Enjoying Nature in Winter

I’m almost ready to begin the posts on Monet and his cathedral and haystack series—look for it soon!

But first I just had to encourage you not to give up your nature studies just because it’s winter. There’s still so much to see out there! Continue reading to find out some of the things I have recently seen outside in the cold and snow and to see a list of classic winter children’s books—all but one are Caldecott winners—that you’ll want to share with your class at school or with your children and grandchildren!

Here are some reasons to get outside in winter:

  • Because it’s beautiful out there, especially after a new snow!
  • Because now that the leaves are gone, winter is a great time to spot bird nests and see all the different sizes and shapes . Recently I passed a young tree that doesn’t have many branches yet. Even in summer it didn’t yet have dense foliage, but I had passed it all summer without seeing the humming bird nest in it! Small as a doll’s teacup, the nest has survived fall winds and winter snows and maybe next year the humming bird will reuse it. Now that I know it’s there I’ll be keeping a close eye on it in the spring and summer!
  • Because you can observe animal tracks in the snow. If you go out soon after a new snow, you may see rabbit or squirrel or even deer tracks. It’s even fun to pick out different dog feet and their human’s shoe sizes and patterns!     In our area we have large jack rabbits, and after the last snow, their tracks criss-crossed the park and its paths. I could even tell from how widely spaced the tracks were, how fast he was traveling! You can google tracks you’re not sure of.
  • And last, but certainly not least, because it’s fun to watch year-round birds and observe their winter habits. Maybe you and your family can put out a feeder to attract winter birds. In our neighborhood flocks of crows have been visiting lately. They come in groups of about 25 and wander over the park and nearby lawns, looking like black chickens pecking at the ground. 

Make some winter memories! Go for a walk or build a snowman with your class or your own children or grandchildren, then come in and gather in your cozy classroom reading spot or around the fire because it’s time to warm up with some great winter reads:

Hot Cocoa, Anyone?

The following books are classics—all but one are Caldecott winners—so they’re readily available in your library or in many bookstores as well as on Amazon. It’s amazing how many Caldecott winners have been about winter!!

  • The Tough Winter,  in this chapter-type book, Little Georgie, Willie Fieldmouse and all the other woodland creatures are back from Rabbit Hill, Robert Lawson’s Newbery Medal book. They must survive many winter hardships, but they do it with lots of humor and warm friendship.
  • White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, 1948 Caldecott medal. While adults work to shovel or continue their work through the snow, the children build snowmen and taste snowflakes on their tongues.
  • The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, 1949 Caldecott medal. Forest animals prepare for a big snow.
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, 1963 Caldecott medal. A young boy enjoys the first snowfall in the city.
  • Frederick by Leo Lionni, 1967 Caldecott Honor book. While the other mice gather food for winter, Frederick, a mouse artist and poet, gathers beautiful colors and stories for long, bleak winter days. As an artist and one who sometimes moans about winter’s dark days, this book has always touched my heart!
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, 1988 Caldecott medal. A little girl and her father take a late night walk to see and hear an owl. Other forest creatures appear in the illustrations.
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, 1999 Caldecott medal. A nonfiction picture book about Wilson Bentley (1865-1931), a Vermont farmer. He loved nature, and with great patience and determination, learned how to photograph individual snowflakes.
  • Finish up your story time with verses from Job 38-39 or Psalm 104, which remind us that God is the loving and wise Creator of the world and all it contains. And He continues in power to uphold and sustain it.  End as Psalm 104 does: 

“Praise the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord.”

Does your family have a favorite book about winter? Let me know in the comment section below!

This is how Molly relaxes at our sliding door after one of our winter walks! Notice her little crossed back legs!

I have some good writing news. I have seven devotions in the winter 2018-2019 (December, January, February) of The Quiet Hour quarterly devotional available from David C. Cook. If you’re interested, you can enjoy 3 months of short, daily devotions by a number of authors.

Happy New Year to you all. I appreciate all of you who read and tell me you enjoy KathythePicturelady blog

Molly is looking forward to our Monet series. Monet painted some of his favorite haystack paintings in the winter! Sign up to see Molly as a French corgi and enjoy some sights and art from France!!

