Sunday, March 22, 2009

Illustration Friday - Subtract

Four chickadees subtract one chickadee leaves three chickadees.

I wanted to give this an almost woodblock feel. I did a quick sketch and scanned it into Photoshop. I'm not entirely pleased with it, particularly the cat, but there it is anyway.

Ninepipe and the Dancing Boy

On Saturday (after a visit to the vet for Miss Madeleine, who put up a valiant fight against getting in her carrier), we went to Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge on the Flathead Indian Reservation in the beautiful Mission Valley to do some "ducking". There was a fair amount of ice still on the ponds and the reservoir, but we saw a good smattering of ducks, including pintail, redhead and goldeneye, as well as Canada geese, and a swan which flew before we could identify which kind it was. (They were all too far away to get any pictures of, as I don't have a camera adapter for our spotting scope.)

But as much as I was looking forward to the ducking, the real treat was the unexpected harbingers of Spring that we spotted - red-winged blackbirds, tree swallows and - my favorite - western meadowlarks. I hadn't realized they were back yet!

We also had our fair share of raptors - bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, and a terrific look at an immature rough-legged hawk.

As we passed through the town of Arlee, I snapped a photo of the Dancing Boy in the mountains. Although there wasn't quite enough snow to make it really stand out, the image was still pretty clear. I believe the legend says that he killed a monster that had been terrifying his tribe. The monster's heart is on the next mountain over, but I wasn't at a good enough angle to get a picture of that.

A co-worker first told me about the Dancing Boy and I nodded and smiled, expecting that this was one of those things that you had to really squint and use a lot of your imagination to see and usually you end up saying you see it, but you really don't. So when I finally got to Arlee and saw it for the first time, I was blown away by how clear the image was, down to the boy's leggings and the knife hanging off his belt. His arms are raised and he is probably holding ceremonial dance items like a fan. Can you see it?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Daily Sketch - Song Sparrow

As I had hoped, sketching daily (or almost daily) has now become a habit. I look forward to it; I get grumpy if I don't get to sketch and it makes me happy when I do get to sketch.

Another thing that makes me happy is song sparrows. They are just so damn cheery, with that sweet little song and the jaunty way they sometimes hold their tails, as shown in this sketch. There's one living in a park next to the lot at work and every morning for the past month he's been singing his song as I get out of my car. There may still be snow on the ground, but he's like this one-bird cheerleading squad for spring.

I stumbled onto a new art blog today by David G. Derrick, Jr. that just blows me away. He's a sculptor but I love this guy's loose sketches - so expressive! I envy how he totally captures the essence of the animal in so few strokes. He talked about going to the zoo and sketching. I wish we had a zoo nearby. Whenever we go to a city, that's pretty much the first thing I want to see - well, that and to gorge myself on ethnic food.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cover Art!

I am thrilled to present this year's cover of Montana Cultural Treasures, beautifully designed by Megan Richter and featuring a great horned owl painting by yours truly. I am especially thrilled as the Montana Arts Council must approve the cover of this annual publication before it can go to press, so I guess I did okay.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Illustration Friday - Legendary

I was fooling around combining some of my pen and ink wildlife drawings with funky graphic backgrounds and came up with this combination that reminded me of some sort of legendary glam/psychedelic band for the birds, complete with the lead singer out in front strutting his stuff.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Banishing Cabin Fever

There's nothing that drives away cabin fever like getting out into the woods on a sunny day with a bunch of people on snowshoes and tracking animals. On Saturday I did just that and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The trip was led by Brian Williams of the Montana Natural History Center and Adam Lieberg of Northwest Connections

I was surprised at how well we did, considering we hadn't had any fresh snow in a week. We found the tracks of snowshoe hare, red-backed vole, red/pine squirrel, weasel, coyote, bobcat, moose and wolf, along with assorted domestic doggy tracks as well.

Snowshoe hare tracks. You can always tell the rodent tracks because the larger back feet tracks are parallel.

The prize of the day - wolf tracks! A pair of wolves traveling along a ridge. Maybe they were enjoying the view up there. We certainly did.

Moose Poop

Helpful Ungulate Poop key:
M&M size = Deer
Peanut M&M size = Elk
Whopper size = Moose

Blurry picture of a mountain chickadee. We also spotted a chestnut-backed chickadee and pine grosbeak and heard red-breasted nuthatch and ravens.

Our intrepid tracker Adam, measuring some canine tracks.

