Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One Snowy Day

Here it is December already! It's the most wonderful time of the year (as the song goes) when we celebrate Christmas, getting together with family and friends, drink hot chocolate, gather around warm, toasty fires and look for that first winter snow. In my house there's all of that plus there's the hope that a large, white bird from the Arctic will fly further south than usual and end up somewhere near my area. I'm talking....Snowy Owl!
One Snowy Day  8" x 10" Acrylic - $200.00

As many of you remember last year about this time snowy owls were showing up all around the country in great numbers. It's called an "irruption". We had at least four show up within thirty minutes driving distance from my home and, as you may recall, I became quite obsessed with finding one. I was finally rewarded for my efforts and was able to find three of the four and took dozens of photos in anticipation of creating a painting featuring one of these Arctic wonders. 

This year the owls have returned again and so far there are three confirmed in my immediate area. I have had time to search for one and watched it hunting far out in a field, but too far for photos. There have been others sighted further from my home including one that has chosen a school in Spokane, WA for it's daily perch and has drawn quite a crowd to watch it every day. They are such fascinatingly beautiful creatures, who can resist?

The painting in this post features one of the birds I saw in Anatone, WA. last year sitting on a rocky outcropping that is a common perch to both the tundra where they live and to my area. It's a cold, gray, snowy day and this owl is right at home watching for some movement in the snow that might be it's next meal. It is 8" x 10" and is painted in acrylic. And seeing how it's the gift giving season this beautiful painting would make a fantastic gift for a bird loving friend or family member!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First Place at Snake River Showcase

The opening of the Snake River Showcase at the Valley Art Center in Clarkston, WA was last evening. This was a juried show of regional artists from the Northwest and my first time participating in this show. We had a great turnout of art lovers and a wonderful variety of artwork from many talented individuals. We had everything from traditional works in oil and watercolor to beautiful fiber and fabric art pieces and sculpture. 
I entered three pieces of my bird themed art and was absolutely delighted to discover that two of the three had received awards in the acrylic/watermedia category. My painting "Sunrise Sentinel" received a First place award. This painting is special to me as I created it shortly after my father had passed away. It features a Great Blue Heron at sunrise quietly paused by waters edge. My father loved birds and the water and this reminded me of him.
The second piece, called "The Hunter", depicts a Peregrine Falcon with it's breakfast.
I created this piece based on photos I had taken of a falconer friends bird after we had taken it hunting. It was an exciting pursuit to watch and many wildlife paintings do not depict birds of prey with their kill, but I felt it was essential to paint this bird as the hunter it was created to be. This painting received an honorable mention in the same category of acrylic/watermedia.
The Snake River Showcase will be on display for the month of November at the Valley Art Center, 842 6th St., Clarkston, WA. 
Please stop by if you are in the area and enjoy all the wonderful art pieces being shown there.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Out of the Blue - Red-tailed Hawk

Out of the Blue - Redtailed Hawk (Acrylic)

Wow, I can't believe how fast the summer has gone by! It seems I was just watching the pair of doves raise their family and making sketches of their progress and now birds are already heading south for the winter. Guess I must have been busy and didn't notice the time slipping by.

 It has been a rather jam packed summer that I have spent mostly in my garden picking vegetables and putting them up for later enjoyment. When I had a spare moment and some quiet time I enjoyed the many birds that visited my garden. Hummingbirds, doves, goldfinch and sparrows visited mostly, but lately red winged blackbirds have stopped by to feast on the sunflowers and try to balance on the bird feeders. In between all my canning and freezing I would try to take a few photos or make sketches for future reference. 

Time to paint larger pieces has been at a premium, but I did manage to finish this painting of a Red-tailed hawk which I had started earlier this year. I had taken several photos of this bird last winter catching it just as it was launching itself from it's perch. I loved the action in the photo and wanted to highlight the power and intensity these raptors have when they are focused on capturing their prey. Not wanting to distract from the detail of the hawks gaze or it's sharp claws I tried for a more abstract, fluid background hoping it would amplify the feeling of pursuit. I did this by pouring fluid acrylic paint onto a wet background and tilting it so that the paint would run. Then I completed the hawk, but let parts of it run off the page hoping it would appear to be suddenly flying "out of the blue" in hot pursuit of some unseen prey.

