words to paint by

Ah, perfectionism. The greatest hindrance and the greatest motivator. In the microcosm of my brain, writing anything - emails, Instagram captions, text messages, not to mention blog posts are the equivalent of stumbling upon a grizzly bear in the forest without bear spray or any training whatsoever for what to do when encountering a bear in the forest. So many unknowns! So much anxiety! But whatever you do, don't run! (Right? You're not supposed to run, right? Oh dear...)

'Why does it have to be so difficult?' I ask myself almost daily. And the answer (which I forget with regularity) is my old frenemy perfectionism. I'm really scared, guys, of saying the wrong thing! Or worse, saying something inaccurate! Or revealing that I'm a standard-issue flawed human being! And worse still, of my wrong/incorrect/human words being permanent on the interwebs and readable by anyone. Aaaaaaah!

But seriously. This is why this 'prose' page has only a few posts from a few years ago. So many pesky little fears!

If there's one thing I've learned from my practice as an artist, it's practice. Perhaps surprisingly, I lose confidence in my artistic skills quite often, but when I pick up my pencil to start a drawing, I find that I really do know how to draw and, well, if I can draw then I can probably paint too. The conscious act of doing, rather than waiting for that often elusive moment of inspiration or confident ability, is when real beauty happens. 

So I'm hoping that the practice of writing will yield similar results. While I'm not expecting to create any kind of masterpiece here - you can see those under 'paintings' ;) ;) - I do hope to open a window for you to peer into my quiet, sometimes neurotic, hopefully a little funny, artistic world. And if you ever find that window shut - please, do tap on the glass, and I'll do my best to remind my perfectionism to behave itself, and pry the window open again. 

wild encounters

Bird friends! Who's got 'em?

I'm not talking about the human friends you watch birds with (even though they're some of the best, amirite?). I'm also not talking about the friendly strangers you swap photos and stories with on the interwebs, either (although it's one of the neatest things how folks come together over a shared passion!).

I'm talking about the feathered, wild kind. The black-capped chickadee who notices the peanuts you share with the crows. The same chickadee that decides you are trustworthy enough to land on your hand to chose its own morsel.

The ruffed grouse (!!!) that decides she wants to spend 2+ hours chilling with you in the woods.

I met this gorgeous lady in early October at Camlann Medieval Village, and had to ask if she was domesticated in some way, because she not only followed me around like a sweet/territorial puppy, but hopped up on the bench to sit with me, and then this wild magical creature decided that my knee looked like a comfortable perch. And we hung out. Chilled. And time, as magic permeated it, no longer mattered. 

She made these adorable crooning noises, an incessant blend of purr and cluck. And I'll admit I talked with her, too - mimicking her softer sounds and enjoying her attention. 

I don't think it's just Disney that made close encounters with wild animals magical. I mean, really we want wild animals to be wary of us, to keep their distance, to stay wild. But there's something about that tentative trust, that imaginary bond, that anthropomorphic befriending, that makes the world a little brighter, a little more worthwhile, a little more joyful.

ruffed grouse feets 💛

ruffed grouse feets 💛

it's all in the details

The following may be overly technical for most folks who stumble upon my meager attempts at gathering my thoughts into words, but hopefully it will satisfy the curiosity of some. I am often asked about the materials I use in my work, so here is a comprehensive, transparent listing of all my tools, materials and sources! 

watercolors : daniel smith primatek, extra fine, and luminescent watercolors - daniel smith seattle & redmond wa
brushes : escoda reserva 0, black velvet 2 & 4 & 10, black gold by dynasty 000 & 00 & 0 & 8, and various princeton & da vinci brushes - daniel smith, seattle & redmond wa
paper : arches natural white 300 lb hot press - daniel smith, seattle & redmond wa

ink : daler rowney acrylic artists ink
pen & nibs : speedball crow quill pen holder & various nibs - artist & craftsman, seattle wa
paper : fabriano studio watercolor hot press 140 lb paper - daniel smith, seattle & redmond wa

acrylics : golden artist colors - artist & craftsman, seattle wa
mediums : golden mediums matte medium - artist & craftsman, seattle wa

oils : winsor & newton artisan water mixable oil colour - daniel smith, seattle & redmond wa
mediums : winsor & newton artisan water mixable linseed oil & fast drying medium - daniel smith, seattle & redmond wa

printer : the color group - seattle wa
inks : durable, light-fast pigmented inks via Canon imagePROGRAF iPF9000 60" 12-ink system
paper : arches fine art smooth watercolor paper (rag photographique 310gsm hot press) 

gold leaf : monastery leaves 22 karat - dickblick.com
size : old world art gold leaf wunda adhesive size

