Don’t Despair If You Find Your Goldfish Upside Down…

goldfish watercolor of upside down

….give him a green pea. Yesterday morning, I found my goldfish, Peter, struggling to swim, periodically floating to the top and turning over. I could tell he was in a great degree of stress. I recognized it as a bladder condition. I did a Google search for advice on treatment. Multiple sources noted to give him a green pea with the skin removed. I dropped a couple in. While he had trouble stabilizing his body to eat, he was successful in grabbing one, much to my relief. Additionally, I replaced the filter, did a water change and put in a teaspoon of salt per gallon. This morning, Peter was back to normal. As celebration, I painted this watercolor of him swimming comfortably and calmly once again. Thanks to the goldfish experts of the Internet for helping remedy my fish!

Discovery World Creatures

discovery world creatures

On a Sunday afternoon, I visited Discovery World in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a part of museum swap day. Of course, I headed to the aquarium section immediately! The first animal I painted was a bearded looking fish (located in the top portion of this composition).I did not notice him initially, as he was so well camouflaged under the bark, rarely moving. Most fascinating were his eyes reflecting yellow and orange and the mossy looking extensions under his chin and the top of his head. He looked like a type of frog king, crowned with two sets of headpieces. I then added a fish with lines of dots along its sides. I could see him below my feet, as the floor showed through to an aquarium. It was fun to watch visitors come through, hesitant to “walk on water.” I have to admit I was a bit un-nerved by the pathway as well, as it has the illusion you will fall in.
Next, came the aquatic turtle, who was also a very still, willing model. I wondered what to with the remainder of my page, however, when I had finished with him. The museum was warm and crowded, so space to work in was both challenging and limited, but then I noticed a TV, under an alcove, playing a movie about planktons. No one was there. It was the perfect spot and subject. The movie was about what one finds in a drop of water, creatively filmed. Different types of brine shrimp, daphnia shrimp and other plankton were shown at close range, swimming and sometimes struggling about. To make the composition of my sketches complete, I added these microscopic scattered around the three larger forms. They allowed me to playfully and rhythmically finish the arrangement.

“Lunch with Guests” – Mixed Media Artwork

Lunch with Guests

“Lunch with Guests” by Kristin Gjerdset – mixed media

Invited to participate in an art exhibit requiring the use of brown paper, a lunch bag immediately came to mind. I knew I wanted to add insect life in a way that made sense. Implying a picnic seemed the best answer. Included are the usual “guests” – a fly, ants, hornet, a little red clover mite and the drop-in spider.

As always, thanks for visiting and please respect my images from one creative to another. Please ask for my permission if you wish to reproduce my original image in any way.


Transect No. 2: Veteran’s Park – September 1

transect 2 veterans park

Transect No. 2: Veteran’s Park, Colored Pencil, 6″ x 6″

Created after viewing Kandinsky’s retrospective at the Milwaukee Art Museum, it was a joy to get out and draw. I found his work such an inspiration, particularly his smaller images where he gathered shapes, lines and dots in intricate, imaginative combinations. I have much to learn from him and believe I have found a kindred spirit.

Compared to my backyard yesterday, I found it much more challenging to find insects in a mowed park space. But I did with patience. Here is a list of what I encountered:

  • unidentified species of bee
  • hover fly
  • unidentified species of ladybug like beetle (plus it moved so fast, as if it was late for an appointment)
  • clouded sulphur butterfly
  • unidentified species of skipper butterfly
  • three types of mushrooms
  • two types of damselflies
  • japanese beetle (non-native species, considered destructive)
  • hornet searching for prey (He moved with great speed across the surface of the grass, occasionally stopping to investigate a possible food source but I did not witness him catching anything. i think he lost patience with me following him because then he suddenly zipped away and he was gone.)
  • slug in crevice of tree
  • fly
  • red dragonfly
  • yellow flower I should learn the name of
  • prairie clover
  • bumblebee
  • red mite (?) – those funny, really tiny little spiders that crawl across you, yet seemingly oblivious to you

In the process of recording as many insects and biological life as possible in a limited timeframe, the image became challenging to arrange the random encounters in a somewhat balanced way. I have yet to learn how these types of studies will best be realized. 

As always, thanks for visiting and please respect my images from one creative to another. Please ask for my permission if you wish to reproduce the image in any way, as they are my own originals.

Backyard Ecology Sketches August 31

transect 1 backyard ecology

Transect No. 1: Backyard Ecology – Watercolor, Pencil and Ink, 8″ x 8″

A red banded leafhopper is a visually brilliant insect with body colors of yellow, red and blue, yet easy to miss for its diminutive size. Two nights ago, while spending time doing my own artist version of a scientific transect in my backyard, I saw one for the first time. He or she is the little character in the upper right of my watercolor image, noticeably standing out from the others. As I painted this slender striped being, I wondered if something was going wrong with my eyes, as a flash of white was emitted every few seconds from it’s back end. But no, it was truly happening. Perhaps this is a male and he is signaling to a female I thought? After a couple minutes a slim grey insect of similar shape landed on a flower next to where it was. I was hoping my theory would be true…and imagining a David Attenborough documentary moment, I would experience some rare mating event. However, the grey insect was gone within seconds of landing. It was clearly not interested…and even the same species. It turns out, after doing some research, the leafhopper was releasing excess water. Signaling to a female was so much more exciting.

As I continued to paint the leafhopper, who had been perfectly still, he was interrupted by two white insects (I have no idea what kind yet), who appeared to bully, chasing him off the flower stem. They are in the upper left of the image. They moved like ghostly apparitions disappearing as fast as they came in their translucency. 

