Hawks and flowers.

My father and I share bird reports regularly, he’s been sharing sightings of sharp-shinned hawks diving for birds at his feeders and in the field next door in Illinois.  That’s had me wanting to work one into a pen drawing for a while. The prairie piece was the perfect fit.


The compass Plant is finished too, I ran some numbers and there are roughly 10,000 lines in the large bloom alone.  Drawing Illinois plants in a room 2,300 miles west.


He not busy being born is busy dying….

My Illinois

My Illinois has grown into a place it couldn’t be until I left it. I was too preoccupied with plotting my escape to truly sink into its beauty. That’s not to say I didn’t look for it before I left. In the plots of restored prairie around Kane county Illinois I found the greatest beauty, and came to fall in love with grasslands.
My first large paintings were of mountain ranges, rather cartoon like, they captured the image of where I was heading. I painted them on the walls of my room (to my mother’s delight).
That feeling when you’re driving in towards Denver from Nebraska. To put the grasslands and corn in your rearview mirror and the mountains right on ahead. I was making a break for it, running for my life, cool and calm doing 65mph on Highway 76.
Illinois out the basement window.

Illinois out the basement window.


It was to just be another summer job at a kids camp in Tahoe and then return. Though that wasn’t to be the case at all. Here I am 6 years later, I’m putting my eyes on the rearview mirror and revisiting some old familiar plants and animals. All the while sitting on a chair in California drawing birds.
I wanted to do a page called “Raptors of the Illinois Prairie”.  I chose the American Kestrel and Sharp-shinned Hawk. And after sketching a few old friends from the plots of Kane County. I went with one of my top three favorite plants, the Compass Plant. They stand a good 6-8 feet tall and their roots go almost twice as deep. Part of my love for the flowers they put out is tied to the roots they send so deep. Escaping the full wrath of the fires that recycled the prairie.
I will put a good many more hours into this drawing. To explore it further in pencil and pen, before coloring with watercolor.
I remember it well standing in the driveway saying goodbye to my Dad that May morning. The dogwood was blooming.  I was sad to leave home I told him. “Home is where ever you go” he told me. Those words put a smile on my face whenever my heart grows heavy.
He knew I wasn’t coming right back to Illinois before I did.

From waves of grain to the golden coast.

I used to pretend I could find my way home by the moss on the trees, or the leaves of the compass plant in the prairie. That was my Illinois. A grassland spotted with rivers and forests. An existence on the verge of a great adventure.

But that was Illinois and this is California.

I don’t recognize many of the plants here, and I don’t know any wives tales about them. I can’t find any discernable moss on any part of a tree around here.

There are a lot of long nights of highway driving between where I write these words, and where I was born to do so. highway homesick blues.

Hearts and ideas going by like the tops of the telephone poles through the window while you lay on your back across the whole backseat while your friend drives.

Driving across the country I grew up in helped me fall in love with a whole planet.

To be embraced and cared for. Fragile like eggs in a backpack full of hatchets.

I’d heard it sung:

“Picture a bright blue ball,
Just spinnin’, spinnin, free.
Dizzy with the possibilities.”

Too look over my shoulder tonight at Illinois and all it taught me, It leaves me feeling blessed for this opportunity to try my hand at an age old craft, and with my time, give something to the world to help it see it’s own beauty tied into the thread of our life in Earth’s natural kingdom. And California seems a fine place, with great biodiversity…..and The Grateful Dead are from here so yeah.