Tiny Aviary Original Watercolors
December 09, 2010
I had a great time at the Renegade Holiday Sale this weekend past at the Pulaski Field House in Chicago. Thanks to everybody that came by, and supported my work! This was the first time that I have had original, Tiny Aviary watercolors available in my booth, and they were very well received. That said, I *do* have a few left over, and so I have posted them in my BigCartel Shop. Most of them are very small (3 x 4 inches!) and very affordable, so go have a look! As for myself, I shall now crawl back in to bed. Along with the super awesome gifts I picked up at the holiday fair, I also managed to bring home a nasty case of the flu!
*Go to the Shop.
December 03, 2010
Another day, another nuthatch painting.
I'll have a booth at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale here in the fine city of Chicago this weekend. I'll have a handful of Tiny Aviary watercolors for sale, along with my usual line up of prints. If you're in town, stop on by! If you have never been to a Renegade Craft event, you're in for real treat as there are tons of fantastic artists involved.
This painting will not be for sale, as it was made for my booth helper (she prefers "booth elf") for the weekend.
Long-eared Owl Prints Have Arrived!
December 02, 2010
Whew! Faster than I had anticipated, my archival inkjet edition of my watercolor of the Long-eared Owls has arrived from the lovely folks at Iolabs! I didn't think they would be ready until after the weekend, but they're here now, signed, editioned and ready to come live with you. They will be available in both my Etsy and Big Cartel stores, BUT, they will be available in the Big Cartel store for an introductory price of $25 (normal $30) until Saturday December 4th. You wanna tree full of owls?
Inspired by Nature
November 30, 2010
A couple of times on this here blog, I have featured the work of other artists that draw their inspiration from nature and science. And now, just in time for your holiday shopping, I have another artist: Contagious. Contagious is the vision of a skilled jeweler, Ruth. Ruth draws her inspiration from nature and science, often siting some of the old, vintage biology and zoology books in her collection as source material. The books, charmingly, often show up in the photos of the jewelry items in her Etsy shop. One of my favorite, current items is the "Protozoa" necklace. It's a fine example of Ruth's craftsmanship. She uses top notch materials, with impeccable attention to detail. Her aesthetic vision is sophisticated in that she makes these forms her own. While they reference the original source material, they also have an elegant abstract quality leaving the wearer and observer an open door to many interpretations. So hop on over to her ETSY STORE and have a look, because doesn't that special biologist in your life deserve a protozoa necklace, and a pair of strobili earrings? Yes. Yes they do.
Labels: inspired by nature
Long-eared Owl - Asio Otis
November 29, 2010
Well hello! Happy Monday. Yep, been a bit since the last post, right? I've been up to my neck with this book illustration job. I wish I could share the details of it with you, but it's top secret, so I have to keep my yapper shut for now. Despite the pile of deadlines, I have been able to eek out a few watercolors. This one of some Long-eared Owls is the latest. It's a painting I did for a friend, but it will be available in my online stores as a giclee print this weekend.
I've been wanting to do this image for a couple of years now. If you're a Chicago resident you may recall when a couple of winters ago, a group of male Asio Otis roosted in a cluster of pine trees in a South Loop school yard. It was truly a magical scene. I don't normally use "magical" to describe things, but it was just that; a mysterious visitation. The owls, sometimes numbering up to 13, roosted during the day in a small grouping of pines. Us urban humans came by to gawk, and they in turn seemed not the least bit disturbed by it. They slept, stretched, and yawned through it all, and then, just like that they left. They roosted there for several weeks. It's not unsual for male Long-eared owls to form these sort of winter "support" groups. As far as that specific location, one theory was that there was good hunting along an unused rail line near the school; rats, rabbits, mice etc. Whatever the reason, to many of us that went to observe, it seemed like a blessing from Mother Nature.
What is it?
November 01, 2010
Is it a turkey? Duck? Goose? Turducken?
It's an odd little engraving from my modest natural history print collection. I bought it with a bunch of other engravings from a small Chicago frame shop years ago. I didn't know anything about the print at the time. I was in grad school then, and had actually bought it and the others for use in an installation.
