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Parrot (Draw a Bird Day)



Language becoming
noise words without meaning
footnotes to the air

Answers taken given
traded for babble

Particles of lies shared
on repeat screeching
chaos manifested

I meant to write a quadrille (44 words) with the secret keeper’s words this week, but I wasn’t paying attention really, and the “6-5-6-5-6-5-6-5” I wrote down beside each line became syllables instead of words.  I also meant it to be more about the birds. I used all the words though!

Now to the subject at hand:  The parrot is painted with the new gouache I got for Christmas.  I wanted to do something bright and colorful to start, and a parrot seemed the perfect subject.

Parrots are symbolically associated with voices, words, communication, and the power of truth.  They do not keep secrets.  They are also linked to color magic.  And, like many birds, they serve as messengers between heaven and earth.

They are also endangered, due to habitat loss and the pet trade.  These intelligent sub-tropical birds can live 80-100 years; a pet parrot is a lifetime investment, requiring enormous amounts of attention, care, and intellectual stimulation to thrive.  Needless to say, both birds and humans are better served by leaving these social animals in their natural habitats, and protecting those habitats.

Haiku and Bat

embroidered bat s

from inside the earth
rebirth  transitioning  death
answers with echoes

It’s Bat Appreciation Day…a reminder of how vital they are to ecosystems everywhere.  Insect control, pollination, and seed dispersal are all important ways that bats help keep the earth in balance.  Many bat populations are endangered for the usual reasons:  habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, disease, use of chemicals.

embroidered bat close up s

Bats play an important part in story and myth as well.  Because they often live in caves and come out at dusk, bats are associated with the ambiguity of night.  Western culture tends to give bats an evil shading (think vampires and the wings of devils), but many Asian and Native American cultures associate them with good luck.

Today also marks the celebration of Haiku Poetry Day.  How do I know this?  Charlie at Doodlewash is sponsoring a month of celebratory days, and he made sure I knew about Haiku Poetry Day for NaPoWriMo.

You can see previous bat posts here and here.
And learn more about bats and bat conservation efforts here.

poetry month

More Turtles (or are they tortoises?)

sea turtle s

I’ve painted sea turtles before, when I was doing endangered species on a regular basis.  It bears repeating that nearly all sea turtles are endangered.  Habitat destruction, particularly of coastal nesting sites, and poaching for eggs, meat, skin and shells all contribute to species loss, but one of the biggest problems is that they get caught in fishing nets.  To save sea turtles and the ocean ecosystem they are part of will require global cooperation.

box turtle s

Turtles generally spend most of their time in water, while tortoises reside on land, so why are box turtles not called box tortoises?  Sometimes they are, in fact, but they actually belong to the pond turtle family, so the turtle label is also appropriate.  They are the state reptiles of North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas.  Populations are declining everywhere due to (surprise!) habitat destruction and fragmentation, but they are particularly endangered in Asia, due to their use in traditional medicine, and the pet trade.

And terrapins?  They tend to live in swampy areas, equally at home in water and on land.

Nina and I have done a number of turtle posts.  With more coming, I’m sure.

You can read more about endangered turtles here.

National Bird Day

red bird s

Last February I posted about the wonderful bird paintings showing up in my neighborhood.  At the time, the man behind the project, Avi Gitler, told me to watch for more birds.  Wow!  He wasn’t thinking small.

bird mural 1 comp

Imagine my surprise when I walked over to Amsterdam Avenue a few months ago and saw…an entire building filled with birds (and James Audubon too!).  This beautiful mural, “Endangered Harlem” was painted by a young artist from Baltimore, Gaia.

bird mural 1 close up comp

At the corner of 155th Street and Broadway are two murals, flanking the gas station there.  “Fish Crow”, by Italian artist Hitnes, is also part of a project he did where he created 15 bird murals following Audubon’s journey across the United States.  You can read about this project and see more of the murals here.

bird mural 2 comp

The other mural on this corner, “Swallow Tailed Kite (and others)” was painted by the Ecuadorian-American artist Lunar New Year.  You can see more of his wonderful work on his website here.

bird mural 3bs

Read more about the Audubon Mural Project and all the endangered species represented in the murals on the Audubon website. (

bird mural 3 close up comp2

…and Happy National Bird Day!  Let’s all work to help save these beautiful creatures from extinction.

And don’t forget Draw-a-Bird Day, the 8th of each month, is coming up again on Friday!

