Sara's Red Fox
January 26, 2008
Recently, a friend of mine that is one half of the wonderful screen and letterpress shop, Cricket Press, down in Lexington, Kentucky, was kind enough to print some business cards for me. She did it for trade ( I love barter!). Sara loves red foxes, and so requested a watercolor. This one is caught in mid pounce.
Several years ago I was on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest. We were hiking about the southern tip of the island in a park that was overrun with a feral rabbit population. The bunnies were introduced by US soldiers that used the area as a military base in the 19th(?) century. The park is known as "American Camp". It is an excellent place to watch for orcas and dolphins come through the strait. Some years ago, red foxes were introduced to control the rabbits. I can confirm that both rabbit and fox are doing just fine. The foxes seemed to have plenty to eat, yet it was not readily apparent that they were making any substantial dent in the bunny population. I stood on a hilltop as the sun was setting over the strait, surrounded by dozens of rabbits. A fox made an appearance and casually strolled amongst its prey. The rabbits seemed totally unfazed by its presence. On the drive back to our bed and breakfast, we saw at least five more foxes roadside.
Barred Owl - Strix varia
January 24, 2008
This is a painting that I did for a private commission. The first time I came into contact with Barred owls was via a poem for which I was hired to design a broadside. It was commissioned through Poetry Magazine to honor poet Richard Wilbur. The broadside was put together by Winterhouse Design and then letterpress printed by Chicago's Rohner Press. The poem mentions the Barred owl's "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" vocalization. Barred owls are widely distributed throughout the US in mature forests, and in some cases have been expanding their range. I heard one while back country camping in Southeast Wisconsin in the fall. It called as it swooped by my tent and startled me awake. It wasn't the "Who cooks for you?" pattern, but a maniacal, rolling laugh. It sounded more like a monkey, but seeing as this was Wisconsin, my mind sought other possibilities. And there you have my lightening fast naturalist skills of deduction in a nutshell. David Attenborough has nothing to worry about, eh?
Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus
January 17, 2008
I didn't prepare a study skin of a Northern Bobwhite this week at the museum. I worked on some other species that I'll be posting next week. I was over at my parents not too long ago, and they have a couple of stuffed bobwhites that used to belong to my nonno (or, if you're not Italian, grandfather) hanging on the wall, forever locked in flight . Nonno used to go hunting for bobwhite and Ring-necked pheasants, and my cousin in Michigan used to raise bobwhites. When we would go to visit my aunt, I would usually stay in the room that had the incubator for the bobwhites. At night I would fall asleep to their tiny peeps, and the glow of the incubator's light. My Nonno used to hunt out in Sugar Grove, IL with some good family friends, The Kovalicks. The Kovalicks ran a small, independent farm ( a rare breed these days). I spent a lot of time out on that farm growing up, and they were some of the hardest working people I have ever known. Since then, Sugar Grove has developed into a sprawling suburb, although a few of the farms (including the Kovalick's) still remain. Joe Kovalick died at the end of last year at the age of 89, and practically had a shovel and pitchfork in his hand right up until the end. I don't know anyone in my family that hunts now, but every time I look at those bobwhites on my parents wall, I think of my nonno, the Kovalicks, falling asleep to the sounds of tiny quail, and endless fields before they became condo complexes.
Hi there my wee little bird buddies. Things have been a little owl nuts in the land of Chicago area birding. I'll not say why, but if you live in these parts and bird, you probably know why anyway. Anyhoo, as a result I've got strigiformes on the brain these days. Here are a couple of paintings (of a barn owl, and snowy owl) I just finished earlier today and posted to my etsy shop. It's late, and I've been busy, so I haven't had time to post regarding what I have been working on at the museum. I should be getting back on track next week.
Happy New Deer
January 03, 2008
One of my favorite memories from 2007 was attending a design conference in Seattle. Jay and I stayed one night in a hotel downtown, and then headed out to the conference which was being held at a mountain retreat about 3 hours outside of the city. It was beautiful and rustic. There was an outdoor, heated, salt water swimming pool, situated in the shadow of one of the many mountains. One morning I woke up early and leaned up in bed to peer out of the window. Just outside, sitting in the mist under enormous pines were three mule deer. They were curled up and sleeping like my greyhound would. I watched over the next twenty minutes as one by one they casually rose, yawned, stretched and slowly sauntered off to start the day. It was a gift to witness it, and it's a scene that stuck with me all year.