helps so many birds and other creatures and provides wildlife corridor. Great program.

09-20-2010, 07:12 PM
Hi Rachel,

Yes, our back yard is certified through NWF as well, after we took out most of our lawn and put in bird-friendly landscaping, with many native plants. Interestingly, last night it became a bit TOO wildlife-friendly. Although we're in a development, we are on a golf course, and across the fairway is a steep and wild ravine that leads to a large protected forest tract(s). There are cougars and bears in the area, but until last night we hadn't had problems with bears coming to our bird feeders. I say until last night because I looked out this morning and saw that my hanging suet feeder was not hanging. A racoon managed to get it to fall once, but it was pretty much undamaged and just got re-hung - so I thought that's what happened this time. Nope! Went out and found the feeder on the ground, all the suet gone, and crumpled to the point where there wasn't a straight piece of metal in it. No racoon did that...! So I went out and replaced it, but will have to bring it inside every night until the bears get sleepy and head for their hibernation dens for the winter. I'm tempted to stay up late tonight and see if it shows up again.

09-20-2010, 08:06 PM
How cool to have a yard that is a "wild" place! I've often dreamed of having a yard like that, I didn't know people actually did it.


09-20-2010, 08:14 PM
Hi David,

Google National Wildlife Federation and find their 'certified wildlife habitat' tab, which explains their program. It actually doesn't take a whole lot of work to get your yard certified - it's a great program, although NWF uses it as a marketing tool as well obviously. Our yard is not really that big - maybe 70 x 80 feet, although having the golf course and greenbelt on the other side makes it seem much bigger. The requirements for a certified wildlife habitat are basic - you need to provide food, water, shelter/cover and nesting/breeding opportunities for some type of animals. Food can be bird feeders, or just edible native plants; water can be a small birdbath that you keep filled year-round; and shelter can be a brush pile or suitable vegetation; and nesting opportunities can be a bird house, or suitable vegetation or other cover that is usable for breeding. You basically fill out an application, send it in, and if it meets the requirements you get a couple signs to put up if you want to, and a certificate to frame or store. There is an application fee for it, but it's reasonable, and it is certainly a good deal for the critters.

NWF has worked with a number of states, as Rachel mentioned, to partner with them and make essentially the same program available through state department of fish and wildlife (WA state does this) for people that wouldn't necessarily hear of NWF.

09-20-2010, 08:23 PM
Rachel and John, that sounds wonderful!

09-20-2010, 08:48 PM
Well, I rent so my landscaping opportunities are near zero. Besides I was thinking of the whole landscape resembling something truely wild, like a mountain scene, that's my dream....maybe when I retire. :)


09-20-2010, 11:39 PM
John and all - yes John explained it exactly! This is just what I did, provided lots of native plants, cover, nesting, food & water and they came! Like John said, you don't always attract the best of things though! I don't have bear or cougars in this area but racoons can be a pain! I hadn't seen any around here for like 12 years... till two nights ago LOL! And there they were, "Screaming" at each other at the feeders.... two giant ones!! Cool... but I don't want them headed for my pond and koi / goldfish! Still, thats what I plant for so can't be picky! I have a small 1/4 acre pie shaped lot, 160' at its back end down to about 50' at the front. Its not much but its loaded with plants and life - it all "moves"! Butterflies, moths, dragon's & damsels, birds, hummers, coons, possums, squirrells, ground snakes (nothing poisonous... yet but LOVE snakes!), black widows... yes black widows!!! Toads, frogs, crickets, bunnies...(awww!) my dog, my hubby and me! :D LOVE it!