This was a fun piece to do with the paint running everywhere and not knowing exactly how it would finally look, but I'm happy with the final piece. I will be entering it and two other pieces in the Snake River Showcase show at the Valley Art Center in Clarkston, WA. this November. The shows opening reception is Nov. 2nd from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will run through the end of November.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Field Sketches

Field sketching

In my last post I talked about starting a nature journal/sketchbook. In the above photo you can see some of the simple tools I use to sketch in the field, in this case a small set of watercolors, a micron pen, and a sketchbook. You don't need a lot of fancy stuff to get started, just enough to record what you see. 

So far my good luck with nests and birds has continued giving me lots of opportunities to give nature sketching a try. On one of my walks recently I startled a spotted sandpiper off it's nest. Sandpipers nest on the ground creating a small depression in the sand lined with some grasses. The eggs are usually colored like the ground and well camouflaged with spots and splotches so I had to step very carefully until I found the nest. Rather than keep the bird from it's eggs I took a photograph, then created this sketch from a safe distance.
Spotted sandpiper nest and eggs

 On another walk I came across a mother Killdeer which is another type of bird that nests on the ground usually in a rocky area. The mother bird will try to lead you away from the nest by crying loudly and flopping around pretending to have a broken wing. Knowing this behavior put me on alert for the nest so I started walking carefully and looking hard for the nest among the rocks. Instead of eggs I saw a small ball of fuzz with very long legs running ahead of me. It was a baby killdeer, cuter than any baby bird I've ever seen! They are fully able to run about and feed themselves shortly after they are born and are marked very similarly to an adult bird and blend into their surroundings quite well. If it hadn't run ahead of me I would have had a hard time seeing it. Because they are ground dwellers until they can fly being well camouflaged is important to hide them from predators.
Here is my sketch of that cute ball of fuzz.
Baby killdeer
As you can see I have been having a lot of fun trying to sketch nature. Unfortunately, nature sometimes can be harsh. Many baby birds don't survive because of predation. Another ground nesting bird I found was a California quail. 
Momma quail on her nest
Shortly after I took this photo of her on her nest with thirteen eggs a neighborhood cat was found in the nest. It had killed the momma quail and destroyed some of the eggs in the struggle. As sad as it was to discover this it gave me an opportunity to sketch one of the unhatched babies and a partial eggshell.
Unhatched baby quail

I thought it was a fitting way to pay tribute to this tiny soul, that even in his death knowledge could be gained and beauty could be seen. I chose to add this tragedy to my sketchbook because it is a part of the cycle of life and the struggle we all face to survive. It helps me to appreciate and be grateful for all of life and to learn to take the good with the bad. I think another fellow sketcher said it best " sketching nature is sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes hard, but always amazing!"

I hope you will take the time to get out in nature, enjoy the good with the bad and be AMAZED!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nature Journaling

Mourning doves building nest
It seems that I have had the great good luck lately to be a witness to one of the great events of summer in the bird world....nesting and raising young. Depending on the bird species, fledgling birds can already be seen foraging with their parents. Robins, starlings and house sparrows are among the earliest nesters. Others, like American goldfinch, are just getting started because they wait until the thistles are in bloom to collect the down for their nests.

This year my Sunburst locust tree has been chosen not once, but twice, to support the nests of a pair of lesser goldfinch and a pair of mourning doves. I discovered the goldfinch nest a few weeks ago when I heard a lot of tiny cheeping going on. It took a while to locate as the birds had pulled some of the leaves around the tiny 3" cup of grasses, moss and plant down and it was well hidden. The cheeping I heard was the female calling to her mate to bring her food.
Female lesser goldfinch on nest

 Lately, the cheeping has become quite loud and insistent as the babies have hatched and boy, are they hungry!

