Archive for the ‘Airbrush’ Category

Well, I sure hope so! I can tell you one thing for certain though, I know that I’ve missed blogging and now, I’ve got so much to catch up with that I don’t really know where to begin! And, I’ve never really been far away either, just incredibly busy.

For one thing, I finished another decoy head painting, a Mallard this time. (Hey Bill, looks like I’ve got a series going now too. However, with your third painting,

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

you’re still one ahead of me.) I’ve been using these decoy paintings to experiment with different media or methods for the details and such. For example, on the Canvasback painting, I used watercolor with airbrush and traditional brush and on the Mallard, it’s watercolor with airbrush, traditional brush and colored pencils with “stumps,” specifically on the bill (and no, that’s not Bill) and the neck. I’ve also been laying down the background color first which worked well on the Canvasback but not so well on the Mallard.

I’ve now started working on a decorative Green Wing Teal carving that was done by a friend named Francis X. McHugh. He passed away in late 2000 from lung cancer and, to my knowledge at least, he never smoked a day in his life! But he did carve decoys, which creates a very fine sawdust that’s more like baking flour and he used acrylics in an airbrush without wearing a mask or using some other means of ventilation. There’s a lesson in there folks! But, enough of that, now back to the painting. This time, I won’t lay down the background until I’m finished with painting the head, we’ll see how that works. In addition, I thought I might take photos of the work in progress then post them on this blog (or maybe another blog I’ve been putting together [on WordPress, of course]).

Another project that has been keeping me busy is my latest “e-commerce” venture. I’m now on CafePress! (Have patience, though, it’s brand new! A work in progress. I’m still learnin’ how the site works, how to promote it, and so on.) You see, I noticed a number of my images from this blog that many of my visitors seemed especially drawn to, so, I decided to open a CafePress shop where I submit my images, select products that I want my images to be printed on such as post cards, note cards, mousepads, mugs, sweatshirts, etc. and CafePress does the rest. Earlier, I had started putting my images on Etsy (note my Etsy page), however, that site took on a life of its own and became more of an outlet for my sewing or handmade items. CafePress will remain for photos and art from this blog as well as some new stuff.

So, what do you think? I’ve got so much more to write about but I’m still busy with other things too. I promise, though, I’ll be back with blog entries a bit more often ’cause I just can’t stay away from it! It’s addictive! 😀

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A couple of summers ago, I took a course called Environmental History. On the first day of class, as had been true in every other class I’d taken before then, we were asked to tell our classmates a little bit about ourselves. When I mentioned my interest in conservation art (or art for conservation), I was surprised that no one, including the professor, knew anything about it but I was also encouraged by the student’s and professor’s enthusiasm to know more.

Okay then, what is conservation art?

First of all, look in any dictionary and you will find that the term conservation means the preservation from destruction and/or neglect. Well, to me, because I am a nature lover, conservation means the preservation of wild animals, birds and habitat. Thus, in the case of conservation art, that means any art (though, in most cases, the genre or theme is nature or wildlife) that is used to raise funds for wetlands purchase and protection, or the preservation of threatened and endangered species, or the protection of wild lands against human encroachment, and so on. Admittedly though, when one mentions conservation art, more often than not, it’s “duck stamps” or waterfowl art that comes to mind.

Duck stamps?

Yes, they’re affectionately referred to as duck stamps! But, they’re really called migratory waterfowl stamps. Every duck or waterfowl hunter must purchase a Federal Migratory Waterfowl Stamp as part of their license, although, you don’t have to be a hunter to buy one, they are available for purchase by anyone. In addition to the Federal Duck Stamp program, many states also have conservation stamp programs and many of those are also required as part of a hunter’s license. And, again, these stamps are available for sale to non-hunters as well.

But now, back to conservation art … before any of these stamps are issued to hunters, stamp collectors or conservationists, they are art competitions or commissioned works of art. The granddaddy of them all is the Federal Migratory

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Stamp Art Competition. It was started in 1934 as commissioned work then later changed to an art competition. I first learned about this stamp art program back in 1984 (or, maybe it was 1983), from an article that appeared in an issue of Smithsonian magazine, when the program was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Well, the program is now 76 years old and, through the sale of those stamps, has “raised more than $700 million that has been used to acquire more than 5.2 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System” (see The Federal Duck Stamp Program).

Massachusetts Duck Stamp is “Unique”

Many state duck stamp programs aren’t nearly as old as the Federal program, probably around thirty-five to forty years old on average, however, for most state programs, it was the Federal program that set the standard, so to speak, when it came to the rules that artists must follow, that is, the design must depict “[a] live portrayal of [the duck].” But Massachusetts duck stamp art rules are “unique” in that the design must portray “a WORKING (not decorative) decoy of a duck, goose, or shorebird made by a known or unknown deceased, Massachusetts decoy maker” (see my earlier entry called “Massachusetts ‘Duck Stamp’ Competition to be ‘Revisited'”).

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is NOT a duck stamp entry but is from a series of decoy portraits that I’ve been creating as a personal project. The artwork is in watercolor and watercolor gouache applied using an airbrush and traditional brushes on Ampersand Claybord.


Of course, conservation art is so much more than just duck stamps. As was mentioned earlier, conservation art is any art used to raise funds for the preservation of all that is wild and can be rendered in oil, watercolor, colored pencil or graphite, or it can be sculptures in wood or stone or metal, and so on. Oh! And other labels apply to conservation art as well such as art for conservation, environmental art and art for sustainability, although fair warning here, some of these labels, in particular, environmental art can have other meanings too (in this case, environmental art is sometimes applied to outdoor sculpture that poses no harm to the environment). But, it really doesn’t matter what label you apply here or what medium you choose to work in. What is important is that the purpose of the art be for the preservation of planet earth and all of the life that call this planet home!

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As much as I hate to admit this, according to AARP, I am “officially” a senior citizen. But, I say they’re wrong! I’m really just a big kid and I can prove it. You see, whenever I go on walks, just like so many young kids, I “collect” things like stones, pine cones, insects, and so on. Really, just about anything will do!

Take, for example, this butterfly. It’s a yellow colored Tiger Swallowtail that I found alongside the road. Obviously, it was at one time part of someone’s front bumper. And, just like all the kings men, I doubt that I can put it back together but, no matter to me! I just had to bring it home anyway and add it to my collection!


Here’s another example though I’ve not yet identified this particular butterfly. Perhaps one of you can tell me what it is?



Truth be told, folks, I like to illustrate science (or natural history) subjects and, though I’ve had these butterflies for a couple of years now, I am making a few changes to my blog. One of which is to show some of my illustrations in progress.

Yes, yes, I know that plenty of artists and illustrators do so. In fact, I have provided links in my blogroll to some of those artists. Still, when I started this blog, nearly one year ago, it was my intention to show the nature of New England, especially along New England’s coast as well as my photographs and even some of my illustrations. I’m also quite passionate about conservation art and, much to my surprise, unless you are a hunter, many folks have no idea what conservation art is or how it benefits wildlife and wetlands preservation. Well, it’s time for me to return to my “original” intentions!

I’ve not come far yet (with this illustration), you’re getting in on this right from the start! I’m still in the information gathering stage as well as the planning stage. Thus far, I’m thinking of “drawing out” identifying features and I’m thinking of using watercolor in an airbrush (since I just love the airbrush) and watercolor pencils.

So, step one, I’ve taken my poor butterfly apart and laid it out. However, as you can see in the following images, I’m in desperate need of a body!



Know where I can get one? Well, actually, I’ve got a couple of ideas. One is from a photographer who, again, is linked to in my blogroll. In fact, he’s an expert on butterflies! Another idea is to visit The Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

Hmm! A field trip! I could even make a day of it, … lunch, …! Stay tuned folks!

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