Chicago Skyline

When I went with our daughter Kate two weeks ago to Chicago so she could promote her new book Following the Red Bird at the ALA Book Convention, we had an afternoon to sightsee. Everyone advised us to take the Architecture Boat Cruise down the Chicago River. The city is rightly proud of its incredibly architected skyscrapers, in a vast variety of colors and designs.

Telephone Lines

Telephone poles are fascinating. All those cables and loops and little boxes that somehow make our phones, electricity, internet and TV work — amazing! Drawing is a sort of meditation because you are really paying attention to something you usually only glance at.

The Red Bird

Our daughter Kate’s debut memoir about her faith journey, “Following the Red Bird” officially launched last week! Foreword Reviews wrote a beautiful review here:  The book is for sale on Amazon and from other online sellers or you can order from your local bookstore. You can also read more on her website: Kate and I are in Chicago at the ALA book convention, where she is signing her new book!


Saturday is the last day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims (3 million in the US, 1.6 billion worldwide) fast from food and drink (even water) from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. In all three Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), believers fast to strengthen their faith and connect better to God. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with making a declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving generously to the poor, and once in one’s lifetime making a pilgrimage to Mecca. This sketch is of Muslims bowing in prayer in Mecca.

Road Work

Scenes like this have always fascinated me. Maybe it’s the mixture of machines and men, maybe it’s a day-glo vests. This was hard to sketch on location, so I snapped a photo and did the sketch when I got home. 

Hundreds of Greens

When you look outside today, you’re probably seeing many different shades of green. How to portray those in a painting? In watercolor, you either start with a green like viridian or sap green, or with a yellow and a blue. You add different amounts of water and perhaps other pigments. You can either mix them on the palette or let them mix on the paper. Here’s a practice sheet of mine.


People ask me how I find time to paint. I try to make it a priority, but sometimes I don’t have time, or am uninspired, or (as this week) what I do paint isn’t good enough to share with you. Fortunately, I have older paintings I can use when that happens. This one was painted a year ago of the rhododendrons in our front yard.

Winston Churchill

Did you know Winston Churchill loved to paint? Prince Charles has published two books on watercolor. Painting is a common activity in Great Britain, and if you go into a bookstore, the section on watercolors is nearly as large as the section on gardening.


I am so grateful to share my sketches with you, because it keeps me painting! On Saturday I took a walk to find something to draw. Our neighbors have a wonderful stand of irises so I sat down on their grass and sketched them. The paint was added when I got home.

Tree on Yellow and Orange

Last Saturday at the Public Garden I sat near a beautiful copper beech tree. Looking through my sketchbook there was a page I had previously painted yellow and orange. Superimposing this sketch of the tree, I used the thick and thin end of the brush pen for the trunk and foliage.

Swan Boats on the Boston Garden

On Saturday I had the most heavenly afternoon on the Boston Common sketching. It was a glorious day. An Asian couple, complete with wedding party, were getting married; a Muslim family were picnicking; kids were playing frisbee. A wonderful scene.

My #1 sadness about the art I see is that so often artists are intimidated about including people, and often paintings are rich in architecture and other features but totally depopulated. Sketching people, as long as you’re not aiming for a portrait, is not hard. Note here the squiggles and dots of color which somehow say enough.

Swan on the River

Swans began populating the Charles River near our house about a dozen years ago. This one kindly posed for me as I sat on a bench next to the river last weekend.

A number of people have asked about buying my paintings. I’ve been hesitant about this, because my motivation is to share my love of art, and I don’t want anyone to think they need to buy anything. But if you would like a print of my paintings, including any from the past, let me know. Sketches, like this one and most of what I post: 8 x 10s are $35, 11 x 14s are $50,(+$5 S & H per order); all are matted and fit standard frames. Add $25 for finished paintings, like “Apple Tree” on May 10th.  Many originals are also available for $50-$150, depending on size. If you haven’t been to my website, take a look at; the homepage has all these emails in a rolling blog.