A Gray Jay determining if we have any food or not. We were deemed not worthy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daily Sketch - Lunchtime Quickie

Oh be-have! I meant a quick sketch. And aside from having a very abbreviated lunch break, I also forgot my pencil today so I had to do this one in pen. I actually enjoy sketching in pen - I like the challenge of not being able to erase anything. In some ways I'm freer to just draw because I have to accept what I put down on paper.

I sketched this great egret from a photograph I took in Florida a few years ago. When I took the photo, the sun was setting so the egret's white feathers appeared to have a subtle pink glow. When I look at the photograph now, I can almost feel the warmth and humidity in the air. We could use some of that warmth here at home. It was 12F when I left for work this morning, and the wind chill made it feel like -7F. Have I mentioned how ready I am for spring?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Illustration Friday - Intricate

I heard my first American robins of the season chirping on Thursday (just before a snowstorm blew into the valley, of course) so I've had the species on my mind. I wish I could say that I saw this nesting robin this weekend, but no such luck. This is from a trip to an Audubon site in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho two springs ago. The robin had built such an intricate nest of twigs, grasses and mud, all interwoven around some branches of a hawthorne sapling. I have no idea if it thought the thorns might give it some protection or not, but it seemed like a good set up.

I did this quick pencil and watercolor sketch from a photograph I took that day. Madeleine helped with the sketch immensely; inspecting the watercolor water, checking out the eraser, walking over the sketch to make sure the watercolor paint was dry (luckily it was). What would I do without her?

I've been feeling a little over-extended and run down lately, so I wasn't sure I was even going to get an Illustration Friday entry up this week. My better half was at a conference this weekend, so I planned a much needed personal retreat for myself. Except for running a few necessary errands on Saturday morning, I devoted my time to only doing what I felt like doing. I indulged in a massage, cooked myself a very healthy and delicious dinner - balancing that out by baking a chocolate torte as well - did some yoga, sketched, curled up with a cup of almond tea and finally watched "The Science of Sleep" (a quirky, romantic French film that totally spoke to my inner child) and just generally recharged my batteries. Not only did it inspire me to go ahead and tackle IF, but I feel like I can face another week now too!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Daily Sketch - L'Amour des Avocettes

I love avocets. I don't know exactly why, but they are one of my favorite birds. The bill is so preposterous, yet I can't get enough of them. I guess maybe it is similar to how people go crazy for giraffes, even though they are such absurd-looking creatures. Put me in front of some sort of watering hole with avocets in it and I am transfixed for hours.

A few years ago, my husband planned out a whole special day for our wedding anniversary including visiting Freezeout Lake along the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana where there are lots of avocets. No wonder I'm still madly in love with him after all these years!

So today to beat the Monday blues, I decided to sketch an avocet during my lunch break. I ended up not actually eating lunch because I got so involved with the sketch. Not sure I got the bill curved quite right, and the eye gave me a bit of trouble, but all in all I'm pleased with the result and I hope my crazy fascination with this bird comes through in the sketch.

Soap Label Completed

Copyright 2009 The Farmer's Wife.
The Farmer's Wife

I had posted this illustration for Illustration Friday a few weeks ago, when it was still a work in progress. Here's the completed illustration with the addition of bubbles in the label template for your viewing pleasure. Hopefully I'll eventually get one of the actual soaps so I can show the label in situ.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Daily Sketch - More or Less

So me and my big plans have now met reality. With two classes a week, freelance work, a day job and a few essential things like sleep, doing a decent sketch every single day is not happening. There just aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week! I may have to resort to posting all my "daily" sketches once a week. Now if I didn't have to have the day job, then I could sketch all day and post them whenever I felt like it. Wouldn't that be the life! Maybe I should make myself into an artistic charity and people could donate their hard-earned money to keep me from having to work for someone else. Hang on - let me enjoy that fantasy for a minute...

Anyway, I've been sketching from a book on shorebirds this week. Sketching from photos never gives as satisfying a result as from a living, breathing, 3 dimensional model, but beggars can't be choosers in the middle of winter. (Yes, I have a birdfeeder and no, not a single bird has visited it, even though I have stocked it with two different kinds of food designed to attract the broadest diversity of avian life.) I suppose I could sketch my cat every single day (and push myself even closer to being a Crazy Cat Lady) but eventually even her cuteness would wear off. I really can't wait for spring.