Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I had every intention of going out and sketching today.

It turned into a photography day.

This is why:

Red-Tailed Hawks in Flight. Photo © C. Werther, 2017

Today, Raptor Recovery at Fontenelle Forest here in Nebraska released four Red-Tailed hawks. Two are in the photo above. They did not fly very high at first- note the tiny bit of the red-orange glove of the volunteer in the very bottom of the photo! But what a beautiful sight it was as they took off.

An awful lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make moments like this happen. There are a bunch of dedicated people who work very hard to get as many of these birds back into the wild as possible. I waded in a couple of months ago, and am volunteering, so I can now see just how much work is involved. Everyone's contribution is important, and the whole system, from the volunteer network of transporters, to the people who clean the cages, to those provide veterinary care, to those who try to teach others about the birds, leaves me in awe of what a group of people can do when they work together.

A bit later, clouds moved in, and photography was a bit easier. This beautiful hawk has found a branch with a view of the field below.

Red-Tailed Hawk. Photo © Camille Werther 2017.

I like a happy ending. In rescue work, this ending is not a guarantee. But it is very sweet when it does happen.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Moth sketches

I have been watering a bunch of seemingly dead iris, hoping they will come back. They were caught in a late freeze, and are mostly a bunch of dead leaves. The other day, though, I saw a few green shoots. They may not make it, but there is always hope if you are a gardener.

Anyhow, I startled this moth with the water from my hose. It flew into my nearby hosta plants and stayed put for a while, which allowed me to take a few pictures and sketch it. I am finding that photography is a very useful addition to my sketching method- it allows me to magnify some details of insects. In this case, I magnified the moth's head to add to my sketch.

I have not identified this to genera or species. The family, I think, is Noctuidae. Some of these are plant pests. Although I took entomology courses in college, I am not a moth expert. Butterflies and moths are becoming my new mind-stretching field of exploration, though. More on that in a future post! (If you are an expert, and know a definite id on this one, please let me know!).

This is a typical sketch page for me. I went back to my half-completed field sketchbook, rather than the mixed media paper one I used in the previous post. Some watercolor from a previous page is ghosting through on the left side, but this is more of a problem in the scan than in my book. I tend to work with a small book (5.5"x8.5"), and prefer the hardbound field books. I take a lot of notes with subjects like this. It can be very important to note where you find an insect, and what it is doing. If I am not using color, the color notes become very important. And with this moth, I noted the lighter underwings when it flew to the hosta.

The moth was gone this morning. I had a yard full of robins yesterday (I counted at least 8 at one point, fighting over the birdbath!), and they hopped right by it, so I suspect it flew away after dark.

I'll be announcing a new sketch series next week, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Milkweed Progress

Yesterday, I decided to stop in and check on my favorite milkweed patch at a local park. There were a few flower buds trying to open, but for the most part, the buds were still tightly shut.

Next to a patch of crown vetch, I saw an Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly, and got a picture. They are so small (almost as small as my thumbnail!), but I love the muted color of the upper wings and the bluer underside of the wings.

I am also trying out a new sketchbook. I thought I'd like the mixed media paper, but I'm finding it's not ideal for my pencil work. I think we artists hope we can ask one paper to do everything, but in reality, that is an impossible request! It is a very nice paper, but not ideal for what I am asking it to do. My Pilot Kakuno fountain pen is fine when writing on the paper, but I generally use that to take notes on the opposing page. I'm still a pencil gal. After trying to fiddle with the resolution and contrast of my scan, I can see why a lot of sketchbook artists have gone to ink with watercolor wash- it is harder to share pencil drawings.

But I sketch primarily for myself. I have always used my sketchbooks to inform my formal paintings. And I love pencil. I was the first thing I picked up almost 30 years ago, and I still love the way graphite glides on paper, and the feel of the wooden casing. This sketch was done with a 2B, which is a bit of a concession for me to share online. In the past, my primary pencil was HB, because I love the silvery tones.

Here is the page. The watercolors did not want to scan well, either. I didn't scan the opposing page with all my notes. There I recorded things like color notes, absence of milkweed bugs (at least that I could see!), and the smell of yellow clover nearby.