My First Love

How do you spend your evenings? For several months I’ve been seduced by Amazon Prime and Netflix. Now I’m going back to my first, and much more dependable love: reading. Like many avid readers, bookstores and libraries are some of my favorite places on earth. I did this sketch on Saturday at the Watertown Public Library, which is an wonderfully architected blend of the old and new parts of the building. There is a pink dogwood tree in full bloom outside the windows.

Crabapple, and thank you!

It’s been slow this year, but spring is finally coming to New England. Today the first hummingbirds, both a male and a female, appeared at our feeder! Here is a branch from our neighbor’s crabapple tree.

Thanks to the generous friends and neighbors who donated to my successful 37th Walk for Hunger yesterday! One lesson that is reinforced for me every year is how one person + one person + one person etc. really adds up. Each year friends and neighbors give me $25, $50, $100 each for the Walk. It doesn’t seem that much by itself, but yesterday I raised $5,000! Thanks for putting a spring in my step and food on table for many hungry families!

Filling those extra minutes ….

I hate being bored. Whenever we fly anywhere, Bruce teases me because my carry-on is filled with more than I could ever accomplish in a short flight — a book, iPad, sketchbook, and more.

So when I was in NYC last week and went to the Guggenheim, and found that I had to wait in line, I just pulled out my sketchbook and Pentel brush pens. I was happy while everyone around me was impatient. Seven minutes later when the line moved, I was left with a loose sketch and a memento.

Continue reading “Filling those extra minutes ….”

Brooklyn Bike Shop

Last weekend I visited our son Andrew and his wife Eva in Brooklyn. They got married last June. Eva and I went late Friday afternoon to a coffee shop near the school where Eva teaches 4th grade. While she checked her email, I did this sketch of the bike shop across the street. Sycamore trees line many Brooklyn streets, and I especially love the variegated bark, which I tried to portray here.


Our son Chris loves animals. He works for the Humane Society of the U.S., in charge of state lobbying for laws to prevent inhumane factory farming practices like cramped caging of chickens and pigs. Last year they sponsored Question 3 in Massachusetts, which prohibits such practices and passed by 70%. He and his wife Angela are vegan.

Chris has always loved crows. Crows are really smart. If you listen to them, they have an incredible number of vocalizations to communicate with each other. This painting is for you, Chris.

Coffee shop

After I finished this sketch, I realized that I had inadvertently omitted the book the woman on the right was reading. We all tend to make up stories about sketches we see. How might your story about this woman change if she were reading a book instead of staring into her coffee cup?


Inspiration is everywhere if you keep your eyes open. I saw a painting of tree trunks at Crate and Barrel a couple of weeks ago. I snapped a photo of it, and made my own version, adding the shadows. The different textures and colors of the bark is what interested me.

Following the Red Bird

Our daughter Kate has written a book which will be published in June! Following the Red Bird is a personal and beautifully written story of her journey to a God-centered life. Publisher’s Weekly reviewed it last week: “Rademacher’s memoir is an honest portrayal of the confusion of discernment and the comfort of abiding and trusting in God.” See a photo of Kate and learn more at At the bottom of the page, you can pre-order the book, which is helpful as it boosts online ratings.

The picture the publisher chose for the cover is the vermillion flycatcher, coincidentally the bird I saw for the first time and painted in Mexico.


Here in New England the weather likes to play games with us. Yesterday was a high of 84, and we had Easter dinner on our back porch. Tomorrow, the high will be 52. But the brave tulips are coming up, so we know that spring will finally arrive for good!

Vacation for the Brain

In Betty Edwards’ classic “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” she teaches that speech, logic and math all occur on the left side of the brain. Intuition, holistic thinking and drawing are on the right side. When we take a break from the left-brain thinking which occupies most of our day, it feels like a mental vacation. Here, Bruce and I were touring the Museum of Science with our granddaughter Lila like month, and I took a break, between the planetarium and the exhibits, to have a cup of tea and sketch in the food court.

