Most of these drawings were done in the field as I stopped when something caught my eye. I wanted to include color in some of these, so I made a point to do some sketches with ink and colored pencil. It really helps with the wildflower sketches since I wanted to capture what I was seeing at the moment and do my best to identify them.
As you can see, I often scribbled little swatches of color on the side of the page to see if it would match before adding it to the drawing. I used a tan-toned paper for this first drawing of beautiful little spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) that were all over the woods, many right alongside the trails. I think the paper gives the drawing some warmth, and I like drawing a white flower on toned paper. A number of the talented artists who were at the retreat with me already have a good grasp on the local flora, so I was able to identify these very quickly with their help.
I spent a good bit of time sitting on the ground (on my trusty garbage bag to stay relatively clean and dry) drawing the details of this small plant which was only about 4-5 inches off of the ground.
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
I continued my walk along one of the trails and kept seeing small trees with these gorgeous, papery leaves that were all curled up. I believe these are beech trees and so I stood for a bit right in front of this tree and drew some of the leaves in graphite pencil. I love the shapes. They looked like speckled parchment, all rolled up.
American Beech Tree and Leaves (Fagus grandifolia)
Right after I had done the leaves, I thought I should do some more walking and not just sit in one spot all day! But then I saw this little peek of yellow on the ground and found a beautiful trout lily. Again, I didn’t find out the name until later when I showed someone my sketch. They have graceful, bell-shaped flowers with really interesting, mottled leaves. The color in the sketch below wasn’t quite right on the leaves, but it was the best I could do with the pencils on hand. The leaves were sort of thick with almost cloudy light green patches mixed in with darker purple/brown mottling. The drawing and colored pencil work here isn’t as nice as I had hoped, but I took lots of photos of this one and others I saw later so I plan to do a nicer, finished piece sometime.
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
I included this sketch of mushrooms on a log to show that field sketching often includes partial and not-so-attractive drawings. The point, though, is to work on visually capturing things that I was seeing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I will always remember crouching by the ground doing a quick pen sketch of this.
Mushrooms on Log
These beautiful, red flowers were growing right in the bed near the Education Center. We think they might be a wildflower called Prairie Smoke. They had not quite bloomed yet and it was too windy right up on the sidewalk every time I went to draw them, so I just did a couple of quick sketches and took some photos for future use.
Finally, on Sunday, we did some more hiking where there were lots of wildflowers, and I saw a delicate little flower called Dutchman’s Breeches. There are multiple flowers on one stem, so it was hard for me to capture in a quick sketch. They do have these frond-like leaves, so I drew part of one in this study. We also saw a number of white trillium, some of which were not yet blooming and some that were. I had a chance to sit and study some leaves and wanted to capture the drape and venation pattern of them, so I didn’t mind that it had no flower yet. Again, I have tons of reference photos, so this is on my to-do list as well.
Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and Trillium Leaves (Trillium grandiflorum)
I hope you enjoyed following along on my art retreat adventures! The weekend went entirely too fast. I am definitely inspired not only to do more artwork, but to start exploring some of my local parks and of course the Arboretum here in Ann Arbor as the weather warms up!
Have you had a chance to do any field sketching or nature observation lately? I would love to hear about what you have done!