Tag Archives: ink and watercolor sketch

Organ Mountains La Cueva trail

Organ Mountains, New Mexico

A recent trip to El Paso, Texas, allowed me to temporarily escape the final blasts of our northeast winter. This is where Eric, a dear friend and neighbor, spends his winters.  He grew up there, and was a great tour guide and generous host.  I got to see landmarks and history and there was so much to learn.  The sketches so far are from the places we went hiking.

Coming from NE Pennsylvania (elev= 900’) I was concerned about altitude adjustment.  (El Paso elev = 3,760’) So before leaving, I went on slightly longer hikes and even added a few pounds to my pack.  That seemed to do the trick, and there were no issues with altitude.

Our first hike was in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces, NM, just over the border.
An online description:  The Organ Mountains are a steep, angular mountain range with rocky spires that jut majestically above the Chihuahuan Desert floor. They range from 4,600 to just over 9,000 feet, and are so named because of the steep, needle-like spires that resemble the pipes of an organ.
Coming from the Poconos, the first views of these were awe inspiring.

We did a 3+ mile hike on the La Cueva trail, a great introduction, with deep blue skies and a cave to explore.  Stopping to sketch made the hike take longer, but I could’ve spent all day here!Organ Mountains La Cueva trail

  Organ Mountains La Cueva trail
Organ Mountains La Cueva trail

Organ Mountains La Cueva trail


La Cueva/ The Cave

La Cueva/ The Cave

La Cueva/ The Cave

High Point State Park hike

Starting off the year in High Point State Park with a new (to me) trail – Monument Trail loop, 4 miles. I did this clockwise, but recommend going counter clockwise. Sunshine and cool temps made for an easy enough trek.  So easy, that it seems it will be busy on weekends, so a return here will be a weekday. I didn’t stop to sketch, but used my photos for these.

High Point State Park

Nice stonework at the entrance

I just adore trees with unique shapes!

Have you lost a glove?

View of leafless tree looking over the lake


Cliff trail sketch

Looking for sketch ideas

Happy 2023! Soon my holiday/ new year cards will go out, much later than usual. (So sorry!)
I have done a few easy hikes lately, and even did one sketch last week, waaay back in 2022!

Cliff trail sketch

Another great tree on the Cliff trail

Meanwhile, with winter weather, I haven’t gotten out to sketch as much, so I looked in a new place for ideas.  I looked online at pixabay, and used a few of their reference photos for these:


Finally, I used my imagination to play with colors and shapes – Tree shapes

It’s a great reminder of how good it feels to put pen and brush to paper!  I hope this trend continues!

Fun with fungi

It’s been a while since my last post, summer got busy and focus on sharing my art was lost.  Now that autumn (and even some snow!) has arrived, I’m working on getting that focus back.  Art Safari is still having their Thursday sessions, this week was fungi.  Mushrooms are delicious and a healthy diet addition. Also, they’re very fun to study and draw!

Here are 2 pages of small sketches in a new Stillman and Birn alpha sketchbook.  I started adding a background to a couple, but stopped, as I’m not sure they look better with or without.  What do you think? With or without backgrounds?

With background

Without background

Art toolkit palette and Stillman and Birn sketchbook


Turkey vultures in cemetery

The bird we love to hate – turkey vultures

On a recent ride in New Jersey, there is often a “committee” of turkey vultures in the same location. As they like to eat carrion (dead animals), it’s appropriate that the location is a cemetery!
I looked around for some interesting information about them and found these facts:
  – A group of Turkey Vultures feeding is called a “Wake”.
  – A group of Turkey Vultures flying is called “Kettles”.
  – A group of Turkeys Vultures resting is called a “Committee.”
  – Turkey Vultures have unusual ways to cool themselves off – they will poop on their feet to cool themselves off. The droppings provide a chemical coating that acts as a cooler. Found this info here:  https://learnbirdwatching.com/facts-about-turkey-vultures/

Of course, I “had” to sketch these flying birds (they’re related to storks, not birds of prey) to share them in this unique location! They were all on the ground until we got closer, then they started getting on top of the tombstones. Thanked them for the great poses! 😉Turkey vultures in cemetery

View along Ridge trail

Still here!

