Finley – dog portrait

I so enjoyed putting together this portrait. Finley is such an expressive doggo. He had a whole instagram for me to work off! He’s quirky and *bursting* with personality. He’s got a great smile, too.

He sometimes cosplays as Sirius Black, so I put the constellation of Canis Major, and the bright star Sirius, behind him. Orion is there, too, because the hunter loves his dog, and I worked in the hare so he’d have something to chase.

I might possibly have really enjoyed astronomy as a kid. Mostly the names of the stars and the myths they were named after. I can’t find hardly anything in the night sky. I’m sure it helps that I’ve never lived someplace with a really properly dark sky.

We went to a dark sky park one time, but there was too much cloud cover and moonlight to see stars.

Someday.

Space. Sci Fi. And Covers.

I’m *always* diddling around cover ideas for my epic fantasy projects. Always. But, for the first time ever, I designed a cover for someone else. I’m pretty thrilled about it, actually. A college buddy started publishing these awesome sci fi short stories on Kindle, Stories of the Human Ship, and I got the opportunity to make a cover for story 3 which comes out this month!

Are you ready? Here’s the book blurb:

When most of Earth was destroyed in a nuclear war, the alien races arrived to auction off what was left. Now, a band of escaped humans in a stolen alien ship struggle to survive in an unfriendly galaxy. The stars are within reach, but there are no safe harbors.

If you like sci fi, or just good stories, you should go check them out. Story one is The Human Ship. They are free, too, which is pretty crazy.

This story is going places, be in the know early and help it spread!

New short story available on Kindle from Jordan Estrada!

Marvelous Moondancer

My brother is a professional mime and dancer (UK folks, you should look him up!) but I don’t recall ever drawing dancers much. I drew one during Inktober last year and he actually came out really well. I was also helping out a local ballet company at the time, and ended up painting a whole bunch of random things for them (a toy box, and the firebird dancer, for starters.)

Pinterest, that great source of inspiration, saw me hunting for images all those times and has helpfully been handing me gorgeous photographs of dancers for months now. I guess it’s no surprise that I started thinking of ways to create more mythic performers.

It took me two tries to get the moondancer the way I wanted…and then I realized neither had wings and I had sort of wanted her to have wings. Whoops.

Full Moon

Oh well.

I guess I’ll just have to paint another.

These are both done with Inktense backgrounds, and the dancers themselves are brushpen. I’m really enjoying the blending of Inktense as a background. I also love watercolor backgrounds, so it’s not like I’ll switch entirely—but sometimes you just want the hazey look. I used hematite watercolor in the skirt of the New Moon (the dark dressed dancer), because the granulation and flow was JUST want I wanted.

Neither of them are for sale anywhere. But could be, so just say the word 😉

New Moon

Which one do you like better? I like the pale dancer better than the dark dancer. It was more what I was going for originally, but they both have appeal.

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Sail Boats

I’ve been sailing exactly twice.

I feel like this is infinitely better than never having been sailing at all, but also sort of sad, because only twice.

Friends of ours had a boat, and invited us out a couple times to some little lake. I remember basically nothing about the surroundings, I was enthralled with the feel of floating on the lake, pushed by the breeze, and how you watched the water. They let me bask on the prow, and I learned important things like how to duck the boom.

I was probably twelve. It was pretty awesome.

That does, however sum up pretty much everything I know about sailing. Except for the things learned from movies, and we all know how reliable those are.

Purple Sail on a Teal sea-available on Redbubble and Etsy

I love the idea of sailing, though, even though I know that sailing in a big open space like the ocean would probably scare the snot out of me. I know about the horse latitudes and I’ve seen one too many Big Storm movies, being swept out to sea means you die! And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you get swept out to sea.

I’ve been practicing smaller sail boats this year—just a few, and they look radically different when I don’t have a picture of a sailboat in front of me.