09-20-2010, 11:52 PM
OK - one more! (Man... I'm on a roll...woo hoo LOL!) :D

This is in Big Bend west Texas, where I just returned from a week of backpacking / camping. It's the mountain that overlooks the "Basin Campground" in the heart of the Chisos Mtns. This is like a second home to me, I go a couple of times a year.
After our 3 night backpacking up in the high mtns we returned exausted after carrying our food, all our water for 3 days (with only a little help from a local spring), bedding, clothes and tent. We returned to the base camp and after setting up the tents one more time I relaxed in the late morning sun and drew this view in sepia pitt pen and dry watercolor pencils to get the colors. I washed it once I returned home. This is also the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning out there, when the sun rises behind it. Let me introduce you to - "Casa Grande" in the late morning sun! :) PS - this is the first "Pen & Wash" I've ever done! I could get used to this!


Casa Grande
Moleskine watercolor
Sepia Pitt Pen & Derwent Watercolour Pencils

09-21-2010, 12:06 AM
Rachel, please get used to this! I love it. The pen work on the rocks is so elegant. I love the strong values and the soft colors you added. Love the hints of pencil texture you left too, the wash was just gentle enough to smooth it and the texture is delightful. Gorgeous!

Thanks for reminding me that I'd like to do some more pen and wash sketches myself. This landscape is incredible, so wonderful you were able to sketch it in person plein air. That formation is so striking I know I'd recognize it if I was there.

09-21-2010, 12:07 AM
Hey Rachel,

Yes, 'coons are a very clever nuisance. I hope your pond is deep enough to give the koi escape room, or your koi will disappear, unfortunately...! Our little 15 foot long recirculating stream and very shallow (3 inch) pond with a hidden sump below has only a little drop from end to end to keep the water nice and slow and shallow for the birds to drink and bathe. So I figured the racoons would ignore it, but the landscape designer said, 'nope, racoons are hard-wired to investigate the sound of running water, you'll get them although they won't be back constantly if there's nothing in there to eat.' He was right. Fortunately, we have no poisonous snakes on this side of the mountains, so no worries there.

Since I'm a birder (and a beginning bird artist...) I keep a life list for the backyard. I started keeping it seriously in 2006, and it currently stands at 85 species seen or heard from the yard. The annual number picked up substantially when we put in the native landscaping in 2007 about this time of year.

Here is a link to probably the most exciting bird that showed up in our yard - and came around for a couple days - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=7036815&cat=38981. This is a Northern Pygmy-Owl, a very tiny owl as you can see from what it caught - a House Sparrow which is almost as big as the owl. The owl in this picture was in a tree 10 feet outside my kitchen nook window...in a small tree that was part of our landscaping.

We love our 'woodland garden' - sure wish we had a quarter acre like Rachel, but we're very lucky with what we have!

09-21-2010, 12:12 AM
Well, we cross-posted (or maybe I just took too long to write my post - :lol: ). I love your pen and wash landscape! This is great, especially for your first time at this style. Keep 'em coming!

09-21-2010, 12:20 AM
Great stuff Rachel! This sketch is lively, colourful and very descriptive, I think pen and ink should feature in your sketchbook more often! Very nice indeed :)

09-21-2010, 12:28 AM
That's an incredible photo, John! What a small owl. I thought the Scops owl was small, but this is miniscule! Very cool little raptor, he's gorgeous. Amazing shot. You really have a great camera and a great eye.

09-21-2010, 12:47 AM
That is a great pen and wash sketch Rachel. Pen and wash can be quite addictive.


09-21-2010, 07:19 AM
I agree with all these great folks. What a lovely pen and wash!! They ARE addictive because they're so much fun! :) What a wondeful backyard you must have! We rent out in the country, but the place sits on numerous acres so there's a woods back beyond our large backyard. We have all kinds of critters visiting!!! I started a backyard bird list when we moved out here, too. My favorite visitors are the deer and the Pileated woodpeckers and ruby-throated hummingbirds.
John, what a wonderful photo of that tiny owl!!! I have to ask- was this at night, and what kind of camera did you use? I'm hoping to get a new camera soon.

09-21-2010, 09:08 AM
I wonder if a balcony can be registered. I was feeding the birds for awhile, but the bird poop was becoming too much work, when the pidgeons found me. I had to make sure to be home while it was raining, so my washing went unnoticed by the building manager and the people walking below didn't notice so much that bird poop was being sprayed on them.

