Thrivin’ Tadpoles

When I opened the box full of potential tadpoles from the pond supply company, I expected to already be a little disappointed. It was 80 degrees out and 5:00. The mail had to be sitting on the front steps for hours. Casualties were not a possibility, but a certainty.


What I found was a bag of awesome. I counted eight tiny swimming spermy critters sealed in a bag like an ill-fated goldfish. Obviously, they give you a couple of extras “in case.”
American Toads are extremely resilient creatures, but I didn’t expect a 100% survival rate. Nearly 2 weeks in to tadpole ownership, I really did not expect that.


My “taddies” as my daughter calls them, have exceeded expectations. They’ve already grown. They swim with the vigor of a sober Michael Phelps. Watching one wiggle it’s way through a lettuce leaf piece three times it’s size was hilarious.


Still, I am not sure how to make these guys into art. I mean they are TINY. Even the smaller adult toads I have drawn could be measured in inches. These guys not so much. Taking photos of them is quite difficult – they zoom around like little torpedoes. My camera lens is a notoriously good prosumer lens but it can’t dream of focusing fast enough.


Still, what a fun adventure! If these little guys do well, I may make toad raising a tradition. Their energy and the amazing transformation they will partake in is cause for celebration. When I do finally get to drawing one of them, I think it will be a very large drawing to convey just how great these little guys are.


taddie3 taddie1

Why toads?

I had a very good experience at the LoLa Art Crawl this past weekend. I was at Glacier’s Cafe on Minnehaha across from the Hub. We had great weather, good traffic, and really good frozen custard and sandwiches. Thanks to Ben and everyone at Glacier’s for a great time! My only complaint would be that I wished I could have gone out to crawl some of the other spaces myself.

I had a lot of interesting conversations with people about many different topics. Some wildlife rehab volunteers told me about rehabbing snapping turtles. I directed a young artist to Wet Paint in St. Paul for the best selection of truly artist quality colored pencils. The question I got most was “why toads?”

I know I gave a different answer every time. Sometimes I talked about the wonder of frogs and toads in fairy tales, other times I just said that they make me smile. I do  think there is more to it than that ; I identify with their ugliness and their ordinariness.  Their individuality is lost on the people they come in contact with. They are defined instead by the odd place where they were found or how close they got to your lawn mower blades. Instead of the princess, I feel like the toad. Perhaps there is some magic behind this toad skin; perhaps not. I just know that this really does make me smile.





Show me your Snake!

Ball Python Colored Pencil Drawing

"Ball Python Portrait" Colored Pencil

This weekend there are two reptile expos I am excited about. One is the amazing National Reptile Breeder’s Expo in Daytona Beach, Florida that I have sent some art down to. It is a huge show with many of the best reptile breeders in attendance. They have everything from normal corn snakes to one-of-a-kind animals going for tens of thousands of dollars. They also have a great art show right on the expo floor. I met Tell Hicks the first time I was in the show. He is a great guy, very friendly and very talented. He gave me a greeting card print of a green toad that still hangs in my kitchen.

It’s hard to describe the NRBE; if you like reptiles at all or are just fascinated by them — or even just intrigued by the people who love them, the show is more than worth the trip. You can see and buy chameleons in storybook colors, anacondas coiled in plastic bowls, frogs that eat mice, and turtles older than I am. If you want a reptile (or amphibian or bug) chances are you can find it there, or find out who can get you one.

This weekend there is also a reptile show much closer to home for me, the Minnesota Reptile Show in Bloomington, MN. I have been to the two previous MN Reptile Shows and they are quite impressive despite the smaller venue. They have had a good selection of animals and supplies, and it’s great to see there are plenty of reptile people in my home state.

My toddler loves to look at all of the different snakes, turtles, and lizards on display. She doesn’t decide which ones she wants, she decides how many of each kind she wants! It is tough to say “no” when I love reptiles myself. All I have to do is look at the tanks full of cockroaches to remind myself that we aren’t ready for a bearded dragon. Yet!

Art I Like

I spend a lot of time looking at artwork, for my day job and even at home. Sometimes all that art can blend together, and so I feel that it is important for me to pause and think about the artwork that I really like. Here are a few of the artists that have impressed me lately.

Beth Cavener Stitcher’s work is breathtaking. The scale of her ceramic animals is mind boggling, and that is only the beginning. I hope to see some of her work in person some day, because as powerful as they are in photographs, the real thing has to be even more incredible.

Ranjini Venkatachari is one of my favorite colored pencil artists. I especially like her brightly colored works. Her art really illustrates the luminance one can achieve with colored pencil.

Then there is Doug Bloodworth. I love everything about his “pop” body of work; the colors, the subjects (especially the Oreos), and of course how ridiculously real they are. His paintings are so vibrant and fun; I would love to be able to achieve his level of detail in oil paint some day. Not only that, but many of his works are huge, which only magnifies the awesomeness.

Making of “Waiting for His Kiss”

One of the forums I like to visit has a lot of “work in progress” posts where you can watch as the artist updates the thread with different stages of their art piece. I am much too impatient for them and usually wait until there are a few pages of posts and skip to the end.

The process is fun to watch, I just like it condensed. So beginning after the very first stage of “Waiting for His Kiss” I began snapping photos of my progress with my phone. Here is the resulting .gif.

Waiting for His Kiss Progression

I don’t know if anyone can learn much from the progression, but it is cool to watch the drawing come to life. Next time I’ll try to use more consistent lighting!