Lover of nature, color, art, life, adventure. Choosing to find beauty. I hope you can find inspiration and joy while you're here.


Solo Hikes

Do you ever have those days when your head is buzzing with too much to think about? That's usually the case for me, and by lunchtime every day I'm ready to clear some space for my brains and refocus my thoughts. Enter: solo hikes. Don't get me wrong, I love hiking with buddies but sometimes there is nothing quite like a brisk walk up a rocky trail to add some clarity to my day.

I've often thought about why it is so refreshing. Certainly the exercise brings out all the good feels. The sense of adventure awakens the energy for life that can get buried under the daily stresses. (I'd refuse to believe you if you tell me you don't feel alive when you hear something rustling in the bushes and imagine it's a prowling cougar.) It's bigger than that for me, though. Mostly, I think when I am among other living things and am in a position to observe the circle of life firsthand, I develop a deeper appreciation for the life in me, for my position in relation to other elements of the world, and a renewed perspective of something that is much, much bigger than myself.


Autumn Leaf Watercolor How-To

After my personal project series for November (a set of watercolor autumn leaves), I thought it might be fun to give a quick tutorial using one of the paintings from the series:

First step, sketch out the shape. I use a super light touch when drawing because pencil can been easily seen through watercolor paints but can be erased once the paint is dry. Sometimes I even go over my pencil lines with an eraser to make it as light as possible before painting. On this leaf, I didn't draw every single detail, it was just a quick contour drawing of the leaf outline.

Next, painting! I start with the lightest paint colors first:

On this leaf, I laid down a layer of light yellow with a medium round brush, and while it was still wet, I added touches of green using just the tip for smaller strokes. That way, the colors blended on their own to create a variety of shades. I went over this a couple more times, adding more pigment in a couple of places to make the color differences more vivid.

Lastly, the final touches:

While the painting was just slightly wet, I added a small touch of red for the veins, using a light touch with just the tip of my brush, knowing that the veins would bleed out wider because the paper was still wet.

Once the paint is totally dry, I do over the edges of the shape lightly with an eraser to pick up any pencil lines that haven't been covered by the paint. It cleans up the edges and makes the image look sharper. Then, I sign that sucker, and in this case labeled it on the back, and moved on to the next one.

Today is the last day to get the special introductory rate on the leaf bundles from this series. Tomorrow the price increases to $90, so be sure to stop by the shop and check out the other artwork up on in there too!


Autumn Leaf Watercolor Series Part III

Here is the last grouping of leaves I created for the November leaf series on Instagram:

These limited sets are available in color bundles in my shop at an introductory price of only $75 for a set of 6 paintings. It makes me giddy to see the leaves in their color families:

There are only 4 sets of paintings available, so only the first 4 people will get this special rate for early purchasers. On December 21st, they go up to the full price of $90, so if you've been waiting for a good deal on nature artwork, this is it!

Thanks for your continual support by reading! I'm happy to know others are enjoying this space and sharing the wonders of nature too!


Autumn Leaf Watercolor Series Part II

Here are the next 9 paintings from November's series:

I'm happy to say that some of these paintings are up for sale in my shop! I've bundled them in color groupings because each color exudes a certain feeling: a happy yellow, a peaceful golden brown, a shy green, or a flashy red!

Each bundle of 6 is on sale right now for $75 to early purchasers, but on December 21st they will all go up to the full price of $90. There is only one set of each color grouping, too, so now's the time to snag some original watercolor artwork for your home!

Which fall leaf colors are your favorite?


Autumn Leaf Watercolor Series Part I

You've probably noticed my latest nature art series if you follow my daily posts on Instagram: autumn leaves. If so, I hope you enjoyed it! Tomorrow the last leaf falls so to speak. (At least I'll be posting the last painting in this year's series. The real leaves may continue to fall.) What is your favorite thing about nature this time of year? For me, it's the unapologetic display of colors! Here are the first nine in the month-long series:

This series consists of paintings of leaves I've personally collected this autumn then painted. Is gathering fall colors a favorite pastime for you too, I hope?

Instead of drawing these geometric-style like I was planning on, I realized that what I needed to focus on the most was allowing the colors to shine through. So, I switched things up for the month of November by showing a watercolor series.

I'm amazed at the way each tree adjusts to seasonal change on its own and on a smaller scale how each leaf on the same tree does the same: changing in its own time and shining in its own way. Gosh, I'm so lucky to live in a place that gets to enjoy the best season ever invented!


Young Naturalist

I ran into this set of gems while digging through a random box:

I can't even believe I kept these for so long! I'll have you know that this little flora collection earned me a 2nd place ribbon at my elementary school nature camp. How neat is that? And there is my first caddisfly case! (I found another one earlier this year.)

Decades later, nature still amazes me every single day! Thank you, camp counselors, for instilling an appreciation of nature in my tiny little heart.