Your willow tree is far beyond what I can do, but it inspired me to use a local willow as inspiration for an anstract line drawing. There is so much emotion in a weeping willow.

I'm going to do a color chart in the back of my notebook with my Prang crayons.

I'm trying to find some inspiration in your rock drawing, but mostly, I think I just need to enjoy looking at it! It's beautiful. Did you wear your boots while drawing it? :-)

09-21-2010, 09:28 AM
Hi Leslie and Bootz,

The owl photo was taken during the day, in the afternoon. Northern Pygmy-Owls are one of only a couple of owls that are diurnal or at least partly diurnal (Short-eared Owls and Burrowing Owls being two others) - diurnal being the opposite of nocturnal. The camera I used for this was not a 'pro' camera - which I did use for a lot of my landscape and other shots on the website. The pro gear gets pretty heavy to drag around, especially the massive prime lenses if you take those, so I've started taking a well-designed but relatively inexpensive and lightweight camera around on normal birding and sketching trips - and that camera was what was used here.

It is a Panasonic FZ28 digicam. The reason I selected this camera (and several other birders I know use it) is that it has an 18X OPTICAL zoom (digital zoom doesn't 'count' so much for birds as all that does is have the camera crop the image - meaning reducing the pixels available to the image - when you shoot the image; you can use digital zoom beyond the optical if you want, but I prefer to do my own cropping in Photoshop) Zeiss lens. I bought the camera for $300 at Costco a couple years ago, I think.

Understand also that training in photography and really learning the bells and whistles on your camera is equally or more important than what the features on the camera are. When an opportunity like this one comes up, you have to know the process well enough to minimize any fumbling with controls while the owl is sitting there (briefly, usually!) waiting to be shot.

Hope this helps - I could babble on and on, but I think that gets to your point.

As to certifying a balcony, I don't think that could be done - although check on NWF's website - because of the space limitation. Even though a relatively small yard can qualify, it would be pretty much impossible to meet the 'shelter/cover' requirement for a balcony.

09-21-2010, 09:41 AM
John, the information about the optical vs digital zoom is invaluable to me. Thank you! That's exactly the kind of thing I fumble around wishing I knew. I have a fantastic film camera with interchangable lenses that takes wonderful pictures. However, it's obviously bulky for carrying around (I took it to Europe with me years ago, and by the time I finished my 3 week trip I was sick of carrying it. Now I just can't afford to use film.

I have not got enough knowledge about digital cameras to make an informed choice, which is why that one simple comment helps so much. Thank you again! I knew when I used the zoom on my dinky digital that I didn't like the results, but not why.

09-21-2010, 09:56 AM
Goodness, thank you all for your responses! I wasn't expecting QUITE so many lol!
Robert - Thank you! I did have fun doing this, and I think you saw my photo of me actually drawing it in my album? Anyways.... It was certainly a learning experience for me. I do need to lay down a little more color for it to blend a little smoother. Each color varies too! I don't mind pencil marks being left and did intend that for the grassy areas on the mtn side, but I should have used a little more color for the sky. No biggie! And it was YOUR pen and wash drawings that motivated ME to try it!! Yours are always great! Thanks for your lovely comments!

JTMB - beautiful NP Owl! I've only heard that one before, little devil would NOT show itself lol! Have the Ferruginous though and did take photos of that years ago, but nothing as good as your photo - fantastic! I LOVE panasonic cameras, but only have a 12x - didn't know they had an 18? Awesome! Thats also and great yard bird list in such a short space of time. I've been keeping one since '94 and it presently stands at 116. Getting harder to get new ones now :-) As for my Koi, their pond is 18" deep. Wish it were deeper but oh well. I wasn't planning for Koi when I put it in about 14 yrs ago! Touch wood the coons will leave them alone.

Davkin, Sarales & Jackie - Thank you all!

