We took a trip to see my in-laws in Tucson over Christmas and New Years. The desert there is truly spectacular, and I always am amazed by the diversity of cacti and birds that live here. Whenever we visit, we make sure to get out and hike. This time, I brought my sketchbook. Many of the sketches I filled in with color and detail at the dining room table, as I’m sure other nature journalists will relate. It’s hard to spend enough time on one subject when the family is off to the next thing!
My strategy, which I learned from the wonderful John Muir Laws, is to sketch everything very roughly in non photo blue pencil first, in order to get the general shapes right. I then go back over with graphite and finally watercolor. The non photo blue pencil is a color that cannot be detected by copiers. This means nothing for sketching because I won't be using a copier, but there is something about using a light blue pencil that is very freeing and allows you to sketch without feeling like you need to erase all of the wrong marks. It is also easily hidden by the watercolor paints.
We also took a trip to one of my favorite places: the Sonoran Desert Museum. This living museum is a wonderful place to discover the local wildlife and plants. The raptor show, in particular, is really awesome. Owls swoop over your head and Harris hawks team up to demonstrate a hunt during the show. The birds are way too fast for me to sketch, so I sketched a toad instead. You can see some of the blue pencil marks that I later adjusted, but never erased.