Desert Ponderings

Through a series of unfortunate events, I got the chance recently to spend the night camping in the desert (which in and of itself was not unfortunate at all). My soul is two parts mountains and one part desert, and it turns out that it's impossible for me to spend time in either place without waxing ponderous. The stars are one of the best parts about the desert. I remember seeing the Milky Way from my house, but now I'm lucky to see anything more than a few major constellations. Spending time in the desert makes me feel so small and so big, and helps me readjust to my place in this crazy big world. It feels familiar and like home to me and certainly alters my perspective for the better.

Then, there is just something about the desert that shouts life. While I took my sunrise hike alone I stumbled across a raven nest, a stinkbug digging a hole in the sand, and a cottontail rabbit that I nearly stepped on (sorry for the heart attack, little guy!), all in just a few short minutes. My grandparents were desert downwinders who picnicked with their neighbors while watching the atomic bombs exploding in the distance. It's always amazed me that nuclear testing happened in the deserts where people thought there weren't any living things. There is so much life in the deserts, and some of the best, hardiest kind at that.

I love the deserts and the lessons they teach of resilience, patience, and the ability to thrive. Deserts hold a wonder all their own.


Alphabet Birds Part VI

These are the last 6 illustrations of the alphabet bird series I showcased on Instagram last month:

Upland Sandpiper, Vulture, Woodpecker, Xantus's Hummingbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Zone-tailed Hawk

I loved sharing a little fact along with each illustration because I think when we know more about something, we understand it better and care more. The same goes with people, too. The more we know and understand someone, the more we can care for and love that person. Let's all try to be a little better at understanding the living people and animals around us, shall we?


Alphabet Birds Part V

As tribute to the fantastic fowls of North America, I worked on an alphabet series of bird illustrations last month. I drew one bird for every letter of the alphabet. Here are illustrations Q-T:

Quail, Red-tailed Hawk, Scrub Jay, Thrush

I loved the variety of birds in this alphabet series, but I think it's totally possible to do a similar set of shore birds, birds of prey, mountain birds, or even prairie birds. Loved it!


Alphabet Birds Part IV

I was inspired by the amazing fall bird migration to focus on bird illustrations for the month of October. I thought it would be a fun way to showcase the variety of birds by picking one bird for each letter of the alphabet. It's been difficult to choose just one kind for each letter because there are so many amazing birds to pick from. But, I managed to narrow my pickings down to North American birds and narrowed it further by mostly sticking with birds I have seen.

Part IV of the bird series shows off birds M-P:

Magpie, Nighthawk, Osprey, and Peregrine Falcon

I could do a thousand million of these, I'm pretty sure, because of the variety of birds to pick from, and all the different quirky stances and silhouettes. Guys, I just love all the birds. (Yes, even pigeons.)


Alphabet Birds Part III

As part of my focus on birds for the month of October, I've been sharing a series of North American birds for every letter of the alphabet on my Instagram account. It's been exciting to learn about each type of bird, and I couldn't help but share a fact along with each illustration. Sharing the fascination, guys. Sharing the fascination.

These next four are Ibis, Jay, Killdeer, and the Long-eared Owl:

Stay tuned for the next set of four, and spread the fascination for nature!


Alphabet Birds Part II

Here are the next four birds (E-H) of the alphabet bird series I'm doing in the month of October:

Eagle, Flicker, Great-horned Owl, Heron.

I've enjoyed drawing these illustrations in my sketchbook and sharing a little fact about each kind of bird along the way. Nature is so fascinating! Stay tuned for the upcoming illustrations or check out my Instagram account for the daily updates, where you can request to see an illustration of your favorite bird.


Alphabet Birds

As a tribute to the amazing bird migration (and for Feather & Fir's namesake--birds are the best!) I've been drawing a North American bird for every letter of the alphabet. During the month of October I'm posting them on Instagram along with a quick fact about each highlighted bird, so be sure to check them out here on the daily.

Birds are so marvelous to me! It's fascinating how as a group they can seem so similar, but once they're examined a little more closely their distinct personalities and unique features shine. Each little species contains a wonder all its own!

Here is a recap of the first four illustrations, just in case you missed them:

Thanks for stopping by today! If you'd also like to see what our family is up to, you can follow our tomfoolery on my personal blog, here.


Moment of Wonder: Bighorn Sheep

One of my most memorable moments of wonder happened earlier this year while hiking with a friend. It had snowed the night before and the canyon was full of the kind of frosty fog that leaves feathery ices crystals on every surface. With each tiny blade and twig coated in delicate winter attire, our normally straightforward hike was transformed to an otherworldly version of itself. The snow padded any sound and we walked quietly taken by the incredible beauty surrounding us and avoiding any noise that might break the spell.