Bootz - thanks for looking! Doing charts in the back of your book is SO helpful! And no - I had just taken my boots OFF and was relaxing while doing this sketch!! I'd had them on for the past 4 days and it was so nice to relax with out them for a change! But I love my boots! :D
You can certainly provide lots of things on your balcony to attract birds etc, I did when I was in an appartment... they all called me the "Bird Lady" cause you'd get to our place and it was overloaded with hanging baskets, pots and all sorts Lol!! I can't be sure but thought I saw somewhere that you could certify a balcony? Not certain though, as John said you'd have to check. Go to their web site (National Wildlife Federation) to check :-)

Thanks again all for looking... i'm working on my next one which was also from Big Bend :-)

09-21-2010, 08:38 PM
Lovely pen and wash. You should definitely do more in this style, it suits.

09-21-2010, 09:05 PM
Thanks Debby! :-)

09-22-2010, 03:24 AM
great sketch and carrying art materials as well as all that kit ? wow!

yes, definitely do more pen and wash

09-22-2010, 11:33 AM
Thanks Vhere!
I've re-found a little shoulder bag that is used specifically for carrying a book or two that I thought would work perfect for carrying my sketch book as well as some pencils, eraser, sharpener and the moleskine. It worked perfectly! Its now my designated little "art carrier"!

09-22-2010, 09:57 PM
Rachel, congrats on finding the perfect small art bag. Keeping your sketch supplies handy whenever you go out will lead to so many good life drawings anytime you have to stop or wait for anything. That rocks.

Thanks for your compliment on my pen and wash paintings! Yours are gorgeous and I'm so glad I was able to inspire you to take up the medium. I'm still nowhere near Claudia Nice's fine grasp of the style but I get closer all the time.

09-23-2010, 12:17 PM
Thanks Robert and you're welcome!
Yes I love this little bag. I had it originally for carrying bird field guides when out birding but no longer carry field guides with me. So it sat there, at the bottom of a box hidden in the closet, until now :-)

09-23-2010, 03:15 PM
There's always something cool I used for something else buried in the closet. That's like a condition of life as long as you still have your stuff - something from a previous activity turns out tremendously useful. So glad you found it!

09-23-2010, 03:39 PM
I guess it pays off to go rummaging through closets occasionally! ;)

09-25-2010, 02:28 AM
:lol: think I should rummage - I got loads of stuff I've forgotten about......

09-25-2010, 12:37 PM
Jackie - it can be like Xmas sometimes..."OOooooo I forgot I had THAT" !! :D

09-25-2010, 09:58 PM
Jackie, go for it! So many cool things turn up when you do. They're inspiring! Art supplies that have been hiding for a while are full of potential.

09-26-2010, 09:58 PM
FANTASTIC WORKS, each beautiful and full of life!

The Weeping Willow is stunning, just simply breath taking!!!!!

THe Mountain is GORGEOUS and I LOVE the pen and wash technique - use it ALL of the time!!!!!

The Colour swatches are fantastic, but now I want a set of watercolour pencils....... help!!!!!!!!!!! LOL


09-26-2010, 10:47 PM
hehehe thanks Stacey! I was going to do another last week but other things just kept getting in the way! I plan on doing another pen / watercolor next. The watercolours and pen are definitely fun to use! You should get them LOL! But don't listen to me... :D

09-27-2010, 04:55 AM
I would be at the art store like a shot - but I don't think hubby would quite understand the need for MORE pencils!!!! (Although I don't own watercolour peencils.....sigh!!!!!)
Oh well, maybe for christmas??????

09-28-2010, 04:58 PM
I know, its hard to fight the temptation sometimes! Definitely put them on your Xmas list!

09-28-2010, 07:37 PM
Stacey, your hubby ought to understand you need watercolor pencils. They're too useful and convenient. Straighten him out on that pencils issue.

Joan T
09-29-2010, 11:04 AM
Casa Grande is beautifully done!!! The pitt pen looks wonderful for the craggy lines of the rocks. Well done. Glad you found your little bag to carry your supplies. It makes it so easy to carry things that way. There is nothing worse than getting somewhere and not having sketching supplies. That's why I have a small kit in just about every bag I take out of the house with me.

