Of Darkling Nutlets

It began with this.


I had never actually seen a European water chestnut (Trapa natans) “nutlet” until a few months ago.  I knew of their tenacity from friends at the Audubon Nature Center in Jamestown, NY who have been diligently working to eradicate them by hand pulling the plants over a matter of years.  These tenacious little beasts are so brilliantly adapted to propagate, they are wickedly difficult to triumph over.  They are an invasive species, and choke waterways, lakes and ponds throughout the Northeast.

And that is exactly what I saw when I first was shown a nutlet–a little beast, a dangerous, ouchy thing. With a dark, burnished exterior and devilishly sharp prongs springing from its surface, it looked to me like nothing less than the head of a frightening black bull, or a disturbing pagan mask used in ritual to evoke fear or awe.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the creature that I could see in it.  I knew what I had to do.



vintage burlap drapery pleat forms

vintage burlap drapery pleat inserts

taking shape

taking shape


an ominous form

Lord High Nutlet

Lord High Darkling Nutlet



If you’d like to learn more about the European water chestnut and how you can help prevent its spread, visit here — New York Invasive Species Information

Audubon Nature Center actively recruits volunteers for its water chestnut pull in the fair weather months.  Find out more here — Jamestown Audubon Nature Center

Have you ever felt compelled to transform or rework a natural object into something that projects its essence in a new way?  If so, please share.

the aftermath--clean up awaits

the aftermath–clean up awaits


Painting Patches

The most recent animal portrait I completed is of a lovely lady cat named Patches.

Patches_goodWMweb copy

Patches, 8″ x 10″, acrylic on panel

This portrait was commissioned as a Christmas gift and I was asked to include interests in photography and motorcycling, as well as a Watkins Glen, NY setting. As I mulled over the composition for this piece, I kept thinking about a wonderful photograph from the 1920s of my grand-dad on a Harley Davidson on which he’d built a travelling seat for his German Shepherd, King.  I liked the idea of putting Patches some years in the past, wearing an elegant scarf draped around her neck and a shearling travelling coat.  Much research into vintage cameras (that’s a Kodak in the final piece) and pre and post-WWII motorcycles ensued.  The gorge at Watkins Glen is spectacular and there’s a particular spot with a stone bridge and veil-like waterfalls spilling down the gorge walls that I honed in on.

I realized after delivering the portrait that of all these custom pieces I’ve done over the last couple of years, I don’t have a photograph of the subject with his or her portrait.  Patches’ family kindly provided me with some fantastic images.