Tag Archives: corgis

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.

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 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

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 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Artists/Naturalists Maria Sibylla Merian and Titian Ramsay Peale II

Last fall Painted Lady butterflies invaded Colorado.

Their orange and black wings flickered on every bush, and they streamed across roadways in and around traffic. There were so many, that they even showed up in a 7-mile wide blob on the Denver weather radar. No one had ever seen so many in Colorado, and everyone took lots of photos.

Before photography, artists were the ones who helped people learn about the natural world. Some artists/naturalists, such as John James Audubon, are famous (an earlier Picture Lady post tells about his life and work) but most weren’t.

However in the 1700s and 1800s these mostly amateur artists/naturalists were vital parts of expeditions to explore the American West, the Pacific islands, Africa, and South America. Their careful drawings and paintings of birds and plants, mammals and insects astonished people and advanced scientific knowledge of the beauty and variety of God’s creation.

The Artists/Naturalists 

Two artists/naturalists who were especially interested in insects and butterflies have been rediscovered.

Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria_Sibylla_Merian_portrait_colors

Maria Sibylla Merian public domain, wikimedia

(1647-1717), a German woman who lived in the Netherlands, studied the insects of her own region and later traveled with just her daughter for company, to Suriname, then a Dutch colony in South America. For two years she traveled on foot and by canoe through lush tropical rainforests to study insects there, telling about ants that formed rafts to float across water and tarantulas that ate humming birds. The folks at home were fascinated!

 

 

Titian_Ramsay_Peale

Titian Ramsay Peale II public domain, wikimedia

Titian Ramsay Peale II (1799-1885) son of the American artist and naturalist, Charles Willson Peale, (an earlier Picture Lady post tells about the amazing Peale family of artists), was born in Independence Hall where his father’s museum occupied the 2nd floor. He watched while his father prepared and catalogued specimens brought back by Lewis and Clark and helped put together a mastodon skeleton his father helped dig up in New York . Later, as an artist/naturalist, himself, Titian accompanied an expedition to the Rockies.

Titian_Ramsey_Peale's_painting_'Kilauea',_1842

Kilauea, Titian Ramsay Peale II public domain, wikimedia

On a two year expedition around the Pacific islands, Titian painted an eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

 

Though separated by a century and an ocean, Maria and Titian had a lot in common:

  • They were trained in art by their fathers and other family members
  • They were fascinated by butterflies and moths
  • They raised butterflies and moths in order to observe and draw their life cycles
  • Their work was recognized and appreciated early in their lives, but forgotten later
  • They went on long exploring expeditions
  • Maria’s Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname has been republished, and Titian’s unpublished manuscript Butterflies of North America, which was given to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC after his death and stayed in its rare book collection, has now been published for the first time.
  • One difference: some of Titian’s butterfly specimens are still displayed in double-sided glass boxes he designed at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences

Their Art

Maria and Titian used their observational skills to portray butterflies accurately. They painted butterflies in their own habitats, with host plants and their full life cycle from egg to caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly. Maria was one of the first to do this, and you can see her influence on Audubon and Peale

Maria’s and Titian’s artistic skills enabled them to paint the butterflies in vibrant color and pleasing compositions. Not for them dull rows of specimens. Because of the purpose of showing the butterflies accurately, there is little depth in these illustrations, but the artists have made good use of their up-close space, not crowding things together.

The illustrations are full of different types of line and shape, color and texture, and pattern—all provided by the Lord! Plants are up close and the butterflies look like they could fly off the page.

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Maria Sibylla Merian’s work public domain, wikimedia

Maria’s illustrations can be very dramatic, with half eaten fruits and leaves and ants battling spiders. She was definitely part of the Netherlandish vanitas painting tradition, (beautiful still lifes with partly-eaten food, insects, lizards, or other jarring elements to remind viewers of the shortness of life).

Titian’s butterflies are often arranged more lyrically—sometimes seeming to float up in lazy spirals

Automeris_io_Titian_Peale_1833

work by Titian Ramsay Peale II public domain, wikimedia

Books

Remember that it helps to understand art if you know its original purpose. So, although Maria’s and Titian’s work is in museums and private collections, most of it was made to be printed in books for many people to enjoy.

Here are some resources to see more of their beautiful illustrations.

Maria Sibylla Merian

Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, available on Amazon but expensive. Use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to see more of Maria’s illustrations.