09-05-2011, 07:27 PM
Joan, thank you for your reply. As you can see, its been almost a year since i've posted in here! (Hanging head in shame!). I do appreciate your comment and I do love the pit pens with a wash, lots of fun and so simple and easy to use in the field.
Well, I have done one or two other pics since this last one, but am just getting around to resizing them and can't remember how I got them to size before! Once I've sorted the problem out I'll post them :-)

09-05-2011, 08:03 PM
OK - Here is one more! Wow, am I on a roll here or what? :lol: Done almost a year ago, I did this from a photo I had taken in Big Bend NP again. (I love Big Bend!). This is the first time i'd tried anything with the Derwent Watercolors and enjoyed them! The edging of the mountain was done in sepia pitt pen as was the branch in the foreground. The colours the sunset produced were spectacular! :)


"The Window" At Sunset.
Big Bend NP
8x5 Moleskin Journal
Derwent Watercolors & Sepia Pitt Pen.

09-05-2011, 08:22 PM
Gorgeous sunset. Glad to see you back with us.

09-05-2011, 09:20 PM
Gorgeous sunset. Glad to see you back with us.Ditto!

09-05-2011, 10:21 PM
Glad to see you back here! Great job on the Big Bend sketch. That is a place I have not visited, but really want to - one of these days hopefully I will.

09-05-2011, 11:28 PM
Thanks Debby, EP and John :-)
John, Big Bend is definitely worth the visit! One of my favorite places on Earth :-)

Vivien Maloney
09-06-2011, 12:09 AM
This is a lovely sunset Rachel. As the others have already said "glad to see you back with us again".

Joan T
09-06-2011, 11:42 AM
Love the sketch of the rock formation!!!! Nicely done!

09-06-2011, 12:18 PM
beautifully done sunset scene. . . love the branch coming from the top, very nicely done!

09-06-2011, 04:47 PM
Thank you Viv, Joan and Rainy! :)

09-07-2011, 03:36 PM
Another moment from Big Bend, the photo of this was taken on the same day as the sunset above.
I had never seen a Black Bear in Big Bend, kept missing them and hearing stories from others about their sightings! Always in the wrong place at the wrong time it seemed... till one day on the last leg of a hike, one walked across the trail not too far in front of me! I snapped the photo just as he turned to walk the other way & disappeared. Couldn't believe my luck! :D The path was narrow and he was turning on the spot which is why his back legs are close to his front.
I could have spent more time on this but just wanted to have a quick sketch to remind me of the moment. Its all done with Derwent Drawing pencils and i'm not used to these pencils yet. Combining colors to get the right green is a challenge! It was a good experiment. Most of the grasses out there were pale, straw colored anyway so kept those soft, as the main point of interest was the bear. He was so cute and a young one too! :)


Black Bear on Laguna Meadow Trail
Big Bend NP Texas, 9/11/10
8x5 Moleskine Journal
Derwent Drawing Pencils.

09-07-2011, 09:53 PM
Glad the encounter was only visual. Great moment you've captured with your sketch.

Vivien Maloney
09-07-2011, 10:36 PM
Love the Black Bear sketch Rachel, and the bear footprints, you've added are a great touch!

09-08-2011, 11:18 AM
I think I might have turned on the spot too!

nice sketch and amazing encounter

Joan T
09-08-2011, 11:19 AM
Beautiful job on the sunset, and I love the bear story as well as the sketch!!!

09-08-2011, 11:53 AM
Debby - Thank you! Black bears aren't as aggressive as Grizzly's and pretty much will run away. Its taken me 10 years before seeing one in Big Bend!
Viv - Thank you! I wanted something to put in the empty space on the right side and thought of the foot prints :-)
Vhere - LOL! I couldn't get my camera out fast enough and after waiting for a moment like this for so long wasn't going anywhere till I had a photo! :D I probably watched him/her for about 2 minutes while it fed on some of the bushes along the path.
Joan - Thank you for your kind comments!