Because you asked: 2015 calendars!


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If you have followed my studio blog for a few years, you may remember the monthly printable hand-drawn and lettered Illustrated Garden calendars. They looked like this:

calendar juneAnd this:

2013 Jan FBI loved drawing them. I loved sending them out to you. Then my illustration work increased and my online art courses blossomed, and I had to reluctantly put them aside. But you never forgot them… For nearly two years, emails have continued to arrive asking for the calendars to return.

“Please bring them back. My office is in a high-rise in New York City, but I can look at your calendar and feel connected to nature.”

“I loved these calendars! I used them to keep records of planting and harvest at a community garden.”

“Your calendar makes me smile.”

With such encouragement, how can I not draw new calendars for 2015? Sometimes, you just have to leap.

The 2015 Illustrated Garden calendar includes an 8 1/2 x 11 page for each month and will be emailed to you in printable pdf form on New Year’s Day, every inch hand-drawn and lettered in ink, watercolor and colored pencil. Besides lots of garden and bird lore, it marks the full moons, dates of the Solstice and Equinox, along with major holidays and some not-so-major but highly interesting ones.

The cost is $12. You may mail a check* (Val Webb, P.O. Box 2212, Fairhope, AL 36533) or click the button below to order through PayPal:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

*If you choose to send a check, be sure to include the email address where you would like to receive your calendar.

An old garden and a new adventure


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The autumn breeze that stirs stalk and leaf in this 18th Century garden carries a drowsy hint of lavender. Four sprawling raised beds are arranged in the good German tradition: a square hemmed with pickets, divided by a stone pathway in the shape of a cross.
MDGarden1It’s early October in the kitchen garden at Schifferstadt, an imposing Maryland farmhouse built in 1758. Most of the season’s harvest has come and gone, leaving brown skeletons to rattle their dried-out seed heads in the chilly sunlight. But the hardiest botanicals are still green and several remain stubbornly in bloom: French lavender, flowering tobacco, calendula, yarrow.

Nearly three weeks into my road trip, I’m now in the valley just beyond the easternmost ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from the presidential retreat at Camp David. I’m gathering material on heirloom plants for my upcoming online course, The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil. And so I spent an afternoon sharing the Schifferstadt plots with the bees and mantises, marveling over colonial plants I rarely see in my own subtropical climate zone.

MDGarden2The biggest plantings were those varieties offering the widest range of practical uses in the farmer’s household. One particularly choice slice of garden real estate was occupied by Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), a feathery groundcover with an astonishing job description: it is a vegetable rennet for making cheese, a delightfully honey-scented mattress stuffing material, the roots produce red dye and the flowers yield a yellow hair rinse reputed to be popular with young milkmaids.

MDGarden3I’m traveling in my camper studio, “Beatrix,” with two canine co-pilots, Atticus and Jo. Two weeks ago, we made our way up through the fall wildflowers of Georgia and Virginia to spend some time in the rolling ridges near Washington D.C. Tomorrow, we’ll turn the steering wheel southward and roll down through Tennessee and Mississippi, back home to coastal Alabama and the little farmhouse at the end of the road. I have lots of fresh material for the Heirloom Garden course, courtesy of Maryland’s abundant flora. It has been a good journey.

Fall sketch

A parting look


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owl finishedRemember this fellow, who had just been started in an earlier post? I thought you might like to see him completed. I love using this watercolor technique: first painting the entire paper with the background color, then using clean water and a dry brush to lift away the lighter areas. Once that’s done, the detailed work begins with a #4 round brush and some rich browns. Highlights in white gouache are added in a final step.

A member of the breakfast club


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Red bellied sketch1He’s becoming a regular, arriving after the bossy cardinal couple and before the mourning doves. Red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents here, and apparently they have a hearty appetite for seeds. “My” woodpecker is a male, easily recognized by his red cowl. Females display a red patch only on the backs of their necks. (Despite their name, you can watch these birds for hours and never catch a glimpse of their red-tinged belly feathers. But the bold black-and-white bars on their wings and their bright caps make it easy to identify them anyway. Bon apetit, Mr. Woodpecker.)

The eyes have it


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Burrowing Owl picJust started a burrowing owl in watercolor. I always paint the eyes first — I think they are my favorite part of the process. Burrowing owls are the nonconformists of the owl family: often active during the day, they can sprint on their long legs when necessary. They nest and roost underground, inhabiting burrows abandoned by rabbits or prairie dogs. Their diet, too, is different from the typical owl menu. In addition to insects, frogs and mice, the little burrowing owl also dines on fruits and seeds. A particular favorite treat is the prickly pear cactus.

New course! Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil


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Heirloom pic1Old-fashioned flowers and their pollinators, including bees and butterflies, will be the focus of a new 10-lesson online course beginning November 3. “The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil” will provide detailed, step-by-step instruction in seeing and accurately drawing a wide range of flowering plants in graphite and colored pencil. No previous art experience needed.

The course is designed to be “work-at-your-own-pace.” Lessons will post weekly on a password-protected site, and students have a five-month window (through April 3) to complete all 10 lessons. Personal instructor feedback and guidance is provided through email, as often as you wish.

The cost of the course is $65. To sign up, email






Tutorial: Little Black Hen in Watercolor

Watercolor is an astonishing medium. Beginning with spatters and splashes, and using only two colors — Pyrrole Orange and Phthalo Blue — it’s only a short, happy journey to a completed hen. This is the warm-up project for Lesson 5 in my online course, Birds in Watercolor and Beyond. Watch the video all the way through and print the pdf pages that appear below the screen before you begin painting. Enjoy!

L5 Hen Progression

L5 Texture Sampler

Chicken Reference 1

Chicken Reference 2

Your preliminary sketch can be very simple — no need for detail. The watercolor will provide surface textures and shading. Here’s what my sketch looked like…

L5 chicken sketch


…and here’s the finished Little Black Hen:

L5 Little Black Hen



In Part 2, we’ll employ an unusual method for moving paint across the paper’s surface: blowing short, sharp puffs of air that push the color away. Feel free to use as much or as little of this free-flowing wind power as you wish, depending on the final effect you want. The bird in this image, for example, uses much more of the technique than our video demo bird does:

L5 Spatter Bird

Watch the video all the way through and download the pdf reference images before you begin painting.

Reference – Raven

Reference – Crow 1

Reference – Crow 2



Chickens are birds, too


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chick5aI always include chickens in my online courses on drawing and painting birds. There are so many things that make a hen fun to draw — scaly toes, fierce beady eyes, all those feathers — and everyone has a basic understanding of chicken anatomy. This lovely girl was a demo for the current session of Birds in Watercolor and Beyond.


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