Tag Archives: cincinnati zoo

gold behind the green


We can see it in the light just lately.  A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.

This morning I take the dogs outside.  I take note.  And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.

I begin looking closer.  The colors beckoning.

Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.

Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.

Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike.  On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.

I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them.  We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is. 

My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.

The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville.  I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.

It’s like the hand of a small maker.  Which is how I feel at times.

Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon.  Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.

There just never seems to be enough time for all the things.  But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….

I am grateful for this reminder.

At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9.  (And a banjo.  He must have a banjo.)  So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.

More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..

In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.

Asheville dog culture is wonderful.

It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering.  All was quiet and peaceful.  But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer.  I look forward to next year.


zoo sketches

A few local illustrators here in this river valley (remarkably productive, as far as illustrators go actually) gather weekly for a bite to eat and sometimes a morning of sketching together.  This morning was one such morning and we spent a quick bit of time at the zoo, dodging cooler temperatures and limiting hours to grab a few drawings from life.

We start with the elephants.

I always find my elephant drawings to tend toward the abstract as they mosey and move, like elephants do.  Ages ago I worked at this zoo, as a teenager and college student.  I loved it.  Many of the keepers from back in the day are still present, being the best stewards they can be for these captive beasts.   After all, zoos are the best solution to some serious mistakes humans have made.

They were indoors this morning for the chill, but were working their way out of doors where there is more space even as we drew them.

Later we observe some sweet red pandas and eventually a few felines.  The cat house is changed from when I worked there years ago.  And yet it is familiar.

There is a caracal, this one more curious and mellow than the one which haunted me and jumped at the glass on my watch.

And a bearcat, a local mascot and icon at the university.  One of the few collegiate football games I attended back in the day was as a steward for the zoo’s bearcat who goes to represent his home team.

This explains a lot…..

I hear they are vicious but have only  really known them to be sleepy.

We have a lovely, but brisk morning out.  I am cold and head first to refill my tea water upon arrival at the local market where we gather for lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant.  It is good we arrive early as soon there is a line out the door.

There is the usual sharing of work, a bit of mayhem and illustrated camaraderie as well.  I am so thankful for this group of fellow artists at all stages of their careers.  They give me hope and encouragement and it’s always fun to head out to draw together.

Cats and Dogs

lion 2

There are some delightful new additions to the wonderful collection of animals at our local (world-renowned!) Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  Fellow artists Christina and Vanessa and I took a couple of hours yesterday morning to enjoy some sunshine and sketching in the Africa section where there are lion cubs and painted dog pups on view.

It’s fascinating to me how much like my own domesticated cat and dogs these wilder versions are.  We spent much time drawing and observing the lions especially.  There are three adorable lion cubs who were hanging out with mom, ‘Imani’ and dad ‘John’ fairly close to the viewing area.

lion 4

While we drew them, they slept.


And mama kept her eyes on us.lion 5

lion 3

John did a fair amount of pacing early in our visit, but eventually settled down with his family to enjoy the cool breezes.  He is absolutely beautiful.


Just down the lane from the lions are a pack of African Painted Dogs.  They were not quite as regal and subdued as the lions were that morning.  There was much posturing and wrestling amongst the 10 puppies. dogs 2dogs 3

I did not draw these guys as much but just observed their antics.  So very dog like in their behavior; carrying sticks, stealing said sticks, chasing and playing.  So much like my own dogs.  Their markings are lovely – truly ‘painted’ with whippy white tails.  I think we will be back to see more of these creatures as they grow and change.

What have you been sketching lately?


mere sketches

Yesterday I went to the zoo.  I used to go all of the time with my kids when they were younger and before that I worked there as a teen and young adult.  I love the zoo.  It is the perfect place to go practice my drawing skills.  In the interest of practicing what I preach more by getting out and drawing more, I got myself a pass and plan to go as often as I can.  My friend Dan and I drew a number of animals during our visit.  His capacity for drawing far exceeds my own.  I consider my drawings “mere” sketches.