 

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The Christmas Pictures from the Isenheim Altarpiece

It was still dark when we got to Gare de L’Est in Paris to take a super fast train to Colmar, a small city near the Rhine River in eastern France. We had been in France for several weeks and now we were headed to see the Isenheim Altarpiece, one of the great works of northern European art.

 

 

 

The altarpiece was created around 1514 for the church of the monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim, a town a few miles south of Colmar.

The monastic brothers there cared for people who were sick, especially those with skin diseases such as the terrible St. Anthony’s fire. A common disease in the Middle Ages caused by eating bread made with rye grain infected with a fungus, it often led to a painful death. The brothers treated the disease with good quality bread and herbal ointments and brought patients to view the altarpiece for spiritual comfort.

We don’t know much about the artist, Matthias Grunewald. His real name is believed to be Mathis Gothart, and he lived and worked in western Germany from around 1475 to 1528. He received important commissions from several archbishops, but only a few paintings and drawings still exist. The Isenheim Altarpiece is his greatest work.

The altarpiece is now displayed in the chapel of a former Dominican convent in Colmar, a picturesque Alsatian city owing much to its German heritage.

At the convent, now a museum, we walked through a quiet cloister, and paused to look through its pointed Gothic arches to an enclosed garden, shining bright green in the morning sun.

From the cloister we stepped into the chapel and stopped. The impact of the high, Gothic chapel, the quiet, and the size of the altarpiece are overwhelming. Light streams down on panels 11 feet tall and 19 feet wide, taking our breath away.

The

 

 

altarpiece was a polyptych with many wooden panels that once opened like cabinet doors to create additional painted scenes. Today it’s been taken apart so all its scenes from the life of Christ can be viewed. The panels stretch the length of the chapel, and people wander among them or sit quietly on benches set in front of each large grouping.

Other northern artists, such as Albrecht Durer, had traveled south to study Renaissance ideas, but Grunewald continued to paint in the Medieval tradition, with off-center compositions and strong emotional appeal. The Isenheim crucifixion and resurrection are among the most creative and powerful in all western art. I hope to write a post about them around Easter.

But for this post I will concentrate on the Annunciation and what is called the Christmas Picture.

The Annunciation, Matthias Grunewald, author photo

The Annunciation is set, as many were at that time, in a Gothic chapel, not unlike the present one and perhaps like the chapel of the Antonite monastery. A red curtain has been pulled back to reveal a stunning scene. Mary, dressed in somber colors, is kneeling and reading her Bible, traditionally open to Isaiah 7:14 telling that a virgin will give birth to the Messiah.

Annunciation detail, author photo

On the right Gabriel comes in a whirlwind of gold and magenta to greet Mary and announce that she will bear God’s son.

A white dove hovers over Mary to represent the coming of the Holy Spirit upon her.

Grunewald has captured the intense drama and wonder of Jesus’ miraculous conception.

Now separated, but once on the right of the Annunciation panel, is the Christmas Picture. In it angels sing and play music to welcome the Christ child. Behind Mary light streams down from heaven, while on a distant hill, angels announce the baby’s birth to the shepherds.

 

Christmas Picture, detail, author photo

In this panel what captures your attention is the warm and appealing scene of Mary and the baby Jesus. They aren’t centered, but Mary’s red gown and blue mantle make sure you don’t miss them. Mary has just bathed Jesus in the wooden tub and now holds him and cradles his head as must be done for all young babies. Jesus gazes back at his mother while his hands hold a coral necklace, thought at this time to ward off diseases.

Grunewald has captured Jesus’ humanity in this scene of tender love between mother and child.

In the Isenheim Annunciation and Christmas Picture Grunewald weaves the miraculous into and around the everyday, balancing Jesus’ humanity with His divinity. Let us do the same—running to Jesus with all our concerns, knowing He shares our humanity and sympathizes with our weaknesses, and worshiping Him as our God and Savior.

I pray that you and your family will have a blessed Christmas, celebrating the miracle of Jesus coming to earth to live with us—Immanuel—God with us!

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And please pray for the French people right now. We recently spent many days in Paris and around the country, meeting lots of hospitable, helpful people, and are now concerned as they experience a time of great turmoil. Pray that people on all sides will be able to work out satisfactory ways to end the violence and provide help to those in need.

