Friday, April 20, 2018

A duck to water

Months after I was back home after my merry trip to WI, looking over a 100 plus photos of purely Myrtle, I thought she just might be the right one to draw to enter in the Birds in Art Exhibition down the road. 

After all I had soo many interesting poses of her as she was very animated that morning on the dock. But eventually after working out the cropping and composition I decided to have her in just a simple pose looking out over the lake. 

The inital design I worked out felt very pleasing to me. Well balanced, where the viewers eye could travel around and through the drawing but was never thrown out of it. 

I made the center of interest the water below the dock. That is where the viewers eye enters, with all the dark tonal variations and large abstract shapes that lead the viewers eye right up the pole of the dock to the merganser.

The rest of the drawing I feel supports this center of interest with sharp and soft edges and value contrasts. With the absence of color I wanted to make sure that these other supports held up just as well. 

Sittin' in the Mornin' Sun  (c) 11.5x10.25

I truly enjoyed composing and drawing this piece and feel it's one of my stronger pieces in my portfolio of work. I hope to do more ducks down the road using the same design principles as Sittin' in the Mornin' Sun.

A sitting duck

Sittin' in the Mornin' Sun (c)2018 11.5x10.25 graphite pencil

A few years ago my sister and one of my best friends flew to WI to attend Barbara Jaenicke's pastel workshop at the beautiful Dillman's Bay Resort in Northern WI!

While slowly making my way to class one morning from our cute little log cabin I spotted a funny looking duck out on the pier in front of the classrooms. I had never seen a duck like this before, so my attention quickly diverted over towards her and with camera in hand I sat with her for quite awhile, missing out on part of the morning session...leaving my friend and sister wondering what had happened to me in such a short distance!

At the very end of December 2017 I started to draw Myrtle the female Merganser from WI, trying to get her complete in between commissions with a deadline in my head of April 15th. Not for tax day of course...but to enter her in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's Birds in Art Exhibition

You see, I use to live about half an hour away in Plover WI so this was a pretty big deal even then. In 1994 I was even invited by a friend who's air brush painting juried into the show, to the closed artist reception, meeting in person Robert Bateman, Carl Brenders, Richard Sloan, just to name a few of the master artists there! Ever since that exhibition, I had always wanted to enter a piece of art in it but was too intimidated to even try. That is until now!!

Now I feel I am skilled enough, experienced enough, and feel worthy enough to be in the same exhibition as the great wildlife masters I have admired and been SO inspired by through the years. So I tried, and if I don't get in I am ok with that as at least I finally mustered up the courage to go for it this year. Next year I will be even more confident and ready to enter again!!

**stay tuned for my next post about how I designed and composed my drawing of Myrtle**

Monday, January 15, 2018

Chubby unicorns

“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Because humans want to save things that they love.” 

It's hard to believe over 7 years have gone by since I was in Africa and yet I have never drawn one of the rhinos I saw there! I guess the elephant (I've drawn far) was the animal I deeply connected with while on safari...and then the lions (drew 5 of them)!

It wasn't until my friend Shaney told me how much she loved them that I took a closer look. So I began following a few Rhino Conservation pages on Instagram: Rhinos in Africa Foundation, Rhino Man the Movie, Save the Rhinos and Rhino Republic, and I fell in love with them too, just as my friend had. 

So, of course I now have about 3 I want to draw!!

I started these white rhinos for a demo I gave last weekend at Blicks Art Store in Pasadena, CA. It's not the typical way I start a drawing, but since it was for a demo I wanted to have various parts started so I could talk about my technique. But now that has come and gone and I can really get between my commission work that is...and get them done for a few upcoming exhibitions. And if it sells, as always, a portion will go to one of the groups below to help in their fearless efforts to save the rhino.

And here is the educational portion of this post!!!

The white rhino is the largest of 5 different types of rhinos. It's mouth is wide for grazing and is the friendliest of all of them. Once thought to be extinct, they now thrive in protected sanctuaries (we saw them at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy) but still a fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed in the early part of the 20th century are now gone due to loss of habitat and poaching.

Several conservation tactics have been taken to prevent the rhinos disappearing from the earth. The northern white rhino have guards 24 hours a day watching over them at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Image from:

If you feel moved to help, you can give to Lewa Wildlife Consevancy or Ol Pejeta Conservancy. And if you give $50 or more I will send you a matted print of my rhino drawing...just send me the proof and I will put you on a list when it's done. Thanks!

Friday, December 8, 2017


Time spent with animals is never wasted!!

