Thursday, December 14, 2017

Still time to see "Birds!"

NEW! "Novem" Oil - 4 x 4 inches

American Robins stick around fairly late into the fall and winter and I always wonder when they're going to head south. This year, we had an early snowstorm in October that brought over 10 inches, but down by Lake Superior just a stone's throw away, they got a lot less snow from the same system. So, this year's robins had places nearby to search for food that wasn't covered by all that snow. And of course, trees that are beneficial to wildlife give these birds sustenance before their migration to warmer climates. Some robins stick around all winter, but I haven't seen that at my home. I'm always looking for native plants that are beneficial to wildlife, especially birds, so any native tree or shrub with berries is a hit with me. Areas of my yard that are left to grow wild bring me so much more joy and entertainment than a well-manicured one, so every year mowed areas become fewer and fewer as natives start taking over. I try to help nature with new plantings every year.

In other news, thank you to all who attended the opening of Birds! now showing at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN. What a wonderful turnout, thank you, thank you, thank you! I met so many wonderful people! I liked answering questions during the Gallery Talk segment, which I found a lot easier to do than just talk about myself. That's hard for me. If you haven't seen the show, there's still time. It runs through December, so check your calendar and the weather and make the trip, if you can. I haven't shown my work on such a grand scale since 2011, so I am thankful to MacRostie for the opportunity, including First National Bank of Coleraine (Minnesota Gallery sponsor) and Edward Jones (Marketplace sponsor). A very special thank you to my Mom for making the long trip this week. Herbie, what a good friend and driver you are!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Birds! opens Friday

Birds! opens this Friday at MacRostie, and is showing throughout the month of December. If you're interested in seeing my work in person, then this show is for you! I don't show my work very often, so if you've been waiting for an up-close-and-personal look at my bird paintings, please consider a visit to MacRostie.

Dec. 1 - Dec. 30
405 Northwest 1st Avenue
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Opening Reception Friday, Dec. 1, 4-7 pm
Regular Hours M-Sat 10 am - 5 pm
Closed Sundays
Free admission

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pine Grosbeak in Northern White Cedar

 Oil - 20 x 20 inches

Pine Grosbeaks have shown up already this winter and are busy eating crabapples from the tree in my front yard. Just feet away is a Northern White Cedar that hugs my garage. It provides a little more protection for these cold-weather birds. This female grosbeak was seen on January 10, 2016 in that tree, a frigid day when the high was zero degrees Fahrenheit.

This painting took months, and the detail turned out to be more than I bargained for. I’ve said this before, that when I start a painting, I really don’t know how involved it’s going to be. Of course, I have some idea, but it’s not really until the first application of paint that tells me where it’s going. That’s just me, I guess. Less detail would have taken this painting less time, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been happy with it.

Painting foliage is tricky. Part of me likes the challenge of figuring out how it all comes together, the other part drives me mad.

I had never seen a Pine Grosbeak until I moved to Duluth. Now, they seem as common in winter as Robins in spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bowman's Willet

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

Here's a Western Willet from the shores of Sanibel Island, FL. These large shorbirds are somewhat accustomed to humans and will simply walk, or quickstep, around you if you're in their way of hunting for food. All birds have their own characteristics, and as far as this one goes, I like its low-keyed nature.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Palm Warbler on the Skunk Cabbage Trail

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

This past summer, I've spent a significant amount of time working on a larger piece which will be posted soon. In the meantime, I'll catch you up on some smaller works that have been drying in my drawer for a couple of months now.  