There are meerkats now in the cat house and they watch as the people stroll by.  They have great seriousness of purpose in their watchfulness.

Many animals, such as the snow leopard and the monitor lizard, could be found sleeping which makes them easier to draw.  But it is also fun to try and capture them awake and moving, like this Sumatran rhinoceros.  He had a mud bath, ate some leaves, and took a walk around his environment.  He is still a baby to a certain extent and I think it shows in his demeanor.

So for what it’s worth, here are a few sketches from yesterday’s zoo trip.  Bear in mind, they are mere sketches.  I’ll post more as they gather in my sketchbook.  practice, practice, practice.

Heralding Summer

Once upon a time, what seems like a whole lifetime ago, my husband was in the Navy and I was a Navy Wife. It was a difficult time full of long separations and compromises for both of us. It is not lost on me, especially on the more poignant military holidays, that it is only a stroke of luck and timing that we happened to spend our military service at a time of Peace. We were especially thankful this past weekend for the opportunity to be together for Memorial Day while so many military families are separated or perhaps grieving for fallen loved ones.

Over Memorial Day Weekend my family did what so many Americans do during the gift of a long weekend; we got out of town. We decided to do some backpacking down at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, one of our favorite green places to go. The weather was stunningly perfect and basically, we had a blast. We had planned to go to a place called Dog Fork Creek but due to some apparent villainous sign turnage, we wound up in an unplanned spot that suited us just fine in the long run. We had the area to ourselves and were not even a mile away from the car, which works out well for kids with heavy packs and one aging dog. We took all three pups actually and miraculously, it was smooth sailing with them. Iris and River are new to camping and we weren’t sure how they would do. But after a day of romping in the woods they crashed in the tent with us and slept the night thru.


Caskie was a real trooper and kept up with the kids and the puppies pretty well for the majority of the trip. But it is strange to see him beginning to show signs of age. He’s a little slow after a woodsy romp and tended to settle into leafy soft spots around the campsite.

We like to eat well on our backpacking trips and consider the limited kitchen items a Chef’s challenge when on the trail. We baked potatoes in the fire and had a basil parmesan pasta for dinner, which hit the spot after hiking and exploring all day. In my opinion the best meal was breakfast which was a curried tofu scramble. Yum! Even River wanted some!



One of the best things about the gorge is all the hidden treasures you can find tucked away in the woods. Near our campsite was a recessed cave with a water fall. It was cool and mossy there and we all visited the spot a number of times during our stay.


Below are some weird moss formations (at least I think it’s moss) that had formed in a puddle in the cave.



Moss and mushrooms and ferns abound in the Red River Gorge. I sketched a little bit and took lots of photos that I hope to work off of this summer. I have always really admired the work of illustrator Jan Brett whose books such as “Town Mouse, Country Mouse” enchanted my children when they were little while captivating me with her lovely naturalistic yet magical drawings.


No trip the gorge is complete without a stop at Miguel’s Pizza shop (bear with me on the link, Miguel’s doesn’t seem to have a website but this dude seems to know what he is talking about!). This place not only serves up my favorite pizza in the world but provides a camping spot and gathering place for rock climbers who come to the area for the world famous rock climbing the Red River Gorge is famous for.


The very next day, although a little trail weary, I joined Maddie and some of her class mates for a field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. As usual the zoo provided beautiful animals and plants to observe…


while giving the kids a chance to spend some well deserved out of class time together.


Today was the last day of school for both of my kids. On the one hand it seems rather early, but on the other, the timing is perfect. We all need a break from structure and routine and are ready to greet what magic Summer has to offer.

I went for a run around the neighborhood this morning. I found a robin’s egg shell and saw a group of squirrels having what seemed like a squirrel convention. I also ran by a fellow runner. She was a woman running along in her bright red, long, flowing, beautiful sari… and a NY Yankees ball cap.

Bring on that summer magic!