Saturday, February 27, 2010

A New Medium

Today I tried something new, painting with watercolors. I have done some sketching off and on for a few years now. Nothing major, mostly plants and birds that I could not identify in the field. I find that doing a rough sketch when I first see a new species helps me to be more observant by making me look for particular field markings that makes identification later easier. This is particularly true when dealing with birds. Another advantage to sketching is that instead of carrying multiple books to identify birds, or flowers, or insects, or amphibians, or trees, or, well you get the idea; you carry just a simple sketchbook, and a pencil.

Until today I did all my sketches with nothing more than a No. 2 pencil. You may be surprised to learn this, but No. 2 pencils are not good at making vibrant color (unless you consider shades of gray vibrant). So if a bird, or flower had any color besides gray (and a stagering number of them do) I would have to jot little notes in the margins of my sketch that noted where the colors were, and their hue.

I was inspired to try water colors recently while making beer for my work (yes my job is that awesome...). A friend of mine that we'll call "John" was assisting in the beer making process and we were discussing a potential future program on nature journaling. I asked for John's assitance with the journaling program because of some sketches he did for me in the past showed he is far and away more talented than I (hope you were sitting down for that one). While waiting for the grains to boil (there is A LOT of waiting in beer making, just FYI) John showed me some simple coloring techniques with watercolors. I decided then and there I was going to get myself a watercolor set and try my hand at coloring a sketch.

So today I did it. The family and I went to Hobby Lobby and I looked at their selection of watercolors. You can spend quite a bit of money on watercolors it turns out. I opted to spend very little money since I didn't know if I would be any good at using watercolors. I purchased 2 packages of Crayola washable watercolors at $2.99 (one for me, and one for my oldest). When I got home I grabbed our well-worn copy of Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America and picked out a bird to try sketching.

I hope you can see that I choose to sketch and color a female Belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). How'd I do?
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Making Mukluks

I was perusing the blogs I follow on Google Reader this morning as I sipped my tea and I came across a great post on Skills for Wild Lives.  In the post Nick talks about making a pair of mukluks.  What's so great about mukluks besides being a fun word to say because it sounds dirty but actually isn't?  Well in extreme cold, dry conditions they are warm, lightweight, and flexible footwear.

Lately I have had the strong desire to do some winter camping but it's difficult to get away for an overnight.  So I have been settleing for reading blog posts like Nick's, Backyard Bushman's, and the guy's over at Winter Campers.  Not quite the same (O.K., it's not the same at all) as getting out there and doing it, but it helps to kindle my desire, and keeps my mind from settling into some form of urban atrophy.

What do you do when you can't get out and practice your passions?