Redbuds in Bloom

The redbuds (Cercis canadensis ) are in full bloom in northern Illinois, so it is time for nature artists to find a few and sketch a sketch, draw a drawing, paint a painting, or simply take some reference photos before the pinks and purples disappear.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you – the flowers of the redbud tree were magenta last week, are bright pink this week, and will be turning lavender in another week or so. Be sure to make some color notes!

The redbuds of Lake Marmo at The Morton Arboretum are always gorgeous this time of year, but these native Illinois trees can also be found in forests preserves and front yards across the area.

Here are a few images from Nature Artists’ Guild members over the past few years for inspiration –

Nature Artists’ Guild members are invited to send images of their recent spring flora and fauna artwork to share on this website in upcoming weeks. Images should be sent to Denise Fisk, whose email address can be found in the guild’s Yearbook.

Spring Color is Back

We usually associate color reports with autumn, but spring displays some delightful color as well. The next few weeks will deliver peak spring color and an opportunity for nature artists to go outdoors to enjoy it.

The Morton Arboretum issues a weekly Bloom Report, currently highlighting the magnificent displays of the magnolias and daffodils. Things change so quickly in the spring that it’s good to check frequently for the latest.

The spring ephemerals are putting on a beautiful show, but they’ll disappear soon, not to return until next spring. Local forest preserves and The Morton Arboretum are great places to find them, but some, such as violets or spring beauties, are known to show up right in the back yard.

Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild will hopefully take some time in the next few weeks to record some of the wonders of spring and share their artwork on this website. Details for sharing images will be sent to members in an upcoming email.

For extra inspiration, here are a few contributions from recent years (please click on any image for the title and artist’s name) –

Seeds of Inspiration Almost Ready to be Sown

Today is the day by which seeds should be mailed by participating members of the Nature Artists’ Guild’s Seeds of Inspiration project. Depending on the type of seeds and whether they will be started indoors, they may need to be planted soon.

From the Chicago Botanic Garden – “If a seed packet says to ‘sow seeds three to four weeks before the last spring frost date,’ count backwards from May 15 and sow the seeds indoors around April 23.”

If some participants are better artists than they are gardeners, there is help available. The Chicago Botanic Garden has a vast amount of information on growing plants from seed, as do many other online resources.

Fine Gardening magazine has numerous helpful articles and videos online, including some on re-using everyday items as seed-starting containers.

Detail of image from Chicago Botanic Garden.

We will be looking forward, along with the participating artists, to a glimpse (through drawings and sketches) of some of the very first sprouts!

Please click on any of the highlighted links or the image for more information.

Spring Begins with Seeds of Inspiration

Spring has begun and so has the Nature Artists’ Guild project, Seeds of Inspiration.  Participants have received the names of their seed-swap recipients and been asked to mail the seeds by April 5, 2021.  The seeds will be planted, tended, and sketched as they grow, and possibly inspire a finished piece of art when the plants reach maturity.  Sketchbooks and artwork will be shared with the group at the August 5 meeting and occasionally on this website in the coming months.

Of course, Nature Artists’ Guild members who did not sign up for the project can still join in by planting some seeds (or seedlings) of their own. Let’s see (and sketch) what grows! 

The Gardens at Ball. Photo credit Jane Kellenberger.

Nature Artists’ Guild Members to Spread Seeds of Inspiration

My Tomatoes and Freda’s Dill, copyright Yvonne Buckley

Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are invited to spread some Seeds of Inspiration to fellow artists this spring!  Each participant will exchange a packet of seeds with a fellow member and then sow, grow, and show the process or results through their artwork. Sketchbooks tracking growth as well as finished pieces will be shared at the August 5th Nature Artists’ Guild meeting and through images here on this website.

All the details are in an email sent to members on March 6.  Guild members who would like to join in should let Terrie McComb know by this Saturday, March 20, 2021.  Terrie’s contact information can be found in the email or the Nature Artists’ Guild Yearbook.

Dan Danielson’s Fresh, Fluid, and Fun Watercolor Techniques

Fellow Nature Artists’ Guild members may know Dan Danielson as one of the presenters in last August’s online program or from some of the artwork he has shared on this website. (Please click on any image for the title and a full version.)

