Keeping a Cape Cod nature journal

I love this time of year for sketching and painting. It can be a little chilly to be outside and exposed to the elements but I have found that if I bring my smaller sketchbook I can work pretty comfortably in the car.

I travel light and just bring a few things with me. I have a tiny little set of watercolor paints that comes in a tiny plastic box. The whole box fits in my hand. I bring a pen that has a very fine point and permanent black ink that won’t run when I put a watercolor wash over it. My favorite new toy, however, is the waterbrush. It has the water right in the handle! I have never bought one of these but I recently joined a sketchbook group online and everyone was raving about using these brushes so I bought one. Now I wonder how many years of sketching I have lost by not having one of these. There’s no need to carry water. I still need to carry my trusty cloth or paper towel to test colors and clean the brush but it has lightened up my load a lot.

013Sitting in the car and drawing or painting is not always comfortable but on cold and blustery days it is a LOT more comfortable than working outside in the elements.

I have been using a small Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook which I can open up and either use flat for a panoramic view or I can use the two pages as two entries.

019I am also keeping a bird journal in a separate sketchbook filled with fine drawing and watercolor paper. It is handmade and I bought it as a special holiday gift for myself.

018I like these sorts of sketching times because I can add notes, sightings, etc. or anything else I want to add. Bad poetry has been known to happen….

011 012Some days this past week have been pretty warm and today I actually sat outside to paint some of the many crocuses that are finally blooming in my yard.


For me, looking back in these journals will bring me back to these hopeful spring days out on the beach and in the garden in a way that a photograph never can.




Painting Botanicals in Wellfleet

What a great weekend we just had! The weather was picture perfect, all sorts of flowers and trees were in bloom and the stage was set for a great weekend long Mass Audubon Field School. I was teaching “A Brush with Botanicals” and was joined by 6 students who turned out to be willing, brave and ¬†quick learners, too!

We started off with a bit of a chat about the history of botanical painting in watercolor and then went to work on some color mixing and various brushstrokes that would come in handy for this kind of painting. Many of the students were beginners but it was a different kind of painting even for those with more experience with watercolors.

After a morning of painting exercises everyone was ready to paint a flower. We set up in the shade outdoors. It may have been May but it was pretty hot in the sun already!

016Everyone was very quiet as they worked. They were concentrating hard!

018Plants wilt quickly out of water but the students were quick to use cracks in the table, their painting water and sheets of white paper as backgrounds.

014On Sunday the weather was still fine and we headed out to paint irises we had spied out in a field the day before…

001The irises proved to be more of a challenge than some originally thought they would be but they worked hard on getting the petals right. Irises are poetic and fun to look at but tough to paint.

002We ended up bringing some irises indoors to paint and then spent the afternoon going out onto the sanctuary to find branches, flowers and plants to draw and paint. I think even the students were pleased and surprised at how well their attempts worked out.

019I am always humbled by my beginning drawing and painting students because those first attempts are often awkward and far from what they hope for or imagine. And yet, they persevere. They are eager and willing to learn. They listen, they watch, they absorb as much as they can. And frankly, it seems to me it is very brave to draw or paint in public in a class and share work that shows signs of struggle but for all these students their work also showed signs of triumph. I was honored to be in their presence. It was a great weekend.

I will be doing another Field School “Sketching in Nature for Scaredy Cats” in Wellfleet in August.







Walking and Sketching in Sandwich

This morning looked sunny and inviting and I had plans to go to Sandwich and do some sketching. I packed my paints, my sketchbook, my good pen and my camera along with some water and my sweatshirt. It was pretty warm but one never knows. It is Cape Cod, after all.

I started at the newly reopened Thornton Burgess Museum on Water St., where my husband had been working hard to have everything spiffed up and ready for another summer season. The museum is right on Shawme Pond and has a great herb garden so there’s plenty to draw. There are also plenty of these….

The parent Canada geese were a bit wary but as long as I kept my distance they didn’t seem to mind me sketching their little ones. By this time the sky was getting really dark and I could hear thunder in the distance.

The geese didn’t seem too impressed but the thunder got closer and closer and finally the sky began to light up with lightening and I headed inside….

The rain began but most of the storm seemed to pass north of us so before long I was able to go outside and finish sketching…

I stopped over at Green Briar and then headed to the Game Farm where I did more sketching and walking…

and as I often do, I kept a list of the birds, etc. that I saw or heard. i also fooled around with some ideas for kid’s poems…

It wasn’t the perfect sunny spring day I started out to paint in but it ended up quite a nice day to walk and sketch and sit and watch the red tailed hawk get harassed by smaller birds…

Summer Days….

Have left me busy enough to not be blogging and I have a lot to catch up on. Here are some photos from some recent trips I’ve done with families to do some nature journaling and exploring.

Water lilies always make great subjects.This young lady is exploring all sorts of marine goodies we dragged up in a net.A frog had left the pond and was hanging out under the bushes in the shade so this artist got right down on the ground to draw it.Can you see the frog?

Nauset Marsh Art and Nature Boat Trip

I did this trip through Wellfleet Audubon and several more are scheduled throughout the summer. It was the first time we combined the art with the nature part of this trip on the Queen of Orleans and everyone loved it. Of course it didn’t hurt that it was a perfect summer day.

These young people are keeping watch over the flooding marsh.We always pull up an eel pot but usually we just find lots of crabs. This time we also got a really big eel! Don’t worry, everyone was released safely and alive.This is Captain Dave Bessom of the Queen of Orleans. An old Cape Codder by birth and inclination he’ll tell you all sorts of wonderful stories. He’ll pull your leg a bit, too.These young men are busy putting finishing touches on their crab pictures.

We got out and walked on the end of Coast Guard Beach and looked for more things to draw. Everyone was asked to find something that crawls, something that flies, something that attaches, something that buries and something else of their choice.
It was an awesome day and the families all seemed to have a really great day.