Here at the end of 2018, I want to thank all of you who follow my blog. Please join me in the New Year for a series of posts about Monet’s cathedral and haystack paintings, (also from my recent trip to France). Each post will have lots of pictures, related activities, and pictures of Molly showing off her new French interests!

 

All photos in this post were taken by the author.

 

 

 

God, the Ultimate Artist/Naturalist

Remember the mysterious 7-mile wide blob on Denver’s weather radar in the fall of 2018 that began this nature series? It turned out to be painted lady butterflies invading Colorado in never-before-seen numbers. That post led to my summer-long series about artist/naturalists and suggestions for how to study nature in our own neighborhoods.

Now let’s come back to the butterflies and the ultimate artist/naturalist—God. With unbelievable creativity, wisdom, and power, He created all that exists and continues to uphold and preserve His creation. He designed painted lady butterflies with their intricate patterns of orange and black and gave them the instinct to head south when autumn winds blow.

Among several posters I always kept up in my classroom was one of a little boy holding a fuzzy yellow duckling and gazing intently at it. The Bible verse said, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14

That’s just what Molly and I have been doing. We stood still to watch hundreds of butterflies fluttering on the same bush and lone bumblebees gathering nectar on a single flower. We saw red-winged blackbirds land on thin cattails, hardly bending them, and goldfinches plucking seeds from thistle flowers without getting hurt.

In early summer I considered that both swallows and red-winged blackbirds eat insects, but swallows soar through the air to catch flying insects, while red-winged blackbirds hop along the ground to find their insect lunches. God has truly provided for all the birds of the air. Matt. 6: 26

Now as summer fades, I consider the golden sunflowers God has spread across every field and along every roadside, and am reminded of how God clothes the lilies of the field in splendor. Matt 26:28-29

All summer I’ve considered how perfectly these wondrous works point to our Creator God. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

God is also the ultimate author/teacher, and His Word clearly shows us that our Creator God is also our loving Heavenly Father, who cares for our daily needs and especially sent His Son to die for us so we may become new creatures in Christ, (2 Cor. 5:17) loving God and trying to live our lives for Him.

God knows that we need concrete pictures to learn spiritual lessons (just look at the lowly things Jesus used in His parables!)

So it’s not at all strange for Christian writers and artists to use the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly to illustrate the new creatures we become in Christ.When the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart to believe in Christ, we are newly dressed in Christ’s righteousness, and just as butterflies receive new compound eyes that see much better than caterpillar eyes, our eyes are opened to see the beauty of Christ and to want to know Him and live for Him more and more.

Through science we can now see just how apt an illustration metamorphosis is. The latest research shows that the changes are even more profound than once thought. Inside its pupa the parts of the caterpillar actually liquefy and rearrange to become a butterfly.

So I think we can see that this transformation of the butterfly not only helps us appreciate what God does initially to change us, but is also a wonderful illustration of what will happen when Christ returns for His people. As Paul explains,

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must cloth itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” I Cor. 15:51-54

In that day the miracle of people being transformed from the perishable to the imperishable will way, way outdo even the marvel of butterfly metamorphosis, and when people from every tribe and nation are caught up in the air with their changed bodies to meet Christ and live with Him forever, that will outnumber the greatest butterfly migrations ever!   

Hallelujah, What a Savior!!

 

 

 

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I’m taking a short break to finish up a proposal for a book of devotions and activities for families, but be sure to sign up to receive these posts so you don’t miss out on the next art subject  —  What’s up with Claude Monet and all those paintings of haystacks and cathedrals??

Molly’s taking a break, too, to play with her favorite ball!

 

Writing Poems about Nature

In my posts this summer, I’ve introduced or reminded you of several naturalists:

 

Maria Sibylla Merian and Titian Ramsay Peale II whose rediscovered nature illustrations have perhaps inspired you to go exploring with a sketchbook in hand.

Beatrix Potter, whose children’s books are familiar to us all, but perhaps not her lifelong interest in nature, and who may be inspiring you to write stories about the creatures you’ve seen and studied this summer.

All three of these naturalists studied plants and creatures right where they lived.

And so did poet, Aileen Fisher (1906-2002),  who wrote books of poetry for children, mostly about the nature all around us. Fisher grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, received a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and received many awards for her poetry. Eventually she settled in Colorado.