Insects and Flowers: the Art of Maria Sibylla Merian by David Brafman, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008. Lots of up close illustrations through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd, Mariner Books, 2007, available on Amazon, and has “Look Inside” feature.

2 Children’s books about Maria

Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer by Sarah B. Pomeroy, Abrams, 2018, ages 8-12. A biography of Maria with lots of information about her times. I haven’t been able to read the whole book yet so can only say that the excerpts look interesting. One short section does make a point that Maria’s family is Protestant, but only attributes a good work ethic to that.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies, How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman, HMH Books, 2018, ages 10-12. I have a copy of this on reserve at the library, but it’s not available yet. Hopefully by my next post I can tell you more about it.

Titian Ramsay Peale II

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my own photo

The Butterflies of North America, Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript, Abrams, 2015, available at libraries, but you can see many of its illustrations through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. The book purposely looks old and the illustrations retain the look of a personal nature journal.

If you borrow it from a library, be sure to look at the section on caterpillars. Not many naturalists paid much attention to caterpillars, but Titian lavished much care on them.

2 Children’s Books about Charles Willson Peale. Titian’s father, Charles, fought in the Revolutionary War and painted many of America’s early leaders. He also started an art and natural science museum in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The whole family, including Titian, helped in the museum.

The Ingenious Mr. Peale: Painter, Patriot, and Man of Science by Janet Wilson, ages 11 and up. I have not read this.

The Joke’s on George, Michael O. Tunnell, George Washington was a friend of the Peales and visited their museum. In passing a trompe l’oeil painting of two of Charles’ sons, Washington bowed to them in greeting.

To view 2 videos by Khan  Academy about the museum and the painting, go to

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-americas/british-colonies

(The Titian in the Staircase painting is an older brother who died. Titian Ramsay Peale II was named for this older brother.)

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I’m going to change up the order of the next posts about this art so you can right away enjoy some artist/naturalist activities over the summer. You don’t have to be a professional scientist to study and learn about the world in your own back yard.

Before the next post, try to find a small to medium size sketchbook that you can carry with you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can decorate its cover.

Nature guides are helpful, too, and available at libraries.

In this series the last post will be the devotion—some thoughts for a summer of observing and learning about the small wonders of God’s creation.

 

Molly is ready to go exploring. Are you?

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(That isn’t a muzzle on Molly. It’s a gentle harness to keep her from pulling on our walks. She can still drink, bark, and even give kisses!)

Be sure to sign up for the next Picture Lady posts for some ideas about observing and drawing nature and suggestions for writing and reading about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking and Writing about Jean Honore Fragonard’s Painting, A Young Girl Reading

I hope you’ve been enjoying the art activities in the last couple posts. Here are some thinking and writing activities to finish our study of A Young Girl Reading.

A Young Girl Reading wikimedia commons

Thinking and Writing about Art

Project 1, Thinking about Fragonard’s Painting

  •    What do you think the young girl is reading?
  •     In the 1700s did most girls learn to read?
  •     Do you like her hair style and her dress?
  •     Do these styles fit where and when the artist lived?  (Paris,  1700s)
  •     Would these styles fit with our time for any activities or not?
  •     Who do you think Fragonard made this painting for?
  •     Where do you think it would have hung? (remember, it didn’t always hang in a museum!!)

How could you update this painting’s subject to today’s world?

  •    What would the young girl be wearing?
  •    What would her hair look like?
  •    What else could she be holding to read?
  •     Where else might she be?

Project 2, Writing about Fragonard’s Painting

    Write a story as if you are this young girl. Here are some sentences to get you started:

 Bonjour, my name is______________________. I live in ________________________.  Monsieur

 

Fragonard painted this picture of me for_____________________________. I enjoy reading

 

about_____________________________. I have a pet_________________, and its name

 

is___________________.  My friends and I like to___________________________.

 

Project 3, Writing about You

 Writing or Drawing

     Write about or draw a picture of your favorite spot telling or showing why it’s special. Is it quiet or noisy? Are you alone or with friends? What do you do there—read, play games, watch TV, daydream?

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 I hope you’ll have fun and let me know in the comments how you enjoyed these project. 

I have a couple writing deadlines coming up in May, so I need to take a short break to finish these, but I plan to be back in June with a whole new artwork to study and enjoy with various activities . 20170724_203723

Molly’s resting up to get ready, so you get ready, too! Sign up to receive these posts by email.

 And don’t forget to visit my website to see the art workshops and other types of presentations I’m available to do! See the details at:      www.kathy-oneill.com