Earth Day with the Motmot

Blue crowned motmot in Gamboa, Panama. Currently my favorite bird. Scope drawn, Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook, with a nice sharp mechanical pencil.

Blue crowned motmot in Gamboa, Panama. Currently my favorite bird. Sorry for the bad image quality- there’s no scanner here. This was scope-drawn using the blind-contour technique, which never fails to surprise me when it works. Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Greetings from Gamboa, Panama. Ant Man and I rented a house for six weeks on a hill above the Panama Canal, with a view of cecropia and palms and fruiting miconia trees attracting every known tropical and neotropical bird that’s ever thought about eating fruit.

Speaking of neotropicals, lots of migrants still here. If you’re up north looking for Eastern kingbirds, a LOT of them are still here gorging on miconia berries.

Gamboa is a sleepy tropical town originally constructed for Panama Canal builders and their families, who have been more or less replaced over time by scientists and their families. Ant Man and I are here trying to get some writing done (scientific papers for him, a book for me) and tune out the toucans, if possible. Not always possible (see below).

Keel-billed toucans preen and call and generally make themselves into interesting shapes. Pencil in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook. 8 1/2" x 11"

Keel-billed toucans preen and call and work themselves into interesting shapes. Again, apologies for the image quality. Pencil in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook. 8 1/2″ x 11″

The book is taking slow shape. For want of a better elevator pitch, it’s a bowl of bird-sketch salad tossed with natural history dressing.

Where we're staying, a typical Canal Zone bungalow on stilts. Catches the breezes from all directions. Good tropical construction technique. Watercolor over pencil, Stillman & Birn Epsilon book.

We’re staying here in a typical Canal Zone bungalow on stilts. It catches breezes from all directions- which is a sensible technique for tropical construction. Global-warming-era architects, please take note. Watercolor over pencil, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.

It’s been (mostly) fun going through old journals and field notes. Much of it won’t make it into the text, but I hate to waste a good field note, so it could wind up here:

Watched spider monkeys go to bed in a huge tree awash with purple flowers. The youngsters hang by their tails and smack each other until their mom comes over and yells at them to go to sleep. Barro Colorado Island 2005

We poled through an opening in the mangroves to search for pygmy kingfishers where the water was dark and quiet.  A cormorant came flapping wildly upstream, veering to avoid branches and striking them with its wing-tips. Celestun, Yucatan, 1988

A toddler in a house down the street just screamed, and a white-breasted wood wren burst into song. Gamboa, Panama, 2016

Happy Friday, and Happy Earth Day.

Geoffroy's Tamarins, Gamboa. Cute as a cross between a cat and a monkey, with perfectly white, sharp teeth. Sings like a bird. Pencil on Stillman & Birn Epsilon 8 1/2" x 11".

Geoffroy’s Tamarins, Gamboa. Cute as a cross between a cat and a monkey. Sings like a bird. Pencil on Stillman & Birn Epsilon 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Posted in Adventure!, Animals, architecture, Art, bird art, birding, birds, Boats, Drawing, Environment, field sketching, life drawing, natural history, Nature, Panama, plein air, rainforest, Scope sketching, travel, tropics, Watercolor, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

2015 flutters to a landing


White-tailed, a.k.a. black-shouldered kite, preening at Moss Landing. It crossed its wingtips in front of its tail, politely.  Pencil-drawn through a scope in a Lana sketchbook.

It was a year when plein air painting got a lot more fun, which I think is worth noting, and when I found new beauty in old and familiar places.


Chaparral uplands just above the quiet tidal estuary of Elkhorn Slough. The old stomping grounds were just as nice as ever, if not more so. Pastel on Colourfix sanded paper, 10″ x 9 3/4″.

I had a decent year of painting, exhibiting, teaching, drawing, writing, and learning how to breathe underwater (first step in learning how to draw underwater- a longtime desire). I returned to South Carolina, painted around New Mexico and California, did a pile of drawings of a wonderful Brazilian model, almost enough to call it a collection.

There was less blogging, but a little more tweeting (@DaMotmot). 

Resolutions? More pastel painting. More bird sketching. A book. Learn to dance.

3 Parakeets

Best thing in 2015: Shadowplay, my painting of crimson fronted parakeets, was accepted into Birds in Art, and then acquired for the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s permanent collection. An amazing honor and career high note.  Oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″ If you’d like to hear me talk about this painting (and why the jungle is like a big plate of scrambled eggs), please go here.

Hope you had an outstanding 2015, too.

Wishing you a prosperous, peaceful, and above all, happy new year.

And meet you back here in 2016.





Posted in Adventure!, Animals, Art, bird art, birds, Drawing, natural history, Nature, plein air painting, self-indulgence, Sound clips, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pastel Gallery is up and running

plein air pastel 9.75 x 9.75

China Cove, Point Lobos, with three snowy egrets fishing in the kelp beds. Plein air pastel 9.75 x 9.75

For anyone who’d like to see more of the Fall Pastel Collection from last week’s California run, the page is up and running. I was generously hosted by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, who let me settle into their cute and comfy researcher’s studio for most of a week. I enjoyed every minute.

Please enjoy the paintings!

Posted in Adventure!, Art, Art Studio, Drawing, Environment, field sketching, landscapes, natural history, Nature, painting, Pastel, plein air, plein air painting, Science, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seriously, Happy Friday

A good haul from California. Got home to Oklahoma very late last night, couldn’t sleep, pulled out the 14 pastels for review and was fairly pleased. Want to go back and get some more, soon. You can go home again. Seriously. 


Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Fall Color Underfoot 

  Today I set the easel at the edge of a pickleweed marsh in full sun. I’d no sooner gotten the first color strokes roughed in when suddenly the marsh was swaddled in cool gray tones. Not a shadow in sight. Fog moves fast.

It started to drizzle an hour later so I packed it in. I’d been painting from my initial thumbnail sketch while grabbing  – and pushing- color clues from the landscape. 

The pickle weed marshes along the coast turn brilliant colors in the fall. New England has leaf peeping. Could California’s version be pickle peeping? Send for the tour bus.
(The painting is pastel on sanded paper, and sorry I don’t know the exact size but it’s under 9×12)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Surf Scoters

At Moss Landing State Beach sketching a fine raft of scoters in the gray-green sea. Lovely Pacific. 


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

View from the Slough

At Elkhorn Slough, taking it from rough sketch to pastel painting:


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments