Morran of the Forest

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October 31, 2011




Ok, this is a bit of a stretch subject matter-wise for this blog, but I'll post it anyway. Recently illustrator and artist, Camilla Engman, had an open call for submissions to create a portrait of her beloved dog, Morran. I am an avid fan of Camilla's work (and Morran), so I had to do one. Camilla resides in Gothenburg, Sweden. She and Morran often find themselves hiking in the lush, mossy, be-ferned woods of the Swedish countryside.

Now available here.

Color and Pattern

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October 28, 2011



Browsing some of my Field Museum photos tonight, and came across these two. I think they are from the Tibetan collections. I love the colors and patterns. Traditional Tibetan clothing seems to have a lot of red and turquoise; a color combination I love. Have a lovely weekend

Maide Weide

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October 27, 2011







I love this woman. Look at her happily making models of placoderms and jawless fishes. Isn't she the awesomest? I pass by this display of Maide Weide's work in the hallway on the third floor of the Field Museum every time I go in to work in the bird lab. Apparently Weide took over for this guy. She made paintings and models, and you can still see some of her handiwork in the public collections.

Evening and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

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October 26, 2011


This fall, I've worked on several of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the Field Museum lab. I've only seen a grosbeak once in the field, and it was a beautiful male Rose-breasted at my backyard feeder. I'm pretty sure I have never seen an Evening in the field. Even though these two species share the name of "grosbeak" and certainly share some similar physical traits, they belong to two different families. Rose-breasted belongs to the Cardinalidae family, and Evening to Fringillidae. Cardinalidae includes the ubiquitous Northern Cardinals. The species of Fringillidae, on the other hand, are considered true finches and include species like the lovely Chaffinch. Rose-breasted are known for their very melodic, robin-like songs, while Evening Grosbeaks are more quiet and secretive; even during courtship.

Great-crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus crinitus

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October 24, 2011


Last month at the Field Museum, I was able to work on a Myiarchus crinitus. You can read about that here. I finally got around to making a painting of it. Great-crested Flycatchers are known to be rather agressive (spirited?) birds, that have benefited from the current fragmentation of our suburban landscapes. They prefer the wooded edge of an open lot to the deep woods. M. crinitus are secondary cavity nesters, meaning that they will often nest in an abandoned woodpecker hole. They're quite beautiful too with their lemony yellow breast, and touches of burnt sienna in the wings.

This painting is available in the store.

Tiny Aviary on Twitter

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Hello. Happy Monday. Seriously.

Pigs are flying, so I finally felt compelled to get a Twitter account.

If you'd like to join me:

Follow tinyaviary on Twitter

New Flinchy T-shirt Designs: Darwin's Finches

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October 20, 2011


Hello there! A while back I told you about the t-shirt company that I am involved in: Flinchy. I am one of 3 artists. The other 2 very talented fellers being Jay Ryan and Tom Stack. We've got some new designs up in the store, including my Darwin's Finches. Available HERE, and modeled above by the very kind Mr. Andrew Bird.

Commission: California Quails

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October 18, 2011



I've been working on a commissioned painting this week, and the request was for California Quail. The male is pretty close to being finished. The female's plumage has less blue and contrast than the male's, but it's still really striking. I love their little question mark feathers on top of their heads.

Kloempken Prairie

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October 13, 2011


A couple of evenings ago I was able to get out for a solo hike at a local forest preserve. I chose Kloempken prairie and Carle Woods. For those of you in the Chicago area, these are preserves right near the Oakton Community College campus off of Golf Road. The woods and prairie have been undergoing restoration since the 90s, I believe, and benefit from controlled burning on a seasonal basis. There's no trail system (yet), and access is from an Oakton college parking lot. Due to the controlled burns, the woods were impressively free of brush and invasive plants. Almost immediately upon entering the forest, I saw a group of 5 deer, one of which was a mature stag. Reading about the preserve, there are supposedly oak trees over 200 years old, and the place definitely had the feel of the ancient about it. The only real bummer was the overwhelming noise pollution from Golf Road and 294. The constant drone of cars filled the area, and made it difficult to hear the birds at times. That said, I heard and spotted a couple of Red-bellied woodpeckers. I occasionally came across patches of ferns. The ferns were often ghostly white; really beautiful. Anyway, I made these 3 gouache paintings inspired by my visit there. I've just listed them to my STORE too.



Patch of leaf litter and white ferns in Carle Woods, IL.



White-tailed deer hiding behind giant felled oak in Carle Woods.



Red-bellied Woodpecker snooping around tree branch.

Black Squirrel

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October 10, 2011


This is my second gouache painting. I'm really liking the medium. I've been looking at a lot of early American folkart recently, and love some of the flatness, and just plain weirdness of some of the imagery. Scale was often really skewed; whether this was intentional or not isn't always clear either. Anyway, I made this image of a black squirrel with that aesthetic in mind.

We have some black squirrels around here, which are in fact just a melanistic variation of grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis.) I love them, and have always wanted to do a painting of them. Their dark fur is almost mink-like. A biologist at the Field Museum told me they tend to do better in suburban areas, rather than more rural or wild areas. This is because due to their darker fur, they are usually more easily detected by predators. Suburban areas will have lower predator populations, giving these fellows a better chance at beating the odds.

Text on painting: He was the only one of his kind in those parts, towering over the land. He sang to release the leaves from the trees. And with that, autumn arrived with its sweet chill.


This painting is available in the STORE.

The Magic Hedge

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Hello Patient Readers. It's been a very busy couple of weeks. I was wrapping up a very large illustration job, and so much of my time has been spent huddled over my drawing table. Although I haven't been able to get to the Field for a bit to volunteer, or work on my own painting, I did get to go birdwatching for the first time with my daughter. Isabel is only 9 months old, but she loves being outdoors. We met our friend Renate at The Magic Hedge.

The Magic Hedge is a birding spot I have known about for years, but have never been. It's a wonderful little preserve on the lakeshore by Montrose Harbor. It's well known as a birding hot spot, so Renate and I were eager to check it out. It was beautiful. It was large and dense enough that most of the time while we hiked its trails, we could neither see or hear the buzzing city. It was dense with aster, goldenrod, and drying seed heads of prairie dock and purple cone-flower. The trees were radiating with the golds and oranges of fall. Isabel was nestled up against me in her Ergo carrier, and took it all in; a wonderful way to ring in autumn.

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