The mourning doves showed up last week and took a lot of time choosing a site to place their very loosely constructed nest of twigs and grasses. It took them three days of looking at the "real estate" and the site they chose is in plain view from my living room. I can have my morning coffee and keep tabs on their progress. 

All the interesting activity has prompted me to start a "nature journal/sketchbook." I had been thinking of starting one for some time as it's a great way to practice drawing, record ideas and document all of nature. It's also a great way to relax because there are no rules on how things need to look so it can be messy or neat, colored or not, include notes or just be a quick drawing. You can be like a kid again with your box of crayons and paper and it was a favorite pastime of mine when I was a child. 
Mourning dove sketches
 As you can see it is a little messy looking, but, hey, I'm enjoying the heck out of doing it! Sketching is often better than taking a photo because it causes you to slow down and really look at something. And a sketch is so much more personal because you can rearrange things to your liking and how you sketch becomes like your signature, as individual as you are. I have shared mine with you, but your nature journal need never be seen by anyone, but you if that's what you'd like. 

So, I would encourage you to give nature journaling or sketching a try. If you enjoy watching and learning about nature it can be a wonderful practice. I will be sharing more of my journal in the coming days and weeks so be sure to check back soon for that and updates on the progress of my feathered friends.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Alaskan Vacation

Me and Brian-view from Aleyeska Tram
My husband and I just returned from a brief, but wonderful trip to Alaska. We met some of his family in Anchorage and for the next four days tried to pack as many activities into the long daylight hours as our bodies would allow. Alaska has long been on our list of places to visit and my father-in-law did an awesome job of putting together places for us to explore and unforgettable adventures to experience. We brought back a life time of memories and hundreds of photos and can't wait to experience it again.
View of Chugach Mtns. from Anchorage

 From an artists standpoint the scenery was mind boggling. I was in overwhelm most of the time we were there. The wilderness and the wildlife gave me more inspiration for my artwork than I will ever live long enough to paint. I tried to take photos of everything, but had also hoped to have time to sit quietly and sketch what I was seeing because a painting conveys much more feeling about something than a photograph ever will. Unfortunately, our schedule didn't allow much quiet time so after we got back home I sat quietly in my studio, gathered some of the photos and let my mind drift back to my impressions of the wildness there.
Potter Marsh

Our first day there we visited Potter Marsh. It's an amazing wildlife sanctuary along the Seward Highway with elevated boardwalks going out into the marsh allowing you an up close and personal view of the marsh and it's many inhabitants. I could have easily spent the whole day there. One creature that particularly caught my attention was the Arctic Tern. It's an elegant looking bird that migrates over 25,000 miles from the Antarctic to nest in this area. It would hover above the water looking for fish then plunge in after them. 
Arctic tern
 The next days activities included a flight around Mt. McKinley with a company called K2 Aviation. The weather cooperated and was fairly clear and sunny and the mountain itself gave us glimpses through the clouds that seem to always surround it. Our pilot was top notch and gave us stunning views of the glaciers and jagged rocks that make up the Alaska Range. 
 That evening we spent at the Roadhouse Inn in Talkeetna. Before going to bed we walked down to the river and got an excellent view of Mt. McKinley towering over the rest of the mountain range at over 20,000 feet. Most of the other peaks are at about half that height.
Mt. McKinley from Talkeetna

One of the other highlights of our Alaskan adventure was a guided bus tour into Denali National Park. We were just at the beginning of the spring season so not too many wildflowers were in bloom yet, but the tundra and the taiga were still spectacular. We saw Dall sheep, moose, and caribou at fairly close range though no grizzley bears or wolves were spotted that day. 
Caribou on the Savage River-Denali National Park
 One of my favorite places along the tour was along the Toklat River with views of the Polychrome Mountains. It had a particularly moody feel to it as storm clouds moved in and rain descended upon us.
Toklat River in Denali National Park
All too soon our adventure came to an end. Alaska had always been a place of our dreams and now still is. There is so much of it still to explore and we are already planning a return trip, hopefully, for next year, but with a little more time in the schedule for more in depth exploration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fairyslipper Orchid

