D is for Desert Cottontail

These little guys are all over Texas.

Fun fact: Desert cottontails hardly ever drink water. I feel like I should make a craft beer joke here, because Texas, but desert cottontails really just get all the moisture they need from the plants they eat.

My Texas Wildlife menagerie is growing!

Categories: Animal Alphabet, Animals, Artwork, environment, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Weekly Sketch: C is for Cicada

My sketch is a day late this week, and I still didn’t manage to finish it.

The humble but vocal cicada. Its metallic buzz is the sound of a hot summer day in Texas.

This sketch is a clear failure to simplify.¬†Apparently the more familiar I am with my subject matter, the easier it is for me to depict it with a few simple lines. If I’m drawing something I’m not super familiar with, like armadillos or cicadas, I end up with a tall pile of reference photos and a thousand unnecessary details. And in this case, an unfinished sketch. I’ll try to do better next week.



Categories: Animal Alphabet, Animals, Artwork, environment, Life, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Tags: | Leave a comment

Weekly Sketch: B is for Bat

Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony.

About a million and a half Mexican free-tailed bats reside under the Congress Avenue Bridge. They emerge at dusk to hunt mosquitoes and other insects, and return at dawn.

Fun fact: Bats and armadillos are both nocturnal. But armadillos sometimes venture out in daylight, especially in cool weather.

Categories: Animal Alphabet, Animals, Artwork, environment, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Tags: | Leave a comment

A is for Armadillo

Two of my artist friends inspired my resolution for 2020. There’s this thing I do where I get a great idea for a Christmas or birthday card, but when I go to draw it I get all bogged down in details and the pursuit of hyperrealistic perfection. Then it stops being fun and I wander off and never finish it. The last card I managed to finish was this one in 2017. I spent way too much time on it, and when it was finally done I realized that I liked the cheerful storybook simplicity of this card better anyway.

So for my 2019 Christmas card I planned to keep things nice and simple. I would draw a cartoon-style armadillo next to a festive little yaupon tree full of winter berries. Easy peasy. Except I seem to have forgotten how to draw simple shapes. No matter how many times I started over, I couldn’t figure out how to depict a card-worthy armadillo without obsessing over all the little details that make armadillos so adorable.

I didn’t feel too bad about my unfinished card. Mailing out Christmas cards seems to be falling out of fashion anyway in these busy times.

But this year we received a hand-drawn card from a young family friend. And it brought me so much joy.

She made it look so effortless. And I know it wasn’t effortless at all, or if it was it’s only because she works on her art constantly, all the time.

I have another friend who challenges herself to draw something almost every single day. She shares the images online. She’s been doing this for a couple years now, and I’ve watched her artistic skills develop pretty dramatically in that time.

So on Christmas Day, as I stared enviously at the handmade card from my young artist friend, I resolved to follow the example of my other friend who draws something every day. Except not literally every day, because then I’d have to give up some other hobbies that i like. The best I can realistically commit to is one completed sketch per week. Still way better than my current average.

The goal is to learn how to quickly draw images that capture the spirit of the subject without a lot of unnecessary details. The rules are simple: I will post one sketch here on my blog every week. If my sketch isn’t finished I will post it anyway, even if all I have is a rough outline. Hopefully I will improve with practice.

For my first sketch I wanted to finish that armadillo. I grumbled to Luke and Elizabeth that it’s basically impossible to draw a cartoon armadillo, because they’re too…textury.

They both immediately drew cartoon armadillos.

Luke drew this one:

His first draft only had three vertical stripes down the middle. “This is Texas,” I said. “We have nine-banded Armadillos here.” So he added six more stripes and the ballcap, because Texas.

Elizabeth drew this one:

“It’s not nubbly,” I said. “It has no nubbles.”

“I might color it later and add nubbles,” she said. “This is a cartoon armadillo.”

I went back to my drawing board, and eventually produced this:

I like it, but it took too long to draw. Maybe a year from now I will be able to draw a simple armadillo without spending a week on it. That’s the goal, anyway.

Happy New Year! 2020 is going to be an exciting year, I can feel it!

Categories: Animal Alphabet, Animals, Artwork, Christmas, Friends, Holidays, Life, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Tags: | 2 Comments

Above, Below and Just Beyond Texas, Part II

Read Part I here!

We climbed Guadalupe Peak mostly in sunshine, and descended in deepening shadows.

Here is a better view of the bridge.

The shadows crept up the flanks of Hunter Peak across the canyon…

…and we knew that when the last rays of direct sunlight had left its summit, we would have about half an hour of twilight left before we were hiking in the dark.

But the scenery was even prettier in the “golden hour” light, so we couldn’t rush past it too quickly.

The splashes of crimson in the canyons are maple trees showing off their fall colors.

Coming down was a lot easier and faster than going up, at least until we hit that last 1.5 miles of steep switchbacks at the base. That is equally brutal in both directions.

We made it back to the trailhead before dark, but lost the last of the light on that extra mile back to the car. Not bad though, all things considered.

We drove the 27 miles back to the “primitive campground.” There were no new campers there, and one of the two other tents was gone now, leaving only our tent next to the probably-homeless-camp.

We had done what we came to do. Guadalupe Peak was vanquished. None of us felt that sticking around to hike Devil’s Hall was worth the hassle of finding a safe place to spend the night, especially since Luke had to be at work Monday morning. We decided to find the nearest gas station, fuel up and head home. We googled up a couple of places for gas in White’s City, but they looked super sketchy. The nearest legit-and-open station was in Carlsbad. We burned most of the last of our fuel getting to a gas station, filled the tank and turned the car for home.

Less than an hour into that drive, I realized that I had overestimated my stamina. I had put in a full work shift and climbed a mountain since my last real sleep, and now the road hypnosis was kicking in. I needed to stop and rest. We located a motel in the next town, Pecos. It was as good a place as any to spend the night.

Except that when we rolled up to the motel, it was permanently closed. We found another one not too far away, but no one answered the “Ring for Service” bell. All of the other motels in town cost at least $200 more than I wanted to spend on a few hours’ sleep. But by then I was dangerously drowsy, like, not at all safe to drive. So we found a truck stop just outside of town, parked out of the way and slept in the car. That was simultaneously the most uncomfortable and the most restorative night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.

We woke up with sore muscles but otherwise refreshed, and resumed our journey home.

A couple hours later we saw a sign for the Caverns of Sonora. That looked like a good time, and it wasn’t out of the way, so we stopped to check it out.

We were greeted on the porch by this pretty fellow:

The Caverns of Sonora are pretty cool.

But the mountains were still singing in our souls, and on that day we had no particular passion for stalactites. I feel kind of bad for the tour guide and the guide-in-training. They were obviously very enthusiastic about their caverns and we totally lacked the proper sense of wonder and awe. Sorry guys, you were great tour guides anyway, and your caverns are lovely.

We left Sonora and continued homeward. After a while we decided we were tired of camp provisions and stopped in Fredericksburg for some really good German food at Der Lindenbaum.

So that was our weekend. Very much an exercise in the Rubber Ball Philosophy, but we enjoyed it a lot.


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Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, Holidays, kids, Life, Travel, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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