The other creatures depicted are slugs, a spider, a moth grub (I believe), bald-faced hornet and various tiny insects that landed on my while I was working. Besides the leafhopper, the hornets were a favorite to watch. They appeared to have become addicted to the grape jelly I set out for the orioles. It was a challenge to draw and paint even one, despite their large size. They were in a constant state of motion, coming and going from the feeder; sometimes fighting with one another, sometimes appearing to greet each other. They were not always happy with me peering down at them. I had a few close flybys and had to step away. Today I had to help a couple out of the jelly though, as they were either stuck in it or so overloaded on sugar. I think it was a combination of both. I decided it was time to take away the jelly. They have been regulars in the yard so I know they will survive just fine. I will continue to try and do them justice artistically before they hibernate for the winter. This is a very humble representation of one. Their patterns are exquisite. 

As always, thanks for visiting and please respect my images from one creative to another. Please ask for my permission if you wish to reproduce the image in any way, as they are my own originals. 



U.S. Postal Service Debuts Grand Canyon Stamp


This is share worthy! Landscape artists on U.S. Postage stamps including one of my personal favorites – Thomas Moran.

Originally posted on Arizona Highways:

Courtesy of U.S. Postal Service

Courtesy of U.S. Postal Service

If you’re looking for a reason to send something via U.S. mail, look no further: A new book of stamps from the U.S. Postal Service features paintings from the Hudson River School art movement, including Thomas Moran’s Grand Canyon.

The “forever” stamps, available in books of 20, are the 12th installment in the USPS’ American Treasures series. The other three stamp designs are Thomas Cole’s Distant View of Niagara Falls, Asher B. Durand’s Summer Afternoon and Frederic Edwin Church’s Sunset.

Of Moran’s painting, the USPS had this to say in a news release:

Thomas Moran is represented by the 1912 painting Grand Canyon, from the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. The painting embodies Moran’s ability to convey scenes that are both idealized, but also recognizable to people who have seen the actual landscape themselves. “My aim,” Moran said…

View original 28 more words

The Mystery of the Beetle and the Ant

staghorn and ant 1600 size

While volunteering for the Great Basin National Park BioBlitz of Lepidoptera this past July, I came across a large reddish brown beetle sitting by the trail. When I picked the animal up, I realized it was dead (or so I thought – more about that in a minute). Attached to the back leg was a dead ant, which had clearly bit it. I admired the color and large size of the beetle (about 2” in length at least) but I wondered what kind of species and what had happened that both should have passed away. Perhaps the ant’s bite poisoned the beetle and/or vice versa? Had the two been sprayed by a repellant or poison from a passing hiker? Fortunately, Ken, a National Park Service volunteer and expert in all things natural history (including “bunnies” according to his business card. Ken had a sense of humor I could tell when I noted this detail, as he smiled), was able to explain.

The beetle was a Stag Horn Beetle and she was a female, as she had an ovipositor extending from her bag end (the ovipositor from which eggs are released). She had most likely been climbing trees to lay eggs amidst the trunk. Her rounding belly was clue to this as well. This type of beetle, I was told, typically lays about 100 eggs, each individually, each in its own hole the mother has drilled in the bark of the tree. We could see as we looked at the trees, various holes in its surface. While this mother has been making safe havens for her young, a carpenter ant protecting the tree had attacked her. Often older carpenter ants are given this task since their strength and usefulness has lessened. Its good size indicated it was an older animal. The ant never let go once it latched onto this mom, so during the beetle’s arduous task, the ant was dragged along, then perished due to its weaker state.

Ken indicated the beetle was still in the process of dying, as she was quite soft yet, but she was very close to the end. He said this was the way it worked. Once she had finished laying eggs, her life ends. I decided to pay homage to her and the ant, in the short time that I had by painting a watercolor sketch. I then returned her and the ant to where I had found them, amidst some grasses along the trail.

Here’s an image of the initial sketch and animals:

staghorn with iniitial sketch

The final painting and showing her underside:

staghorn with belly and painting

As always, your respect is appreciated. Please do not reproduce without my permission, as they are my original works. Thank you!

Damsels and Dragons and Drawing

powder blue on rock

I have often seen many Odonata species without taking the time to look closely. Today I did however (actually, I was not familiar with the word Odonata until a couple months ago when I took a workshop. They are the damselflies and dragonflies). With an ecologist and experienced naturalists at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I walked along for a survey of these long bodied flyers.

meadowlark female

Admittedly, I have thought of them as very simple looking creatures but after seeing them up close with magnifiers, held carefully in hand, that idea changed. Their colors can be brilliant. Their head and legs are covered with what appear to be spikes. Their bodies are divided by segments, indicated by indentations and color. Their eyes revolve around with thought and purpose. And the wings are an entirely complex arrangement of line and pattern. I learned each individual Odonata has its own wing design. I guess one could compare it to our fingerprints. We each have our own identifying marks. So when I think of the probably millions, perhaps trillions of these animals, that live on this planet and will continue to be born, that is quite astounding. The depth of what God has created is quite intense. 

ruby meadowlark

I was compelled to sketch them the more I saw them. I did not expect to get as much information as I did. It helped that they were controlled to a degree, as they were delicately held. They also spent more time sunning themselves and repeating body positions than I expected. Above and below are some of my quick observations. As you can see, there was no time for capturing wing details. They did not spend that much time staying in one place! Each study represents about 1-3 minutes of drawing, if not a few seconds for some. It was a joy regardless. These sketches represent good memories of briefly becoming part of another animal’s world.

damselfly 1

Thanks to Jenn at the Urban Ecology Center and all the enthusiastic individuals I shared the trails with today to discover them! 

damselfly 2 damselfly 3 damselfly identified female slender spread wing

The images are original and my own so please ask for permission to reproduce. The respect is appreciated from one creative individual to another.