Salamander Rain

Every year, I wait for the first warm rainy night in April, excited as a kid anticipating Santa Claus. That’s because this is the night of the annual salamander migration. Under the cover of rainy darkness, salamanders come out of the forest en masse and crawl to wetlands and small ponds to breed. It’s the one night of the year when I get to see these ancient creatures doing what they have done for millions of years. I recruit a team of hardy souls and go to a spot where a road… Read More

March, March, March

Every year it happens. I arrive at March needing so much more than the month can give. After a long winter, I am desperate to explore and draw and BE outside. I am desperate for the fuel of discovery and growth that sparks my creativity. March never delivers. It is too cold and too wet. I am tired of brown. I am tired of gray. The only thing to do is to forgive myself this artistic low point and wait. I went back through my journals from the last few years to… Read More

After Audubon

Wings, skulls, feathers, skeletons, legs, specimens, live birds, bird paintings. I’ve got birds on the brain! To prepare for several upcoming workshops I am teaching on drawing birds, I’ve been brushing up on bird anatomy and biology, drawing skulls and bones, and watching and painting birds. Best of all, I made a trip to the New York Historical Society to see Audubon’s Aviary, John James Audubon’s original watercolors for the print edition of The Birds of America (1827–38), engraved by Robert Havell Jr. Though I’ve seen reproductions of Audubon’s engravings many times, I was thoroughly… Read More

10,000 Hours

If the assertion that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at something is correct, I’ve got a long way to go before becoming really adept at painting birds. Still, I’ve spent a good amount of time this winter studying and sketching and painting birds, and it’s good to see some progress. Painting birds well requires watching them a lot, studying anatomy, closely observing specific features like wings, feet, and bills and, of course, practice. After doing a number of quick sketches of red-breasted nuthatches at my feeder, I used my… Read More

Unexpected Inspiration

I went to my local nature center yesterday seeking inspiration for something to study and paint. I was hoping there might be something new in the collection—moths, butterflies, birds, nests. So when the staff said they had a hoary bat in the freezer, I had to admit it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Though I appreciate that bats play a crucial role in pollination and insect control, the only bats I’ve ever seen have been the little brown bats I’ve wanted out of my house. Still, how often does the… Read More