Ancient Seas

Sketching at a museum is a pretty fun thing to do—especially when the collection is as rich as the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The place is a treasure trove: birds, gems, butterflies, objects from native cultures, and fossils of all kinds—from giant dinosaurs to tiny ancient plants. I decided to try two very different approaches to painting on a recent visit. See what you think…Inspired by museum sketches of Canadian artists Marc Taro Holmes and Shari Blaukopf, I jumped in with watercolor to sketch the ancient fish Xiphactinus audax. I… Read More

Never Weary

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.”  – Rachel Carson Thanks for joining me in the art of exploration throughout the year. Here’s to finding great places to explore, mysteries to probe, beauty to behold, and the company of others to share it with in 2016!

Winter Wren

Small in stature, but with an exuberant song that makes up for it, the winter wren is more frequently heard than seen. The song always surprises me— warbled and sweet, it goes on and on, ringing through deep, moist northern forests in Maine where I hear it each summer*. I went to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven for a reference for the winter wren. On display in its ornithology collection are five species of North American wrens. None is very large, but the winter wren is astoundingly… Read More

Beautifully Poisonous

I found a ring of impressive mushrooms in the lawn outside my son’s apartment in Lexington, Virginia last weekend. It had been raining for several days, which brought on the fall bloom. Curious, I picked these samples, drew them, and then did some research to identify them and learn more. How fun to discover something so beautifully poisonous! I’ve done many pages like this over the years. I love finding something that I don’t know much about, sketching it, taking notes, reading and researching, and combining it all on the page. The result… Read More

Well Protected

Sharp spines, thick shells, noxious odors — the lengths a tree will go to protect its seed! I found these while exploring a local cemetery in my new hometown. Alive among the dead, the American chestnut really caught my attention. Once the predominant tree of Eastern forests, they are a rare find today. A fungus nearly killed off the entire species by 1940. In contrast, the ginkgo is an ancient survivor. Native to China, but planted widely in cities, ginkgoes have been on Earth since the days of the dinosaurs. I had never… Read More

The Edge of the Sea

For many years now, I’ve clamored over granite ledges, slippery seaweeds, and sharp barnacle-laden rocks to explore the watery realm of Maine’s tide pools. When the sea retreats at low tide, a world of strange and tenacious creatures is revealed. I go in search of spiny urchins, orange and green sea stars, feathery anemone, scampering hermit crabs and slow moving snails, tunicates, blue muscles, dog whelks, sponges, lurking crabs and, always, the unexpected. I bring my sketchbook and a pen and draw until the tide turns. After this year’s adventure, I went back… Read More

Out of the Blue

Of the 123 million pounds of lobster caught on the Maine coast each year, only one in two million comes up blue. I was among the lucky few to see this genetic mutation, hauled up by lobstermen in Muscongus Bay. The lobstermen were nice enough to hail our boatload of artists and photographers from Hog Island Audubon Camp and share their catch with us. They couldn’t have picked a more enthusiastic audience. All camera’s were immediately focused on the prize before the lobstermen released it back into its watery home. FYI: Regardless… Read More

Arts and Birding

I’ve just returned from the rocky coast of Maine, where I had the privilege and pleasure of leading a weeklong workshop on Arts and Birding at the Hog Island Audubon Camp. Our group of 25 consisted of artists, photographers, and writers from all over the U.S. (plus one from the Netherlands), who share a passion for birds and the arts. There were many highlights—and I’ll share a few in subsequent posts—but here is one: I’ve seen a good number of ospreys over the years, but never one so close. Hog Island instructor and osprey… Read More

Heard but not seen

I went out with a friend one evening this week to sketch at a beaver pond. The water was dark and still, trees were lay crossways in heaps where beaver had felled them, and a large mud lodge rose on the far shore. But what struck me most about the place was not the pond itself, but the beauty and intensity of bird song in the surrounding woods. Other than a pair of catbirds and the flash of the rose-breasted grosbeak as it darted into the trees, I saw no birds. But… Read More

Moving Through

Spring bird migration is at its peak. Every day new birds are arriving. Carried by countless wing beats and winds from the south they come—some to stay and some just to rest and feed before continuing on their journey north. Among my favorites: a single white-crowned sparrow that spent just a few hours in the yard, a rose-breasted grosbeak that stayed three days, and a small flock of white-throated sparrows that skulked in our gardens and under our feeders for nearly a week. Today, they are gone…replaced by the oriole that will… Read More