October 24, 2012

One of the many things I have enjoyed about becoming a mother is all of the time I spend reading books with my little girl. Aside from just the simple pleasure of snuggling up with her and sharing a book, as an illustrator it's been interesting to see both some truly amazing children's book illustration as well as the amount of really terrible examples of the art form. 

This weekend past, we found an old copy of a Golden Book of the "The Three Bears". This edition was illustrated by F. Rojankovsky. I don't know anything about Rojankovsky, so I need to do a little homework there. His/Her illustration of Papa Bear discovering that his porridge had been sampled by someone, blew me away. Aside from just being very beautifully painted, I love its feral-ness, its darkness. I feel like we just don't see this kind of illustration in children's books anymore. Are we too worried about frightening children, perhaps? Isabel, my daughter, wasn't afraid though. I think the illustration helped her to understand why Goldilocks wanted to hightail it out of The Bears' cottage!

Furthermore, the illustration represents, to me at least, some change in our relationship to nature. In many of the older children's books we have, there is an attention to detailing the natural world, that seems to be lacking in manycontemporary books.The bear in the illustration above is undoubtably a BEAR. Not a cute, cuddly cartoon interpretation, but a feral (albeit porridge eating!), grumpy, lumbering bear. The illustrator has allowed for his bear-ness. This is not to say that there aren't contemporary picture books and illustrators that don't dumb down the material, it just seems like one has to dig around a bit more to find them. 

I'm not sure I'm expressing all of this well, but I welcome any of your thoughts. I have been wanting to do some posts about how we represent and view the natural world currently, and in the case of those of us that are close to a little one (whether it be by being a parent, aunt, uncle, educator etc.) how we are passing that on to the next generation. 

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa


October 22, 2012

This is sort of continuing in the same vein of the last post in terms of what is visiting my backyard this fall. I love Golden-crowned Kinglets, and they love my 2 Hackberry trees. This fall they seem to be particularly numerous. In fact, Cornell Lab's Birds of North America site says:

Formerly breeding almost exclusively in the remote, boreal spruce-fir (Picea-Abies) forests of North America, the diminutive Golden-crowned Kinglet has been expanding its breeding range southward at lower elevations into spruce plantings in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio and into white pine hemlock (Pinus strobus-Tsuga) forests in eastern Tennessee, northeastern Georgia, and the western Carolinas. 

So the southward expansion of their breeding range may possibly explain why I have been seeing them with greater frequency in this area, which is just north of Chicago. Within this breeding range, R. satrapa is very much tied to old growth conifer forests. There has been a lot of rehabilitation of this type of habitat, and most likely this has helped their numbers in the eastern part (my part!) of the range. In any regard, when the leaves of the hackberries turn bright yellow in fall, I know to look up to find these little birds busily flitting about the branches. 

Yellow-rumped Warblers - Setophaga coronata


October 17, 2012

These guys have been flitting about my backyard for the last week. They're quite bold.  I swear that a few have deliberately swooped on to the fence or lower bowers of the hackberry trees just to get a better look at me. It took me a bit to identify what they were, as what I am seeing are most likely first year birds and adults in their drab non-breeding plumage. The telltale sign was the bright yellow patch on their rumps. As far as I know, these are the only wood-warbler species in the Eastern US that sport this feature.  The trees have been full of their 'chek, chek, chek' calls as they forage for arthropods and other invertebrates. I see them foraging on the ground a lot, too.

There's a reason that I have them filling up my yard. They migrate down from their coniferous breeding habitats up north in massive numbers. They are one the most numerous North American warbler species, and while their breeding habitat is pretty specific, they are more general in their foraging habitat needs. Hence, my hackberry treed, scrubby backyard suits them just fine.

Anyway, I was inspired to make a bird painting; something I haven't been able to do for a while. Notice that on my painting I have the scientific name as Dendroica coronata. After completing that part of the painting, I did some research. As a result, I just learned that all species formally placed in the Dendroica family are now being classified as Setophaga due to DNA work. I don't think this is that recent of a change, but for some reason I had forgotten about it. That might have something to do with owning a very old Sibley Guide.

Autumn and Projects


October 09, 2012

It's autumn; my very favorite time of year. I've been away from Tiny Aviary mainly because I am either outside soaking it up, or working on finishing this etching I started with White Wings Press some time ago. This photo is of the main intaglio press at White Wings with a bunch of proofs of my etching sitting on the press bed. The finished intaglio print will have 5 copper plates, and thus 5 colors. The color proofs you see here, have 4 of the 5 plates printed. We're currently working on finishing up the 5th plate this week. More photos as soon as we have final proofs!

I am hoping to get back to Tiny Aviary later this week, but in the meantime, here is a favorite Emily Dickinson poem for you and the season. I recently came across it on one of my favorite blogs: Our Ash Grove.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown,
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The Rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown-
Lest I sh'd be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

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