Sketches and Watercolors From My Trip Back East

Alligators at Harris Neck NWR, Georgia
Alligators at Harris Neck NWR, Georgia

Here’s an album of the art I created while I was traveling last month. I had a lot of fun drawing the alligators at the Okefenokee NWR and Harris Neck NWR. They’re good models because they don’t move much. There really is no substitute for drawing from live animals, although I took a ton of photos, too. Other than the one at the top, they’re in chronological order, starting with New York. All but one pencil sketch was done with a Sakura Micron .02 black pen. I used a Pentalic Nature Sketch 7×5″ sketchbook, a very handy size. Drawings on white paper are difficult to scan or photograph. I lightened them as much as I could.

Central Park View
Central Park View
Calfornia sea lion, Central Park Zoo, New York
Calfornia sea lion, Central Park Zoo, New York
Resting grizzly bear, Central Park Zoo, New York
Resting grizzly bear, Central Park Zoo, New York
Turtles, snow leopard cub, Central Park Zoo, New York
Turtles, snow leopard cub, Central Park Zoo, New York
Pronghorn head mount and hat, Explorers Club, New York
Pronghorn head mount and hat, Explorers Club, New York
Cheetah mount, Explorers Club, New York; White ibis, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Cheetah mount, Explorers Club, New York; White ibis, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Ibis in tree
White ibis in tree, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Water lily, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia; River cooter (turtle), Harris Neck NWR, Georgia
Water lily, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia; River cooter (turtle), Harris Neck NWR, Georgia
Alligator 2
Alligator, Harris Neck NWR, Georgia
Alligator leg 3
Alligator front leg, Harris Neck, NWR. Georgia
Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island, Geogia
Alligator Crazy 4
“Crazy”, 12′ long, 800-900 lb. bull alligator, Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
Farmstead, Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
Alligator details 5
Alligator details, Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
Bald Cypress tree
Bald cypress tree, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Cypress roots
Bald cypress roots, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Cypress and alligator
Bald cypress, American alligator, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia
Live oak and moss
Live oaks and Spanish moss, Fort Clinch State Park, Amelia Island, Florida
Savannah, egrets
Savannah NWR, South Carolina
Pencil birds
Birds, Hudson River Valley, New York State

When I got back north and was up in the Hudson River Valley, I visited Olana, the home of American artist Frederic Church. The house wasn’t open but the grounds were. It was windy and pretty cold, but I was determined to do at least a couple of watercolors since the view from the house is famous and has been painted by a number of artists over the years.

Hudson River from Olana
Hudson River from Olana, New York State; 8×8″
Catskills from Olana
Catskill Mountains from Olana, New York State; 8×8″

I also spent a couple of days with an artist friend at his home in the Hudson River Valley. We spent one morning on location at this lovely pond.

Pond wc
Pond, Hudson River Valley, New York State; 8×8″

Mongolia Monday- WildArt Mongolia Expedition Destinations: Altai Mountains and Sharga

Mongolia country map with destination area
Expedition destinations by species

I leave for Mongolia a week from tomorrow! 

I posted about one of the three WildArt Mongolia Expedition destinations here. Today I’m going to cover the other two- the Altai Mountains and Sharga. The difficulty is that I have never been to any of them, so I don’t have any images to share. For Takhiin Tal, I used a photo from Khomiin Tal, the newest takhi release site, which is to the north. So I’ll post a couple of my own images that show similar terrain, based on what I’ve seen for both on Google Images.

The Mongolian Altai Mountains in Mongolia are the extension of a range that extends east from Kazakhstan. I saw the Gobi Altai Mountains during my 2010 two-week camping trip when we went to Orog Nuur, a remote lake. Farther west they are much higher and more rugged. The Expedition is going in September to be there between the summer heat of the Gobi and snow beginning in the mountains. We will go to the Altai Mountains first, in early September, but snow is still a possibility, so I’ll have a down bag and thermals, just in case.

Gobi Altai mountains at sunrise, Orog Nuur, July 2010

The reason we’re going is to see snow leopard habitat. These elusive cats are essentially impossible to spot. Researchers who have trapped and collared them have walked away and looked back to where they know they left the cat and have been utterly unable to see it. But we’ll keep an eye out anyway.

Sharga was an area of Mongolia that I had not heard of until I added saiga antelope to the list of the Expedition’s featured species. They are critically endangered. Less than twenty years ago there were over a million. The population crashed to under 50,000 in ten years, the most extreme drop ever seen in a large mammal species. Poaching and lax law enforcement after the fall of the communist government in the 1990s were the cause. Intense conservation efforts are under way to save them and build up the population, something we plan to learn more about.

