Tiny Watercolor Series: Prairie


May 31, 2011

Here's another set I made of tiny watercolors. This set is all flora and fauna of prairie habitats: Prairie dog, Great Spangled Frillitary, prairie chicken, purple coneflower, American bison.

Tiny Thumbnails


May 26, 2011

These are some thumbnails from a project for which the client requested small drawings of things that would represent geology, botany, and zoology. We're still in the very beginning stages, and I am not sure if the job we'll go through, but it was fun to work on these. Depicted: geode, fossil, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lady Slipper Orchid, Great-horned Owl, and an echidna.

And the Winner Is...


May 25, 2011

Paper Stories!

Congratulations! I had Isabel help out and choose the winner, as she is little Ms. Grabbyhands these days. Contact me with your shipping info so I can get a copy of the Galapagos Finches to you!

Here's the thing - My printer is running a bit behind on schedule with the Galapagos Finch print. It won't be ready until the end of next week (BOO), BUT I am listing it in my shops at a special pre-order price of $25 for this week only. After that, it will be $30.

Also, as promised I am having a sale in both my Big Cartel and Etsy shops. Type in this coupon code when checking out and you will get 15% off:




May 24, 2011

Spring is in full swing. I've been able to get out for regular walks again, and now am joined by my little daughter in her stroller. Lovely to see all the blooming plants, and migratory bird species visiting my back yard once again.

That's it. That's all I've got for you today, chicken littles, other than check back tomorrow for the winner of the print giveaway!

New Endeavors: FLINCHY


May 23, 2011

Hello! Grumble grumble - yeah I know it's Monday. I wish you "Happy Monday" even if you are having a creaky start to your week. I will be announcing the winner to the Galapagos Finches print contest this Wednesday. If you weren't aware of the giveaway, hop over to the previous post and get your name in to the hat. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you one of my new projects. I am part of a new t-shirt company called "Flinchy" along with fantastic artists Jay Ryan and Tom Stack. Jay, Tom, and I create all of the designs. We just got it up and running a while back, and are getting close to having another round of new designs up (one of which will be my Darwin's Finches image). The lovely Chicago writer Gretchen Kalwinski is modeling my Raven Heart design. Go to FLinchy HERE!

New Print Giveaway: Galapagos Finches


May 19, 2011

I took one of my recent sets of tiny watercolors and had them made into an 8 x 10 inch giclee. It has four species of Galapagos finches: Geospiza scandens (Cactus Finch), Geospiza magirostris (Large Ground Finch), Certhia olivacea (Warbler Finch), and Camarhynchus parvulus (Small Tree Finch). Galapagos finches, drab they may be, have been oh so important in helping Charles Darwin (and thus the rest of us) understand how animals adapt and evolve. Yay for you, tiny Galapagos Finches! You each get little ornate frames.


Time for a Tiny Aviary Giveaway. Post to the comments section here, and I will enter your name to the contest drawing. Next week (Wednesday perhaps?) I will draw one of your names, and the winner will get a free copy of the new Galapagos Finches print. That day I will also have a 15% off of everything sale in my shops; a little spring cleaning.

Post away!

Tiny Watercolor Sets: Arctic


May 18, 2011

This is another of these little flashcard-like sets I have been working on. This a set of arctic flora and fauna: pika, arctic poppy, musk ox, rock ptarmigan, and arctic fox.

At the end of this week I am going to announce a little give away. Stay tuned!

Blackpoll Warbler- Dendroica striata


May 16, 2011

When I went in to the Field Museum a couple of weeks ago, this was the bird that I worked on. It's the first bird I had worked on making in to a study specimen in over a year. I was worried that I would be rusty, but it actually turned out to be a really nice. Or, at least I won't be embarrassed to have it sitting in the collections with my name on it. It was a mature female Dendroica striata. There are a couple of ways to determine that it was a mature female. On passerines (song birds) mature skulls have a sort of stippling pattern throughout the bone. You can really see it when you hold the skull up to a light. Also, I was able to locate her single ovary. During the breeding season, it is relatively easy to locate on a mature bird, as it is somewhat enlarged and full of ovum. The same goes for male birds, as their testes are enlarged during the breeding season. During non-breeding season, it's a different story, as ovary and testes have shrunk to non-breeding sizes. And on a small bird like a warbler, they can be very difficult to locate if you are not a seasoned field biologist.

Blackpoll warbles have an extraordinarily long migration. This little female had traveled all the way from South America most likely, only to end her journey by smacking in to a downtown Chicago building. But we hope that by dedicating her body to research, we can learn more about how to minimize these types of window kills in the future.

Tiny Watercolor Sets - Lichens


May 11, 2011

Another set of tiny watercolors I have been working on. These are all species of lichen easily found in North America. I tried to represent a species from each type of substrate that lichens grow on: ground, tree, and stone. The firedot is often found on really old tombstones, the rosette on tree bark, and the trumpet and lipstick on ground substrates.