You can find some of her books at libraries, and lots of them are available from second hand suppliers through Amazon. Fisher’s poetry is in many anthologies, and some of her books have been re-released in recent years with new illustrations.

Here’s a poem by Aileen Fisher from her book, Out in the Dark and Daylight, published in 1980.

20180614_095016Bumblebee

I sat as still

as a playing-dead possum

and watched a bee

on a clover blossom,

Watched him poking

his long thin tongue

into the blossoms

pink and young,

Heard him bumble

and sort of sneeze

as pollen stuck

to his two hind knees.

I held my breath

as the bee buzzed over,

and hoped I didn’t

look sweet as clover.

Can you find two comparisons in the poem?

Yes, “still as a playing-dead possum” and “sweet as clover.” Comparisons help to create pictures for the reader. A comparison of two things using the words like or as is called a simile.

In the same poem are two examples of another type of figurative language. These are words that imitate sounds, such as clunk, thud, boom, cheep. Even the name of this type of word sounds wonderful!  Onomatopoeia.

What 2 words does Fisher use in this poem that imitate sounds? Yes, bumble and buzzed.

Poetry also often rhymes and has some rhythm. Aileen Fisher is a master at both of these. Here’s another poem from the same book.

IM000034Cricket Song

Did you ever see

a cricket’s ears

stick out upon his head?

You certainly didn’t

since they grow

below his knees instead.

It’s good he doesn’t

put stockings on

and cover his knees up tight,

or how could he hear

the songs he sings

night after autumn night?

 

Now it’s your turn to write some nature poems.

Choose a plant, a place, weather, or a creature or two that you’d like to write about

  1. Brainstorm all the ways you’d describe your subject. Include how they look—furry, scaly, feathery, colors, etc. How they move (even plants move as they follow the sun or blow in the wind). Where they live and what that looks like. What they eat and how they catch it. What is dangerous for them. Anything you learned from your research. Remember to think of sounds and smells, and how something might feel
  2. Think of how you could turn some of these descriptive words into rhymes, similes, or onomatopoeia.
  3. If you’re familiar with other forms of figurative language, such as alliteration, metaphors, or personification, you can try those, too, but it’s probably best to stick to just a few types of figurative language in any one poem. And your poem doesn’t even have to rhyme. Lots don’t!
  4. Here are some of my brainstorming thoughts organized into a couple poems. These two poetry forms might help you organize your thoughts also.

Concrete Poem

A concrete poem follows the shape of your subject or an action. Draw your shape on one piece of paper and darken it so it can be seen through another paper. Lay the second sheet over the drawing, and write your poem along those lines. When you remove the paper, you’ll have a poem in the shape you originally drew. Mine follows Molly’s lying-down shape!

 

20180824_145902

Name Poem

In a “name” poem, each letter of your subject, such as sunflower, is used as the beginning letter of each line of your poem.  Each line tells something about the subject.

20180821_100217         SUNFLOWER

Sunshine on my shelf

blUe delft dishes shining

Now filling every field

Fuzzy brown centers

Lining dusty roadsides

gOlden pollen grains raining down20180821_092645

Windblown but still blazing

Everyone snapping photos

biRds feasting on sunflower seeds

SUNFLOWER

I bet you can do a lot better, and I hope you’ll send in a poem so I can post some on this blog.

 

Here’s Molly getting up close with a painted butterfly last autumn. That butterfly didn’t stick around long!!20171003_132816

 

You don’t want to miss the next Picture Lady post, which will help connect our summer nature studies with some thoughts from God’s Word. So be sure to sign up.

For those of you who follow the Picture Lady on Facebook, Facebook is changing many policies, and will no longer automatically post from WordPress. I will continue to do it manually, but you might want to just find and start following Molly and me on WordPress. kathythepicturelady@wordpress.com

 

 

Writing Creatively about Nature

We can divide creative writing into two broad categories – prose (stories) and poetry. This post will give you some ideas for how to write a story.

Don’t miss the answer at the end of this post about why Molly’s hiding. 20170714_150506But no peeking! Because you’d miss some interesting facts about Beatrix Potter and how to use her Tale of Peter Rabbit

Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902a

wikimedia commons

to help you write a story.

