This summer I’ve been spending time working on color studies. In my jewelry I work a lot with black and white, but for my original art, my larger pieces, I wanted to explore color.
In exploring color, I wanted to introduce unexpected and bright colors to the animals. I wanted the colors to make the animals a little abstract and not true to life, but brilliant.
Humpback whales are prevalent in California during migration season. For the last two years, you can see the whales easily from the coast; one day in Half Moon Bay, we were standing on the beach and we could see a pod of whales surfacing just past the waves. I’m not sure why they are so close to the coast line, but it amazes me that these huge and gentle creatures and swimming just hundreds of yards from where I’m standing.
Humback 1 is available for preorder as an 18 x 24 or 8 x 10 print.
I’m super excited to announce the launch of new artwork that I’ve been working on over the summer. The first piece is Coyote, and is meant as a companion piece to Jackrabbit.
For Coyote I wanted to portray the predator in a softer light, in a kind way. Often people thing of coyotes as aggressive and almost vicious, so I wanted to counter that and present another way of looking at these wild animals. I’ve seen coyotes in the open spaces and in the hills above my house, and they are graceful and careful, but always know where they are going.
Coyote is both rebellious and playful; she symbolizes the trickster, and inspires transformation. She’s always got something up her sleeve, and she can get out of any situation.
Coyote is another piece in my California collection, honoring and portraying native animals in California.
Coyote print is available for preorder in my store in an 8 x 10 size and a 18 x 24 size.
Sharks are one of the most misunderstood animals; great whites are one of the most feared animals, and current conservation status is Vulnerable. There is a lot we don’t know about sharks, because it’s difficult to observe them and they are difficult to keep in captivity. Great white sharks don’t feed and often die in captivity; the Monterey Bay aquarium has had some success getting them to feed, but has not kept them for a long period of time. Sharks are caught just for the fins (in a practice where the fin is cut off and the shark tossed back to die, which is one of the most cruel practices I can imagine) or get tangled in fishing nets as a result of by catch. Great white sharks are the top of the ocean food chain, and are important to keeping oceans healthy.
Follow this link to dispel some other shark myths!
Today is Endangered Species Day, a day to bring awareness of the many vulnerable creatures around the world who are losing their habitats due to human actions. More and more species are being affected by our actions: acidifying oceans, melting sea ice, forest logging and warming temperatures, and extreme weather. Today however I’d like to highlight a success story: the California Condor. I wrote a blog post about a month ago; I sketched the condor because I wanted to bring awareness to this bird, and because I think the shape of the head contrasting with it’s black plumage is very dramatic and beautiful. Now in celebration of Endangered Species day, I’m offering this sketch for sale as a print. It’s available framed and unframed. Remember 10% of the purchase price always goes to NRDC to help endangered animals, wild places, and combat climate change.
For more information and ways to help endangered animals, here are some links.
Many years ago, my sister and I went on a camping trip to southern Utah. She was familiar with the area, but it was new to me. One of the places we visited is called Valley of the Gods.
We were driving through southern Utah, through some pretty flat, but broken landscape. Big rocks littered the side of the road, and there was a decent amount of low scrub brush and small trees. As far as you could see, all the way to the flat horizon, was rocks, orange-red dirt, and dark green trees and bushes. We came around a corner and suddenly, dropping about 150 feet below us, was a massive valley. We were driving on top of a huge mesa, and now we were standing before a valley spread out to the horizon. The valley was flat except for massive stone structures, towers and buttes, dotted throughout the valley. It looked like a gigantic ocean with buttes representing massive sailing ships, sailing off to the horizon. The sheer space and vastness of it left me in awe of our natural world.
Today Valley of the Gods is part of the Bears Ears National Monument, created after five Native American tribes planned and worked with government to designated these lands as protected; it is the first-ever tribal monument request approved by a President, President Obama in December, 2016. Now the government of Utah has appealed to President Trump to open these lands for potential logging, mining, and drilling.
The Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is accepting comments until May 26. You can submit comments here: www.regulations.gov. You can also submit comments through the Bears Ears Coalition web site.
The NRDC is also accepting signatures for a petition to Secretary Zinke.
Sketch of Valley of the Gods
On Sunday we went up to the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. It was a warm and sunny day, which in my experience of the Marin Headlands, is rare. Here is our view looking back at San Francisco.
We wanted to see the seals at the Mammal Center; it’s pupping season, so all the baby seals that get separated from their moms end up there. We were also told that if there are storms, which we’ve had a lot this winter, the likelihood of separation is higher, so it’s a busy time for the center.
These are the baby elephant seals. In the center right now, over half the patients are baby elephant seals. When the seals are separated from mom too early, they don’t yet know how to get food and come into the center severely malnourished. The center rehabilitates the seals, and when they are healthy again, releases them into the wild. Elephant seals were nearly hunted to extinction; after whale numbers dropped drastically in the early 1900’s, hunters then turned to elephant seals for the blubber to make lamp oil. It’s estimated numbers were down to 100 animals living off the coast of Guadalupe Island in Mexico. Numbers now on the west coast are at 150,000.
Volunteers at the center told us that baby elephant seal vocalizations are the sounds of the orcs in Lord of the Rings, and the sounds of the dragons in How to Train your Dragon. Their barks are a combination of a sharp bark and a sort of eerie whine. They are also very loud!
The center has an adopt a seal program, in which you can (symbolically) adopt a baby seal. Some of the seals eat up to 1,000 pounds of fish per day!
We took a small hike down to the beach and on the way found a whale skeleton. The bones were laid out in the size and shape of the whale.
Here is a closeup of the baleen at the head.
Marin Headlands are a beautiful place to hike and I loved seeing the baby seals, so if you ever get a chance, definitely a great place to visit!
The American Bison is the iconic image of the American West. Vast herds of 40,000,000 used to roam the plains of America. Bison is a crucial part of the plains ecosystem.
Bison were almost hunted to extinction as white settlers moved west in the 1800’s. Today most bison are kept on private lands, with a few small herds roaming free. Yellowstone Park is the only place where bison have lived continuously in the wild.
Fortunately today there are several groups striving to move bison to the prairie and reintroducing bison to tribal lands.
Read more bison facts here!
Scientists are using robots off the western coast of Canada to figure out what whales are doing. Sometimes they stop in their migration, and linger in what is called “hot spots,” and the scientists would like to discover what it is about those spots that cause the whales to hang out. In a similar study, scientists were able to adjust shipping lanes to reduce encounters with whales and ships, improving the whales natural habitat. You can read more here!
When I was reading last week about the attempt to save the nearly extinct vaquita porpoise, I was reminded of the huge conservation effort for the California condor. As a kid growing up in California, the effort was well publicized; many thought the birds would become extinct. There were so few left, all the wild birds were captured to start a captive breeding program. No one knew if it would succeed. When many chicks started to be born in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the program was determined successful; later chicks were released into the wild to continue a wild as well as a captive population. Today there are only about 400 condors in the wild, and there is still work to do to protect the species, but this program worked to save this beautiful and important bird.
The historic range for the condor used to be all over the southwest, from California to Texas. Condors were often shot or poisoned by early settlers, and their habitat was reduced due to human development. More recently, pesticides and lead in bullets (condors are carrion feeders and consume lead in animals that have been shot) have lead to their decline.
Click here for more info on the Condor and past conservation efforts.
This article shows photos from space of the California landscape and it’s amazing the difference in just a few years.