Monthly Archives: June 2015

Where Are the Fathers???

In anticipation of Father’s Day we searched for paintings of fathers and their children, we came up with relatively few. A search of 1,262 images in the National Gallery of Art’s data base for artworks tagged father, there were several religious works, several family portraits, or artists’ paintings of their fathers, but surprisingly, this one the only secular painting of a father and child together that appeared.

large      Jonathan Budington, Father and Son, 1800

Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

This absence of paintings duplicated an experience Susan had a few years ago when she was trying to put together an album of memorable pictures of father and son together. Although they had hundreds of photographs, she discovered that there were relatively few of the dynamic duo. Dad always seemed to be behind the camera recording the activities that he and his son did together. It reminded us of the famous John Singer Sargent painting of the Daughters of Mr. Edward Darby Boit, 1882 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where we see the daughters, but not their father. Given the title, why Mr. Boit is not included remains a bit of a mystery.

Sargent, John Singer - The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882 MFA Boston

John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Mr. Edward Darby Boit, 1882 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

It’s a bit puzzling why there are so many paintings of mothers and their children, and not fathers. One artist is working at rectifying that. David Hilliard has photographed fathers in creative ways. He sometimes focuses on just his father, but also records their time together.

Hilliard, David - My Father's Shirt 1994

David Hilliard, My Father’s Shirt, 1994   You can see many more of his photographs at

The panoramic form of his photographs, which are made up of sequential panels, give a fresh feeling to things that might otherwise seem ordinary.  On his website, he states:  I continually aspire to represent the spaces we inhabit, relationships we create, and the objects with which we surround ourselves. I hope the messages the photographs deliver speak to the personal as well as the universal experience. I find the enduring power and the sheer ability of a photograph to express a thought, a moment, or an idea, to be the most powerful expression of myself, both as an artist, and as an individual.”

Hilliard, David - Hug, 2008 David Hilliard, Hug, 2008

Put your creativity to work. Maybe your photographs could be panoramas of things your father loves to do, or things that are symbols of the kind of man he is. What images can you piece together that tell the way you feel about your father? If you are a father, maybe you want to piece together something that tells what it’s like to be a father or grandfather.

Whatever you do, we hope that you can be with the people you love on Father’s Day.   Take time to record some memories of the times you share together.  Make sure your fathers and grandfather are represented in your treasured family photographs.

chris and eric

Cheers, and Happy Father’s Day!

Susan and Mary

Take Flight this Summer!

In addition to being beautiful and interesting to watch, birds play a critical role in our world’s ecology, and are vital links to the ecosystem’s vast food chain. Because of this, birds score a chapter of their own in upcoming Volume 2 of our Teaching through the ARTS series of books. Like us, you might want to devote some summertime to getting better acquainted with these important creatures.

Did you know that through the National Audubon Society, volunteers engage in bird “counts” that report on how many birds are spotted from year to year in a particular location? Because our world is so intertwined, bird counts are like an early warning system on the state of the ecosystem. If the bird count drops significantly, it’s an indication that a part of the environment that the birds depend on has been negatively affected.

Probably because of their antics and ever-presence, birds have been a common subject in art for many centuries. Hundreds of years ago, artists were memorializing birds! Here are a couple of examples.

4x5 original

    Whistle in the Shape of a Bird, Sawankhalok,Thailand, ca. 1300-1500; Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Lidded vessel in the form of an Ancient Bird Quig Dynasty, China 1700-1800; Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

His seminal book, Birds of America (1827 and 1838), puts John James Audubon in the forefront of wildlife illustration. The book boasts 435 watercolors of North American birds, reproduced from hand-engraved plates. The colors and poses Audubon captures are stunning and, well, so lifelike! Audubon drew the birds life-size, which presented some challenges when it came to large wading birds. (Have you ever noticed how tall they really are?) What he did, as you’ll see in his American Flamingo, was to illustrate the bird with its head down, hunting for food. By changing the pose, he could essentially fold the bird in half, and it would fit on the page. Even so, when the book was printed it was called an “elephant” portfolio because the pages were so large. It might be fun for you to try to create a life-sized bird using paints or even newspaper.

John James Audubon, American Flamingo, 1838

John James Audubon, American Flamingo, 1838. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Birdwatching is growing by leaps and bounds as a recreational activity. People everywhere put birdfeeders in their yards to attract birds and see them at close range without disturbing their natural activities. Every morning when Mary goes for a walk, she listens to the birds. She hears a large variety of calls, so she knows that means there is a diverse bird population in her neighborhood even if she doesn’t see them all. This spring, Susan watched a mother mallard duck and her three ducklings as they grew, and then flew off to a bigger pond. (Isn’t the reflection cool?)


If you are a birdwatcher, please send us some of your photographs and stories about where you saw a particular bird. We’d love to share them at Here are some of our stories.

As a child, Susan was introduced to bird watching. Sitting quietly in the grass during the early morning or the twilight hours, she watched birds finding food and building nests. This hobby became so interesting that on trips, it became important to set aside time for bird watching. On a trip to Masai Mara in Kenya, Susan watched a Tawny Eagle that was quietly sitting in one of the lone trees suddenly take off into flight.

Tawny Eagle, Kenya      Tawny Eagle, Kenya

Closer to home she saw two Bald Eagles nesting near a lake that had good fishing. They were close enough to her house that she could walk to their nesting site to watch the eagles. One day tiny heads popped up out of the nest, a welcome site because the bald eagle is on the list of threatened species.

Bald Eagles, Winter Park                                                               Bald Eagles, Florida

When Susan’s husband made a trip to New Zealand, he brought back pictures of the Paradise Shelduck, a water bird is about the size of a small goose. When you’re photographing birds, you have to be very quick but move quietly or the birds fly away. A photograph of a male and female bird (white head) was really special! The birds are not rare, but he wanted the photograph in order to share his experience.

Paradise Shelduck, NZ       Male and female Shelducks are one of the few species that mate for life. They call back and forth to each other, even when they’re flying. The female has a very high pitched call, sort of an “eek” sound, while the male has a lower-pitched honk.

migrating birds

Susan’s family likes to go to the wildlife preserve when birds are migrating. Family members could never be sure what species of birds these were because they were flying so high that even with binoculars no distinguishing marks could be seen. These large birds flew majestically along the coastline. The field guide said: “A flock of migrating White Pelicans…ride rising air currents to great height, where they soar gracefully in circles.” The guide added that the birds flapped and sailed in unison, and that they wintered in Florida. The description closely matched what we saw, but the birds were brown, not white. We hope to see them again this migrating season and solve the mystery.

After years of singing about the Kookaburra, Mary came face to face with one in Australia! He was friendly, happy to sing his version of the song.  The laughing kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family.


Taking photos or even sketching the birds that you see enhances the experience of bird watching. Matching the chorus of birdcalls to their makers adds to the interest. Listening to orchestral music that features bird sounds adds to the intrigue. You might start your listening with “The Aviary” from Carnival of Animals Suite by French composer, Camille Saint-Saens; and, of course, Sasha, in Peter and the Wolf by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, is an unforgettable bird with an important mission.

Birds surround us and give pleasure while serving an important role in our world’s ecology. We hope that your summer is filled with the sights and sounds of these vertebrates.

Susan and Mary