Friday, December 31, 2010

Painting 100! American Tree Sparrow with Cubes :-D

Painting #100, American Tree Sparrow with Cubes
Acrylic, 18x24 canvas

The canvas was big...and the lighting poor, so the photo doesn't capture the painting very well. I need to learn how to photograph large canvases because after working on this one, I know I'm going to want to keep getting larger with my art! To help see the bird, I cropped the photo for detail..

Same painting...just cropped for detail.

I love American Tree Sparrows. They are the sweetest little sparrows, always polite and cheerful, and their song...I LOVE hearing it across the snow. It's so tiny little bells when the flock moves together. When I was trying to decide what to paint for the final painting in the challenge, it wasn't hard. I was looking through photos from the end of November and saw a photo of an American Tree Sparrow I saw at VOA Park. A twig was right in front of his face, so it never made it on the blog...but...I could paint the little fellow so we could see all of his face. I wanted to capture that sweetness that always seems to surround these little birds. Hopefully you can feel that when you look at him in the painting.

The photo of the American Tree Sparrow that was the inspiration for the painting. I saw this little guy on Nov 21, 2010 at VOA Park. Our little backyard flock still hasn't arrived at our feeders. I keep waiting. Sometimes they don't show until the middle of January, though. They seem to ride in on really cold arctic blasts...

For my favorite photos of an American Tree Sparrow in our backyard, click here.
For one of my earliest posts and info on American Tree Sparrows, click here.

Happy New Year!!!
I also wanted to thank everyone who visits my blog. I always love reading the comments you leave, and I appreciate the friendships that have followed. It's so wonderful to be part of an international birding and art community!! I hope everyone has a peaceful New Year full of love and birding and art adventures!

I also want to thank Laure Ferlita of Painted Thoughts Blog for hosting the 100 Paintings in a Year Challenge. It has been a wonderful experience! Thanks, Laure!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Painting #99, Robin Berry

Painting 99, Robin Berry
Acrylic, 16x20 Canvas

Do you recognize this American Robin? She showed up in this post earlier in the month. Matty loves this one. He wants to take it with him when he leaves for college (he's 15 now...let's see if he feels that way when he's 18. A Robin eating a berry might not be cool enough for a college dorm room!) This is the first time I've put acrylic on a real canvas. I liked the feel of the canvas and working on the larger size.

...same painting cropped down. I like the crop...I could see myself buying notecards of something like this.

...the painting at an earlier stage. I took out all the fuzzy orange "out-of-focus-in-the-background" berries and in the process overworked the sky. I probably should have kept it at this stage. I had actually signed it and considered it finished (and I never sign my paintings...I always forget to. I'm working on that.).

...same painting at its earliest stage. I whipped it out in about 40 minutes and then headed off to bed. I almost like it more than the finished product. It's a completely different style...a little more graphic with no detail and a bolder red breast. Which do you like better?

...painting 100 is in the works! Yeah! It's a sweet little American Tree Sparrow (and is even larger at 18x24). I hope to finish it today or tomorrow.

I posted paintings 86 - 97 on the 100 Paintings Challenge site. I will try to add them in to this post later this evening.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What IS that cat looking at???

Bip, our Cornish Rex cat, looks scary, but couldn't be sweeter. He seems to have spotted something...

What IS that cat looking at???

Mice--lots of them!! Oh no...

Unfortunately, I think I ate more of them than Bip did...

...and here's the baker!
Rick makes fab Night Before Christmas mouse cookies...and looks great in my Christmas apron too!

Night Before Christmas Mice Cookies

3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract)
1 large egg
Sliced almonds (for ears)
10 feet of red or black licorice laces cut into 3-inch strips (for tails)
Small tube of black and pink icing for nose and eyes (or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy (about 2 minutes on medium-high speed). Add in sugar, beating until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add flour mixture gradually, mixing on low speed until blended.
  4. Scrape dough onto large piece of plastic wrap and cover completely with wrap. Refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls (about 2 hours, or overnight).
  5. Form the mice: Roll small pieces of dough into 1 ¼-inch ovals. Bring one side to a point to form nose. Gently pinch bridge of nose to form eye sockets. Place 2 sliced almonds behind eyes to make ears.
  6. Place mice 2 inches apart on the parchment-covered cookie sheets, and bake until golden brown on bottom and edges (about 15 minutes).
  7. Form the tails: Immediately insert skewer into the rounded side of the mouse about ½ inch deep. Remove skewer and insert a strip of licorice tail as far as it will go. The tail will melt a little and stick to the warm cookie. Pipe small eyes (black icing) and a small nose (pink icing) onto each mice (or use melted chocolate placed in a parchment cone; if you use melted chocolate to form eyes and nose, refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mares eat oats, and does eat oats...but little lambs eat ivy!

The lambs outside the stable at the live nativity at Krohn Conservatory were so sweet. They made the old song "Mairzy Doats" pop into my mind (which continued to run through my mind the entire day)...

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
...If the words sound queer and funny to your ear,
...a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.
A kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you?"

(by Milton Drake, All Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston, 1943)

"Where's the ivy? Bahhh... All I have to eat is hay!"

I don't know what Cow-Lambs eat. Do you, Dad? ;-)

"Mmmm...ivy...eating ivy in my dreams..."

The stable with a live nativity at Krohn Conservatory.

