Small Miracles

This painting is a gift: a symbol of new life and the cradle that embraces its fragile loveliness. I painted it for my cousin to give to her daughter, who has two daughters of her own. One was born this summer, nearly four months early. Yet by the grace of many small miracles and the amazing skill of neonatal care, she recently went home, beautiful and healthy. Two blue eggs, so much to be grateful for. Tips and Techniques– I loved doing the shadows in this piece and, in fact, they are… Read More

Beach Chicks

Unless you live near the coast or visit frequently, there may only be a few times in your life that you will get to see hatchling shorebirds scampering at the surf line. I count myself fortunate to have visited the coast of Massachusetts last week at the perfect time to see piping plover chicks. Running around on stilt-legs, the tiny puff balls were foraging at the water’s edge, already managing to avoid getting swamped or stomped on by beachgoers. These birds were at least several days old, though piping plover chicks can… Read More

Coming Soon

Spring is just about to burst forth here in New York. It’s a time many of us eagerly await; the long winter months nearly behind us. Just a few things are blooming now, but the pace will accelerate in the coming days with a procession of spring ephemerals, migratory birds, flowering trees and shrubs, and colorful bulbs. I went looking for spring yesterday and was pleased to spend time with star magnolia and forsythia before the rain came and temperatures fell from 60-to 40-degrees. Here’s wishing you time to wonder and enjoy… Read More

Fleeting

Just a few quick bird sketches to wish you a good day and thank you for the many kind notes of condolences shared last week. Life is fleeting; capture what you can of it. Tips and Techniques– When sketching birds, start with a line for the angle of the bird’s body and then hang the body shape on it. Do the same for the angle of the bill and head. One you have these lines, shapes, and proportions down check for accuracy and refine your sketch. Don’t add detail until the end…. Read More

Fledglings Forever

This weekend’s freezing temperatures sent me packing my sketchbook and paints and seeking shelter in the natural history collection at a nearby museum. Amidst a long wall of bird specimens, I found these four fledgling Eastern screech owls. Most collections typically display adult birds, so it was unusual to find an entire set of young siblings. I was grateful for the chance to study these common, yet elusive owls up close. And yet, they haunt me, too. Their life in the wild was so brief, their time behind glass so long. My… Read More

Simple Joys

Amidst the hustle of holiday preparations and merriment, I stole a few minutes of quiet out in the neighboring field on a sunny afternoon. A chattering flock of juncos were my only companions as I made my way around the grove of white pines that are slowly taking over the tangled meadow. I appreciate these moments for the simple joys they offer, and I wish you the same this holiday season and throughout the year. Tips and Techniques– Although the sun was shining, the wind made 30֯ F feel like 20֯ F…. Read More

Artistry of the Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds hide their nests of woven sedges, grasses, and cattails deep in marshes, wet meadows, and swamps. Females weave the structure low to the ground, finding perfect hiding places to lay their eggs and raise young. Sometimes several females will nest in close proximity and even share the same mate. Because of their wet locations and perfect camouflage, I have never found a blackbird nest in the field. The ones I’ve seen and painted are from natural history museums and nature centers. Sometimes they are recently collected and sometimes, as with… Read More

Gone. Forever.

Though the news this week that the Ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman’s warbler and 21 other species were classified as “extinct” may not have come as a surprise, it was nonetheless disheartening. I pulled several old field guides from my shelf and found these prescient passages: “When man appears, the Ivory-bill disappears. This is not alone due to the destruction of the bird’s haunts but the bird’s shy, retiring nature. Its days are numbered even more surely than are those of the forests it inhabits” (What Bird is That? by Frank Chapman, 1941). “Many… Read More

The Shimmer

Did you know that a group of hummingbirds is called a shimmer? Hummingbirds don’t “flock” together, the way many bird species do, so several names have come to describe them as a group. You can also call them a charm, a glittering, a tune, a bouquet, or a hover. Truth be told, I have only seen hummingbirds individually of late, but painting several in different positions seemed a better way to capture their movement, beauty, and vitality. Tips and Techniques– When you are painting birds, do you ever overwork them to the… Read More

Doubly Good

You have to be in the right place at the right time to see a common nighthawk. Even then, you need to be lucky.  Nighthawks are nocturnal birds that fly at dusk over fields, ballparks, cities and towns, hawking insects in the air with quick wingbeats interrupted by soaring, swooping, and gliding. At first glance you might mistake one for a large bat. But then it soars or dives and you think, no, that’s a bird. Unfortunately, common nighthawks are no longer common—they’ve suffered a 60-percent decline in population since the 1960s…. Read More