The Exquisite City


October 30, 2008

Chicago artist Kathleen Judge invited me and other local artists to participate in a show that she is putting together and opens November 7th. Kathleen is one of my favorite poster artists. Most of her designs for her screen printed posters begin as scratch board drawings, a technique that yields excellent texture and line quality.

I am particularly excited about the main idea behind this exhibit. Each of the participating artists were asked to design and construct a city block out of cardboard. All of the pieces will then be put together in the 3000 square foot space of Chicago's Viaduct Theatre. I, however, will not be making cardboard buildings. Instead, Judge asked me to submit some of my bird paintings. I will have 5 watercolors of birds that, in one way or another, are connected to Chicago's urban environment. I chose species that either nest here, or migrate through, and that most people are probably not aware that they share space with in a big city. I also wanted the species to represent how birds are negatively impacted by cities, and how some have adapted. My first two completed paintings are of specimens from the Field Museum's collections, and were collected downtown ( I think the sapsuckers were collected on Wacker). I chose Yellow-bellied sapsuckers and American Woodcocks because we tend to get high numbers of them colliding with buildings during the migration seasons. The other three paintings, which are in progress, will not be of specimens, but of species that have adapted on some level to living in amongst the skyscrapers:Common Nighthawk, Chimney swift, and Peregrine Falcon.

So, if you are in Chicago and are looking for something to do next week, come on out! Hope to see you there.
Here's the info:

07 NOVEMBER 2008 - 12 DECEMBER 2008

OPENING RECEPTION NOV. 7, 2008 - 6pm-Midnight

Save Kentucky's Hemlocks Show- Update


October 25, 2008

I posted earlier in the week about a show that I am involved in that is happening in Lexington, KY. I didn't have the specifics at the time, but now I have all of the info. If you are in the Lexington area, please do come out and show a little love for a very important cause: saving Kentucky's hemlocks. I don't know who designed this sweet looking logo, but it shows a Black-throated green warbler, a species closely associated with eastern hemlock forests.

Tsuga Art & Music

Friday, Nov. 21st, 2008
Old Tarr Distillery - Manchester St., Lexington, KY
Free Group Art Show @ 5-9pm | Music @ 8pm
All Ages Show

Please join us for a celebration of eastern hemlock trees on Friday November 21st. Come learn about the threat facing hemlock trees, view artwork from over 25 artists and listen to three of the finest bands from Kentucky. All proceeds benefit Save Kentucky’s Hemlocks. More information at

Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus


October 21, 2008

I spent a good amount of time in Germany last month while traveling. Jay and I and two other poster artists had a gallery show in Dusseldorf, and then in Hamburg we attended the Flatstock Poster Convention (part of the Reeperbahn Music Festival). This was the third year that Flatstock was happening. We went the first year, and it was our main reason for going to Europe this year. I really like Hamburg. It's a good balance of urban and laid back, and we have been fortunate enough to make some really wonderful friends.

We stayed with Bernd and Christiane. They have a lovely flat on a quiet tree lined street in northwestern Hamburg. Their company, Most of Cider, creates really amazing, gourmet hard cider. We got to know them a couple of years ago because Jay designed a label and poster for a special edition cider they released that year. Their flat has a balcony overlooking the street. In the morning we'd hang out there for a bit and drink our coffee. We quickly noticed feisty, brightly colored little birds flitting from one potted plant to the next, and then diving into the trees and ivy lined walls. I made a quick mental note of their markings and color, and when I got home I figured out that they were Cyanistes caeruleus.

Blue tits (and don't think that I am not snickering when I type that name) are passerines belonging to the family Paridae. In the States this family includes our several species of chickadees such as Black-capped and Carolina, and titmice, such at the Tufted and Bridled. Cyanistes is a common garden visiter throughout Europe and western Asia, and is for the most part a resident bird, meaning it does not migrate. A rather aggressive little puffball, it fearlessly defends its nest, even pecking at curious fingers, earning it the nickname "Little Billy Biter" in England. As far as nests, it will shack up in any hole in a tree, post, wall or nest box, even competing with bullying House sparrows. I wanted to show in the watercolor that they are also very adept avian acrobatics, often hanging upside down to get at whatever food they're trying to get at. There were quite a few nest boxes set up on balconies on Bernd's street that probably get plenty of use in the breeding season.

*chirp! painting in etsy shop.

Northern Parulas and Eastern Hemlock Forests


October 20, 2008

Well, hello again! I returned from my travels a couple of weeks ago, and have finally managed to get back into my "normal" routine, so that means back to posting on Tiny Aviary. Fall is a busy time of year for Chicago area birders (and birds!) as so many species are coming through on their way south. While walking my trusty greyhound, Seth, one morning last week I saw my first Yellow-bellied sapsuckers. I've seen plenty in the prep lab at the museum, but this was my first time seeing them live and in the field. More about that in another post.

I want to start things off again by talking about a show that a friend of mine is organizing to benefit Kentucky hemlock forests. Ancient hemlock forests in areas such as the Smokey Mountains, and the Shenandoah valley are rapidly being turned into graveyards of dead trees by a species of insect introduced to the States decades ago; the Woolly Adelgid. The adelgids feed voraciously on hemlock needles and reproduce rapidly throughout the warm seasons. The infestation and devastation of eastern hemlock forests is being compared to chestnut blight and the *extinction of the American Chestnut tree.

The first sighting of the Woolly Adelgid in Kentucky was in 2006. Since then a new organization was formed, Save Kentucky's Hemlocks. The show will directly benefit this group. There will be original work by a wide range of artists (including yours truly) available for sale, as well as live music. I was asked to make a watercolor of a species of bird that is closely associated with Kentucky hemlock forests. Many species depend on hemlocks, but Northern Parulas, and Black-throated green warblers in particular. Right now I don't have specifics for the show (date, exact location etc.) , but as soon as I do I will post that information.

*since 2005 a few mature American Chestnut trees have been discovered, the locations of which are often kept secret. For more information visit the American Chestnut Foundation.

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