Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ecuador (last post)

Lots has happened since my last post.  I went to Ecuador  on a volunteer bird/conservation trip in December - it was fantastic!  I will be writing more about this on my new blog which is on my new website:  The above photo is from the cloud forest in western Ecuador where we were working - more pics on my new blog (as soon as I figure out how to use it!)  I am now down in Arizona for my annual winter retreat.  I have ideas for lots of new drawings and other things, and I will be posting work and musings from down here.  This is my last post on this blog site - I have been doing this for 4 years now!   I want to thank all of you who have been looking, sharing, responding and commenting, that means so much to an artist who often feels isolated and  sometimes wonders what she is doing.....

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Starry Night

charcoal on paper
16 x 20

This piece is currently being shown at  . They have started showing my work and a solo exhibition is in the works, I will keep you posted!

My long Blogging silence is because I have been doing a lot of work on the "business" side of things and have not gotten much art done lately, or done anything interesting enough to blog about...  Some of the best money I ever spent was recently hiring a professional photographer to teach me how to shoot my work.  I wish I had done it years ago!  The problem is now I have to re-shoot much of my work because I know I can achieve better images. My web-site is almost done and I am still hoping to have it up by the end of the year; and I have gotten a bunch of my work framed, one of my least favorite parts of the business (probably because it is so expensive!)

I am soon off to do a few weeks of volunteer bird/conservation work in Ecuador.  I will be participating in a long-term monitoring project that is providing information about trends in bird species diversity in tropical forests in response to global climate change and land-use changes. I have my rubber boots and binoculars, can't wait to experience the cloud forest! Color and warmth.... and fodder.

My plan was to use this charcoal image to do a nice holiday card that I would send to all my friends, clients, etc.  But instead there is just this blog page...

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a great new year!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bird Banding Workshop

I just returned from a week long intensive bird banding workshop.  I stayed all week at one of the most comfortable field stations - definitely the only pink one - that I have ever been to.  The location was in Virginia at Environmental Studies on the Piedmont,, and the workshop was put on by The Institute For Bird Populations,  I know more about molt limits, skull pneumaticization, and formative plumage than I ever realized possible - and I still have a ton to learn.  It was truly amazing to have a variety of species alive and up close to study.  It made me appreciate and revere birds  all the more.
On the last evening the head Bee Keeper took us into an Apiary and talked to us about their hives, another great experience!  The last photo is what the last morning of banding looked like from our banding station.  If you are ever in the area of Warrenton, Virginia, I highly recommend visiting.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


charcoal on paper, 16 x 20

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea:
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.                           Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I just returned from a two week birding trip to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  All the above photos are from Newfoundland - Rocky coast, Northern Gannets, inland bog, and road sign.  The landscape was rugged and pristine, and the weather was moody - rain, fog, wind, sun, humidity - I loved it!  I was surprised by the variety of accents of the local people, by the fact that the numerous moose are an introduced species (in Newfoundland), by how quickly the fog can roll in and completely obscure the view, giving you a sense of disorientation.  The birding was challenging at times, with the weather and landscape;  some of us in the group did an all day hike/climb, mostly on talus slopes, to the top of Gros Morne to see the Rock Ptarmigan.  We did find a pair, it was so windy that it was hard to hold your binoculars steady!  I am just going through my photos and will probably do another post as I found it so inspiring.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Art Show

Hosta, oil on canvas, 15 x 25

Minnetonka Center for the Arts presents: 

Art of the Garden 
Artworks for, of, or inspired by the garden in a variety of media including 
sculpture, drawing, painting, fiber, photography, glass and ceramics 

28 June – 9 August 2012 
Opening with a reception on June 28, 6 – 8 pm 
Free and open to the public   M, F 9-4; T, W, Th 9-9:30; Sat 9-1 

Featuring the art of:    David M Brown    William Bukowski    David Cooley   
Eric Cornett    Bonnie Cutts    Attila Ray Dabasi    Kathe Drake 
Michelle Frahm    Tori Gagne    Anne Groton    CeCeile Hartleib 
Catherine Hearding    Scott Helmes    Joan Walsh Hickey    Aaron Jacobs   
Cynthia Kath    Annie Kennedy    Deb Kirkeeide    Linda Deg Lee 
Mary Lingen    Dodie Logue    Ernest Miller    Carl Nelson    Judd Nelson   
Deborah Neuhaus    Katy Kelly Noun    Mary Pagnucco    Barbara Parisien   
Lee Persell    Donna Rice    Katharine Robinson    Patty Carmody Smith    
Lorie Lynn Spiegel    Loretta Stoltz    Carolina Tana    Amy Von Bargen     
Gail Vass    Russ Vogt    Kathryn Vork Waryan    Mary Welke     
Betty Ann Wiens    Donna Winberg    Susan Zavadil 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Butterfly Studies

