Tag Archives: art

Drawing Owls from Life on Saturday April 7

Have you wanted to look closely at and draw a live Great Horned Owl or Barn Owl? Our Drawing Owls from Live program is a unique opportunity to learn about these amazing creatures in an intimate and beautiful setting. This program will take place in the Museum of American Bird Art from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 7th. 

Check out this video from a similar program for homeschool students that took place in February 2018. This will give you a good sense of how close you will be to the Owls, how the program is organized, and our beautiful museum space where the program will take place.

During this class, you will sketch live owls in our beautiful Museum of American Bird Art. Discover more about these amazing creatures from a trained Mass Audubon naturalist, while you learn to draw owls from life with pencil and paper in this hands-on workshop led by a trained Mass Audubon art educator. You will explore methods for developing your owl sketch, as well as techniques for capturing depth, volume, and texture. This program will take place in the Museum of American Bird Art from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 7th. 

Discovering, exploring, and creating: Wild at Art Vacation programs are soaring

We have had a wonderful February Vacation Week of programs and wanted to share our programming with you though these brief videos.

Tuesday February 20, 2018

We had an absolutely wonderful day on Tuesday. The weather was spectacular. We created lots of art and explored in our wildlife sanctuary, including hiking to the brook, marbling paper (sumingashi), creating nature journals, making landscape art near the brook, creating clay birds, and more.

Wednesday February 21, 2018

The weather on Wednesday was amazing and we spent lots of time outside and the rest of the day creating art. Today, we hiked to our “eagle’s nest” in the pine grove, learned about tracking deer, and everybody was challenged to create their own bird’s nests, they were spectacular. We also created lots of art, including a paper bag city, ate snack and lunch outside, and did a lot of exploring.

Thursday February 22, 2018

Although the weather has changed back to winter on Thursday, we had a fantastic day. We leaped into the world of printmaking with collagraph prints and silk screens of a fox. We hiked to the brook and create with nature in the pine grove in the center of our sanctuary. We create lots of art and sketched in the museum and had lots of fun.

Curiosity, inquiry, STEAM, and excitement

We are extremely excited to announce a wonderful suite of programs that infuse pottery, nature, and science into our homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art. Our classes are full of fun, active learning, curiosity, and laughter. Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March. During February, we have also had an amazing three week long class on Drawing Owls and other birds, check out the following videos from two of the classes.

Week 1: Drawing Owls at the Trailside Museum

Week 2: Drawing Owls from Live in the Museum of American Bird Art

In late February and March, we will be offering a Nature Photography Class, Winter Ecology and Art Class, and Ceramics Class. Class sizes are small so sign up early to reserve your spot. If you have any questions, would like to register, or qualify for a multiple child discount please call Sean Kent at 781-821-8853 or email skent@massaudubon.org.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March.

Winter Ecology and Art

Conduct ecological experiments in our living laboratory, investigate amazing adaptations, and reinforce scientific concepts by creating art! Under the guidance of a trained field biologist and Massachusetts licensed science educator, students will explore the winter ecology of plants and animals. Topics that we investigate will vary and will incorporate the interests of students enrolled in the program.

Homeschool Program: Pottery, ceramics, and sculpture

The pottery, ceramics, and sculpture homeschool program is designed to introduce and excite children working with clay. Each student will learn and use different hand-building techniques and the pottery wheel to create unique animal sculptures, vessels, and functional pieces such as plates, bowls, and mugs. While in this class, students will learn basic ceramics terminology, techiques, and processes. In addition to art making students will be able to explore the sanctuary’s trails, meadow, and museum to use as inspiration. During the pottery class, families not attending the program will have a comfortable space to sit, relax, use free wifi, or hike on our 121 acre wildlife sanctuary.

Zooming in on Nature with Digital Photography

Develop the skills needed to capture nature’s beauty through the lens of a camera. Learn the key elements of digital photography while taking photos that convey the magnificence of our natural world. Please note: Participants will need their own digital camera.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in March.

Nature and Art Discovery Program for Young Children and their Families on Tuesday and Sunday

We are excited to announce the return of our Nature and Art Discovery program offered to young children and their parents.  We will have a week day program that if offered on Tuesday from 10-11am and a weekend program that is offered on Sunday from 10-11am. 

Our Nature and Art Discovery program is the place to be if you love having fun, exploring and discovering nature, listening to engaging stories, and creating art.

