Monthly Archives: August 2009

Fall Colors

Fall-colors It's a gorgeous day today–a welcome relief from the sogginess and high winds of the past couple of weeks. But it's clearly no longer summer. Fireweed fluff is bursting from the pods as the sun dries them, the shadows are distinctly chilly, and reds (from blazing cadmium to cool maroon) are standing out in the foliage. Here are a few leaves (and one thrush wing feather) found on my walk today.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), goat'sbeard (Aruncus dioicus), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), and trailing black currant (Ribes laxiflorum); primary feather from a varied thrush (Ixorius naevius). Watercolor and colored pencil on hemp paper.

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Illustrations

I’m a science illustrator by training (1997, University of California, Santa Cruz Science Communication graduate program, which is now part of California State University, Monterey Bay), and although I’ve found that my inclinations lie more at the observing, sketching, and teaching end of the spectrum, I do still enjoy creating more “polished” works. Here are a few examples.

AK folk fest poster 09
The 2009 Alaska Folk Festival poster: Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius), Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Townsend’s Warbler (Dendroica townsendi), Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), and Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Hocker catskull

Cat skull morphology and skull relationship to face (Felis domesticus), colored pencil and acrylic on drafting film.

Dipper-fledglings

American Dipper fledglings (Cinclus mexicanus), water-soluble pastels.

Bearberry-khocker  

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Calypso Orchid

Orchid-sketchCalypso-orchid 

Several years ago, I kayaked to a small island and discovered hundreds of calypso orchids (Calypso bulbosa) growing in the forest duff just above the beach. Enchanted with them, but not having a sketchbook with me that day, I carefully unearthed one, packed it gently away, and brought it home to my studio, where I spent many happy hours sketching it and then creating this colored pencil/watercolor portrait. The blossom lasted weeks, then, along with the leaf, died away. For some reason, I kept the corm in a little container next to my drawing table. The next spring, I was surprised one day to notice a new leaf emerging. I quickly took it out to a beach-fringe spruce grove, and carefully planted it.

I know now that these orchids are both rare and sensitive, and I probably oughtn't to have taken it. Although I tried to transplant it, it likely died (I've not been back to look). But all the same, I'm so glad to have had the chance to get to know it so well. Years later, I can still feel the smooth, pearly surface of that corm…

Books

In addition to sketching and illustrating, I do some writing. Here are a few of my publications.

NEW!

Flukes-cover-4-20-13

A new children’s book about humpback whales–and about looking beyond the surface to see the connections in nature. A child and his mother share a conversation about “what it takes to make a whale,” as he learns to look for “the things you don’t see.”

Full color illustrations, 32 pages, 8.5X11 paperback, $11.95. It’s being printed now, and should be in hand by the end of June. Contact me if you’d like to pre-order or if you have any questions.

You can learn more about our When You See Flukes  book project, and about humpback whales near Juneau, at our “Spot the Whale” website.

 

Dipper cover for hearthside

American Dippers: Singers in the Mountain Streams is a concise natural history of dippers, and includes a chapter on how Mary and I conducted our dipper studies. 64 pages, full color. Contact me to order copies or share dipper stories.

 

Just cover

Since 2003, I’ve been working with my friend, ecologist Mary Willson, on a study of the habitat and habits of American dippers (Cinclus mexicanus)–marvelous little aquatic songbirds that live along mountain streams. One day while we were watching a pair of dippers feed their chicks, Mary suggested that we write a children’s book. So we did, and I illustrated it. The Singer in the Stream is a 32-page, full color picture book, full of dipper lore. Contact me if you’re interested in ordering copies.

 

 

Frozen-in-motion-cover

I wrote Frozen in Motion for Alaska Natural History Association (now known as Alaska Geographic). It’s full of Alaska glacier science, and designed for older children and adults.

 

 

Mendenhall-book-cover 

Mendenhall Glacier–Flowing Through Time is another book I wrote for Alaska Geographic. I grew up within sight of this glacier, and I used to bicycle to its face with my friends for summer picnics and explorations. The terrific photos in this book are by my friend David Job.

Drawing Through

Paint-set

I like to think that when we draw from nature, we're drawing nature through ourselves–through eyes and brain and heart, and down the arm onto the page. If that's so, then every time we draw something, we take a little bit of it inside. It has become part of us; we understand it in a new and important way. We've made a connection.

Looked at that way, it doesn't necessarily matter what the end result looks like. The important part is the drawing through.

From the Land of Salt and Spruce

Spruce-sketch-page

Seems to me that Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) are the defining tree species of Southeast Alaska's forests. Although western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) are more abundant, spruce are more prominent. They grow where we like to go: along coastlines, on riverbanks, on the outwash plains of glaciers. And they follow where we've been: old village sites, abandoned mining ruins, forgotten roads.

My favorite spruce are the ones that colonize this region's uplift meadows (extravagant, lush parklands created as former tidelands are lifted from the sea by glacial rebound). These "wolf spruce" are sturdy, cheerfully-symmetrical little trees, bristling with vigor and growing almost fast enough to watch. I drew this one (and a cone from an older cousin) a few years ago near the Brotherhood Bridge, north of Juneau.