You’ll also want to learn how Garth Williams, who illustrated the Little House books, struggled with the illustrations for Charlotte’s Web!

Prose

Even if you’ve read The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other books by Beatrix Potter, you may not know that as children, Beatrix and her brother collected all kinds of wild animals to keep as pets. Using paper bags, they smuggled frogs, salamanders, mice, hedgehogs, rabbits, and even a bat in to share their schoolroom.

Beatrix_Potter_and_Kep_in_1915

Beatrix Potter and her dog Kep, wikimedia commons

Beatrix became a talented naturalist and even learned to draw using a microscope. She filled homemade sketchbooks with drawings of animals and plants that she and her brother found on their rambles in the English countryside. Later Beatrix began to sell some of her drawings and watercolors for greeting cards and to illustrate letters she wrote. Peter Rabbit began as a letter for the son of Beatrix’s former governess.

An interesting biography of Beatrix Potter for adults is, Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature, by Linda Lear.

If you’d like to create stories about some of the creatures you’ve seen on your rambles this summer, read some of Beatrix Potter’s stories—first to enjoy and then as examples to help you learn to write.

Notice that although Beatrix puts clothes on her animals, her illustrations show them true to what they really look like. And aside from their talking, the animals mostly do things within their nature; for example, Peter runs to Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat veggies, and he’s afraid of humans and the cat.

Let’s use the story of Peter Rabbit as an example of how we set up a story in 3 parts.

Beginning 

 

  • Introduce your main characters. In Peter Rabbit there’s Mother Rabbit, Peter, and 3 sisters.
  • Tell where your story takes place.  The rabbit family lives in a burrow
  • Introduce a problem or challenge for your character to survive or solve.  When Mother Rabbit goes out she warns her rabbit children not to go near Mr. McGregor’s garden because Father Rabbit had an accident there and was put in a pie, but Peter ignores her and goes right to the garden.
  • Notice how quickly Potter moves you on to the…

Middle

 

Excitement and tension build as the main character tries to survive or solve their problem. He or she tends to get in more and more trouble as their first efforts fail. As Mr. McGregor chases Peter, the rabbit loses his little jacket and shoes, hides in a watering can, has to sneak by a cat, and gets lost.

A Climax ends the middle of a story and is the point when we’re not sure if our character will make it or not.  

PeterRabbit22

wikimedia commons

 In Peter Rabbit, that’s when Peter finally spies the gate and his way out, but Mr. McGregor sees Peter as he makes his dash for safety. For suspenseful moments, as Peter wriggles under the gate, we don’t know if he will escape or end up in a pie!

Ending

 

All the loose ends are tied up and we see how things turn out for our characters.  Peter gets home, and is safe, Whew!! But he’s put to bed with a dose of chamomile tea, while his sisters have a supper of blackberries and milk.

Now you try:

  • Think of some animal characters you’ve seen this summer
  • Use your own observations and research where and how they live—type of home or nest, type of food and how they find it, etc.
  • Think of some possible problems or dangers they could get into—too little rain, too much rain, predators, living in a dangerous place, etc.
  1. Put your characters in your setting, give them your problem, and have them try to solve it several ways.
  2. Build suspense toward an exciting climax
  3. End by letting your readers know how everyone and everything turns out. 
  4. Have some fun, and illustrate your story from your drawings and and photos!

Two books for older elementary readers and great read alouds for the whole family are:

  1. Rabbit Hill and its sequel, The Tough Winter, by Robert Lawson. Lawson’s 20180811_161418illustrations also show a keen observation of animals and plant life.
  2. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams. As Williams worked on his illustrations, he and White exchanged letters about what Charlotte should look 20180813_132605like, because Williams didn’t want to scare children. White had a particular kind of spider in mind and sent Williams many photos!! So we know they were also concerned to make the animal characters true to life, at least in looks.

All three of these stories have such great messages of family and friendship and love for others. Don’t let your children or grandchildren grow up without them!

Next post will be about poetry, so be sure and sign up for the Picture Lady’s posts.

Oh and here’s the answer to the mystery of why Molly is hiding. No, she’s not camera shy! But I bet you already peeked and know!!

Molly is terrified of thunderstorms!!