This weekend my husband and I went to the Blue Mountains for a day of relaxation. I had hoped to see some new birds to add to my own personal "big year" list and wandered off into the woods with camera in hand. I could hear birds calling from the tall pines in every direction, but I was having a difficult time actually seeing the birds themselves. After a while my neck was aching so I decided to give it a rest and look down for awhile. The mountains are beginning to come alive with dozens of wild flowers of every shape, size and color so I amused myself with photographing those instead of birds. That's when I saw it. Hiding under the boughs of a small pine was a delicate looking pinkish-purple flower.

It was quite unusual looking so I got down on my knees for a closer look and discovered what appeared to be a tiny orchid. It's called a Fairyslipper. Laying on my belly in the pine needle duff to photograph it I was enchanted with it's exotic look and diminutive beauty.
Fairyslipper orchid

Fairyslippers, I learned later, are found growing in old growth forests across the country. In some areas they are quite common, but in other areas they are considered rare and endangered. They have a single flower on a 2" to 8" stalk that has a single oval leaf coming from a corm beneath the soil. Their root structure is very delicate and they will die if disturbed. Many people try to collect them thinking they will grow in their gardens, but the Fairyslipper has such specific needs of climate and soil that they do not survive.
Whenever I find something like this I always feel like I have been blessed with a special gift. Most people will go all their lives and never, ever see a wild orchid. I, myself, almost didn't see this exquisite little jewel hidden on the forest floor. If I had not looked down at just the right time I would have missed it. I wonder now how many other springs I have been in the forests and never noticed the secret treasures that were hidden there? I'm glad, however, that this spring I got tired of looking up and took some time to look down!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Red Doberman and Pink Polka Dots

I always enjoy being contacted by past clients to create another portrait for them. It's nice because they already know what to expect from me so there's no extra selling on my part and no great surprises for them other than what I may come up with to match their ideas. Many times they only have a few photos and rely on my expertise to fill in the blanks. They often tell me to just "work my magic". While I'd like to take credit for that "magic" I believe I always have a little extra help from the ultimate Creator who just uses me to fill in those blanks. I've been given a gift and I'm just trying to use it to bring joy to others.

This recent painting was one of those that was a little shy on reference and I had to use my imagination again. Some days it really gets a good workout! The biggest challenge, or so I thought, was how to combine the colors of this red Doberman with a brown blanket with pink polka dots and some kind of background and make it all work together. My photo reference had a yellow cast to it so I really wasn't sure of exact shades of color and had to make my best guess. The dog was easy enough as there's plenty of photos of red Doberman's to look at, but the blanket? I think that's where that extra magic comes in because I often times have no way of knowing such things and somehow they just show up in my paintings. Coincidence or divine intervention? Since I'm not much of a believer in coincidence I'm guessing I have help. How else could I know these things?

Anyway, this is a "past to present" portrait of Stormey, the red Doberman, and her favorite blanket. It was painted in acrylic. My clients have approved and I think it turned out quite well.
Now.....I wonder what my next painting challenge will be???