As we worked our way through the fog, we were met with new scenes every few steps. It had been a long time since I had felt that overwhelming joy of discovery as strongly as I did that day. I eagerly picked my way through the snow and fog, soaking in as many details as I could, and expecting something magical to happen.

The best thing about expecting something magical is that it usually happens.

The timing could not have been any more perfect. As we neared a corner in the trail, the fog cleared just enough to see dark shapes. As I was thinking how odd it was to run into other hikers on the trail, but then as we got closer I realized the massive shapes were much larger than people. In the middle of that thought, the fog suddenly cleared, and standing in front of us were two bighorn sheep with their majestic curling horns and powerful stances. We stopped short and I locked eyes with one of them, and in that moment there was no fear from either of us, but a mutual acknowledgement. The brief encounter seemed to last for eternity, and in that moment I felt I was privileged to share in the strength and wild wisdom of that creature.

Then just as quickly as they appeared, they turned and climbed up the cliff wall bordering the trail, without leaving any sign they had been there at all. It was so magical I still sometimes question if it really happened, especially when I walk past that same spot and marvel at the sheerness of the cliff they disappeared up so effortlessly.

From the foggy setting to the hoofsteps echoing through the cold, the moment could not have been any more magical. And while that magic cannot be replicated, I hoped to be able to convey the fearlessness and strength I gained in that moment with an illustration and watercolor piece, which will be up in the shop soon:

Here's hoping something magical brings you delight and the joy of discovery this week!


Aspen Branch Illustration and Watercolor

This is one of my favorite recent pieces:

I love the contrast of the clean controlled contour against the organic watercolor. It's been refreshing to let go a little more. This will soon be available in the store along with some other nature-inspired art!


Word Of The Year Update

Once or twice a month I reevaluate my WOTY, ensuring it is still enriching my life and encouraging me to go in a direction I know I need. This year has been a little different in that I didn't have any sub-goals planned with my word, "Do." However, it has been interesting to watch how it has still become a driving force behind many of the decisions we've been making as a family as well as my overall attitude.

I've noticed that I have been more aware of the way I spend my time, more selective about what I spend my time doing, and interestingly, more forgiving of myself when I haven't been able to get everything done that I was hoping to.

My priorities have settled in eye-opening ways, and after last year's WOTY encounter with "peace," it's been nice to rev up the engines and get going on things. Needless to say, it's been a healthy practice, and after my most recent evaluation, I'm happy with where this word has taken me thus far and I'm looking forward to discovering more about it throughout the rest of the year.

Right now my immediate focus on doing is taking the form of finishing touches for the Beehive Bazaar fall show, which starts next Thursday. Lots to do. The hustle is real and I'm hoping it pays off with a successful round of art vending.

Did you pick a Word Of The Year for 2015? It's still not too late if you haven't! If you have a word, I hope it's meeting your expectations! I love how the words I consciously pick become a part of me in unexpected yet needed ways. It's a deliberate way to bring improvement and enlightenment into my life.


Vertebrae Illustration: Before and After

I drew this tiny gold deer vertebrae on a white canvas and couldn't figure out why it kept bothering me when compared to it's black contour counterpart. Luckily, my sister came along and suggested it needed more weight. Usually I don't backtrack on my art once I've considered it a finished piece and I do all my tinkering near the beginning of a project, but I took another stab at the final piece and filled it in with black:

I liked the new version a lot better so I filled in the black one too for more contrast. Good suggestion, sis! That's what it needed indeed.


Fracture Watercolors

I've been working on these patterned watercolor pieces:

I loved the pattern and color variance so much, that I decided to do these in three different colors. I think I like the teal the best, although the green is a close runner up.


Owl Feather Illustration and Watercolor

Here's another watercolor/illustration combo that I've done recently:

I love the way it turned out and I'm excited to try more pieces in this style!


Dove Watercolors

Here is a pair of peaceful periwinkle doves to help calm your day:

I love how being around nature and noting the lovely details is an instant stress reliever!


Case Study- Modern Wonder Illustration

I recently finished a large illustration and watercolor piece and would love to walk you the process if you'd like to see:

I created this for an art competition with no limits on media or theme. That sounds like it could be awesome, right? But it's difficult to be completely creative without any guidelines or constraints, so I had to create my own. As you probably already know, I am always inspired by nature, so I knew I wanted to focus on that as my subject. I've also been focusing my art-making lately on watercolors and contour illustrations, so I knew I wanted to use both as my media of choice. It seemed like a natural reflection of what I've currently been practicing and developing style-wise.