Here in Colorado, clouds begin to pop up over the mountains in the morning, and by afternoon many build and billow towards us, bringing rain and thunder and often hail. Molly has learned this pattern and begins to get nervous about noon.

So we got her something to help her feel less anxious. Here she is modeling her new thundershirt.  It seems to help her. Maybe she feels like her mom is holding her tight!!

 

 

 

 

Writing about Nature in a Sketchbook

If you’ve visited my website http://www.kathy-oneill.com then you know that last year I went to western Nebraska to  learn more about cliff swallows. I’d seen them building mud nests all over a hotel in the Texas panhandle. 

With cliff swallow expert Dr. Charles Brown of Tulsa University and his assistant, Wes and I trekked through fields and waded into culverts. Using a flashlight and a dental mirror I got to peer into their mud nests and see their eggs! Dr. Brown has been studying cliff swallows for many years and has learned lots and lots of fascinating stuff about these birds that live together in colonies.  Don’t miss the good news about my trip and research at the end of this post!!!

And look carefully for Molly, too, and make a guess about why she’s hiding!

Before I traveled to Nebraska, I made notes about what I had already seen and heard, asked questions about my observations, and did some initial research.

 

Using these steps you can learn more about the plants and creatures you’ve been observing on your walks:

  1. Stand still and carefully observe, take photos, make drawings
  2. Make written notes about what you see and hear
  3. Ask questions about what you observe
  4. Look in books and safe, reputable online sources to answer your questions

1. Notes

In my last post I suggested you leave some white space around pictures in your sketchbook, because one of the easiest places to write about nature is to make notes in those white spaces. Here are some things to make notes about:

  • Where you were, what the land was like–forest, meadow, seaside, rocky, hilly, etc.
  • What kind of trees or plants you saw
  • What the weather was like
  • The things you saw, heard, smelled
  • The colors of plants or animals you focused on
  • Tell what you think creatures were doing

Here in my new neighborhood in Colorado is a large marsh, and since early spring when they first arrived, I’ve been watching hundreds of red-winged blackbirds. Here are some photos of the marsh and as close as I can get pictures of  the birds.  Because I couldn’t get closeups of the birds I drew one from a nature guide. But you can see my notes all around the drawing about the place and the birds.

2. Questions

Questions help focus your research. As you research you’ll probably think of more. Here are some I had about red-winged blackbirds:

  • Do only the males have the red and yellow shoulder colors?
  • Where did they migrate from or do they live in Colorado year round?
  • What do they eat?
  • Where do they build their nests?
  • What do their nests look like?
  • How many eggs do they lay
  • what do the eggs look like?

3. Research to answer your questions.

  • The nonfiction section of your library is a great place to start. Birds have a whole section, as do insects, mammals, fish, etc., etc!!
  • If you go online, be sure to use safe and reputable websites. For example for my questions about the cliff swallows and now the red-winged blackbirds, I start with the national audubon society’s website.  http://www.audubon.org
  • Use the blank pages of your sketchbook to write the information you find. Make notes about where you found the info

Have fun finding out about lots of interesting creatures or plants. God is so creative, and His world is amazing beyond our wildest imaginations!!

NOW…. my news:   I enjoyed finding out some amazing things about cliff swallows and then wrote a nonfiction article about them. It has been bought by a children’s magazine! I haven’t heard when it’ll be published, so I won’t tell you which one yet, but I’m excited, and I’ll let you know when it comes out!

What can you do with all your new knowledge? write a report, write a fiction story, make an informational poster , write an email or letter to a distant relative telling about your experiences….  For a few ideas, stay tuned for the Picture Lady’s next post. It’ll give you some ideas about how to write creatively about all your observations!

So don’t forget to sign up to receive the Picture Lady’s posts before you go!

AND check out my website http://www.kathy-oneill.com

There you’ll see lots of ways that I can help your class or group in person or by skype learn about and make art!!

And I’d love to hear from you about your summer nature walks and studies!

Finally, can you find Molly in this photo? Comment and tell me why you think she’s hiding.

I’ll tell you why in my next post.

Exploring Nature In Your Own Neighborhood

Are you all ready with a sketchbook

and some nature guides so you can explore nature this summer?  Your own neighborhood is a good place to start!