Years later I finally did a little research on it. It's an engraving done by the naturalist Frederick Polydore Nodder, and is from volume 15 (I believe) of "The Naturalist's Miscellany" from the late 18th century. What exactly this bird is, though, I still have yet to find out. My guess is the Hugely Wattled Something Something. Any ideas? I'll take suggestions, but keep it clean folks. It's only Monday.
Labels: antique natural history prints
Scientists at Work
October 29, 2010
Recently, I have been really enjoying The New York Times "Scientists at Work" blog. It's a blog in which you can follow various world wide field expeditions. It's great, because it provides a nice glimpse in to the work of field scientists as they recount their experiences directly from the expeditions. You get to see the wonder and beauty, as well as the drudgery and danger that can be involved with this type of work. I've been following Chris Filardi's expedition in the Solomon Islands (his writing is really wonderful, in addition to some great photos of rare species of birds and other critters), Noah Snyder-Mackler's expedition in Africa studying the strange gelada (a savannah and mountain dwelling baboon-like monkey), and Doug Stotz's expedition in Peru's northern Amazon area. Doug is an ornithologist at the Field Museum. I don't know Doug well at all, but see him every now and then around the bird division's prep lab. Have a great weekend!
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
October 27, 2010
Once upon a time in 1851 New York City, a certain Mr. Nicholas Pike purchased 100 Passer domesticus for the sum of $200 from England. Mr. Pike was from England as well, and was apparently lonely for the fauna of his homeland. The birds were released in Brooklyn, and have been spreading ever since. These sparrows, being tenacious little cretins, are one of the most successfully introduced species to North America. Their preference for human modified habitats (farms, suburbia, anyplace there are houses) has largely aided this success. They like what we like.
I find the male plumage of this species to be quite handsome, but my praise ends there. Their agressive character that has aided their success, wreaks havoc on our native species of birds, especially blue bird populations. They will invade the nests of native species, peck the eggs or even kill and remove nestlings. I have been dwelling on this a bit lately as it is fall, and I have begun to fill my feeders again. To my delight I have 3 species of woodpeckers that visit the suet feeder, and a red-breasted nuthatch, chickadees, and an occasional Rose-breasted Grosbeak that come to the black oil sunflower seed feeder. To my dismay, all are overwhelmed by the hoards of House Sparrows that swarm the feeders. They gorge themselves until it seems they couldn't possibly fly away. I have switched the suet from a rennet and seed cake to a rennet and insect cake. House Sparrows like seeds, and will less likely ransack the insect cake. I stopped refilling the sunflower seed feeder for a few days, hoping the sparrows will eventually move on. In the meantime I worked up a watercolor of one as therapy. And if you want a fat Passer domesticus, it's in the STORE.
Eurasian Wryneck and Edward Donovan
October 26, 2010
I was recently tipped off to the work of self-taught, British naturalist Edward Donovan. Donovan was active during the earlier part of the 19th century. I have a very small collection of natural history prints. I am sure there is nothing there that any serious collector would consider valuable. I buy what I like, and what fits my very modest antique print budget. Donovan's work fits my requirements perfectly, as it is generally very reasonably priced. And so I have become the proud owner of one of his small, hand-colored engravings.
Seeking out Donovan's work not only provided me with an opportunity to learn about another naturalist artist, but also to learn about a species of bird with which I was not familiar: the Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla. I was immediately drawn to Donovan's rendering of this strange little bird, and before purchasing the print, I did some research on the species.
Wrynecks belong to a suborder of Piciformes called Jynginae. Piciformes include woodpeckers, and although wrynecks are not true woodpeckers, they share some of their physical traits (long tongue and arrangement of foot tendons) and foraging behavior. One of their most distinctive traits, however, is also their namesake. Wrynecks have the ability to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. When disturbed they can use this snake-like neck movement and hissing as a threat display. As a result, these poor fellows were often used in witchcraft as a way to put a 'jinx' on someone (and who knows what that entailed. Christine O'Donell? What?).
When I went in to the Field Museum last week, Dave Willard indulged my curiousity and pulled a few wryneck specimens from the collections for me to photograph. The first image is of my Donovan print. The second is of a few Field specimens of Jynx torquilla. You can see how well Donovan captured their bark-like plumage in his rendering. The second photo is of a Jynx ruficollis, a species of wryneck that dwells in African forests. You can view a little clip of a wryneck displaying its snaking neck antics HERE.