Steppe grasslands, July 2011, traveling north from Ikh Nartiin Chuluu to Gun-Galuut

Sharga has some of the last stretches of the vast steppe grasslands that once extended from almost the Pacific west into Hungary. It is an area also known for producing what are considered by many to be the best horses, called Sharga Azarga,  in a country that seriously knows horses.

Arrangements are being made for a local reserve ranger to accompany us to help spot the saiga since they apparently now run at the slightest sight of humans and understandably so.

One of the missions of the WildArt Mongolia Expedition is, by traveling to these remote, beautiful places, to use the art that we will create to draw attention to them and the wildlife that lives there.

To Finish Yesterday’s Post….

I ran into serious problems posting the images of the kittens yesterday and finally gave it up and wrote to tech support. Turns out, doesn’t it figure, that it was something I had done with a setting that I shouldn’t have. But the reason I bring it up is to pass on how quick and great the tech support was! Three Cheers for WordPress!

So, since it’s the next day, here’s a new ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY, one of my all-time favorites for truth and pithiness, from Edgar Degas, who knew a thing or two about painting:

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”


Had a good turnout this year. Lots of nice people, many of them first time visitors. Here’s a photo of the studio ready to go, with Niki also ready to help with hosting. He appointed himself Official Escort To And From The Cars, much to the amusement of the attendees.


Just finished this one yesterday. The reference was a print photo that I had been meaning to paint for ages. It’s important to see the warm tones in the snow leopard’s coat, which is similiar to polar bears. It’s an oil on canvas on board and is 24″x18″, so the head is life-sized or maybe a little larger. If you are interested in snow leopard conservation, check out the Snow Leopard Trust at

Great weekend and more to come!

I had a terrific time doing North Coast Open Studios this year, not the least because I sold the coyote painting shown below in my June 3 post. The title is now “Double Check”

Lots of nice people, most of whom had not been to my studio before. On Saturday afternoon, one couple stopped by who had driven all the way from Ukiah just for the event. She had researched the artists and chosen the ones they wanted to visit, since, with over 100, there wasn’t time to see them all. I was very flattered to make the cut!

I’m now in prep mode for the Marin Art Festival and will head south on Friday. Really looking forward to it. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 80’s, though. I paid an extra $25 for electricity, so the portable fan goes with me. I ain’t suffering for my art if I can help it.

Today I’ve been scanning drawings for new notecards. Here’s three of them, a jackrabbit, spotted hyena and a snow leopard:

The next big event for me locally will be Wild Visions 2, a group show consisting of myself, Paula Golightly, John Wesa, Linda Parkinson, Shawn Gould. This time we are showing with Meridian Fine Art at the Umpqua Bank Community Gallery. There will be a reception the second Friday in August, so save the date! More as it gets closer.

What a trip….

Finally got a chance to sift through my images from my trip to Missoula and Denver. Here’s what it was like at Denver International Airport on May 1, which was my outbound leg. The airport was closed down for almost an hour due to heavy, blowing snow. Then we were number six in line for de-icing at twenty minutes per plane. Had never seen de-icing before, won’t mind if I never do again- Happy May Day?

My camera luck ran out in Missoula. Digital SLRs and lenses don’t go well with pavement, so one of the Nikon D70s and the 28-300mm go in for repairs today. In the meantime, I couldn’t stand the thought of going to the Denver Zoo sans camera, so I went to a nifty camera store in Missoula and bought a Nikon Coolpix S10. Same file size as the D70, 6mg, 10x super zoom, decent “shutter” speed, supposedly. Well, we’d see about that. Fifty bucks for a 2gb card and I was set, I hoped.

I really put it through its paces and I’m very impressed. It wouldn’t do the job out in the field, too slow, but for anything that isn’t moving too fast, it did great! Here’s two images that will show what it can do. The first was through plate glass with no polarizing filter. And yes, those are piranha. The second is a snow leopard who was pacing back and forth waiting for mealtime. I couldn’t get quite what I wanted in terms of variety of leg position, but the focus was decently sharp. The image is more than good enough to use for reference.

And finally, A RECENT VISITOR, at 7:30 in the morning a couple of weeks ago out by the pond. Niki and two of the cats came out with me to see what was going on. We all went our various ways without incident or excitement.