But Dan has been painting and teaching art since first studying at Chicago’s American Academy of Art. His award-winning artwork and techniques are so vibrant and lively that The Morton Arboretum has asked him to share his talents by teaching an online class this spring, Fresh, Fluid, and Fun Watercolor Techniques.  

Registration is open to all for the four-part online class that begins April 15, 2021. There is no requirement to be a member of the arboretum or the Nature Artists’ Guild to register, but space is limited, so early enrollment is recommended. Please click on one of the highlighted links to the class or Dan’s website to read more.

Ant, copyright Dan Danielson

As Winter Turns to Spring

The Nature Artists’ Guild’s 2021 Winter Encounter wrapped up at the end of February, and here are the final contributions to the project.  Many thanks to all who participated – there have been numerous comments from members mentioning that their fellow artists’ work brought them cheer and a sense of connection throughout the winter.

  • Marlene Vitek painted four panels representing views of the seasons through her tall narrow windows.
  • Jean Black completed a realistic branch of oak leaves.
  • Kathy Belletire used watercolor, pen, and India ink to study a frozen little wren that had nested near her home in southern Illinois in previous years.  On a brighter note, Kathy is hearing a sure sign of spring, the spring peepers peeping!
  • Carol Cooley attended on online class about painting birds in watercolor, where she created tonal studies as well as a color wheel used to practice color mixing and the use of complements to create shadows.
  • Karen Johnson continued her practice of visiting and sketching prairies. On one of her trips to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie she hoped to see some bison, but a small bird turned out to be the featured wildlife of the journal that day.
  • Nancy Wu created a wonderful way to remember the trolls at The Morton Arboretum with her sketch done in sepia ink from a photo taken before the trolls were recently disassembled. She added a dried cup plant and Catalpa tree details to fill out her journal pages.

Please click on any image for a larger version and the artists’ name.

Who Has a Houseplant Handy?

Nature Artists’ Guild members recently received an e-mail with links to various free online instructional art videos.  Some of the videos are presented by Strathmore Artists Papers, and one of their contributing artists, Cathy Johnson, has created a series called “Watercolor Sketching”.

In her short video, Watercolor Sketching, Part 1, Cathy uses nothing more than a potted plant and a few watercolor supplies to create a wonderful journal page. Beginning watercolor students will gain valuable skills in less than ten minutes, and even experienced watercolorists may add to their knowledge just by watching.  Please click on the highlighted link or the image to view.

Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are encouraged to share an image of their results as part of the 2021 Winter Encounter.

From Watercolor Sketching Part 1, Watercolor Journal Page with Cathy Johnson.  Please click on image to be directed to the video.

One More Week of the 2021 Winter Encounter

Here are a few more wonderful pieces of art by members of the Nature Artists’ Guild as we go into the last week of the 2021 Winter Encounter.  Susan Stachovic used a photo of a bird to inspire her work done in colored pencil and watercolor.  Jean Black shared her painting of a frequent winter sight, and Karen Johnson added to her journal with views of the prairie completed en plein air.  Please click on any image for a larger version and the artist’s name.

Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are welcome to join in any time before the end of the month and contribute photos of their work by March 1 to share on this website.

Winter Sketches Just Barely Beginning to Show Signs of Spring!

There is more than a foot of snow on the ground, temperatures have been dropping into the single digits, and icicles hang from the roofs, but Spring is nevertheless on its way.  Even though the official start of the season is weeks away, members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are seeing and noting some of the first promising signs in their sketchbooks.

Red-headed woodpecker sketchbook pages, copyright Kathy Belletire.

Kathy Belletire lives a bit farther south than many members and is seeing some of the birds that will reach us soon.  She used a field guide to fill out the details of the red-headed woodpecker that visited her oak, but was unable to confirm the identity of her mystery bird.  Jean Black continues to share her observations of the natural world, and Jill Spealman braved the cold to record a budding elm after being motivated by online nature-journaling classes by Carrie Carlson and John Muir Laws.

Thank you to all of the artists who have shared images throughout the 2021 Winter Encounter.  Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are invited to join in any time throughout the month. Please click on any one of the images for a larger version and the artist’s name.