Monday, January 25, 2016

Creating an Urban Nature Sanctuary

I am delighted that after some years of work and thought, we've managed to create a tiny nature sanctuary right here in our old neighborhood.  We attract many species of birds, as well as raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and the very occasional white tail deer and fox.  We plant flowers to attract butterflies and bees, and there are many species of wildflowers and useful wild plants on our little lot.

Plus WONDERFUl sketching opportunities!  There is much more to our urban environment than buildings and people.

I do quick on the spot gesture sketches and often add color as the birds stay around.

I make my own art supplies from things that grow in my little sanctuary...note the more practical dip pens on the right!  I love accepting nature's gifts and incorporating them into my art.

My feeders are usually busier than this!

I learn a lot about my environment by sketching what I this case, a woodpecker's burrow caused the limb to break off so I could see how the nest was made.

Birds DO move fast, but we can sketch their basic shapes, just like people in a cafe or airport terminal, and add color as we have the chance.  I like to list the birds I see on any given day...

And record special events like this!  A white tail deer chasing my cat through the woods.  I was able to dash down their shapes as I watched, then added my familiar trees once they'd boogied on out of there...

Pilieated woodpeckers are making a comeback!  I've sketched him several times...even on my feeder, though I was told this big bird doesn't come to feeders.

These guys are ALWAYS good for a laugh, as well as fast sketching practice.  Here, mostly a Prismacolor dark grey pencil with washes added...

This kind of peanut feeder attracts a lot of birds...

I'm even doing a backyard Materia Medica of all the useful herbs and plants...

I've learned a terrific amount about what grows even here in town, and what benefits they offer.

 What nature can you find in YOUR urban environment?  It's precious, and we are nourished by it.

There is a program that gives certification for this kind of effort from the National Wildlife Federation, well worth looking into if you are interested.

And enjoy this site, The Urban Wilderness, for more inspiration--one man's effort in Kansas City's populous Brookside area.


  1. This is wonderful! Love the sketches - cf course:) and the whole concept and idea is magical!

  2. Love this post Cathy. Your trademark beautiful and graceful drawings. Urban nature is a great theme. I wrote you a personal email about this.--Marcia

    1. Thank you Marcia! I don't know why it finally occurred to me to do this today, but I'm glad I did.

  3. This post is delightful Cathy, your love for nature shows in the dedication you put on your wonderful sketches/drawings/paintings. Always your admirer.

  4. You've got a little piece of heaven there, Kate! As I grow older I see more value in these types of environments. A real-estate agent would lust after this type of empty lot because it could be bulldozed and a home or apartment could be built on it. Topeka's west side has been developed with very little or no green space. It's not a welcome environment to spend time. All the parks are in the old sections of town. My favorite oak tree is in one of those old parks and I'll drive out of my way to see it about monthly. It gives me joy to see it. Nature gives us so much.

  5. Hey, these are cute drawings. Thank you for sharing these here. I really liked themes of all drawings. My son also loves painting and drawing. He has just won a kid’s painting contest at one of the local event venues in Boston and event was quite nicely planned.


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