I almost named this painting Hot Potato, except that would’ve been more of a reflection of my experience shortly after I saw this Palm Warbler at Banning State Park in Minnesota. It was May of this year, and even though it was a pretty nice day to go for a walk in the park, the ground was very wet in many areas, especially on the Skunk Cabbage Trail. Birding was a bit disappointing overall. I expected to see a lot more than just this warbler and a couple of robins, but that’s how it goes sometimes. After catching glimpses of this bird bathing in a puddle in the woods, it flew to a branch to preen. With disheveled feathers, it had a lot of work to do. But I didn’t stay long on the trail at all because I soon discovered a deer tick on my pants. After removing it, I hightailed it back to the paved road as if the trail were on fire, zigzagging through muddy puddles, fallen logs, and patches of grass as fast as I could. My feet were like hot potatoes trying to keep those nasty arachnids away from me! When it comes to those critters, I'm a wimp.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Now Showing at 2017 'Birds in Art'

A highlight in any artist's career, this was my inaugural year to have a painting accepted into this prestigious, internationally renowned "bird art" exhibition. Blackbird on Washington Island is one of 94 works of bird art selected from over 800 entries to be included in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's 42nd annual Birds in Art exhibition. The show runs September 9 through November 26, 2017.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Now Showing at the MN State Fair

Fine Arts Building
August 24-Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2017
Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul, MN
1442 Cosgrove St. inside the State Fairgrounds
Free Admission with your paid admission ticket to the State Fair 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Oil, 4 x 4 inches

I’m quite taken by the toughness and tenacity of the male, Red-winged Blackbird. Have you seen this bird's aerial karate when chasing away predators like hawks or eagles five times its size? Perhaps you’ve gotten dive-bombed by one protecting its nesting territory. If an expression about humans could apply to this bird, it would be “Good men are plenty, but strong men are few.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Good Times at the Bistro

Here is a little painting of a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. These birds come through my neck of the woods in the spring and fall, and this spring they seemed to hang around a little longer than usual, around 2-3 weeks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Popsicles and Lolly Pops

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Last year’s garden gave me quite a few opportunities to watch hummingbirds feed from something other than my store-bought feeder. They visited my zinnias and sunflowers the most, and of course, my oregano. Near the front of my home, a female in my honeysuckle vine attracted a male’s U-shaped swoops, his mating behavior. I didn’t know this at the time, but it was thrilling to see.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ives and May

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Ives is a Yellow-crowned Night Heron from J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. While sight-seeing the area on a bicycle, I noticed this bird enjoying morning winks cozied inside the leaves of a mangrove. My reference photo of Ives is from my 2012 archives. It’s a painting I’ve wanted to do for several years.

In other art news, a painting of mine has been accepted into Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s 2017 Birds in Art exhibition in Wausau, Wisconsin. More details will be provided in another post closer to the show’s opening in September, or you can read about it here.

Just like the last few years, May continues to be my busiest month living in Duluth. Continuing along the lines of the last two years, Terry and I planted 150 native trees and shrubs May 11-13th, adding to open areas in the woods, the ditch, and in our yard. This year’s plantings included white pine, jack pine, white cedar, white spruce, pin cherries, peach-leaf willows, silver maples and hazelnuts. I’ve included some photos below, both of this year’s plantings and prior. The plants are from South St. Louis County’s Tree and Shrub sale held every spring. Most are young seedlings, and some just look like sticks, but that makes them affordable.

Prior years’ plantings are doing well overall. Three are worth mentioning: white pines, jack pines and nannyberries. The pines are doing great, and after seeing almost all of them growing strong last fall, I quickly, and somewhat frantically, caged them before our first snowfall. Given the density of the wood’s ground vegetation, I was thrilled to see these little trees poking out after all of the other flora had died back in November. Nannyberries were purposed as a ditch plant, but did not do well. This spring, I found only five out of twenty-five plantings. Pin Cherries and pussy willows have joined the remaining nannyberries in the ditch, as I work to return this area back to nature. Anything else, except invasives and tall trees, that lives in the ditch can grow to its heart’s content. Beware of the lawn mower no more.