When I was a teen, I went straight to more complex ships (though, still nothing like a brigandine, think Dawn Treader), and I guess they looked alright? I mean. I was mostly interested in the decorative prow (which was shaped like a horse, obviously). The novel I was working on in high school involved the Prince of the Horse-lords becoming a seafarer. He was a side character, and I think the plot significance of his ship was that he was well traveled—and I think he used it to make alliances with countries to the south. I’m realizing now that was a bit of a wasted opportunity if he didn’t use it that way, and I can’t remember for sure if that’s what he did or not. Wow. Never thought I’d forget anything about that novel.

Red Sails

I love it when tall ships are living museums and you area allowed to board and explore these shockingly small wood vessels that crazy people used to cross the Atlantic.

Black Sails–I need more creative names for these ships.

One of my friends passionately loves tall ships, and he can free sketch gorgeous ones when he’s bored in meetings. I know where to go when I need a ship for my Zare Caspian stories.

What about you? How do you feel about ships? Have you been sailing? Did you like it?

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A love affair with birds

I don’t know who started it, but I belong to a family of birders. Compared to a truly avid birder, we aren’t, but compared to the folks who aren’t sure what a robin is, we’re absolute bird nerds.

I think this is a wren. I should have written it down.

Growing up, we had a couple blue bird houses in back and a hummingbird feeder hanging off the deck. But my grandparents maintained a monstrous contraption of a bird feeder, with suet, thistle, sunflower, and probably a couple other extensions. My grandfather had a longstanding contest with the local squirrels, but unlike me he was actually pretty successful in building baffles to keep the little moochers off. It wasn’t until recently that the trees had gotten too big and too close, and the squirrels could just LEAP directly onto the feeder.

But for years, the squirrels foraged under the feeder and the birds fed at their appointed places and splashed in their heated (in winter) birdbath.

My Grandparents received Birds and Blooms magazine, and whenever we arrived at their house for a visit I would immediately grab a magazine and flip through the pages looking at all the spectacular, brilliantly colored, photography. I never read the full length articles, just the short little blurbs and funny stories. But oh, those pictures.

Phone calls, letters, and conversation centered on the happenings at the bird feeder—what notable bird visited, or the time the fox came through with a half-eaten something in his mouth, or the day the hawk visited and ALL THE BIRDS avoided the yard for hours. I imagine, if there were a zoologist historian at some point in the future, they would like to have my grandmother’s letters. But given that they are all written in cursive, they won’t be able to read them.

The aviary is my favorite part of the zoo, and I always try to stop and listen to the birds, even though I have only the barest grasp on which birds I’m hearing. Now that I’m grown and have a house of my own, I have a sunflower seed feeder.

I hang it off a tree branch I can reach from my deck, so I had no illusions about keeping the squirrels off—though I do throw cups of water at them sometimes when I feel like they’ve been on the feeder Every Single Time I’ve been out there.

I don’t mind at all when the cardinal in the tree outside my bedroom window scolds loudly because the feeder is empty. I love watching the housefinches, chickadees and the occasional titmouse pigging out on the feeder.

Blue Jay (those Jays…)

After a lifetime of drawing horses, I was surprised to find an affinity for birds. I really love painting birds, and half the time I really love how the paintings come out. I attribute it to the hours and hours I spent poring over Birds and Blooms, staring at breathtaking hummingbirds, titmice, tanagers, orioles, chickadees, bluebirds (east and west), blue jays (east and west)…of course, the more shy, insect eating birds I know essentially nothing about (there are armies of wrens and warblers and sparrows that I’m only seeing now because I have an uncle and an aunt who are Real Avid Birders with a Really Nice Camera).

I’ve started to experiment with different looks and feels for my bird paintings, and will probably start asking various wildlife and raptor rehabilitation centers if they are interested in having a piece to auction.

What about you? Do you bird watch? Or are birds those mysterious avian monsters from that Hitchcock movie? Which of these birds did you like best and want to see in the Etsy shop? (The Blue Vireo is already there)