//Media Test//
However, first, to be sure I wasn't trekking down a path I would later regret, I did a media test:

It verified that the pen ink wouldn't run if I painted over it, I loved the way it turned out, and the colors I happened to pick for the media test sparked the conceptual idea I knew I wanted to move forward with. I had been thinking lately how all of the colors on a computer screen are composed of red, green, and blue light, and how the color makeup for light differs from the color combos for pigment. Also, I had been thinking and composing my thoughts on the role electronic media plays in influencing one's sense of wonder (you can see my thoughts here). Using those thoughts as a springboard, I came to the conclusion that technology can support and increase wonder if used intentionally for such a purpose, and nature's wonders and modern perspective can work together to form a new and refreshing viewpoint.

Having that theme in mind, I got to work executing it.

//Artwork Prep//
I determined my canvas size and measured and taped off my working area. Then, I chose which items to include ensuring a balance of bones, feathers, cones, wood, and miscellaneous smaller finds. I decided to keep everything life-sized because 1) it is how I usually draw my contour illustrations and 2) I wanted to show the details of each nature find in relation to one another. Using an assortment of tracings I had previously made of natural items and additional found items, I arranged them on my work space:

I wanted to keep everything clean and orderly in a grid pattern to allow for the natural shapes and details to shine. If I had piled everything together, I'm afraid it would have looked too busy. Also, the clean grid in which the items were placed supported the "modern" portion of my "Modern Wonder" theme. After evaluating the balance of items, I arranged and then rearranged the items until I felt good about the general placement:

//Pencil Sketch//
The next step was to transfer all the images to the final paper. I started with larger items first and rearranged and adjusted the placement of the remaining pieces as I finished the pencil sketch:

It worked well to adjust the placement of the items as I transferred my sketches because by the end, I had to add in a few more items that I hadn't initially planned for. However, because I had been paying careful attention to the spacing and balance of like objects, I knew exactly what kinds of items to add in last minute to fill out the overall composition:

//Pencil Sketch Adjustments//
Sketching the placement of all the items in pencil instead of pen allowed me to view the piece as a whole once the sketch was finished:

I looked over every detail of each item and the piece as a whole. Then I erased and re-sketched items if they seemed out of place, crooked, or too close or far to the edges of the final artwork or other items.

//Pen Contour//
The next step was to go over all the pencil drawings in pen. Although I had complete pencil contours, I had kept them pretty light in order to keep them erasable. I used my tracings and the actual items for reference on detail and started the pen contour, which is my favorite part:

I love this step because it is methodical, and because it's exciting to watch the final piece come to life. All steps prior to this are for preparation, and while the preparations shows through the final piece, the actual work does not. Even though by this step I had drawn and redrawn each item several times, I enjoyed the careful process of slowly revealing the details of each item. To prevent myself from drawing what I imagined should be there instead of what I was actually seeing, I broke up some of the larger, more detailed pieces as I went along. For this particular piece, because of the size and the number of items, I found it easier to lightly erase as I finished an item's contour to prevent unnecessary smudging.

//Cleanup and Final Pen Contour//
After adding in details with the pen, I scrutinized every item on its own, as well as all the edges of my paper and carefully erased and cleaned up every smudge. It's difficult to erase pencil smudges once they have a layer of paint over them, so I made sure to do this step several times:

//Watercolor Layer//
All that was left after finishing the illustration was to add the watercolor layer. I determined ahead of time the color of a few key anchor items and then filled in the rest with whichever remaining colors balanced the best. In order to keep this style feeling modern, I echoed the general shape of each item, like an off-set print. I hoped it would keep the final piece from looking too busy and would support the natural shape of the found items. I think the color added a lot to the piece, and I'm happy with the way it turned out. Then, after signing it, I put it in the prepared frame:


Double Owl Watercolor

My sister shared a wonder-filled nature moment with me, which in turn inspired me to get painting:

She said she had been hearing a great horned owl outside her dorm window for weeks but hadn't gotten a glimpse of it. She only could appreciate the lovely bird call and imagine what the magnificent fowl might look like. After waiting for forever and searching the trees to catch a glimpse of it, she finally did! But it was even better than she imagined because there was not only one owl living outside her was two! My sister told me it was a wonderful surprise, and I hope this is one of those nature connection moments she won't forget for a long time. For reals, guys! How awesome is that?!

Making connections with nature and finding those little wonder-filled moments are so important for me to keep a healthy perspective, but I've come to realize I usually need to seek them out for them to happen in the first place.


Deer Jaw Contour

I've been working on these deer jaw contour pieces to add to the Feather & Fir booth at the Beehive Bazaar starting this upcoming Thursday:

I like the contrast of the white on black, but I also think the gold on black is pretty classy too. It was fun to draw something a little quirkier than normal.


Tiny Feather Canvases

Some of my favorite recent art pieces are these tiny 2" x 2" canvases, which are just large enough to add a small design to but still leave a big impact:

I added some simple feather trios to these little guys because, dang it, feathers are the best. These, along with other mini canvas designs, are going to be available at the upcoming Beehive Bazaar, from May 7-9 at the Feather & Fir booth! It's coming up quickly!