I've written about the subject of photographing your animals before but it bears repeating. To see my first post on this subject click here. And I'll say it again, I couldn't create great portraits if I didn't have great reference photos! I know it's not easy but it's not impossible either...and can be a really fun time with your pet!!

You don't have to have special equipment but if you have a good camera, pull it out and dust it off! Never use your flash tho, instead get your pet outside in natural morning light. If that's not possible then in the brightest room you have.

Do your best to focus in on their eyes...get at or below their eye level. This adds an intimacy to your portrait and captures the soul of your sweet animal.

Also think about what it is that sets your pet apart from others...or what is unique to their personality. For my cat Shortie, when he sleeps or sees me he tilts his head a certain way.

And don't take just one photo and call it done...I can easily take 50 shots at one time, then whittle it down to 1 or 2 really great shots. Set up a few sessions to catch them in different moods. And above all be patient with both your pet and yourself.

Try these few tips and see if you just can't get that perfect shot off!!

Thursday, September 7, 2017


"Nature goes about her quiet business and brings us greatest pleasure.” 

Hiding in Plain Sight (c)2017 13.5x5.75

Bob Scratchit is my latest colored pencil drawing I created for an upcoming western show.

The photograph I worked from is credited to Corina Roberts, a wonderful photographer that lives higher up in the mountain from my small home. She had posted a few photos on Facebook shortly after my own encounter with a bobcat. 

On our way up the hiking trail that day my dog Josie excitedly ran over to a tall knotty pine tree. I just assumed she was chasing a squirrel up the tree, but to my utter astonishment it was a bobcat not a squirrel in that tree! The first bobcat I had ever seen in the wild!! Josie and I hung there...about 4 feet away for at least 10 minutes or more watching and chatting with him. He just laid there, as he is in my drawing until some other people jabbering obliviously away scared him off his comfy branch. Unfortunately I had left my camera at home that day so I only had my memory of the encounter to remind me of that amazing experience until I saw Corina's photograph, which she so kindly gave me permission to use.

The entire time I was drawing Bob I felt like I was reliving that unforgettable 10 minutes with my sweet pup!!

The pine tree where Josie and I encountered the bobcat.

My beautiful dog Josie farther up the hiking trail

The hiking trail in Angeles Crest National forest

Bob's progress collage, drawn in Polychromos, Pablos and Luminance colored pencils on Stonehenge paper.

I did not get a full stamp of approval from Dakota this time!!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Where there is no struggle, there is no strength. 

~Oprah Winfrey~

Alley Cat (c)2017 Polychromos and Pablo on Stonehenge 8x10

I have to confess that drawing Alley Cat was a struggle. I started her over 3 times! I really don't know what happened, it was a first for me...and made me question myself and my art. All I can think of is I didn't have the right colors to begin with and that super threw me off. But I also couldn't quite see the colors correctly, or decide exactly which colors to use. It was soo weird. I know this summer I was struggling personally with finances... I had a lot of unexpected expenses and little savings to cover them. I'm also very exhausted these past few years from working 70 hour weeks between my full time job and working on my art business...fueled most days only by caffeine! Sometimes the weight of responsibility can weigh very heavily on me...and my to do list is really long!! Most don't see any of this tho as I wear my super woman armor around...but when my water heater went out on the same day as my car was at the mechanics for the third time within 2 months and the plumber messed up the handles in my shower and didn't tell me...all my cracks broke wide open and the flood gates parted!! I was pretty much a hot mess that morning! But that released something deep inside of me that I was clearly holding in. 

Everything has been paid for now, my new drawing of Bob Scratchit is going so easily, the pressure that had built up for months is gone and I am feeling centered-in alignment-again. Phew! I can breathe again. I don't think I'll ever have all my shit together, altho it may look like it on the outside...everything ebbs and flows...that's life. It's how we handle it...I use humor, drawing, my animals and nature to help get me through the hard times. 

When I see certain drawings of mine through the years, memories flood in...Alley Cat will be like that...that I went through a period of struggle, I consciously worked to released it and life went back to normal...actually better than normal. I know I am blessed and VERY grateful for my wonderful life...this portrait will always remind me of that!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hoarding disorder

In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.

Birds Eye View by Kathryn Hansen (c)2017 10x13.5

These red-capped acorn hoarders live in the ancient oaks in my charming little city nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains north of LA. 
I can easily spot them in the winter months perched in bare treetops. 

There's even a granery tree on the hiking path I frequent that is just riddled with acorn-filled holes up and down the trunk.
Besides their parrot like squawks giving them away, the steady drumming on the trees echo through the trails as well.
They are one of my favorite birds to see and hear out in nature!
 This drawing is Dakota approved! 👍


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