Nature Sketching vs. Botanical Illustrations,o


Elisa is a friend of mine, the daughter-in-law of my friend Tim. She is one of those artists whose work leaves me speechless. Elisa does botanical illustrations, a specific form of art not for the weak of heart.

Botanical Illustrations must be scientifically accurate in all ways, color, proportions, and details. They are often artistic, yet they are not open for interpretations by the artist. Here is an example, though not done by Elisa.

Nature Sketching is different. Much like travel or urban sketching, nature sketching captures the moment while it enhances observation and awareness. Explorers of nature have always gone into the world with a sketchbook or field journal in their pocket, to record what they see, and what they experience. Theirs is the work of the moment – the botanical illustration is more likely the product of the studio.

Many of my earliest memories took place in nature, up through my first year of college my intention was to become a biologist. Life has a way of redirecting the confident certainty of youth, yet my curiosity and love of nature is alive and well all these years later. I am looking forward to leading workshops that will attract non-sketchers to the joy of seeing the world around them, and capturing in in a sketchbook.

Here are a few recent nature sketches:

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Nature Sketching Workshop


I am so thrilled to be partnering with Nature Together to do a workshop on sketching nature – hopefull there will be more in the future.

Nature Together Sketching

Wednesday April 17, 10am-12.30pm at Nature Together shop in Mukilteo, Washington

$60 includes

  • Professional travel size watercolor pallet
  • Waterbrush
  • Micron 02 pen
  • Sketchpad
  • theTravelsketcher’s tip sheet

For centuries observers of nature have sketched to record their experiences. Sketching captures the moment and place, while improving our observation skills. This workshop will cover some basics of sketching the rocks, twigs, leaves, flowers, trees and small critters in our urban nature environment. (Watch for future workshops with more emphasis on trees and flowers, etc., as well as workshop on nature journaling.)

If you have little experience in sketching, this is for you, as it will be basic. Yet the more experienced will pick up a tip or two.

Register at Workshop page from tab above

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Piling on the beach at Mukilteo


Ask most folks, those who have even heard of Mukilteo that is, what is here and the first response is most likely the ferry to Whidbey Island. Those with a bit more knowledge of the area will identify the Lighthouse and it’s park. A few will of course know that Ivar’s has a restaurant on the water, and Arnie’s on the hill, and a brewery called Diamondknot. Yet there is a lot more to this beachside town.

Just a bit, sadly (my personal opinion revealed), north of Ivar’s is a hotel, which takes up way to much of the limited waterfront. Just north of the hotel is a Fisheries Research building, which is breathing its last breaths as it will give way to the complex of the new ferry terminal.

Tucked in between the hotel and the research is a tiny access to the beach, frequented by scuba divers. Decaying pilings in the water are testament to long-gone times. They still serve a purpose as subjects to paint, add cloudy skies, dark waters, and rugged rocks – just right.

This is a 5×7″ acrylic on a canvas panel.

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Yes! You can travelsketch. April 13, Mukilteo, Wa


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If you have ever wished that you could capture travel moments with pen and paint, BUT think you “can’t draw,” then this is for you. All levels are welcome and will pick up tips and tricks, but special attention will be given to a basic technique that may be different than you have tried.

I have developed a step by step approach that will simplify the process, and your first sketch will surprise you. In addition to hands-on sketching each person will receive

  • Professional grade compact watercolor palette, just the right size for pocket or bag
  • Waterbrush
  • Micron 02 fine point pen
  • Travel sketchbook

You will be ready to keep sketching and keep improving.

If the weather is cooperative we will paint on the patio, even if it’s a bit cool we are good, if not we are inside. Red Cup is being so generous that I am hoping everyone buys coffee, tea or munchies.

I will do a quick demo. Then lead you on a step by step sketch from a photo of your choosing. So each person needs to bring a few meaningful photos from a trip, no portrait types though. Either printed out, or on iPad.

Register now in the Workshop tab above

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Nostalgia in Independence, Oregon


When I was young, 8-10, I would spend a week every summer with my grandparents in Independence, Oregon. My grandpa drove a Union 76 oil delivery truck. On the day he delivered to the farms I got to ride along. The highlight was stopping at a little store on a narrow road, grandpa always got me an Orange Nehi, these are the best memories I have of my grandpa. This is a preliminary for an acrylic of nostalgia series.

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Graphite and pencils revisited


Ink, specifically a fountain pen, is my go-to sketching implement. My first sketches were with Rapidograph and Micron pens, no watercolor and rarely any pencil. Over the years the Rapidograph was retired as being too difficult to keep clean and operating, likely due to my ignorance about the perils of India Ink’s carbon particles ability to clog, as well as my inherent laziness. Micron was a constant companion, still is, yet it is the fountain pens that get the most use. Until recently I only used pencil to lay out complex perspective sketches. However – reading a biography of Van Gogh, who did a lot of pencil work, and the influence of my artist friend, Mary, I started playing with pencil a bit with some extremely satisfying results.

For ink and watercolor folks pencil is usually relegated to preliminary sketching or layout, what I have been doing is making the graphite just as prominent as the watercolor or ink. Here are two examples.

For this sketch, in a small Stillman & Birn sketchbook at the Salish Sea Brewing Company, I used a Cretacolor 5.6mm lead holder with 2B lead. I did the entire sketch with the pencil, no ink, and more than just an outline, there is shading etc. That was followed with a light watercolor wash, which allowed the graphite to enhance the watercolor. I did just a bit of touch up with the pencil after the paint dried, pretty much enhancing the stool between the two, and a bit on one of the sweatshirt hoods.

The Cretacolor holder is quickly becoming my first grab for a quick sketch – especially people. I used it at the Portland Art Museum for a quick sketch of one of the rooms.

For this sketch, again at a brewery, I used a regular pencil. (OK, yes, I like breweries, how can you beat good beer, interesting people and objects to sketch.) There was a lot of detail so a finer point was in order. One decision that you must make is how much detail to include, and there is no right answer. Each artist will have their own level, and I find it is a broad spectrum. There are times I love the detail, and other times just broad generalities.

Note that there is not quite as much pencil showing through as in the first sketch. My primary objective was to get some of the perspective right. In the past I would often use pencil first, then do the sketch in pen, then erase the pencil lines, then wash with watercolor. This time I went from the pencil to the watercolor, let it dry, then used ink for the details. The pencil lines do show a bit and I do like the added highlights they provide. Note – fountain pens don’t work well for this as the ink tends to spread a bit on the watercolor, a Micron works better.

So dig out pencil and experiment, would love to see what you come up with.

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Diamond Knot, at Mukilteo


One of the oldest buildings on the Mukilteo waterfront is the DiamondKnot Brewpub. Originally it was a bus barn, as evidenced by the beams, brick, and roll-up door. It’s first role as a pub was Cheers Too. In the 1990’s the founders of Diamond Knot bought the building and it has been thus ever since.

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