In birding news, yesterday was a huge migration day here in Duluth. Most of my day was spent outside staring into the trees. Do you think I get strange looks from neighbors and passersby? Two birds were added to my life list: a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and a Connecticut Warbler. As mentioned, May is a busy month, and what better way to end it than spotting two birds that I’ve never recognized before? These latest additions bring the total number of bird species identified at my home to 89. And I still haven’t seen a Palm Warbler here yet. For goodness sakes! Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend everyone! Don’t forget to take in some art along the way.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Moonshine & Little Big Show Opens Friday

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

The American Bittern is one odd bird. Secretive and sloth-like with its movements, the Bittern creeps through tall grasses and blends easily with its surroundings thanks to its neutral-colored feathers and lime-green feet. And when it feels it might be in danger, it will stretch its neck straight into the air and hold this pose in an effort to camouflage with its swampy, weedy habitat. I did not go searching for this bird, but happened upon it in a marshy area in Madison, WI, and witnessed all of these behaviors. Its sound is very unusual, too, similar to a big gulp of water. Such are the wild adventures that are the most thrilling and memorable to me. When the unexpected happens, nature can really be fulfilling.

In additional news, MacRostie's Little Big Show opens this Friday, 4-7 pm, in Grand Rapids, MN. The show is part of the city's First Friday Art Walk when businesses are open later than normal. Wine and music by Sam Miltich from 4-6 pm, artist talks begin at 6 pm. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by Bill Rutherford. My miniature of a Hermit Thrush is in the show, highlighted in a previous blog post. Other miniatures of mine are for sale throughout the gallery. Below is my miniature painting of an American Goldfinch that recently sold at MacRostie.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Box Kite Flyer

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

When these birds show up in the spring, the season's snowfalls aren't far from over. Fox Sparrows are large sparrows compared to the others, and are distinctively rust-colored with bold chest patterns. Perhaps just as strong of an identifier are their scratching manners. While foraging on the ground, Fox Sparrows will make small hops forward, then scratch back with their entire bodies to uncover tasty bits of food.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Baltimore Orioles have warm rich songs, so I often hear them before I see them. At my home, these birds only pass through in the spring and fall, so my chances of seeing them are fairly low. I like to keep my windows open while I work so I don't miss their visits, even if the temperatures are still in the 30s.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mandolin Along the Taconite Trail

This little oil painting depicts a Hermit Thrush that was right above me in a red pine as I walked on the Taconite State Trail in Grand Rapids, MN, a couple of years ago. It was my first time visiting the trail, and it was a beautiful, sunny, April day, not unlike today. This painting will be in MacRostie’s Little Big Show in Grand Rapids, MN. Opening reception is Friday, May 5th, 4-7 pm. The show runs through May 26, 2017.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Purple finches have beautiful, warbler-like songs in the spring, and if they're not at my feeder, then they're hanging out in the pines above. I find their voices particularly rich, tender, and expressive on quiet, still mornings, when they have the echoes of the forest all to themselves.

Friday, March 31, 2017

When Buttercup Smiles

Here's a little painting that I've wanted to do for years now. This is a male Goldfinch who often frequented my nyjer feeder when I used to live in Wisconsin.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Mac Easy

Here's a little painting of a chipping sparrow who spent time going back and forth through my fence last summer, with my bird feeder on one side and the warmth of the sun on the other.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Golden-crowned Kinglet in Fall

It was clear to me that the forest's energy was in a holding pattern, reserved, and wary of disturbances on a late October day. Movements besides mine weren't going to happen except with a little luck. I wasn't expecting much. I had already walked a bit and settled into the smell of fresh air, my camera relinquished to my side. Such are the waning days of fall, when life recedes backwards until the first snowfall slingshots the next season into play.

I've become familiar with kinglets over the past few years, and when neither sound nor clear sight of this bird is possible, its movements will almost always reveal its species. Such was the case with this little guy whose flitting caught my attention while he foraged in heavy brush. Alas! It was the luck I'd been hoping for.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, he alighted onto the path in front of me, somewhere, just a few feet away. But where? Even though I was sure of his position, I couldn't see him. We both stood still, so very still, a meeting of strangers, with only one visible to the other. I lifted my camera no further than my waist and took a random shot, knowing that milliseconds mattered. Experience has taught me this over the years. And it just so happened: right place, right time, good focus, and one perfect little bird. What a delicate composition of fleeting moments just before he disappeared back into the forest unseen. This is a male, Golden-crowned Kinglet, an original oil painting from my forest adventures on October 20th, 2016.