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lou and Friends

Pet/People Portrait in Acrylic
About a month ago I was contacted by a very sweet lady who thought her portrait request might be a bit unusual. She wanted a portrait done of her husband, Lou, and their five cats. That didn't seem so unusual, but, then as her voice choked up, she told me that all of them were deceased and she wanted a happy memory of them all together in heaven. Well, I have to say that choked me up a bit, too. Having lost loved ones and beloved pets I hold in my heart that they are all happily in heaven visiting with God every day. It's how I deal with the pain of being separated from them, but I have to say I've never formed a picture in my mind of how that would look. This sweet lady had an idea of how it looked to her. She was trusting me to take her idea and make it a reality.
I agreed to meet with her and look over her reference photos and discuss her ideas a little further. I explained to her that I primarily painted pets and animals, not people, but she felt I could accomplish what she had in mind. If her husband looked a little different she was good with that as she felt he'd look better in heaven anyway. I wanted her to know that I'm a stickler for detail and capturing an accurate likeness so would do my absolute best to make all of them easily recognizable. 
Now, I have to say I was excited to try this portrait as it was a little different from what I normally do, but in the past I have turned down commissions of people portraits because I'm not fond of doing them. Something about this lady and her idea intrigued me though and I thought it would be a good challenge. I was right about one thing. It was a good challenge, but not in a bad way. 
This painting was a challenge because it required me to use the creative talents I've been gifted with to visualize something that I could not see. Normally, I try to paint from good reference photos and not make up what I can't see, though sometimes it can't be helped. The idea she had for the painting required the cats to be in poses different from the photos she had. The only two cats that I used exact photos for were the two Siamese at the bottom of the painting. We had no pose references for the Siamese and yellow Persian at his knees or the Siamese in Lou's arms. For all of those I had to rely on my knowledge of cat behavior and anatomy and some reference photos I took of a friends cat. The rest I filled in with descriptions from my client and a little heavenly help from the Creator of them all.
I have to say, the painting was actually a pleasure to paint. I chose to do it in acrylics as I felt if we needed to make any adjustments to poses or expressions it would be easy to do in this medium. It turned out that I did have to adjust a few things so the process went smoothly. The heavenly background was done using an airbrush to get a soft, ethereal effect and I think that worked  out quite well. My client was delighted with the way everything turned out and that always makes me feel good to know I've created something very meaningful to them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Violet-Green Swallows

Feathered Rocket-a.k.a. Violet-green swallow

My morning walk today took me to a place called Asotin Slough. It is a habitat area created along the Snake River and is one of my favorite places to walk as it's usually quiet and filled with a variety of wildlife. Since it's supposed to be spring (at least that's what the calendar says) I was hoping to find some of the spring migrants winging their way through. This mornings treat was dozens of violet-green swallows working the river for bugs.
Violet -green swallow
 These birds are fast little buggers! I tried to follow them with binoculars to make the correct identification as they are very similar to tree swallows. Then, for amusement and to make myself crazy, I tried to photograph them. HA-HA!! Do you know what that's like? Think feathered rocket weaving back and forth then changing course in the blink of an eye and you'll have a pretty fair idea. Out of sixty some odd photos I was able to get a few that are semi recognizable as birds. But I got the correct i.d.!
Violet-green swallow sketch
Back home under more controlled conditions I printed out the somewhat fuzzy photos and made a quick watercolor sketch to record the aerial acrobats I enjoyed watching. Violet-greens get their name from their color. The adults head and back is an iridescent dark green with a lovely iridescent blue violet on the rump area above the tail. This can be seen in good light, otherwise it appears almost black especially when they're zipping by at a high rate of speed. They can be distinguished from tree swallows by this color and also the white above the eye and across the rump. There again, at high speed it's a challenge to determine. They have long pointed wings and, I was surprised to see from the photographs, rather plump, though very aerodynamic short bodies. They are definitely built for speed and maneuverability and they demonstrated that quite well for me this morning!

 " In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks"  John Muir

This morning I sought quiet, solitude and a chance to see a spring migrant or two. I found all those and so much more. 
Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Feather Studies

Feather Study #6 - Mallard

Feathers come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors and textures and all on one bird! Each serves a special purpose. Often times we only see the bird as a whole, but the individual feathers are fascinating and worthy of study.

I have always been enchanted by the beauty of feathers. I like the way they look, the way the feel and how they float freely in the breeze. And who hasn't found a feather and marveled at it's color and structure and wondered what bird had passed that way and left it behind?