I can tell I am not going to get much blogging done this summer.... I am working on getting a web site up, doing some traveling, and am still in art-experiment mode.  I did these studies last summer.  On my evening bike rides I started collecting the small bodies of butterflies that had been hit by cars.  I pinned them to styrofoam, trying to simulate flying, and added blue backgrounds.

"We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty."
                                                                                          - John O'Donohue

Monday, May 7, 2012

Art of the Lake

Lake Pepin Bluffs
charcoal on paper, 22 x 26

Show at the Lake Pepin Art and Design Center
the print is small, double click to blow up the poster.

If you are in the area, are interested in Lake Pepin and Art, this should be a great show!  It will be up during the Spring Art Tour.  I will have a few of my charcoal pieces including the Bluff piece, above, and some water studies.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


charcoal on paper, 16 x 20

Here is a piece I did last fall when the birds were starting to flock before migration.  I have had birds on my mind as I have started my fourth year of the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas.  It is getting harder to find plots that need to be done close to my home, and I was skeptical about the one I had chosen for this year, as it looks like a lot of big farm fields, = not a wide variety of birds.  But there is one huge slough, a WMA (Waterfowl Management Area) that has some adjoining woods.  If I can figure out how to get a canoe out there it will be a great place for numerous birds.  Volunteers are still needed, the results will be valuable for scientists, natural resource managers, public officials, educators and birders -  check out

Monday, April 9, 2012


Chiricahua night Sky

Gambel's Quail


Bye bye Southwest, sad to be leaving......

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scorched things

1. Scorched Heart, found driftwood
2. Scorched mountain top airplane beacon
3. Scorched Alligator Juniper Bark, oil on canvas

The Chiricahua Mountains, as some of you may know, suffered a devastating fire last summer. Basically the fire tore through the whole range, skipping around some and taking weeks to do it's damage. I listened to the reports and prepared myself for the worst coming down here this year. It has been a learning experience to see what the fire wrought and subsequently to witness the earth's healing. One of my favorite places was Rustler Park, big Ponderosa pines at the summit. This area was badly damaged and these pines won't return in our life time.
The Scorched Heart is one of seven driftwood hearts I have found in the creek bed, a result of the fire. I found one, then kept on finding them. Are they cliche? Or are they a universal experience? Jim Dine's hearts come to mind. Anyways, findingwhile them I have been thinking of all the broken hearts out there: a friend mourning her mother's stroke; friends mourning the devastation to the environment of future fracking; a friend mourning the loss of a relationship; friends mourning the loss of a forest because of fire; friends mourning the loss of pets.... At times I wonder how we all get through it. Maybe it can help a little to contemplate the universality of it all.
The second photo if from a hike I went on a couple of weeks ago to the heights of the Chiricahuas. The fire did great damage up there, rocks exploded and broke apart, and some areas burned so hot that the soil is still sterile and nothing has grown back. We came upon this charred structure that used to be a beacon for airplanes, making sure they didn't crash into the mountainside.
The last photo is of a small bark study I did. The Aligator Juniper has very unique bark, probably with some fire resistant properties as it is very thick and scaly. I keep coming upon burned trees and wanted to try and paint that scorch.....

Monday, March 26, 2012

Painting in the Chiricahuas

Before I came down to the Southwest this year I told myself to nix the saboteur and give myself total freedom to play and explore any ideas that passed my way. I have been doing this and have been all over the place - I have accumulated a pile of charred driftwood for sculpture ideas; I have made a dozen found-wire "scribble" sculptures; I have painted a group of animal fur patterns; I have painted some animal studies; and as is my norm, I have painted a bunch of small on-site landscapes - my five-finger exercises.