mats : bainbridge 4ply alphamat full sheet in 8464 matte white (vellum) - framedestination.com
mounting adhesive : pro artist tape - daniel smith, redmond wa
backing : fome-cor acid free 1/8 full sheet - framedestination.com
frames : sierra pacific crafts - ben franklin, redmond wa & aaron brothers, redmond wa

packing material : biodegradable greenwrap - ecoenclose.com
bags : 100% recycled paper shopper - ecoenclose.com
print sleeves : premium crystal clear protective closure bags - clearbags.com
business card paper : strathmore watercolor paper cold press 140 lb 200 series - aaron brothers, redmond wa
shipping boxes : kraft tab locking literature mailers - uline.com
shipping envelopes : jiffy rigi-bag mailers self seal - uline.com

feel free to ask if you have any questions! I'm not promoting any product or vendor in particular here (although there are a few that I simply LOVE - daniel smith, the color group & ecoenclose especially), just sharing what I've found that works for me. 

hummer shower-time

Have you ever seen a hummingbird take a shower? It might be one of the cutest things on this earth. Today I stumbled upon a little jewel, feathers fluffed and tail fanned, enjoying the drops and mist from an old-fashioned sprinkler in one of the UW's gardens. Standing far enough away so as not to disturb her, I watched and photographed as she spread her wings to catch the water, rub her beak repeatedly on branches, poof herself into a pom-pom, and buzz to keep close to the spray. After at least three minutes of this, she flew very close to where I was standing and looked pointedly at me, as if to acknowledge or greet me. Then she zipped off for a quick pollen snack at a flowering shrub nearby, stopped for a moment to rest and stretch on a vine, then went straight back for more shower-time. She looked completely content and happy, as if she were having such fun. It was difficult to pull myself away and head back to work; what a sweet encounter!

a week of wrens

Fledgling, baby bewick's wrens. It's probably their second or third week out of the nest, and they're following their parents around, chirping incessantly. Most often they stay put in a bush, hopping about in their hideaway while mom and dad go bug-hunting. I've seen two families in the space of a week, the first on campus at UW (parents + 2 babies), the second in my front yard (parents + 4 babies). They have been mesmerizing to watch, and surprisingly unaffected by my camera-clicking presence. Curious, even. I always try to keep my distance when I'm watching or photographing birds so as not to startle or disturb them, so it's always a delight when they come near. And these, the epitome of spring, have been the most delightful by far :)

small surprises

I have been photographing birds for over a year now, and still I'm finding feathered friends for the first time with my own eyes. I am constantly delighted by the diversity of the avian world, and how wonderfully accessible these wild creatures are. This week's surprise finds were a western tanager at the UW, a red crossbill (of yellow-orange hue) along the Snoqualmie Valley trail, and a second sighting of the leucistic american robin at Bellevue College. Add to that the red-breasted nuthatches, house finches, white-crowned sparrows, golden-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, wee mallard ducklings, red-tailed hawks, spotted towhees, tree swallows, common mergansers, american goldfinches, fledgling dark-eyed juncos, bewick's wrens, and a tail-less song sparrow, and likely you'll understand why I'm such a bird nerd :)

frankenbird

Steller's jays are frequent visitors to our feeders, but last weekend one of our usual guests was slightly... unusual. Sporting a blue dart straight through his neck, I immediately christened him "Frankenbird." We laughed about it, since he seemed to be a perfectly normal steller's jay in all other respects. 

Never having seen a dart in a bird before, I did some research, and as could be expected, the results were saddening. This is not the first time a bird has been found injured or killed by a blow dart - news stories reported that birds in Central Park in New York and other areas around the U.S. have been targeted in the past. 

Nature is oftentimes as brutal as it is beautiful, and humans contribute their fair share to the equation. Instead of letting sadness or anger rule the day for this fellow, I am simply glad that I am a witness to his life, however long or short it may be. I believe that all things have their time and place, and I'm grateful to have had a glimpse of Frankenbird's.

newly hatched

Once again, spring is here. And like all things blooming and growing, so too do I feel like something emerging from a long winter's sleep. Unlike most web-loggers out there, I've never felt comfortable with the words I write, I've never felt the great need to make my voice heard. But shy and hesitant as I am, I want to flex my wings and make an effort to share things with you. Stories, if you will. Every day I receive some exquisite gift from nature, some moment of discovery or joy, and I grow weary of keeping them all to myself. So if you're a friend, a fellow artist, birder, nature enthusiast, or just love beautiful things, I hope you'll enjoy these small chirps of mine. It might take me some time to find my voice, to trust the words I type, but I have to start, and I think I'll start here with you.