Musk Deer


May 09, 2011

I have a bit of a fascination with the sense of smell: how we use it in our daily lives, it's profound effects it can have on evoking memories, and how we have harnessed elements from the natural world for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years to create scents to attract a mate. I'm a big fan of natural perfumers like Mandy Aftel. She's a unique artist, and has written extensively about the history of perfume and its use of various natural ingredients. And boy...have we used some strange sources for our scent hankerings: ambergris (waxy, musky smelling substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales), civit (obtained from glands of civit cat), oak moss (type of lichen), and musk deer (musk extracted from gland of male). I've been wanting to do a little series of paintings based on various "sources" for natural perfumes. This first one is of a male musk deer. I love the fanged males. It used to be that the males were killed (boo) for their caudal gland, and this was used in musk scents. Now, there are synthetics that can reproduce this scent (yay). In an ideal world this would eradicate the hunting of these mysterious, and primitive animals, but unfortunately there is still a high black market value for the glands.

Tiny Watercolor Sets: Galapagos Finches


May 05, 2011

I've been working on multiple series of small (3 x 4 inch) watercolors. The idea is to do batches of these small paintings of flora and fauna of specific habitats. So far I have a batch of "prairie" related paintings (prairie dog, buffalo, prairie chicken, purple coneflower, compass plant), an "arctic" group (arctic fox, snow ptarmigan, musk ox, pika, and arctic poppies), and one of different species of lichens. I am hoping to do many, many more and eventually would have prints made of them to be sold in little sets, almost like flash cards. The most recent grouping of watercolors I am working on is a sampling of Galapagos Finches. Right now I have 3 completed, and I've started a fourth. I'll be posting the watercolors from the other completed batches here in the next week or so. And anytime I mention Galapagos Finches I have to point out one of my favorite books by Jonathan Weiner: The Beak of the Finch

Tree Swallows and Good-byes.


May 02, 2011

Hello! Well, yes it has been a while since that last post declaring Tiny Aviary was on maternity leave. The months since then have been the fullest I have ever known, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Becoming a mother has been one the most wonderful and challenging experiences of my life thus far. Yeah, yeah, I know. That's what everybody says, but truly, it has been a welcome change. In the spirit of the content of this blog, I so look forward to sharing with my daughter the wonders of the natural world. So far, she is not sure what to make of her mama whistling Black-capped Chickadee songs to her, or blathering on about the migratory warblers and sparrows visiting the native plantings in our back yard. She often gamely replies "gurp", and thankfully isn't old enough to roll her eyes.

So yes, I have been busy adjusting to becoming a parent, as well as getting back to work. I have been able to take on various illustration jobs, as well as a healthy amount of painting commissions. Last week for the first time in over a year, I was able to clock in a few hours volunteering at the Field Museum. It was great to see everyone in the zoology prep lab again, and nice to be immersed in that environment. I won't be able to go in as often as I had been before, but do plan on getting in there on a semi-regular basis to keep my feet wet.

That brings me back to Tiny Aviary here. It's time to get it rolling again, but before I do so, I have to post about something that I had intended to write about months and months ago. So bear with me as I say good-bye to my dog. Yes, my dog. It's with a little sheepish hesitation with which I proceed, because believe me I know, with all of the horribleness in the world, waxing on about the significance of the relationship between human and canine can come off as a bit indulgent and trite.

Seth (my greyhound) was a huge part of my life. Jay and I considered him family, and when we had to say good-bye to him last November, the sadness was as much from the void left in our home, as it was from the knowledge that our daughter would not get to meet this extraordinary, gentle, and joyful creature that had been part of our lives for almost 9 years.

When we adopted Seth, it was around the same time I began to embark on bird watching hikes. On a weekly basis I would explore various nature preserves in northern Illinois, and Seth became an ever present fixture at my side during these excursions. Often we would go to Glacial Park, near Ringwood, IL and hike the giant kame (glacial deposit). We would descend the other side in to a valley that had a cluster of cottonwoods, and a recently 'restored' Nippersink creek. The cottonwoods would be full of tree swallows in spring and summer. I would watch the swallows while Seth would take a dip in the creek to cool off. He opened me up in so many ways, some of which, I am sure, lead directly to my decision to become a mother. I enjoyed trying to see the world through his eyes. Dogs live in the present moment, as do babies. We forget how to do this as adults, I think, and need to be reminded from time to time.

One of the last walks I took with Seth, was through a tiny forest preserve not far from where I live. The preserve is about the size of a city block, and currently is full of blooming trillium, and the sounds of warblers and woodpeckers. On this particular walk, Seth stopped on the path and pricked his ears up. I looked ahead about 25 feet, and there on the path stood a fox. It quietly observed us, and then after several minutes the fox approached even closer, stopping within 15 ft. All creatures, human and canine, regarded one another silently without fear or agression. Then, the fox turned and slipped in to the dense forest undergrowth. We stood for a moment soaking in this little fox benediction, and then continued on our way. Little did I know then that there was a terrible mass festering in Seth's heart, and that as a result of that mass, this would be one of my last walks with him. When I think of Seth now, I often think of that walk and the fox. I am not religious, nor do I have any firm belief in an afterlife. That said, I do like to think that if there is an afterlife, that there was a friendly fox waiting for my dog to gently guide him over that bridge. I miss you, buddy.

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