American Camp, San Juan Island
October 20, 2010
I have been working on this watercolor since my trip to the San Juan Islands last month. On the southern end of San Juan Island there is an area called American Camp which is part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park. It's a beautiful part of the island with huge swaths of golden prairie over looking the massive Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's beaches are sandy and full of giant pieces of driftwood. It's a great spot to bird and whale watch, or just spend the day reading. In the mid 1800s war almost broke out over a dead pig between the United States and Great Britain. The Pig War as it became to be known, was settled without bloodshed. You can read about it by clicking on the link.
Both the American Camp and the British Camp to the north, still harbor some remnants of their former military inhabitants. A few structures remain, but there is also the flora and fauna that, for better or for worse, was introduced to the island: mainly rabbits. American Camp is overrun with bunnies. Sometimes when we have walked the praire at dusk, it is so spotted with rabbits, it feels like we're in the middle of Watership Down. The rabbits were brought by the U.S. military for food, but once the camp was abandoned the rabbits did what rabbits do best: multiply like crazy. Then sometime in the 1970s (I think?) red foxes were introduced to the island to control the feral rabbit population. The foxes, like their rabbit prey, have also multiplied. This last trip, within a half hour window, we spotted four red foxes. Their colors ranged from red, brown, silver, to black. Once we saw a silver one sitting in a field, surrounded by lots of strangely unwary bunnies. He sat looking sated and like he was about to fall asleep. It was as if he was bored and overwhelmed with such bounty.
*The watercolor is available in The Store.
BibliOdessy: Chinese Bird Prints
October 18, 2010
Hello and Happy Monday at you. BibliOdessy is one of my favorite blogs to browse, find inspiration from, and generally just drool over. Recently they posted these beautiful Chinese qouaches of birds. I had to share. The entire collection of the gouaches can be viewed online at the Royal Digital Library of Belgium.The album also includes exquisite gouaches of butterflies. Enjoy!
Birding in Hyde Park, New Print Available in Shop
October 06, 2010
A couple of weekends ago, I did a little fall bird watching with my friend Renate at Wooded Isle, down in Hyde Park. Renate and I had gone a handful of times in the spring, and so it was interesting to see what would be around in the fall. The first painting documents what we saw on a day in May. The second painting (the one with the noticeably fewer birds in it!) documents what we were able to spot in late September. One of the challenges that became quickly apparent about fall bird watching, is that most of the adult birds have molted out of their flashy breeding plumage and in to their more drab non-breeding attire. In addition, to make things even more confusing, there are a lot of first year birds that have not yet grown in to adult plumage. So, even for the more seasoned pairs of eyes amongst our bird watching group, there was a good amount of guesswork involved in terms of trying to identify specific species. If the sightings were slim that day, there was no disappointment from my end. A few birds sighted, walking in one of Chicago's more beautiful parks, good company, and a great meal afterwards was more than enough to satisfy all of my appetites.
Some of you had asked if I would be making a print edition of the first painting, back when I initially posted it to the blog in May. I decided to take you up on it! It is now available as an 8 x 10 inch, limited edition of 30, archival ink jet print. It is beautifully printed on Hahnemuhle archival (and sustainable!) bamboo paper by the fine folks at Iolabs in Rhode Island.
The print is available HERE
Black Oystercatcher - Haematopus bachmani
October 04, 2010
While staying on the San Juan Islands, I saw quite a few Black Oystercatchers. They were easy to spot: they are about the size of ravens, and their bills and eyes are a striking tomato orange. They were also fun to watch as they foraged the many intertidal pools around the islands for mollusks. I often spotted them in pairs, and just recently found out that mating pairs bond for life. Black Oystercatchers belong to the Haematopodidae family which consists of all species of oystercatchers. The only two North American species are H. bachmani (named by J. Audubon for his friend Reverend John Bachman), and the American Oystercatcher - H. palliatus.
