Field sketching for birders

This past weekend I was at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to teach an intensive two day Field School focusing on Field Sketching for Birders. I never know who will sign up for such a class or what their expectations will be so it is always a bit of a challenge setting up the schedule.

Drawing birds seems like a simple thing but it is actually quite challenging to get them right.

photo 2The weather forecast was for rain and cold wind for both days which made it difficult to work outside. The first day we worked indoors but we did manage to get out several times on Sunday.

In the classroom we began by drawing bird shapes from memory and then worked on drawing bird silhouettes, as correct shape and form is important for bird identification. The students had different goals and different levels of ability but this exercise went well for all.

photo 3We worked on drawings of bills and feet, bird anatomy and then from bird pictures in field guides before venturing out to the feeder area. Drawing live birds is quite a challenge but these folks were up to it! They worked very hard and although the birds were in constant motion the sketchers were able to pin down characteristic moves and postures.

photo 1At 7 a.m. on Sunday we headed out in a cold drizzle to see what we could see for birds with naturalist and birder, David Clapp. A great egret was a highlight as were several green winged teal in Goose Pond. The rain got heavier and we returned to the classroom where Melissa had prepared a wonderful hearty continental breakfast for us. Warm beverages were especially appreciated.

photo 4We drew from feathers and from the bird mounts in the WBWS collection. We returned to the feeders but also worked on bills and feet from the mounted hawks and songbirds on display in the exhibit area.

All this drawing was pretty intense and some people began to fade. Unless you’ve actually sat or stood and drawn something for almost 8 hours it is hard to describe the concentration and attention required and how tiring it can be. Also, drawing small moving targets can be frustrating. And yet, the students put on their brave faces and kept on drawing. I was impressed with their attitudes and their willingness to really work hard. Their drawings were impressive, even if some of them were frustrated by the results of their own labors. This is not easy stuff! They did great.

At one point one of the students mentioned she and her mother had seen a nest on the ground with a broken egg. She thought the nest was woven into the grass. I was curious and she took me out to see it. I photographed it as well as drew it and showed it to the bird experts when we returned to the building. After some discussion it was decided it was….

photo 5a woodcock nest! It had not survived a predator attack but it was still cool to see such a thing. I brought all the students out to see it and it made a nice little finish to the workshop.

My next field school session will be in July and will be Nature Sketching for Scaredy Cats.





My new eShop is up and running!

It’s been a long, often hard road because I am so not really a computer person but I’ve at least got the shop somewhat organized and running so I hope you will check it out and give me some feedback!

No original art is listed yet but here is some of what is there….

Please stop by and check it out!

Cape Cod Art and Nature Shop

New on the drawing table….

It’s been a busy winter for drawing around here with lots of special orders coming in and an exhibit to prepare for….

I’ve been working on a series of owls in ink on blue gray paper….like this snowy owl

008and this barred owl….

024I’ve also been working on more botanical drawings like these tulips…

010and these black-eyed Susans…

018but perhaps most fun of all has been drawing the bugs…

003Several of these were commissioned or have already been spoken for but there are lots more coming…..







Drawing River Otters

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on sketches and drawings of river otters for a project I was asked to do. The finished piece is to be used for a children’s nature camp t-shirt. Projects like these are always fun but people all have different ideas as to what they want so starting with sketches of various poses is always a good thing.

We decided on two general designs. One was an otter looking out of the water which would be a vertical design.

This guy was the first finished drawing of that group.

This otter seemed a bit grumpy to me, especially for use on a kid’s shirt so I did another drawing.

I liked this one’s personality but we still wanted to look at a horizontal drawing that could fit the whole otter in as well as a fish.

This last drawing is the one we decided on for the shirt design. When the shirt is ready, I will show it here. You have to be a kid enrolled in the camp to get one, though. Sorry about that.

This was a great project to work on and I donated the art for the shirt design. The other two drawings are for sale, however. You may email me for more information about them or to to my Mary Richmond Design Etsy shop where they will be listed for sale.


New in the studio this week….

I spend a lot of time working in my studio or outdoors doing sketches, small watercolors and illustrations for various projects, many of which are never seen by the general public so I’ve decided to start showing some of my works in progress here on the blog. I am also working on updating my gallery pages to reflect more of my current work.

This week I’ve been focusing on sketching rabbits, otters and corgis, all for different projects.

For some reason I have always enjoyed drawing and painting rabbits. I did a huge series in high school that even included rabbit sculptures. I know, a little funny but there it is.

Here are some of my sketches from this week.

As you may know I have a corgi and I am working on a children’s story that involves a corgi…

Otters are especially challenging to draw but I’m working on them….

Let me know what you think!

Kids love to draw and be outside….

I know this is true…

This little girl was jumping up and down, pulling her friend’s hair and screaming really loudly just before she sat down to draw….she sat like this for over half an hour filling page after page with pictures of leaves, flowers, birds and bugs…. Continue reading

Knobbed Whelks

There are several kinds of whelks common to Cape Cod but on the south side Hyannis, Centerville and Osterville beaches I frequent, the knobbed whelk is the most common.

Here is the shell of one washed up on the beach. I can’t help but collect these lovely shells and they decorate many of my window sills.

Whelks are gastropods and are really just big snails. In some parts of the country and other parts of the world you may hear them referred to as conchs thought true conchs are a bit different. If you walk the beach in the fall or winter you may find these long twisty egg cases. These are the egg cases of the knobbed whelk. The cases of the channeled whelk look similar but have got sharper edges to the individual cases.

Often the cases that wash up still have some shells in them. I cut this one open to show the baby whelks that did not survive. Like all mollusks the young grow with their shells. They do not shed them like crustaceans such as crabs.

Here you can see the relative sizes of an adult whelk, the egg case and the baby whelks.

And since it is still a bit chilly to sit in the damp sand and draw I brought them home to sketch in my trusty moleskine.