Books, birds, and a broken cot to sleep on.

I remember well when I met my first mocking bird. A sunny California morning some five years ago. It was 7am and I was sleeping on a broken cot inside a closet of an office I rented in a house in this central coast town. The bird landed on a branch that scrapped against my window whenever the wind blew. it sat there for 40 minutes and sang, not repeating himself once. I awoke in amazement. Who is that bird and how do I become friends with it?! my first thought that day, and every encounter since.

I first became aware of the mockingbird from reading Harper Lee’s “To kill a mockingbird”. It was during my freshmen year in high school back in Illinois, English class.

While the bird itself is of smaller significance in the plot of the book. No book I’d read at that age before had woke me to the country I lived in. And the following year I read  “Of Mice and Men”.

The two stories melded together in my mind to form a drive to travel around this American land. Mockingbird wrote me out a moral code, and Of Mice and Men put the wheels on my wagon and got me headed west.

There are a lot of fence posts and telephone wires down all the roads I’ve been down to get to this part of the coast. On those many posts and wires were plenty of different birds. Here and in my books you’ll find them on a page. And come to find out recently my favorite Grateful Dead song, “Jack Straw” was inspired by “Of Mice and Men” as well.

“We used to play for silver, now we play for life”.


Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird.



Atticus has a bird in his name too.


The deeds were done and done again as my life is done in Watermelon Sugar

My life in Watermelon Sugar

My life in Watermelon Sugar


I took a short (week long) break from the warbler/raptors project to make a tribute of sorts to one of my favorite books. This landscape is inspired by Richard Brautigan’s “In Watermelon Sugar”. A short story that paints a tragedy with the greatest beauty.

I’ve developed a little habit of only writing the date on an illustration when its finished. I’ll sign my initials when the pen work is done but never date it until its finished. I started this landscape in 2013, but finished the color tonight. So we’ll call it my first of 2014.

My favorite part of 2013 being over is that I don’t have to write the number 13 anymore as it always looks like a “B”.

Happy 2014 and thank you for stopping through to look at my art, and I wish you all the very best.

I think I’ll draw you some birds this year.

The Watermelon Sugar process.

The Watermelon Sugar process.


Some sources cited.

Some sources cited.

From where I’m sitting I can hear a barn owl screeching outside my window. Now there’s a language I’d love to learn. I can also see a sliver of the moon through a palm tree.

It’s Night time in California.

This will be a bibliography of sorts. It’s a proper thing to cite your sources. Here are some sources:

My father and his father. They both connected with the natural world the way many connect with a church. They showed me a lot of the natural world around the Midwest and Southern United States.

My Uncle Gary, for showing me how to catch birds in my mind and bring them to the page.

My sister, my original partner in crime, who has continuously egged me on to go further and be the best I can.

My mother, who taught me to share my findings with those around me and spread as much good as I can in my life.

My friends. They’re everywhere. All around the greater Chicago-land area and all over Illinois. All across the Midwest, the East coast and west into rocky mountain Colorado. The good folk in California, the boys (and girl) at the bike shop I work at in the Central coast. Those crazy kids up in Portland Or.

My family and friends can be found on every page I will ever fill with ink, color, or lead – that’s the only way I could have left my Midwest home to live in California.

These “sources” are all greater to me than any page in any book

However, that doesn’t mean books aren’t important to me. Aside from the writings of Harrison, Brautigan, and Hemingway, here are some very influential books that have fueled my art and my heart. If you are interested in learning about the many birds of North America check these out.

1. Birds of Prey of the West Field Guide
Stan Tekiela. Adventure Publications, 2011.

2. Stokes: Field Guide to Warblers
Donald and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown and Company, 2004.

3. A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors
Brian K. Wheeler and William S. Clark. Princeton University Press, 1995.

4. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds
David Allen Sibley. Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated, 2000.

5. The Warbler Guide
Brian K. Wheeler and William S. Clark. Princeton University Press, 2013.

6. A Guide to Field Identification: Birds of North America
Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, Herbert S. Zim, Ph.D., and Arthur Singer. Golden Press, New York, 1966.

7. Hawks from Every Angle
Jerry Liguori. Princeton University Press, 2005.

8. Peterson Field Guides: Hawks of North America, 2nd edition
William S. Clark and Brian K. Wheeler. Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

9. A Pocket Guide to Birds
Allan D. Cruickshank. Washington Square Press, 1953.

10. A Golden Guide: Birds
Herbert S. Zim, Ph.D. Western Publishing Company, 1949.

11. Book of North American Birds
Reader’s Digest, 1990.

12. Audubon’s Wildlife
Edwin Way Teale. Viking Press, 1964.

All I know is something like a bird within her sang

All I know is something like a bird within her sang

I took the dirt-jump bike out to my jumps by the railroad tracks. Its a great spot for riding and birding. I saw a great big red-tail (Buteo jamaicensis) up in a tree. Noted in my brains notebook some traits for a drawing I’m planning.
I struggled in high school art class because we were graded on our planning. 10 years later it’s my favorite part, ok well I enjoy it a lot. besides I’m not sure riding a bike off a jump can count at planning artwork.

The book in the Photo is by Donald and Lillian Stokes. they have a number of field guides all with great photos. the warbler one has been a big help for me with these warbler plates.
My other go-to book was originally published in 1966. A Guide to Field Identification: Birds of North America. It’s an illustrated guide, vs. a photographic one. The mix of illustrations and photos helps me make the transition of real life to pencil, ink, and color.

My goal over the last few months my “plan” for what to do with bird drawings has changed. A whole guide to all the birds, or just some? While i like the idea of drawing every bird i have to be honest with myself. there’s a couple of things to consider like 1: there are over 900 species of birds of North America. Yeah that’s the big one, and I’m not too entirely stoked to draw the 200 some waterfowl or shore birds. While of course I appreciate them as a naturalist but I find drawing them is well just not that exciting. So for the moment I’m assembling a guide to warblers of North America.

….And a lot of raptors on the side.

and a Loon. (That’s my one favorite waterfowl).