Pequit Brook at MABA by Maris Van Vlack – RISD Student and MABA Intern

The Pequit Brook runs alongside a large part of the Main Loop Trail at MABA. You can also  reach the brook by taking the Pequit Brook Trail, which ends in a clearing right by the water’s edge. Many creatures live by the brook, including Spotted Salamanders and Eastern Red-backed Salamanders. I’ve also seen many songbirds, and many times when I approach the brook I see a Great Blue Heron disappearing into the trees. (I have yet to get a good picture of it because it flies away so quickly!)

The animals and plants at the brook are exciting, but this series of sketches focuses on the brook itself. For me, drawing the brook means capturing the feeling of water in motion. When drawing bodies of water, I identify the places where there is bright sunlight hitting the water. I also try to show which way the water is flowing around rocks and other obstacles. I find that ripples in the water can be more easily understood with line studies.

Line study of water currents in the brook

In the piece below, I used watercolor for the body of the painting, later adding opaque white gouache for the highlights. When painting water, make sure that you use the colors that you see instead of the colors that your brain thinks should be there. Large bodies of calm water often look blue because they are reflecting the sky, but smaller streams don’t actually look blue. The Pequit Brook is so shallow that light hits the rocks and dirt on the bottom of the brook and comes back up through the water. This makes the water appear different shades of brown, grey, yellow, red, and green, depending on what is underneath the water. 

When painting rocks, I pay attention to how they interact with the water: whether the water is flowing over them, around them, or both. Rocks are each a different shape, and showing this in a drawing will make it more interesting. It is important to notice which parts of the rock are angular and which parts are smooth. Drawing flat sides of rocks and noticing how the light is hitting them will help with this. 

A pen drawing of a rock near the brook, focusing on the unique angles this rock creates

I find that the brook looks different every time I draw it because it is always in motion. It is one of my favorite places to sketch!

My name is Maris Van Vlack, and I will be blogging for the summer of 2020! I am a rising sophomore at the Rhode Island School of Design, with a major in Textiles and a concentration in Drawing. I used to take homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art and have had my artwork exhibiting in their Taking Flight Exhibit for young bird artists.

I am especially interested in working with unusual materials in my work, and am inspired by plants, animals, and the patterns found in nature. This summer, I will be creating a guide for the MABA trails with sketches and paintings. I will be recording and writing about my observations, and sharing them through these blog posts. Hopefully this will be an educational and inspiring resource, and will motivate you to sketch what you see when you visit MABA this summer!

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