Crowned Lemur

crowned lemur s

I haven’t had the watercolors out for awhile, and this little guy caught my eye.

Lemurs are found only on Madagascar.  All lemur species are endangered due to shrinking and fragmented habitat.  They are also poached, even from reserves, for food, and kept as pets.  Seventeen species of lemur are already extinct.

The ring-tailed lemur was featured in a previous endangered species post.

For more information about efforts to save these primates:

Bats Are Essential

brown bat s

…to both Halloween and many ecosystems.  They keep insects under control, pollinate plants, and disperse seeds.  Seventy-five species of bats are endangered or critically endangered due to the usual:  loss of habitat, climate change, disease (in North America white nose syndrome has killed huge numbers and is still spreading), and hunting for food and medicinal use in Southeast Asia.

And Vampire Bats?  The species, living in Central and South America, mostly feed on blood from farm animals and birds.  And the bite doesn’t kill.  The danger comes from the possibility that the bat carries rabies.

Only a small percentage of bats carry rabies.  Raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and cats and dogs are a much bigger rabies threat to humans, although since the advent of widespread vaccinations for pets, there have been very few cases of human rabies in the United States.

You can see my last year’s Halloween bat post here.

Monarchs Are Migrating

brown monarch s

…but their numbers are down 90% since 1992.  You can help by planting milkweed, which is their main food source.  Read more here.

This was another painted sketch done with my leftover brown paint.  I also did a monarch post with a collage; you can see it here.

Snub-Nosed Monkey

snub nosed monkey s

I’ve been neglecting the endangered species category for awhile, but when I squeezed out way too much brown paint the other day, I did a number of simple painted line drawings with the excess.  For one of them, I used a reference for snub-nosed monkeys that I had in my file of animals.  I don’t know if it’s just this photo, but the blue face is very exaggerated compared to others I’ve seen.  The strong blue works well with the brown lines though.

Snub-nosed monkeys are found in southern China and northern Vietnam and Myanmar.  They live in large groups in the same mountain forests that giant pandas prefer.  This habitat is disappearing, due to human settlement, but especially due to forest destruction as a result of logging.  The monkeys are also hunted for their fur and body parts, which are used in Chinese medicine.  It seems no creature is immune from the voracious appetite of Chinese medicine.

For their part, China has established reserves for both monkeys and pandas in an attempt to save both.  However, the species of snub-nosed monkeys that live in Vietnam and Myanmar have no such protection and are critically endangered.

You can read more about snub-nosed monkeys here, and see the rest of the endangered species posts here.


More Cranes

cranes blue sky s

I’ve drawn Japanese Cranes before, but I wanted to try colored pencil on the black paper I bought awhile ago, and they seemed the perfect subject.

crane black sky s

I go back and forth about the blue background.  Yes or no?  maybe it should be less linear.

The inspiration for drawing on black came from some work by Marisol I saw at El Museo Del Barrio.  I tried to find some good examples online, but this is the best I could do:

marisol comp

You really can’t see how luminous they are from these reproductions.  And they are large, very large.  I also love the layers, and the way she took the hands and body parts and made them into an abstract form.  The one on the right is part of a series Marisol did in response to the war in Vietnam.

…and have I mentioned that Japanese Cranes are an endangered species?

MARISOL: Sculptures and Works on Paper

Endangered Species: The Sweater

4000 tigers 1s

I’ve spoken before about the show I saw at The Drawing Center with textiles as its theme (  It was interesting to me that a few of the artists used sweaters and sweater graphs in their work, but I was put off by the fact that they used sweaters that other people had designed, once again exploiting the creative work of those mostly anonymous and underpaid textile artists.

4000 tigers close up 3s

It occurred to me that I could exploit myself.  I’ve been re-purposing my unsold swatches from my own design work for pillows and dolls–why not make an artistic statement derived from their original purpose?  Over the 20+ years that I designed and made these miniature sweater fronts, I must have produced thousands of designs.  I have hundreds that were returned from my reps (because they didn’t sell) to choose from.

4000 tigers close up 2s

Animal skin as a motif is perennially popular; I decided to combine some of those patterned sweater designs with my concern about endangered species.   I embroidered in black and white duplicate stitch a statement–“there are less than 4000 wild tigers left in the world”–and a ghostly tiger face on top of the knit sweater front.

4000 tigers slant s

What do you think?