Marbled Murrelet - Brachyramphus marmoratus
September 29, 2010
While spending my five days out on San Juan Island staring out at the Salish Sea, I spotted all sorts of creatures: harbor seals, Dall's porpoises, orcas, Bald Eagles, Black Oystercatchers, Rhinceros Auklets, and Marbled Murrelets. Jay and I would set up camp at a quiet spot near the old lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point, read our books (Jay read Steinbeck, I read a book about Ernest Shackleton), and wait. One day we were treated to a sighting of a baby harbor seal, and then later (amazingly) a pod of orcas. The islands are famous for their 'resident' pods of orcas that feed solely on salmon. The pod that we saw, however, was a family group of 'transients'. The transient orcas dwell out in the Pacific, and are genetically distinct from the resident populations. These orcas also have a much more varied diet by feeding on seals, sea lions, and other whales. Our pod came quite close to shore. We could see and hear the mist coming from their blowholes as they surfaced, and watched as they moved through tangled forests of bull kelp.
There were plenty of bird sightings as well, of course. It's always a treat to visit one of the coasts, as I always see species that I would never have the chance to see back home in the land locked Midwest. One of these is the Marbled Murrelet. Murrelets are sea dwelling, diving birds of the Alcid family. They are unique among Alcids, though, because they nest in old growth forests along the coasts. For years, ornithologists could not locate where these birds were nesting due to their secretive, solitary habits. A reward was even offered to the first person to locate a Marbled Murrelet nest. After about a century of searching the first nest was found in the 1960s. Even to this day, very little is known about the breeding habits and behavior of this bird. It is, however, apparent that numbers are declining due to logging and oil spills (surprise!). My sighting was of an adult in non-breeding plumage (as shown above) bobbing about in the Salish Sea. It seemed to happily ride the waves, and then would disappear quickly beneath the surface, rising a couple of minutes later with a tiny meal of fish.
Hello! I returned from my travels to the beautiful Pacific Northwest sometime ago, and now have caught up enough with the other parts of my life to dive back in to the Tiny Aviary. I have a fresh little batch of watercolors to share, one of which will be going to the winner of the previous contest post: Congrats Amy (Please contact me via email with your shipping address)! I will be posting that image, along with some rambling about my trip to the San Juan Islands, later this week.
I am happy to report that I have been very busy. I'm in the middle of a couple a large book illustration jobs that will take me through the end of the year. The other reason for my absence and why I haven't been able to go in to the Field Museum as much recently, is that me and my sweet husband Jay are expecting our first child. We're super excited, as you can imagine. I am already fantasizing about the birdwatching hikes we'll take and her (yes, baby is of the girl type!) introduction to natural history museums. Poor baby has no idea what she is in for with a couple of nutty parents like us!
Back soon with more. Thanks so much for hanging in there, and checking in. xo Diana
Field Museum Photos Contest!
August 31, 2010
Hello! I am on vacation in the wonderful Pacific Northwest, the San Juan Islands specifically. I have limited internet access (ha -thankfully!), but here's a few photos from the public collections of the Field Museum that I took while I was there a couple of weeks ago. Here's the contest: The first person to post a comment to this blog with the correct names of each of the species in these 3 photos will win a 6 x 8 inch watercolor from me. I don't know what the watercolor will be of yet, but I am planning on something from my travels here. I'll be back 9/9 to post the painting and the winner. Go!
Blue Bird-of-Paradise; Paradisaea rudolphi
August 25, 2010
Oh HI. It's been a while, no? I'm a bad blogger, but I swear I have a very good reason for my absence. I will post about it soon. I haven't been able to go in to the Field Museum (sadness!) either, but finally got my butt back in there last week. It was nice to see everybody. Most of the scientists had returned from their various summer field excursions. Dave Willard, bird collections manager, had just returned from a long visit to Peru.
So, last week I spent my time at the Field reacquainting myself with the collections, took a bunch of photos, and sat down to do a little painting. And here's the latest result: a male Blue Bird-of-Paradise. There was a specimen in the public collection that I worked from (photo). They're so spectacular, I couldn't resist! Male Blue birds-of-paradise will, as you can see, hang upside down to make their spectacular, feathery displays for discerning females. Some of you that have seen the wonderful Planet Earth series would have seen some footage of this behavior there.
Well, I hope not to be such a stranger these days to Tiny Aviary, and hope, dear reader you will extend your patience and forgiveness for my absence. I am traveling next week to Seattle and the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but will post again before then. After I return on Sept. 8th, I should be updating more often. I hope you all have had a wonderful summer. As for myself, I am ecstatic that autumn is on its way!
*The watercolor is available in the Store.
Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock; Rupicola rupicola
June 08, 2010
I first saw a picture of Rupicola rupicola in an old encyclopedia belonging to my grandparents. I was immediately drawn to it's bright orange plumage, and the male's flamboyant half moon crest that obscures both face and beak. They're native to South America, and the males use leks to attract females. Leks are areas, or clearings (whether in forest or prairie) where many males of that particular species will congregate and display for spectating females. Prairie chickens and Sage Grouse are species here in North America that use this system as well.
I had to complete a painting recently for this show. I couldn't decide what to paint, and then when I was at the Field Museum, browsing the collections, I decided to look up some specimens of Guianan Cock-of-the- Rocks. The first image is of my surrealist two-headed rupicola painting on plywood, and the second is a detail photo of one of the specimens I used for reference.
June 03, 2010
Busy busy this week, but I found this while trolling through my Field Museum pictures. Dave Willard had been helping me to locate a specimen of an American Kestrel for a commissioned painting I had been working on. While I was waiting for him to pull the specimen from the collections cabinets, I looked over and found this thing sitting on a table! It was a large plaster sculpture of what Dave called an ancient relative of modern day loons. I think of loons as these peaceful water birds that grace postcards of Minnesota, with haunting calls filling northern spring evenings. This thing, however, looks like an avian torpedo that could remove a few limbs from unsuspecting humanoid swimmers. Cool!
I asked Dave if I could take it home.
He said no.
The Story of Brown Creeper S09-100
May 27, 2010
About a month ago, when I was working in the bird division prep lab at the Field Museum, I worked on making a study skin of a particular Brown Creeper: number S09-100. If you have followed my blog for sometime, then you will probably know that creepers are amongst my favorite species of birds. S09-100 had a somewhat sad, but ultimately very interesting story. In 2008, it was found injured near a downtown building. It was taken to the Willowbrook Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The track record for rehabilitating a song bird well enough to release back in to the wild isn't so hot. Song birds are extremely sensitive creatures, and I imagine trying to treat one while not stressing it out is a tricky balancing act. This fellow, however, fully recovered from his injuries and was set free.
Hold the applause, because here is the sad part.
Almost exactly one year after he had been found the first time, he was found again, and no more than a block away from the first location. Unfortunately, he didn't survive his collision with the building. So, yes, a sad ending, but isn't it amazing that he was found so close to the original location, and almost exactly one year later? Tracking a bird like this has yielded some unique insight in to their migration habits. This would also imply that birds aren't learning to avoid the buildings, making it all the more important to continue to find ways to decrease the impact urban environments have on migrating birds. Hopefully the fellow was able to father a bunch of little S09-100s during the time between his release and return.
*watercolor above is available in the store.
Birding in Jackson Park
May 25, 2010
Last week I took an unintentional hiatus from Tiny Aviary. Excuse the absence of posts. I guess I was spending too much time outside birding and planting a native prairie patch in our backyard!
Actually, I am a terrible birder. I don't go on birding trips. I don't keep a formal life list. I have never done a Christmas Count. I am trying to change this. A couple of weekends ago, I met up with a friend of mine in Hyde Park. She lives across from a wonderful park located just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. It's historic Jackson Park. Created long ago for the World's Columbian Exposition, it is now one of Chicago's best birding hot spots. All that remains of the Columbian Exposition is the museum, and the Japanese Garden. The park has many different habitats: prairie, forest, wetlands. Due to its diversity of habitat, and being located along the lake, it supports a rich variety of bird species.
Renata and I meet up in the morning and stroll with another dedicated group of birders. We probably spend a good hour and a half walking the park grounds. I recently had someone interview me and they asked that since I live in an urban environment, how was it possible for me to be inspired by nature. I thought about this as I tallied up the number of bird species I had seen on this one outing. Once you develop an awareness for nature, you begin to look for it everywhere, and then you realize, even in an urban environment, there is a lot to see. You have to know to look for it, and then know where to look for it. On that note, here is the final tally for my Jackson Park excursion. Not bad for an urban environment, eh? Unfortunately, these were all birds I was familiar with from the prep lab at the Field Museum. These are almost all species that migrate through Chicago, and are prone to building collisions. It was lovely to see these individuals alive and well, flitting about the old oak trees and giant cottonwoods. We were even fortunate enough to see a Baltimore Oriole in its woven nest.
