Saturday, January 27, 2024



This is the story behind a coloured pencil drawing. How observing a woodcock resulted into a detailed drawing of this wonderful bird.


Years ago, my family lived in the woodlands of Kalmthout, Belgium. One day I noticed that a few autumn leaves were moving. The strange thing was that they kept on moving while there was no wind. It is universal knowledge that what one does not know, one fails to see. Only upon inspecting the autonomously moving leaves with binoculars, I noticed a perfectly camouflaged woodcock. It blended in so perfectly that even a passing, prowling cat didn’t notice it. The woodcock, also named a timberdoodle, stayed in our garden for a few days. Clearly it was migrating and in need of some rest.

What a fascinating bird it is! Apparently, when there is danger, this bird can pick up its young and fly the young bird to a safe place. Not surprisingly, this is rarely seen because woodcocks are masters in camouflage, not only because of their mottled brown, beige and black 'wood with leaves' resembling plumage but also because of their 'lie low' behaviour. Finding a woodcock is difficult, finding a woodcock with chicks is even harder, and then seeing a woodcock airlifting its juveniles to another place must feel like a miracle. (Most will miss this extremely rare occasion anyway by grabbing for our cameras).

That said, I had a neighbour who saw a common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) airlifting its young to a nearby bush -30-50 cm above ground level- because of a nearby cat. I was so stunned to hear this that I subjected the poor man to a detailed investigation eventually finding no criminal charges of lying or excessive use of imagination. The starling had taken its young by the wing and just dropped in a thick bush. Little birds weigh nothing, as you may have experienced or know (they have hollow bones). I wish I had seen that! Not in the least because it shows that birds can do such a thing and that the woodcock story isn't fantasy.

Much inspired by this wonderful bird, I sat down to draw our woodcock. I gave the lonely bird an admiring partner.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and works as an artist in Utrecht. She is the owner of

Contact Paula freely for commissions.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Checking your composition: a few techniques

There are several techniques that prevent compositional mishaps. Let me explain. 

I learned drawing and painting before supporting electronic devices entered the market. There were no tracing light-pads, no projectors, or apps for helping artists. I am not planning to give a lengthy diatribe against technical gadgets but learning drawing and painting the old-fashioned way comes with some easy tricks for checking your work-in-progress. These I like to share with you. 

A cautionary note here, do not endlessly use tricks. Sketches should show your perspective, your take on life and art, your hallmark mishaps, and your style. Artificial Intelligence will make flawless art, there is no need for you to produce art that looks like it is AI generated. I also advise against photo-realist art; why compete with a photo or copy machine? Instead preserve your style carefully even if that means repeating hallmark ‘mistakes’. Disliked by artists themselves, mistakes are often very charming.



Some artists have nothing with composition the same way some people learn languages by ‘total immersion’; they have no interest in learning grammar. I am not one of those artists. I love beautiful compositions. When a painting is appealing to me, I automatically check its composition to decipher its enchantment.

One way to check your composition is to step away from it. Create more space, like 1-2 meter between you and your sketch, turn clockwise and anti-clockwise and then have a fresh look at your compositional lines and organization. Is your sketch harmonious? Have you used a beautiful diagonal or S-line set-up? Are objects further placed to the horizon smaller enough? Are the most important objects drawing attention first? 



Another way to help yourself having a new look at your compositional lines, is done by turning your painting (canvas or sketchbook) up-side down. Should there be a mistake, it immediately becomes visible. (Like… wait.. what is that tree doing there? Or isn’t that tree too big in relation to its position in the background?)



Another method to check your compositional lines is letting your canvas (especially when it is big) remain standing on your workstation or painter’s easel but stand or sit in front of it with your back positioned to your artwork. Take a hand mirror (as big as your face) and look at your artwork by looking at it via the hand mirror (like you use the side and rear mirror of your car to check traffic behind you). This trick creates so much confusion in your brain that it reacts with a sense of urgency and thus immediately shows you any mistakes.

It goes without saying that these tricks should be performed when the compositional lines are still erasable.

Although it is fun to check progress by using tricks, the most beautiful and impressive artwork comes from the soul and not from endlessly checking and correcting your work. Although we can learn a lot by checking our artwork using a fresh perspective, mistakes can be charming and can function as a signature of an artist. Do not aim for perfection but for finding your style.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer





Monday, October 9, 2023

Amazing Elephants - Vickie Henderson

I have recently had the pleasure of visiting Kruger National Park in South Africa, an emersion in everything wildlife.  In particular, I enjoyed so many elephant experiences.  Wonderful elephant sightings from very young nursing babies to old bulls with amazing long tusks.  

Below you see one of my sketches of a young elephant probably around three years of age.  He surprised me with his boldness and came charging into the watering area scattering a herd of cape buffalo.  It seemed impossible that one so small could have that kind of power!  