Snow frosted trees and a view of Eden Park from the stable.

...and on the other side of the street in a hazy, snowy, river fog stands a beautiful Victorian-Eclectic building officially called the Eden Park Stand Pipe, often called the Eden Park Water Tower, and mostly called the Huge Red Brick Castle Tower Across from the Krohn Conservatory.

I looked it up and learned it was a stand pipe for the Cincinnati Water Works. Its period of significance was 1875-1899 and the architect was Samuel Hannaford & Sons. (Click here for more info on this historical building.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Painting 98. The stockings were hung on the branches with care in the hopes that Chiggy Nicholas soon would be there!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Birds flock to huge tree at the Krohn Conservatory...

Regional variations are detected!
Holiday cheer abounds...

A beautiful Great Blue Heron hand painted by a local artist looks up trying to see the top of the towering tree. Note the soft pink highlights, which are a winter plumage variation only found in Cincinnati in December...and then again, only in Eden Park at the Krohn Conservatory!

Officials at the Krohn have put out bird houses to handle the influx of birds here for the Holiday Season. The houses are claimed quickly. Here a Forked-tail Spiky Red stakes out its territory. You can only find this variation in December in the towering pine in Eden Park.

Oops...not birds, but super cute. These two Christmas mice needed to be photographed.

A beautiful Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from an equally beautiful Morning Glory! In most cities with snow, the hummingbirds have long since headed south, but the Cincy variations are tough. Note the pronounced white-tipped feathers. This adaptation helps the bright beauties blend into the snow-covered branches in this microcosm of the north.

An Egret tries to hide behind a bright yellow garland made of dried Black-eyed Susans. I think if I could find a beautiful, bright garland of Black-eyed Susans I'd hide behind it too!

Two little Walnut Pixie Owls (another local variation) peep from their home. Let's hope the mice on the upper branches keep an eye out for these adorable, but efficient predators. Looks can be deceiving...

The gargantuan tree itself!
All the ornaments on the tree were handcrafted from natural materials--all made by volunteers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating Winter Solstice at Krohn Conservatory

We've been celebrating Winter Solstice with my parents for a long time, usually with a relaxed dinner at my house that is quite and unhurried...and always lovely. It is a night to step back from the hustle and bustle and marvel at the pine boughs and the green tree sparkling with lights, but this year we decided to celebrate the day too. In Cincinnati, one of the most festive and beautiful places to go during the Christmas season is the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park. The "flower house" was completed in 1933 and has over 3,500 plants from around the world, all growing lush and green under the massive glass panes.

Matty and my parents, Jerry and Joni, stand outside the Krohn Conservatory. Tucked into Eden Park on a hillside that overlooks downtown Cincinnati, the Krohn Conservatory is a tiny gem that brightens many a grey winter's day in our town.

Christmas magic sparkles everywhere in our town, but it's especially manifest at the Krohn Conservatory. Where else can you find a towering poinsettia tree growing in natural splendor in the dead of winter?

Poinsettias of every color and style blanket the ground, looking especially festive under orange, kumquat, lemon and grapefruit citrus trees.

Matty in the desert room. When you're in the Krohn Conservatory you spend a lot of time looking up...and down...and around...there are so many unique plants and flowers to see.

Dad with his camera...gotcha!

Inside the glass and aluminum structure, cacti, succulents and other desert plants grow in warmth, while outside, snow falls. An empty picnic table at the base of a massive oak tree is beautiful surrounded by the stillness of a Winter Solstice snow...

Don't be fooled. They are smiling because visions of a Winter Solstice lunch at Maggiano's are going through their heads...

Mom wipes condensation from the glass to look out at a sparkling winter scene.

The conservatory looms behind a beautiful Nativity that has been a part of Cincinnati Christmases since 1939. Originally located in Lytle Park on Fourth Street in downtown Cincinnati, it was moved to the Krohn Conservatory in 1967.

More to come on the beauty of a Winter Solstice in Cincinnati...

Ghosts of Christmases Past II...1992

Christmas Manger with Lamb and Birds, 1992

The idea for this card started in my head with the image of birds landing on a rickety and old manger. It just seemed natural that a lamb would be standing next to it. I also remember when I sat down to create this card I thought I'd never be able to capture anything like the Christmas Angel from the previous year, but in the end I was happy with it. The little birds stole my heart with this one. They are so sweet, and I can imagine them singing for the baby.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Dark-eyed Junco at odd angles...

This little Dark-eye Junco just wouldn't turn around. She was determined to stay out of the eye of the lens, but that made her all the more interesting!

I like this one because it almost captures that little "seed dance" they do. You can see the snow flying as she tries to rake up seeds buried in the snow.

A Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper's Hawk were around that day, and the Dark-eyed Junco was ever-vigilant looking skyward for a swoop from above!

For bird photography from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A ball of fluff...

...was sitting outside my window.

As I walked past the window a few days ago, I had to do a double-take to figure out what this ball of fluff was. Can you tell? It's a male House Finch. It was about 12°F when I took the photo. I think the little fellow decided he had had enough of the cold and was going to sleep it out. He stayed curled up for about 3 minutes. He might have stayed longer, but Bip Our Cat was busy pawing and knocking on the glass and no doubt disturbed the fluffy little tumbleweed.

He then flew to the crabapple tree and gave me a few glamor shots...

To see bird photography from around the world, check out