Monday, April 4, 2016

Great Blue Heron

It has been a long time since I added some new stuff to the blog.  I am working on a new project and will have some new sketches/illustrations coming.  Here is a portrait of one of my favorite birds - Great Blue Heron!

Monday, March 3, 2014


A few sketches from my field journal from this long winter.
A lot of days like this this winter.  Im not sure where this year ranks in snowfall numbers, but right now 2013-2014 winter ranks as the 4th coldest on record in Illinois.  For the Dec-Feb period we had an average temperature of 20.8 degrees, the coldest on record 1977-1978 at 19.6 degree average temperature.  The 1981-2010 statewide average for Dec-Feb is 29.0 degrees.

A portrait of a 100+ year old white oak showing the scars of storms and neighboring treefalls.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Monarch of the Woods - Bur Oak


In 2001, as a college undergraduate, I started working for the Committee on Natural Areas at the University of Illinois.  One of my responsibilities was to record tree falls that occurred in University Research Forests, one of these sites, Brownfield Woods, quickly became my favorite! Brownfield Woods is a 60 acre remnant of the original “Big Grove” prairie grove present in Champaign County, IL pre-settlement. Although Brownfield has a history of very selective timber harvest and cattle grazing it is often referred to as “virgin”.  My first encounter with the Monarch of the Woods came in 2001 and it has been one of my all-time favorite trees ever since.  At 71” diameter at 4 ½ feet above the ground (DBH) it is the largest tree in the forest.

The 2nd largest tree in the forest, another bur oak fell on April 2, 2006 it was 70” DBH, a cross-section of the tree ages it somewhere around 380 years old.  To put that into some historical perspective – the acorn that produced this tree germinated around 1626; less than 10 years after the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts.

In 1926 C.J. Telford authored a paper on Brownfield Woods and at that time the largest tree in the forest was the same tree that holds that place today.  Telford called this tree the Monarch of the Woods and it still is today, in 1926 it had a DBH of 65” and over the last 88 years it has only added 6” of trunk diameter.  Below is a photo of the Monarch in 1926 and one taken this month (2014).

It is hard to get the feel for how big this tree is especially considering it is a forest grown specimen not an open grown tree.  Here is a panoramic self-portrait made from 5 photos of the tree and I.
Here is another sketch I made of the base of the tree showing the mossy base, areas of smooth patch fungus (harmless) and of course the large burl that is about 8-9 feet up on the trunk.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Charley Harper again!

I have not updated my blog in quite some time and that is primarily due to the fact that we welcomed a new baby boy, Clark, to our family in June.  Clark has kept us busy and I have not had much time to draw or paint since his arrival.  When my first son, Sullivan, was born I painted a large mural of animals in the style of Charley Harper for his bedroom and later painted a series of small paintings to spell his name also in the style of Charley Harper. See those two projects here and here.  My wife asked if I could do one for our new baby’s room and suggested that it be a night scene with an owl that spelled his name.  So this weekend I finally took the time to paint what I had been thinking of since she first made the request. 

The animals that I am trying to represent are – Snowy owl, little brown bat (2), white-footed mouse (2), raccoon, and saw-whet owl.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Northern Harrier

Living in rural east central Illinois I see my fair share of red-tailed hawks along the interstate and country roads, but there are two other birds of prey that I see often and are more exciting - American kestrels and northern harriers.  I recently illustrated an American kestrel perched as I always see them.  I seldom see northern harriers perched but I often see them almost motionless hovering over fields looking for prey.  It is an amazing sight to see how they are able to almost stop and float - I wanted to try and capture this image.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Northern Parula

Most of the time I like to draw birds and other subjects without a background, I prefer the crisp edges and it is much faster.  I decided to try and put a very Spring-like background behind this Northern parula.  The bird is almost all done in colored pencil while the background is almost all watercolor.  Below are some in-progress photos.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Charley Harper

I have always admired the work of Charley Harper and blogged about my first attempt to paint in his style here.  This time I had the idea to do a series of animals in the style of Harper where each canvas represented a letter of the alphabet.  I started by painting eight canvases to create my son's name - Sullivan.  Each canvas is 6"X6" and these are in acrylic.  Here is a scan of the letter N and a couple pictures of the eight paintings on the wall.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grand River Conservation Authority Hickory Sign

 I was recently asked by an employee of the Grand River Conservation Authority if I could provide some illustrations of hickory fruit for an educational sign to be placed on their property.  I have been fortunate to work for three different organizations in the past and all have had missions that included environmental education so I am familiar with the process of putting these signs together and need to do it on a budget.  I have never been to the Grand River Conservation Authority, but as a crow flies it is not very far from The Holden Arboretum where I most recently worked so I am familiar with the forests of the region.  If you would like to see these hickory illustrations and more check out my posts on hickory fruit and hickory twigs.

Friday, January 25, 2013

American kestrel

I have been wanting to do another bird illustration and almost everyday as I drive down county road 1100 I am inspired by an American kestrel perched in a fence row.  I finally got around to doing the drawing.  It is roughly 12"X12" and all colored pencil.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Showy Lady Slipper

I have been meaning to do this drawing for awhile and actually started it in July right after these orchids flowered in June in a fen in Northeast Ohio.  While I worked in Ohio I was responsible for monitoring this population of showy lady slippers (Cypripedium reginae) on an annual basis.  Showy lady slipper flowers are about the size of a chicken egg making them one of the largest of the native orchids - it is also covered with hairs that can cause poison ivy-like dermatitis on some people.  I never had an issue with orchid hairs but I have with the poison sumac (Rhus vernix) that shares the same habitat.  Besides the poison sumac the fen was always a very enjoyable place to spend the day counting orchids and botanizing.  Also in this illustration are two sedge species Carex leptalea (3 flowering culms) and Carex interior (1 flowering stem) that are commonly found with the orchids. 
This is 16"X20" and done with Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils - I had to scan it in four pieces and splice them together resulting in some inconsistencies in color.