I created a blog post on my website, Vickie Henderson Art, sharing more of this story.  Please join me in this fun experience at The Magic of Africa!


Thursday, July 21, 2022


Last year I purchased a beautiful journal from WonderCabin on Etsy.  The pages are filled with 140# traditional Fabriano hot-press watercolor paper that are not only a joy to paint with but an immense joy to draw on! My journal when opened is 12 inches by 9 inches.

Working full time right now does not give me the time that I would love to spend in nature and in my studio.  One day this spring, I brought my journal into the den with my pencil and ink pens.  As I watched TV and with images on my Kindle, began to draw a series of dogwood buds. 

I was taken with the "magic" when I added the value via stippling and darker lines with my Micron pens.

And here is the true flower! These study pages help us not only to see but to know.  We live in a magical time when we have all these tools available to us .... my phone's camera is just as good as my Nikon D90!

I like to draw using a .03 HB lead mechanical pencil.  The thinner lines suit my eye.  Also here are the black pens that I am using.  I start with the 01 and build up by adding the larger sizes in the project as you can see here.

Thank you for visiting, 

Linda C Miller Artist | Naturalist | Instructor

Copyright Linda C. Miller 2022


Thursday, June 9, 2022


Graphite and ink on paper

Nature replenishes my spirit in so many ways. Clean air and water. The simultaneous serenity and thrill while standing on the edge of millions of acres of public lands. Sunshine warming my face. The sound of rain on my rain jacket. Watching a bee fly; toads, deserts, murmuration.

Trees are an organism for which I am supremely grateful. I have always loved them, even before I could understand the depth of what that means.

On a grand scale, trees have sustained cultures for millennia. Closer to home and more personally, trees provide life-saving shelter, shade from the powerful sun, bone- and muscle-warming heat, magnificent beauty, the sound of wind moving through the leaves.

So I've been pondering lately, what do I give back to them? Indeed, what is the exchange between all of nature and myself? It did not take me long to make the connection.

A spotlight. Through my art and writing I shine a spotlight on the beauty, magnificence, importance, and cultural community that trees and forests provide; the very reasons we should be protecting, respecting and thanking them.

My hope is that my work will inspire others to broaden their interest in trees, to the point of finding themselves caring about trees in their own environment, maybe even becoming stewards of the land.

In the spirit of paying it forward, for the trees, click here for a beautifully made documentary created by a young Alaskan woman about the clear cutting of old growth forests in the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska.


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Digging for Fossils

 I had a great day today digging for fossils with some of my Master Naturalists friends and Chris & Holly from the Whiteside Museum in Seymour, Texas. I found a few small fossils and one larger one that was part of the head spike on a Xenacanth Swamp Shark. (I was pretty excited!) 

If you haven’t ever been to the Whiteside Museum in Seymour, you need to load up and go! Spend some time seeing the exhibits and then eat some BBQ at The Big Empty. You can fill your brain and your belly all in one day!

(And, yes I know I have misspelled vertebrae on my page. Apparently I was just too excited to slow down and spell things correctly. I will have to fix that!)


5.5 x 8.5” 

Strathmore 400 Series Journal

Ink & watercolor


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

A connection to place

 I think we’ve all known special places that have deep meaning for us personally.

 Maybe we don’t always recognize it at the time.  There are several natural places that are special to me, but those with the deepest roots are woven from my childhood memories.  Colors and shapes, smells and sounds, and textures like the tactile velvet of new buds or flaking limestone. 

 The memories stay vivid and strong – some more so, some less.  Most of them comforting, but some, not so much.   They speak of my relationships with nature.  They are both known and unknown, some barely lurking within my subconscious.  What I remember most are not the events, but the feelings those connections gave me.

Maple leaves, owl feather, hickory nuts, and wild grape.
Maple leaves, owl feather, hickory nuts, and wild grape.

This is a small nature sketch done years ago, somewhere in the mid-1980s, of things collected on a walk through Iowa woods.  It was mid-autumn, and the season gave me treasures and a near infinity of browns and buff, with splashes of red and yellow.  Along the trail: leaves on limb and ground, sticks and branches and trunks and bark, seeds and frost-bitten fruits, empty acorn caps and sometimes a glimpse of gritty green. 

 The woods I rambled in are located in upper northeast Iowa, along a limestone ridge and bluff above a river.   It is a place of meditation, of quietness threaded with birdsong.   This is also a connection to a point in time.  Fall is a favorite season of mine; it feels like an important transition somehow, and I sometimes catch my breath waiting for the next thing to come.

It feels like a time to let life unwind, and a place to rest and heal. 

A sacred place.



Paper - unknown mass-produced watercolor paper pad
Watercolor paint, probably Grumbacher and/or Winsor & Newton
     (the colors still surprisingly bright after almost 40 years)
Craft brushes
# 2 Pencil