Cape May Warbler
Black and White Warbler
American Redstart (both male and female)
Least Flycatcher (or some other Epidonax species)
Baltimore Oriole (and nest)
House Wren (heard)
Black-crowned Night Heron
Taiga - New Screenprint
May 08, 2010
Well, it's been a really fun week working in Austin at the Decoder Ring Design Concern, and here is what we have to show for it. "Taiga" is a 20 color, limited edition screenprint on heavyweight, cotton rag paper. I am currently still curating the prints, but the edition size should end up being around 100, or just over. I'm a little sad that I have to go home tomorrow, especially since the weather has been so beautiful. The Decoder Ring studio is in a really sweet location too. It shares space with a landscaper, and so I've been surrounded by agave plants, stands of bamboo, and live oak all weekend. The print is currently available at The Decoder Ring.
Was Ist Das?
May 04, 2010
Well right now, it's a collection of vague, flat shapes. But by the end of this week, hopefully it will be a 15 to 20 color screenprint of Arctic wildlife. What you are looking at is four colors, and of course the the key line drawing will not be printed until the very end. I'm in Austin working on this print with the Decoder Ring folks. So far so good. At the very least, I can't complain about the weather. It's absolutely gorgeous here. I'll be back next week with a photo of the final print!
All My Eggs In One Basket
April 30, 2010
Ok, not really; more like in several boxes. Alright, they're not even my eggs. I was at the Field Museum yesterday, and somebody had pulled out these boxes and trays of beautiful eggs. I couldn't resist a couple of shots with the iPhone. The subtleties and variation of color and pattern are lovely, no?
I'm off to Austin next week to be a guest artist at the Decoder Ring Design Concern making a print with them for their art screepnprint series. Speaking of new prints, I am still plugging away at the etching I have been doing with White Wings. I'll post more when I return, and get a Flickr page set up with images from the process.
In the meantime, a friend forwarded this interesting article about bird parasitism. There are some species of birds, such as cuckoos and cowbirds, that lay their eggs in the nests of other species. The article documents some of the more intricate dynamics of this relationship through photos. Here's the article, courtesy BBC Earth News.
April 24, 2010
I'm currently in the process of having a new website designed (*yay*), and so I worked on some tiny spot illustrations for it this weekend. It's all of my favorite things: lichen, moss, corvids, and rhinoceros beetles!
Horned Grebe - Podiceps auritus
April 21, 2010
Two weeks ago, I worked on preparing a Horned Grebe for the Field Museum collections. It had been found on the beach here in Chicago. No doubt it had been on its way north to breeding grounds in Canada, and up towards Alaska. It was in non-breeding plumage, meaning not what you see depicted here. It had a white breast and neck, and the rest of it was a dark, smokey brown. April through August, both male and female Horned Grebes acquire a much bolder, and warmer color palette. Grebes belong to the family Podicipedidae. They forage for food by diving, and build floating nests on marshy ponds. Their feet are lobed, and they have tiny, almost nonexistent tails.
*the grebe painting is now available in the Store.
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa
April 19, 2010
We've had a guest staying with us for the last week: artist Aaron Horkey. He and Jay are working on a collaborative print together, which is very exciting. Last Thursday, both Jay and Aaron came with me to the Field Museum. Aaron wanted to check out shrike specimens as research for another project of his, and then go view the Mammoth exhibit with Jay while I worked up in the prep lab. Dave (Willard) was kind enough to give Aaron access to the Loggerhead and Northern Shrike specimens, and Aaron spent a good portion of the day drawing from them. For my part, I worked on making study skins of two birds Dave had taken out of the freezer: Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Brown Creeper. Both specimens were interesting and valuable for different reasons. Kinglets are tiny, insectivores that favor coniferous forests at northern latitudes. They are coming through the Chicago area right about now, and occasionally we have some window kills that make it in to the lab. The particular kinglet that I worked on last week was unique for its crown coloring. Golden-crowned kinglets have a bright slash of orange/yellow on the top of their heads. It usually tends towards the orange end of the color spectrum. This one that Dave gave me to work on had a crown that was almost a white-ish yellow. It's sad that the little fellow crossed my path in the lab, but having a color variation like that is a very important source of scientific data, and a valuable addition to the collections. I'll post about the Brown Creeper a bit later.