The past couple of days I have been out doing bark studies. I have been thinking a lot about the new work I want to do for my PAN sites, and I keep coming back to trees. Above is a photo of today's painting site. I was painting a Sycamore tree and I had to put tape on the tree so I wouldn't lose my place. I also once again was putting small dabs of paint on the bark, trying to match the color... I know this is ridiculous, but when one is struggling one may resort to crazy things!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Roadrunner, Poppy fields

More Images from the southwest. This cute Roadrunner kept putting his crest up, then down. This shot is of it mostly up. The poppies are just exploding! One day soon I will be ready to post some of the new stuff I am working on..... Good news, I just found out I was awarded a Minnesota Arts Initiative Grant! Money to do a proper web-site, get work framed, research and work time .... Thank you Minnesotans.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Desert Poppies, Pictographs, Desert Bighorn

Doing a lot of hiking as the weather has been spectacular! Yesterday out at Antelope Pass in the Peloncillos I saw my first Poppies of the year - wonderful delicate little beauties. Every year I hope to see the Desert Bighorn Sheep that were reintroduced to the Peloncillos in the early 80's, after being listed on the New Mexico endangered species list in 1980. (for more info. on the sheep go to
Finally yesterday I saw one - a big Ram looking over the top of the mountain, peeking down at me. The last photo is where he would have been if he had stuck around to have his photo taken. I hiked all the way up to the top and tried to spy him or the herd, but they were long gone. I will be happy with my glimpse. On some of my hikes I come upon pictographs and grinding holes and pottery shards, remnants of past inhabitants. The second photo is of pictographs found on an undercut wall in the Peloncillos. I wish I could pass on more information about them, who, when, how..... but I just don't know.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cows, Goat

Life in the Southwest: Every morning I put out bird food and water and watch the creatures come in. First the birds come in waves, and I witness a different set of avians than I would in Minnesota. The few that are the same - Cardinals, Chipping Sparrows, behave and even sometimes look a little different, and it's a fun study. Then the rodents - Pack rats, Rock squirrels, Antelope squirrels; followed by Havalina and deer (Coues white-tail deer, a subspecies of White-tail ) who clean out the feeders. It's a good show.
A Sharp-shinned Hawk hit a window while chasing a small bird the other day, and I was able to go out and sit with it while it recovered (it did make a full recovery) and take some photos. They give the appearance of being bigger than they are, really being only Mourning Dove size. Regal and fierce.
What have I been working on? With all the cows in beautiful landscape here, it is hard not to take an interest in them. Their strange shapes and wonderful markings, their funny behavior and especially their suspect history in this area all interest me. I have also made one visit to the goat farm I go to to get my organic vegetables and get goat reference - why am I so pulled to these silly critters ?! Thank you for letting me visit their Dwarf Nigerian Goats.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lake Pepin Art and Design Center Benefit

Sorry about how small this is, technical difficulties with the web-master, that would be me. Double click on the image and it will enlarge. I donated a small oil painting of Lake Pepin and the Maiden Rock Bluffs, the little upper right image on the poster. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it before I let it go, so I have no image of it. My sister Mary donated a wonderful hooked rug, and there are other great works that are just a raffle ticket away! Anyone who can make the benefit, it is a worthy cause and should be a really fun time with music and food and art - Saturday, January 28, 4-8 at the Center.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My View

This is the view out my window for the next few months! I just drove down to SE Arizona with my cat Moby as sidekick. I made it in record time - (thank you Elle for the great gift of lectures on my ipod) Moby didn't like stopping and I figured out how to use a tennis ball on my hamstrings and seat while driving to release tight muscles. If anyone has sciatic pain while distance driving this is an amazing help. During my drive the moon was a wonderful guide in the dark of dawn and dusk, blazing the westward way. My plan is to start exploring some new things in paint. This equals a high risk of failure and a high probability of no posts of my work, but I am sure to come up with other interesting things to post while I am down here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Water Studies

Charcoal on paper
11 x 15 (each)

Happy New Year! I decided my first post of the year would be water images. Water has been in my dreams a lot lately, and I have been thinking of "going with the flow" , "fluidity" , and how water finds the path of least resistance. Wondering if we steer our lives or do our lives steer us?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sarapiqui River

charcoal on paper
15 x 19

I just finished this piece which is the Sarapiqui River in Costa Rica at dusk. I took some progression photos so viewers can get an idea of how my charcoals are done.
The first photo is a view of my set-up in my studio, drawing table with all my implements on a small side-table on the left. I mostly stand when I work, sometimes sitting for the more detailed drawing.