While we waited for you to get ready  Molly and I walked around our own very ordinary neighborhood and used our five senses to appreciate God’s beauty all around us. We took lots of pictures with my cell phone. Here are a few of those.

20180614_095302

 Here Molly is using her sense of smell on these flowers, while I enjoy the smell of new-mown grass. Don’t miss that God has put the complementary colors violet and yellow right next to each other.

       I picked a dandelion so I could rub its golden yellow onto my hands. Then I blew the seeds of another to dance away on the wind.

We looked up and saw a messy nest with red strands woven in and listened to birds singing nearby.

 We bent down and saw flowers with bees and bumblebees looking for nectar. (We didn’t get too close!)

And delicate wildflowers growing just along the sidewalk!

 We looked and looked some more at the intricate patterns of weeds and

20180614_095121

 peered down this hole but decided to leave its homeowner in peace.

On really hot days we waited until evening to walk so we could feel soft, cool breezes on our faces and enjoy colorful sunsets.

Sometimes we couldn’t get close enough to take a picture.  One day we saw a goldfinch perched on a thistle. Each time it pulled a seed out, bits of thistledown blew away.

Other times things moved too fast for a picture. We watched two trails of ants meet on a sidewalk. They bumped and seemed to exchange greetings, but then hurried on their way.

At those times put the phone or camera away and pause to look and listen as carefully as you can. It takes time to be a good observer.

Before you head out to take pictures or draw, here are some safety tips:

  1. Be sure an adult has approved where you are going
  2. Take along water and use sunscreen
  3. Don’t wade into any water unless an adult is with you and approves
  4. don’t pick flowers from anyone’s yard
  5. Leave wild animals alone for your safety and theirs
  6. Unless an adult is with you, don’t touch or pick wild plants. Some are poisonous

Using Art

Now grab your sketchbook and choose some of these ideas to record your observations:

  • Print out your favorite pictures and tape them in your sketchbook.
  • Arrange them in your book by categories such as trees, insects, flowers,
  • Or arrange plants and creatures with a photo of their habitat
  • Make drawings from your photos or from your nature guides
  • If you can sit and observe a flower, etc. draw it directly into the sketchbook
  • Use crayons, colored pencils etc. to add color to your drawings (If your sketchbook pages are thin, avoid marker and paint)

Using a close up of this wildflower, here are 2 drawing techniques that will help you look and draw accurately.

Gesture drawing, which I showed you in a post about A Young Girl Reading can be a  helpful way to start with nature drawing. It helps you look carefully at the overall object and its way of growing or moving. Here are some examples:

 

 

 Contour drawing on the other hand, helps artist look carefully at details. Like gesture drawing, it’s not meant to be a finished artwork, but to help you look more carefully at your subject. Here are some contour drawings of the same flower.  Look how different these look from gesture drawings.

 

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You slow way down for contour drawing. Your eye follows every small detail, and your pencil tries to follow along on your paper. You don’t sketch as in gesture drawing, but move your pencil along as if it is a snail inching along every line. You should spend lots more time looking at the subject than at your paper!

Have fun observing in your neighborhood and arranging photos and making drawings in your sketchbook!

In my next post I’ll give you some ideas for writing about what you see. You can do that right in your sketchbook, so leave some white space around photos and drawings and some blank pages after things you’d like to write about AND be sure and sign up to receive the Picture Lady posts in your inbox!!

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I finally got the children’s book about Maria Sibylla Merian from the library, and it’s really informative about her life and work, and has lots of pictures!20180712_095316

And here’s a great nature guide for children, I was impressed with all its information on animals, insects, birds, wildflowers, trees, etc. , including where to find them.20180712_095400

But I thought, it was way too heavy to carry around. Now thanks to a post by Jean Hall who reviews children’s books on her blog, I’ve discovered that the original chapters are available as separate, more portable, books. Here’s one she reviewed.

https://jeanmatthewhall.com/2018/07/06/picture-book-review-seashells-crabs-and-sea-stars/

Recently I heard about another woman naturalist who battled many obstacles to lead an amazing life and start a stationery business using her linoleum block prints of nature.   Nature’s Friend, The Gwen Frostic Story by Lindsey McDivitt.  Another children’s book, it’s due out this month.

Please comment and let me know what sort of plants and creatures you see in your neighborhood!