Harlequin Duck - Histrionicus histrionicus
April 12, 2010
I am pretty sure there are few things more sublime than the breeding plumage of a male Harlequin Duck. I remember looking at them in my first Peterson guide, and my 10 year old brain thinking that the day I could see something as beautiful as the Harlequin, it would be a pretty good day. That day was last Thursday, when volunteering at the Field Museum. Dave Willard strolled in to the lab to say that a Harlequin Duck had been spotted out in Monroe Harbor, on the north side of the museum. Like any good bird nerd, I scrambled for my coat and followed Dave and the other 2 volunteers outside. It's spring here, but the weather was still brisk. Our little group stood at the edge of the harbor, while Dave scanned the water with his binoculars. He quickly spotted it, and easily picked it out of a large group of American Coots bobbing about in the choppy waves. Its bold, white patterning was unmistakable, even from a healthy distance. At first it was squatting happily on a concrete break wall, constantly being splashed and sprayed with cold Lake Michigan water. They have a preference for cold, turbulent waters, and are very agile swimmers. This was quickly demonstrated by it getting in to the water and diving repeatedly. Harlequin sightings in Chicago, I believe, are quite infrequent. There are wintering populations on both coasts in the northern regions, and then breeding grounds as far north as Alaska, and Newfoundland. I'm not sure where exactly this fellow was headed, or from whence he came. Perhaps he flew off course as he was heading north from east coast wintering grounds. Hopefully, as I write this, he has continued on his way north and will find a wind swept, wave pummeled, rocky ledge in Newfoundland, and a mate that will appreciate his impressive plumage.
*watecolor available in the store.
American Kestrel - Falco spaverius
April 11, 2010
Over the weekend I finished this latest commissioned watercolor of an American Kestrel. It's 11 x 14 inches. When I lived in Northside Chicago, I'd see kestrels quite often. I usually would spot them hunting scrubby patches of grass that line the Metra tracks. There was a pair that was nesting in a gigantic cottonwood tree near the tracks at Berteau and Wolcott. I've done paintings of kestrels before, and every time that I do, I marvel at their beautiful coloring and pattern. Now that I live in Evanston, where there is arguably more green space, I almost never see them. I am far more likely to see the larger Cooper's Hawk. In fact I spotted a Cooper's as I walked Seth, my greyhound, this morning. I saw its sharp, long tailed silhouette bullet in to a large tree.
When I went to the Field Museum last week for my volunteer shift, I had Dave help me suss out some American Kestrel specimens. I have a commissioned watercolor I am working on of a Kestrel, and so wanted some reference photos of their plumage. I love taking closeup photos of bird feathers. The top two are from an American Kestrel specimen, and the bottom two are from a Horned Grebe that I worked on making in to a specimen later in the day.
Curious Cardigans Video
March 29, 2010
I spent today getting mail orders together. If you have been waiting on a print, many thanks for your patience. Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be in the intaglio studio again with Teresa James at White Wings press, working on my etching. In the meantime, I was lucky enough be interviewed by two very talented people: Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher of Chicago's Sonnenzimmer Press. They have started a video project called the Curious Cardigans. It's a new artist series produced for the Show & Tell Show in Chicago. It serves to document some of Chicago's artists and their sometimes strange inspirations. Strange inspirations? Exhibit A, coming right up! So, for those of you who are curious about what I do at the Field Museum, here's a tiny glimpse:
Curious Cardigans Meet Diana Sudyka Video
Warning: Brief scene in which we visit the dermestid beetle room.
Curious Cardigans Meet Diana Sudyka Video
Warning: Brief scene in which we visit the dermestid beetle room.
Inspired by Nature
March 26, 2010
It's interesting to see how other artists are inspired by the natural world, especially when they work in mediums completely different from one's own. ELINtm from Bristol, UK makes objects inspired by lichens and mold. Yes, I said mold. ELINtm is Elin Thomas, an artist and jewelry maker. Thomas creates extraordinary objects that are decorated with tiny, exquisite crocheted lichens and molds. As someone that crochets, and as someone that has a lichen obsession, I am astounded by the beauty and detail in her work. Last year I was fortunate enough to snag a sale piece of hers. It currently hangs (grows out of) above the fireplace mantel (third photo). Visit Elin's shop on etsy here. Her blog is here. Have a great weekend. More etching updatery next week.