Treasure of an Ordinary Day

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” — Mary Jean Irion, courtesy of our daughter Kate

A Favorite Story

One of my favorite art memories: One sunny day a couple of years ago I sat down on a bench at the playground in West Newton, to draw the swarm of kids and parents on the slides and climbing structures. An older Asian man sat down next to me with his six month old granddaughter in his lap. His eyes were glued to my sketchbook. I did a fast loose sketch which took 10-15 minutes, and the whole time his eyes never left my paper. When I was finished, I dropped the sketchbook onto the ground and took this photo. Then I ripped the picture out and handed it to him; he still didn’t say a word. As I walked down the block, got into my car, and drove away, I looked back at him several times. He was still staring at the sketch.

The Magic of Watercolor

Oil and acrylic paints are great, but for me nothing beats the transparency and unpredictability of watercolor. This little painting of distant hills across a lake, painted from my memory of vacations in Vermont and New Hampshire, shows how watercolor bleeds and puddles and  blossoms. This magic is why watercolor still fascinates me after 20 years of painting.


Lila’s Paintings

Our 11-year-old granddaughter Lila is on school vacation and has been visiting from North Carolina this week. We have been having fun painting together. On Tuesday we went together to my art group and everyone thought the flowers below were painted by me — but they were painted by Lila!

Mexican Street

As I look outside my windows in Newton, MA, I see houses painted gray, white, cream, and other subdued colors, to match the subdued colors of our March landscape. The colors of this Mexican Street, which I photographed in February and painted last week, are far more cheerful. 

Pink Tulips

Tulips grown from bulbs are always cheerful, especially with the cold and gray weather we’ve been having in New England this March. Below you see the painting in process on my art table, which used to be our dining room.

Beginner’s Mind

Every morning I meditate for ten minutes, using Headspace or Calm. “Beginner’s Mind” is a big thing in mediation, and it’s never a problem when I’m drawing or painting. Though I’ve been doing sketching and watercolor for 20 years, the fascination and frustration is that it always feels new and challenging and there’s always more to learn. “It takes reams of paper to make a decent painting,” one teacher said.  This little coffee cup, with the steam and the shadows on the white cup, is the only thing that escaped the recycle bin after an hour and a half of sketching the other day. 

Iranian New Year

The New Year is celebrated in Iran on the first day of spring, and Iranians set a table full of plants, goldfish and food which symbolize life, fertility and rebirth. My 17-year-old friend Sara is half Iranian; her father emigrated from Iran with Sara’s grandparents when he was eleven. So Sara and I went to an Iranian New Year’s event last weekend, just a day after we had celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. How blessed we are in the US with our wealth of diverse immigrant traditions and heritages.

Happy Spring!

This morning at 6:30 a.m. spring officially arrived. Since there’s still snow on the ground in Boston, it’s hard to believe, but the long days are so welcome.

As I made this little sketch, I was thinking about complementary colors and negative shapes. Complementary colors are opposite on the color wheel, like yellow and purple, so a purple background makes these daffodils more dramatic. One trick to drawing accurately is to shift your attention between the positive shapes — the flowers and foliage – and the negative shapes around them.


If you have a greenhouse near you, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. This sketch was done at the Wellesley College greenhouses in the rainforest room. It’s such a confusion of overlapping plants that it was hard to keep straight which plant I was drawing. At some point I gave up and added shapes and background to the plant frenzy. 

Drawing, Life and Learning

The Newton Watercolor Society sponsors life drawing during the winter, and last Saturday hosted this wonderful model.

As the March snow has been falling, I discovered a free online class I’m enjoying, and I recommend it if you’re interested in learning or improving your drawing skills. Here’s the link:

Monarch Butterfly Preserve

In Mexico I was lucky enough to make the eight-hour round trip (by car, foot and horseback) to visit the area of the mountains where Monarch butterflies from all over North America come to breed and rest during the winter months. Carefully protected by the Mexican government, there are only three small areas of the preserve which aren’t fenced off. Lots of butterflies in this little area festooned an evergreen tree making it look like a living Christmas tree.