It’s been a bit since I last posted, you may be wondering what has been keeping me so busy.  Well, I’ve been taking advantage of my location and enjoying music, hiking and kayaking.  Milford had a music festival last weekend, and the band called “Merchants of Groove” were a big hit.  The audience had a (sort of) Frank Zappa look-alike, and we all tapped our feet to the great beats. Music fest audience
The trombonist stepped away from the stage to serenade passing motorists and walked through the audience. Trombone player On a recent sunny day, a neighbor joined me for a nearly 7 mile hike that went from Raymondskill Falls to Milford Knob. We sat and sketched the view, but decided next time we’d return with small seats to avoid snakes. While we’re not afraid of them, we did see 2 black rat snakes on the trail, one was 3’ long. It’s possible this one that looked curly was in fact full of eggs! Black rat snake
Here’s my sketch result of the day, made on site, color added later.

View along Ridge trail
Finally, kayaking under a full moon was most enjoyable! At least, until a bat swooped a little too close! 😮 A marvelous night 🎶 (⬅️click link to see a short video) Full moon kayak night

View of Stony Lake

Back to Stokes

The hike in the south portion of Stokes State Forest in NJ was so enjoyable, I went back to explore the north side. The Appalachian Trail continues through this part, and there’s a fire tower to find. So I started on Stony Brook trail, then to the AT and fire tower, and returned via the Tower Trail.

Up at the fire tower, I was lucky to meet up with a nice family and their three dogs, which were also super friendly, so I was able to get my puppy fix.  They chose to go up the fire tower, I still have some fear of heights, so I ‘may’ go back and try it, when I’m alone.  Mainly because I’ve been seeing funny posts about “Do things that scare your family and friends”! 😉

I also sat and did a quick urban sketch of the view of Stony Lake:

View of Stony Lake

Sketched from the fire tower site

I also did a few sketches at home – of the fire tower, stepping stones over a creek and some dwarf ginseng.  The starlike shape was fascinating, and online was this description of its flowers – “…dull white umbels rising from a whorl of three compound leaves”.

Fire tower, creek crossing and dwarf ginseng

Fire tower, creek crossing and dwarf ginseng

Looks like I’ll be heading back to Stokes soon! There’s lots more trails to explore, especially the one named “Gigi Lane”! (That’s me!) Gigi Lane


Stokes State Forest

Over the border

Alltrails is a great app that I use to find hikes that fit me. Looking at a 30 minute or less travel time led me to New Jersey.  So this week I went to Stokes State Forest to try out the Red Maple and Steffens trails. About halfway you can add extra distance and go to the Ladder Trail, which leads to the Appalachian Trail and a scenic overlook from the Kittatinny Ridge. I decided to save that for another day.
I wasn’t disappointed with this hike – a bit wilder with a much less traveled path, and only one other person seen on it. And that person was on a bicycle, which was quite a surprise.
The weather was warm, but too windy to stop and try a sketch, so these were done later at home.
Fallen trees did not block the trail, instead there were some to climb over and some to go under.  A white fluffy deer tail was all I spotted as it bounded away, same with the back end of a large turkey who did not like me so close.  I saw lots of eastern skunk cabbage, which added nice pops of green along wet areas.

Shortly after starting I stopped – to rest, of course, but also to really appreciate my surroundings and give thanks for being able to enjoy the fresh air, nature and solitude that replenish my spirit. Grateful!Stokes State Forest

Stokes State Forest

Grey Towers mansion

Grey Towers

Getting to know a new area can be daunting.  Where do you start? First, I got my driver license, next got my car registered, and then started to explore local hikes.  In March, my first trail was at Raymondskill, tried the Cliff trail and saw the falls. (That was where I found the gnarly tree in my last post!)

As I meet and chat with locals, I’ll ask, “where do you suggest I go to hike and where can I find local art?”   They recommended Grey Towers, a historic site that was once the summer estate of the Pinchot family.  This became my second hike, although I’d call it more of a walk.  It has interesting architecture, with a long, steep paved drive to get up to the house and grounds.  There are a variety of tours available (after it opens in May) of the buildings, forest trees and cemetery.

Only the crocus were out the day I went:

Grey Towers mansion

Grey Towers mansion and crocus

The Bait Box was built in the 1920s as a playhouse.  Loved the setting, so I sat and sketched, while visiting children ran about. The Bait Box at Grey Towers