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.




Sketching birds

This has been a tough winter here on Cape Cod for getting outside and doing much sketching so most of my bird sketching has been done from inside. During one of the first big snow storms I sketched some of these little guys that were visiting my feeders.

012Birds move quickly so I have to sketch really quickly to keep up with them. Mostly I go for a quick gesture or detail. I can take photos, and I do, but the sketches are just more lively.

I work at a small table by a window overlooking the feeders in my tiny back yard in Hyannis. I get a surprising number of birds.

011One day I may concentrate on flickers and another on nuthatches or Carolina wrens.

034I like to add little notes, making it a bit of a bird journal as well as sketchbook.

008And some days I just draw and sketch cardinals. They tend to hang around the longest…

Cardinal sketches by Mary Richmond Cape Cod Art and Nature

035People ask me often what the secret is to drawing birds. It isn’t hard. You just have to be patient and willing to make some silly looking drawings. Be observant before you make the first line. Birds repeat motions. Which poses are most indicative of the species? Start slowly and practice. Have fun!