Welcome to Birchtree Studio, an art studio based in historic Exeter, NH. I illustrate mostly natural history subjects but also provide a variety of other art services. Take a look around these pages. Enjoy the visit.

My home page will feature a different watercolor sketch each month. This is a way for me to show what I do in my sketch book, although sometimes the sketch might be on a sheet of watercolor paper, or it might be produced from a photograph. It’s unpredictable. I never know what kind of art might come through me. One thing is predictable: I will always be producing art.

I hope you will become as excited as I am to find out each month what shows up on this page.

Sandy McDermott

From my sketchbook...

Roadside Sketching

Driving has always been a favorite pastime for me. Like anyone else, it gives me a sense of freedom to move where and when I want to. Mostly I enjoy the adventure of exploring places. Stocking my wagon with scope, sketching tools and food I can go almost anywhere and stop when some landscape or wildlife sighting strikes me as interesting.

The attached image is a page of sketches reflecting two different roadside locations, not far apart from one another, up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

As an illustrator, it is important to sometimes create an "arranged" page; a layout of sketches that offers some interest in design and flow. In this case, several things were on my target list: slightly more detailed sketches; color; and layout. All of the drawings were done on site and then colored later by memory.

Drawing with the pencil again has been quite a pleasure. With it I am able to focus more on getting the details down on paper; I take more time to see and describe. With watercolors I am getting quite comfortable creating and using "neutrals". Neutrals have a lot to offer: a more accurate and useful palette of colors found in nature; they add more description to the elements in a sketch or painting; and they are absolutely beautiful in their own right. Through my studies under Barry Van Dusen, creating and using neutrals has been a consistent focus of my work.

Striving for good page layout has not always been on my target list. I have been busy for many years just trying to use my sketchbook as a place of learning the basics: about drawing, about a variety of media, about the "things" it is I am sketching. As Clare walker Leslie says, the sketchbook is "a tool for learning". Now that I am skilled with the basics it seems I am happily wandering into more advanced territory to include page layout as part of the problem to solve. My work will reflect more of this in the coming months.