A Loon with a Lute

Hello Beautiful People!
With barely over a week to go in the Kickstarter, I am back to start dazzling you with my 7th bird for Alphabird: the Loon with a Lute. My strongest memory of this bird was paddling around a moonlit lake in northern Maine some 30 years ago as my sweetheart called to them and we'd wait for their response. 
Here's my sketchbook as I worked through the ditty for this page

The one I like best reads:
L is for Lucy
who waxed sentimental,
when strumming rock ballads
on a lute, oh so gentle.

 The orientation of the bird and instrument will be adjusted for the photo shoot, but here's the general idea--bear in mind that I still need to add some strings to that lute!

 I had a great time doing the patterning on the back and neck

and even the subtle detail on the eye:
I'll be back tomorrow with another bird for you. Don't forget, there are still 9 opportunities to choose an original bird from this project--an offer only good during the next week of this Kickstarter. If you haven't pledged yet, what are you waiting for? 
Here's a parting shot of my workspace this past week, with a sneak preview of what's to come.
take care,


H is for Hummingbird

Hello Beautiful People!

As of this morning, I'm excited to say that we've reached the halfway mark, both in the duration of my Kickstarter campaign and in the fundraising goal! And since we're on the subject of halfway.....I will also report that I am well on my way to reaching the goal to be halfway done with the birds for this book by the time the Kickstarter portion ends. 
Today I'm here to present my entry for the letter H......my favorite of all, the small but mighty Hummingbird. Those of you who know me personally know that I've have had several of them adopt me over the years. When I get one who sticks around, he (usually a he, and a he who won't let anyone else sup from the feeder) gets a name. Most of my hummingbird names are very very long names from children's literature, such as James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DupreeJohn Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, or Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo. I also had one named Tweet Seeger, but he had to be rambling along. 
But I digress. Here's my sketchbook page for H:

 H is for Hal,
whose playing was purty,
when hovering over
his pink hurdy gurdy.
H! A hummingbird with a Hungarian hat!
So that's easy to think up and maybe make a rudimentary sketch, but once I started looking into what exactly was a hurdy gurdy......well, I knew I was in for a project. I looked at images and videos on the web to try to understand how it worked, and decided to mainly work off an old illustration to help me distill the most important elements of this complex and ornamental instrument:

Quilters might recognize those flower-shaped pins I used for the tuning keys--I knew that my hurdy gurdy would be pink, so why not make it a little crazy. Here's my finished piece:

 I chose the Anna's Hummingbird because they are the breed that overwinters here in Oregon. I'm not completely thrilled with the angle on the hurdy gurdy in this shot, but that's where the photographer I'll hire comes in handy.
I'll be back in a few days with bird #7! Those of you who have supported my project on Kickstarter, thank you so much! Anyone reading this who's been on the fence, please help make it happen and plan ahead for your holiday shopping by pre-purchasing books or original artwork that will help me fund the photography and printing of this book. Click here to be a part of Alphabird!

For now, I wish you the sweetest of dreams with this snoring hummingbird video from the BBC.  
take care,


    E is for Egret

    Hello Beautiful People!

    It's time for a little update on the project! 

    First off, a very important announcement. We have a new backer reward: at the $35 level, Kickstarter backers can get an 8x8 full color print of any of the pages in the book.
    Okay, now that we have that out of the way, on with the show. Here's how our friend Dodo turned out:
     here's a detail of those feathers:
     If you didn't recognize them, this Dodo has on a pair of off-brand fuzzy boots that were trendy about a decade ago. Know what I'm talking about? Here's the product name for his pair:
     The figure stands about 10 inches high. Still working on the digeridoo he'll be playing.  
    Here's my sketchbook page for the letter E:
     E is for Ernest
    Who remained undeterred
    When the audience requested
    the encore "Free Bird"
    E! An Egret With an Electric Guitar!
    The neck of this magnificent bird is not quite like the one in my sketch above--it's a lot more crooked and proved to be the most challenging part of this piece.
     This is a large piece (about 12"high) and has blue flippers for feet.
     The feathers are a subtle white on white detail that's hard to capture on film.
     But here's Ernest!  I made a few little lighter wielding critters who will be requesting "Free Bird" for the book, but, again, am not sure I've gotten it right yet, so put it aside for now.
    Next week will mark the halfway point in my Kickstarter campaign. My goal is to be halfway done with the birds (13) by the end of the fundraising. I'm coming down the homestretch on H, so sit tight if you want to see bird #6: a hummingbird playing a hurdy gurdy in a Hungarian Hat!
    I'll leave you with a special message from me and Birdie.
    take care,
    's video poster


      Dodo comes to life!

      Hello Again, Beautiful People! 
      Thank you everyone who gave their input about my chicken vs. chickadee dilemma. Some very good arguments for chickadee convinced me to keep my feet firmly in that camp, so chickens will have to see their day in another book.
      I find that it's most efficient to work on several pieces at once, so in the next few days, I'll update you with progress shots on three birds: dodo, egret and hummingbird.