Well, my curiosity has gotten the better of me. I'm not just interested in birds any more, I'm interested in their feathers as well. I have decided to spend a bit more time learning more about these things that make a bird a bird and have been reading books and doing some research on the subject and paying a lot more attention to the feathers I find laying about. They're not just pretty to look at. Feathers have a serious side that goes far beyond their beauty.

Study #1 - Chukar

There are many types of feathers on a bird and they serve different functions. Some, obviously, are used for flying and they are shaped distinctly for that. Tail feathers are not just for steering, sometimes they are used for balance when perching (wood pecker) or in a mating display (think peacock). Others are soft and fluffy and serve to keep their young warm in the nest. All feathers have tiny barbs on them that interlock and all feathers overlap one another like shingles both serving as a way to provide warmth and weather proofing.

As a way of discovering more about feathers I have decided to try and paint them. I have determined that this can be quite a challenge to try and convey the delicacies that some feathers exhibit. How do you paint "soft", "fluffy", "iridescent"?

For the next few months I will be doing a series of feather studies. Most of these will be small format paintings of 
3" x 4" and 4" x 6" and will be available for purchase through my Etsy store for a very reasonable price. They would be a great way to collect original art and would make great gifts for bird lovers or anyone who appreciates nature.
You can find them at 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shaq - Latest Pet Portrait

My latest portrait commission was of a black, mixed breed dog named Shaq. There are two ways that I always know that I've been successful in capturing the spirit and personality of someone's pet. The first way is when I present them with their portrait. If I've really done my job well, and especially if the pet is gone, their reaction usually shows a lot of emotion. I often have a box of tissue handy as tears are often shed over remembering the loss of their pet. The second way I know I've done well (and this always comes at some later time) is when they contact me to paint another portrait for them. This was the case with Shaq's portrait.

Shaq's portrait was painted in acrylic. Though it's hard to see in the photo I have painted many fine lines to indicate the texture of his coat. Over those lines I glaze other colors, some warm, some cool to create depth. That's one of the great things about acrylic. You can keep adding layers of paint without disturbing what is underneath. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite mediums to work in for that reason.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Snowy Owl Obsession, Part 2

Anatone Flats Snowy Owl
I have an obsession. 
A Snowy owl obsession.
Just when I thought I was cured by sighting one last month I took a drive back to the area where they were first located. I have been to this area numerous times lately and have always been skunked.....but not today. Today, the Creator of all things feathered smiled upon me and granted me not one more sighting, but two!
As I ventured out this morning I still held some vague hope that this would be the day to see another one, but had made up my mind to accept whatever came across my path and be satisfied. I drove to the same area and scanned the fields for this illusive bird and saw....horned larks, northern harriers, ravens, all moving rapidly by as the wind was howling across the flats. I spent some time watching a rough legged hawk hang motionless, head into the wind, a marvel of aerodynamics, but no snowy owls were visible. 
I finally reached the designated cross roads where the owl had been seen and as I turned up the road my mind and eyes drifted off to the distant, snow covered  Blue Mountains. Suddenly something large and white zoomed in front of my truck from right to left. Caught daydreaming, it took me a few seconds to register what it was. SNOWY OWL!!!
Photo by Catherine Temple
 I slammed on the brakes and grabbed my camera and fired off a few shots as it drifted quickly across the field. I held my breath as I watched to see if it would land and when it did I wheeled my truck around and tried to maneuver for more photos. The owl and I played a game of tag for several minutes with me taking photos whenever I could.  It led me in a wide circle and finally coming back to the start of our encounter, sailed over the field and out of sight. That's when I saw it....SNOWY OWL #2.
Photo by Catherine Temple
Sitting just up the road in the snow filled ditch was a second owl. It was tucked between some weeds and a rock and in the snow so it was nearly invisible. I crept the truck slowly forward and got out to take some photos again. It didn't stay long and rose into the wind and quickly zipped past me flying to a wood pile some two hundred yards into the middle of a field. Figuring my photo shoot was done I pulled the truck over to watch it for a few moments with my binos, but the show wasn't over yet. Like a feathered stealth fighter jet, owl #1 rocketed low across the field and attacked owl #2. I had seconds to see it coming and barely enough time to get the camera pointed on the action.
Snowy Showdown - photo by Catherine Temple

The showdown lasted only briefly and the reason for the attack is unknown, but it was spectacular to witness. I have posted more photos of the tussle on my Flickr site,
After it was all over I decided it was time to leave these two white warriors to their hunting. The encounter was more than I had hoped for and for one more day has fed my obsession. But.....there's always tomorrow!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sandhill Crane Sketches

I have been having a great time lately, pursuing the many interesting birds that have been sighted near my home. So far this year I have already seen 45 different species, many of them within minutes of where I live. First there was the Snowy owl obsession, then there was a Gyr falcon (which I still haven't seen) and now there is a Sandhill crane visiting Swallows Park which is just a few blocks from me. While Sandhill cranes are not totally uncommon for Washington, they are rarely seen in Clarkston, so when this bird was first sighted you can bet I was on my way to the park with camera in hand to see it for myself.

So far this year this crane seems to be my good luck bird. I have been able to locate it most mornings when I go for my walk. It hangs out on a small island with a bunch of Canada geese and seems to come and go with them. I have been taking numerous photographs (thank God for digital!) and have begun making sketches of the various poses I've been able to capture with the intention of creating a painting at some point.
Sandhill Crane Watercolor Sketch

 Whenever I see a new bird I try to do some research and learn more about it. Sandhill cranes are fascinating in many ways. I learned that they are an old species in that there are fossil records showing that they have not changed in millions of years. Their tertial feathers droop over their rump and form a sort of "bustle". The coolest thing about them is that they dance. They have an elaborate courtship display that includes bowing and leaping into the air. The bird at my park gave a bit of a demonstration one day to my surprise and delight. Though it wasn't displaying to a potential mate the "dance" was every bit as exciting to witness. It was being harassed by some gulls and began leaping into the air after them, fluffing out it's feathers and trying to make itself as threatening looking as possible. Interesting how many of the poses resembled those of their mating dance!

Many people are in love with this bird species and folks flock to Sandhill crane festivals around the country during times of migration to witness the spectacle of the cranes doing their mating dances. I'm hoping to find one near me this spring, but in the mean time I will enjoy the antics of the one in my park. If you'd like to see more of my Sandhill crane photos you can visit my Flickr site,

Monday, January 16, 2012


I recently had the opportunity to create this pet portrait for one of my repeat clients. It's not the usual pose for most portraits, but after reviewing photos and discussing the dogs personality we decided to go with this concept. This is one of Stella's favorite things to do...lay on her wall and look out over her domain. When Stella is gone this is what her owners will most remember about her, so while it doesn't show her loving face it does speak volumes about who she was and it will tug at their heart strings.

The portrait is a composite of several photos of the dog, the wall and the field in different seasons. One of the biggest challenges when working with several photos is trying to get the lighting right. Often times the photos are taken at different times of day or some on cloudy days and some in sunshine. The light may be coming from the left, right, straight on, overhead, etc. so it's important to blend them all so it doesn't appear the subject lives on a planet with more than one sun. 

I painted Stella's portrait in acrylics on illustration board. The wall was one of the more enjoyable parts as I spattered paint with a toothbrush and applied some with a natural sponge to create the stone texture. Several warm and cool glazes or washes were applied over that to further bring out the texture though it's hard to see in the photo. Stella was also created in several layers and there are touches of lavender, blue and yellow in her coat to reflect her surroundings and give an otherwise plain black and white coat some punch.

Stella's portrait has been approved and is on it's way to Vermont to be given as a special birthday present. Pet portraits make unique and memorable gifts for all occasions. It is always a privilege to create something like this for my animal and pet loving clients. Perhaps you have a special occasion coming up and would like something out of the ordinary to give to that special someone. All it takes are some good photos and a little information and I can create that treasured gift for you. I'm always just an email away! You can contact me at I'll be waiting to hear from you!