This is how I start. First I tape the paper down to the size and shape I want, then I usually cover the whole piece of paper with powdered vine charcoal. The only time I wouldn't do this is if I need some pure white areas, then I would cover everything but that area. Next, (below) I take a chamois and various erasers and loosely "carve" away the light areas, so I get the structure and values started.

Now, (above and below) I go back in with hard charcoal sticks and pencils to get the really dark areas. The paper wants to show through so fingers must be used to really mush the charcoal into the paper to get dark blacks.

The finishing can take a lot of tweaking with all the various charcoals and tools to get the right balance of light and dark, good edges and smooth fades. Below is the finished piece. This piece is all masses and not much line; I will post another piece soon showing more of the drawing techniques.

On another note, Happy Holidays!! Don't feel neglected if you did not get a card this year, I didn't send any out. Today, December 26th, it was 50 degrees here!? I had a nice hike with my sister and we saw a wonderful thing, a Townsend's Solitaire. This is a bird that is fairly unusual in Minnesota, it is auspicious to me and made me so happy to see it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Trees

Charcoal on paper
20 x 26

This is a piece I just finished... I wondered about posting it because it feels strange to me, like I didn't do it. The view is out in my woods, a mere skiff of snow dusting the ground, twilight and skeletal...
On another note, I just returned from a fantastic birding trip to Costa Rica! - Saw many wonderful things - birds, mammals, butterflies, frogs - in rain forest and cloud forest.
The coffee there is amazing. Our bird guide's parents own an organic coffee farm which we were lucky to be able to visit. I had no idea all that is involved in producing coffee, and how potentially hard it can be on the environment. I highly recommend anyone concerned who also loves coffee to buy from them, they have a distributor in the US. - The coffee is out of this world - really!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Last Swan photo

Seward, Alaska
charcoal on paper
12 x 16

Swan Update: The top photo may be the last picture of the single swan that remained on the pond this fall up until 2 days ago. I was getting worried about it as the ice was beginning to freeze - some days it needed breaking so the swan could get water. Luckily this has been an extremely mild fall so far, and the muskrats are doing a great job of keeping the pond open somewhere. Last week seven swans flew over the pond low, circling and calling, and still our swan didn't leave to join them, very unusual. So it really seemed like it could not fly for some reason. Four days ago I had someone from the Trumpeter Swan Society out to assess the situation, and we had decided that as soon as the ice was hard enough to walk on we would catch it and release it at Rebecca Park, where they keep the water open all winter for swans who stick around. Then yesterday it was nowhere to be seen; same today. I hope it was finally able to fly and made it to some open water, it will probably remain a mystery.

The charcoal of Seward, Alaska, was done last fall, after my birding trip there. I was looking through my work for pieces with a water-theme, I am thinking of submitting work for a show that is about water. This piece reminded me of today's weather, damp and spritzy and chilly.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New (old) easel

I just returned from a few days in Stockholm, WI, where, along with visiting the Maiden Rock Bluff SNA, I picked up my new (old) easel! (above, left). I have wanted a "real" studio easel for awhile now. I have been using my Julien Plein Air easel, made for portable use and painting outside, in my studio for over 5 years. It is a bit flimsy, (above, Julien on R) and the legs splay out, good for tripping on. My new (old) easel was given to me by my good friend and artist Barbara McIlrath, I had been looking on Craigs list for half a year or so now, and finally had the idea to ask some of my artist friends if they had or knew of an old easel that needed a good home. This beauty was given to Barbara by a teacher at one of the colleges in Minneapolis. I couldn't imagine anything better than having an old workhorse of an easel that was used by many students. Unfortunately I had to cut off almost 3 ft from the top, as my studio is tiny and the ceilings are low..... hard to do, but once done it fit right in. I did some sanding and nailing and WD40ing and it's good to go!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

North Shore paint-sketches



Tide Pool

A promised post from my North Shore trip. I went up to the Shore (of Lake Superior) in Late September with some painter friends for a week of painting and companionship. It can be so helpful to be buoyed by other's energy when you are feeling low, and when the weather is volatile! These three tiny oil sketches were done in under an hour each as a warm-up and to start getting a handle on the experience of color and atmosphere and mood.