      I've made a dodo twice before--once for a commission and the other time for my playing card deck. This time I'm bumping up the scale, so I needed a little more detail in the form than before.

       Building the beak was the biggest challenge.

       But not impossible. 

      Since it's been extinct for centuries, what's knows about the shape and colorings of the dodo derive from paintings and writing.  It has been depicted with brownish-grey plumage, yellow feet, a tuft of tail feathers, a grey, naked head, and a black, yellow, and green beak. I am going with an amalgamation of the illustrations by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, which had tealy blue and creamy white tail and wing feathers, and the beautiful 1905 painting by Frederick William Frohawk seen at the top left of the above photo.
      I should make great progress on the detail painting today, so I'll return with photos of the finished piece, and lead you through what's happening with the egret and hummingbird as well.
      Thanks again to all who have supported the project! If you haven't and would like to make sure this book happens, I'm still trying to get past the 50% mark with only a few weeks left.  Click here to pre-order a book and help me fund the printing of Alphabird!
      I will leave you with a photo of a sumo mandarin I bought and devoured the other day. If you can find these in your area, I highly recommend them!
      take care,


      chickadee or chicken?

      Hello Beautiful People!
      As promised, I have my completed Chickadee brothers, complete with cymbals and cowbell for the C page of my book. Here they are in all their glory:

      Cute, but.......last night I was faced with an interesting dilemma while talking over the book with my cousin and art confidante Tripper Dungan. He asked why I hadn't picked chickens for the C letter, noting that they are a very beloved bird. I think I picked chickadee because it's such a comical name, but I agree that it would be a great addition to the rest of the flock. I have other songbirds, but R will be Raven (so not rooster) and there's no way H could be Hen and not Hummingbird.
      My plan is to make a pair of chickens this week to see which I like better.
      What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments to this post. 
      In other news, I'm still inching towards the 50% mark for my fundraising. Do you have a bird-loving friend you can share my project with? I'd be ever so grateful if you could help spread the word. There are easy social media links on the Alphabird page on Kickstarter. Thank you so much!
      Dodo and Egret are in progress......I'll check back later this week when I have something new to show you. 
      take care my little chickadees,


      Hello My Little Chickadee!

      Hello everyone and welcome to the first update for Alphabird! 
      First of all, I'm so honored to have your support of the project--this book has been rattling around in my mind for several years and it feels great to finally be making it happen. Kickstarter made me a staff pick on the first day, and I just hit the 37% funded mark so I have a  big smile on my face this week. I couldn't be more pleased to have you all on board. 
      So let's get into it.....with a little more backstory.
      I wrote most of Alphabird two years ago while on a January road trip to see Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. My friend Howard was driving, Kristin was riding shotgun, and I was holding court in the back seat with a sketchpad while I watched the beautiful snow-dusted landscape of Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Oregon pass by. I even made the first two birds for the book after I returned home, but then had to abandon the project because I was offered three public art projects last year and that was an offer I couldn't refuse. Even though I had a great year learning lots of new things, I did miss the interaction of these Kickstarter projects, so I'm making sure it happens in 2015.
      You saw the mockups for the A and B pages in my Kickstarter video, so I've decided to just move along down the alphabet with a target date of finishing all the artwork by the beginning of July. 
      Please keep in mind that what I'll show you in these updates are works-in-progress. I will continue to refine the text, maybe change the names, or whatever during the next few months, but these missives will be a basic outline for what's to come. Here's my sketch and ditty for the C page:

      Camper and Charlie, the Chickadee brothers
      Could not distinguish one instrument from another
      one chickadee will be saying "More cowbell!" and the other will say "More cymbals!"
      As luck would have it, I'm working on a little bird-themed installation for a show this May, and I happened to have made a few too many Mountain Chickadees, so I grabbed two to use for Alphabird to get these updates off to a quick start. Here's a shot of the flock of Chickadees with the image I used to interpret the body shape and markings:

       I needed the wings to be 3-d for the book, rather than painted on, so I sanded down that part of the sculptures so I can repaint them without the wings. I made some appropriately-sized wings (see image below,) painted them black today, and will do all the detail work tomorrow. That's the cowbell next to the lower bird's head! Update #2 will come this weekend with the finished birds!

       That's it for update number one! I have pages D and E in the works too.....but those birdies will be revealed on another day.
      You can have these updates on Alphabird come straight to your inbox by pledging just $5 to my Kickstarter campaign! If you've already pledged, thank you so much! I hope you'll share the project with your friends so we can all breathe easy that this book will happen. Thanks.
      I will leave you with proof that I made it to the Spiral Jetty!
      take care,



      Alphabird has taken flight!

      Hey Beautiful Person!

      I'm pleased to announce that Alphabird is currently funding on Kickstarter (and already chosen as a staff pick!)  Here's the video that explains what I'm up to:

       There are some great rewards to be had! Click here to find out what you can grab at a steal of a deal and help me cover the photography and printing of my third alphabet book!

       Here's a sneak preview of the first two pages: