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Sunday, August 21, 2011

An evolving journal page--insects and friends...

Planning ahead isn't really necessary unless you're planning on publishing your journal pages!  I wasn't, I was just delighted to find such a wide variety of insect life all on the door frame of my shed/studio.  So this is an evolving sketch that I played with over days--I started over a week ago!  I did the rough sketch below with a Prismacolor Verithin black colored pencil--almost little more than quick gesture sketches--then took photos to refine them later.

I worked fast...I was standing up, the butterfly might move at any time, and the katydid, DID!  Sort of a slow-motion sloth effect...and of course added more details and more creatures as I went along!

slow-moving but definitely MOVING bush katydid...the leaf-like designs on his back were much more visible in this macro shot--I couldn't really see them with the naked eye.

My reference photos were really helpful in getting at the details I'd missed, although I never COULD get my camera to focus properly on the walking stick. 

I used my magnifying glass to get the details of the chrysalis--it was thin as tissue paper, delicate and almost translucent.  I thought I was done when I did the version below, with a headline, border, and color...

I waited a few days to add the color, until my new open-stock Verithin pencils arrived from Dick Blick--and then decided to add some watercolor after all! 

A day or so later still, I went back in and strengthened the darks and added a bit of tone to make the chrysalis at upper left stand out...
I couldn't resist adding the daddy longlegs or harvestman, which strolled up later...and before you say "ick, I hate spiders," these aren't spiders at all!  They have their own order, they are non-poisonous, and they eat other small insects.  They're very beautiful, up close, like a jeweled mosaic box.

A wonderful new book really points up the value of field sketches over more mechanical means of nature study.  It's Field Notes on Science and Nature. 

Edited by Michael Canfield and published by Harvard University Press--if you're interested in nature study with your journal, you'll love it too. 

Colored pencil and watercolor.


  1. What a pleasure to look at this page! I really appreciate how you pay attention to detail but still manage so well to infuse the drawings with a liveliness that is often lacking in "clinical" studies.

  2. Wonderful insect sketches! I enjoyed reading about the evolution process, too. Fascinating link on the harvestman, I had no idea they were not actually spiders!

  3. These are great sketches of insects, Kate! They're so hard to draw and you've done it so well!

  4. Your sketches are so delicate and so nice.

  5. I'm knee deep in Field Notes on Science & Nature right now and highly recommend it. The pages from well-known naturalists and other scientists and illustrators are worth feasting your eyes upon, as well as the in-depth essays on the value of journal field studies. I do love this book! Great that you mentioned it, Kate.

  6. These are wonderful sketches! I do dislike spiders, but can appreciate how lovely your sketch of it is!! I have a page in an otherwise fantasy-journal, with a group of tadpoles sketched and coloured!!

  7. Thanks, all! And Maria, YES, love the book! The chapter on why sketching is excellent. Rosie, I'd love to see your tadpoles...

  8. This is such a great page, Kate! I haven't seen a katydid in years.
    I have that book on my wish list...I try not to add to my overflow of books without giving it some thought, but I think I must have this one!

  9. Great collection!

    An exterminator once told me something odd re: daddy long-legs -- I'm not sure if it's true. He had seen something on a nature program that said they are actually one of the MOST poisonous . . . but they have no delivery system for the poison. Curious.

  10. Thank you both! I do like that book a lot, MaryO. It could have more art, but you know me...<:-) And Vicky, I've heard that too! They do stink if squished...

  11. Wonderful tutorial, thank you very much and I want this book too.


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