We offer two separate programs, one that runs on Tuesday and one that runs on Sunday.
The Nature and Art Discovery program is a drop-in program for ages 2.5 to 5.5 with an adult (siblings welcome) from 10-11am. Each week is a different nature theme and will include a story, playing and hiking in nature (weather dependent), and creating art. When the weather is nice we will spend time outside and there will be plenty of time for free play in our nature play area at the end of the program. We also have picnic tables, benches, and other great spots to have a snack, play, and chat. This will be a weekly program.
The Sunday program begins on and Sunday September 10 and ends of Sunday December 10.
The Tuesday program begins on Tuesday September 12  and ends on Tuesday December 12. No program on Tuesday September 26.

Subscription for the entire series (13 programs) is $60 for members ($75 for non-members), a savings of $64 ($124 is the cost of all 13 weeks at $8 per week).

The following is a list of the different art mediums we will use for the first six weeks of the program:

–      September 12: Pottery

–      September 19: Painting

–      October 3: Making puppets

–      October 10: Pottery

–      October 17: Painting

–      October 24: Making hats and masks


Highlights from Week 5 of the Wild at Art Camp: Butterfly Safari, Caterpillar Lab, and Nature CSI

It has been such a wonderful summer so far and I am so grateful for all the families that have sent their children to the Wild at Art camp this summer. We have been having a wonderful week at the end of July. On Monday, we talked about going on journey this week looking for spectacular “things.” Here are a few highlights from the week with all our spectacular findings.

Highlight #1: A visit from the amazing Caterpillar Lab!

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Highlight #2: Making spectacular wildlife discoveries with friends

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Highlight #3: Exploring in the brook for aquatic critters

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Highlight #4: Creating art and making friends

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Highlight #5: Exploring in the meadow

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Animal Acrobatics and Shapeshifting Flyers: Top Moments from Week 1

Our first week of summer camp has been off to a fantastic start, with lots of art, nature, science, and fun built in. Check back in during the week as this post will be updated each day or two.

Here are some of the top moments from camp this week!

Moment #1

Going on a dragonfly hunt!

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All the campers from the Animal Acrobatics and Art groups were thrilled to learn about and hunt for dragonflies in our meadow. One highlight for everybody was getting to hold onto a dragonfly and feel it’s Velcro like feet (tarsi).

Top Moment #2
Learning about and building nests

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Top Moment #3
Pin the stinger on the bee

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Top Moment #4
Exploring movement with charcoal

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Top Moment #5
Having fun with our amazing staff

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Top Moment #6
Printmaking with linoleum tiles

On Thursday, we were very excited to learn how to sketch out a print onto linoleum tile and learn how to safely use linocutting tools. The prints came out exquisite and everybody loved what they made. The detail and care taken into each art project was remarkable and inspiring.

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Home and Away

We are thrilled to have a guest post by the amazingly talented artist Sherrie York. She will be visiting the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon between July 28 to July 30 to display her art, lead several programs, and give an illustrated talk about her printmaking. She will be doing a workshop with our summer camp on July 28th, giving an illustrated talk and reception for her artwork on July 29th, and giving an all day printmaking workshop on July 30th.

Home and Away by Sherrie York

Travel and art-making have often gone hand-in-hand. (Or perhaps that’s brush-in-hand.) John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of Morocco revealed an intriguing faraway culture. John James Audubon’s journeys recorded North America’s flora and fauna and Albert Bierstadt’s romantic western landscapes helped inspire the first national parks.

I enjoy travel, too, and will be traveling from my Colorado stomping grounds to MABA this summer. In July I will exhibit some of my linoleum block prints in the estate house and present both a printmaking workshop and presentation about my work. Of course it doesn’t always take a passport, a suitcase, or a new frontier to find subject matter. Familiar places close to home are inspiring, too.


This is Sands Lake. It’s a scruffy little body of water next to the Arkansas River in the town of Salida, where I live. They call it a lake, but it’s really a settling pond for the fish hatchery upstream. Water flows from hatchery to lake via underground culverts, then spills out the far bank in to the river.

During the day the trail around the lake is filled with fishing enthusiasts, dog-walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and birders. More than one elicit teenager party has taken place there after dark. Pristine, exotic wilderness it’s not.

But for me this humble corner provides a wealth of inspiration and stories year-round, and no small number of linocuts, too.


Pas de Ducks: All year

At the upriver end of the lake, next to the inflow culvert, is a concrete fishing pier. The remains of cliff swallow nests were still attached when it was installed, a good indicator of its provenance as repurposed bridge. Hopeful mallards congregate below the pier looking for handouts, and from my elevated vantage point I enjoy watching the tracery they create in the reflection of the railing.


Cruisin’: Spring

Forget the robin as a harbinger of spring! Local birders know that spring migrants begin to appear weeks before the pelicans turn up at the lake, but their sheer size and brilliant whiteness assure that even the most bird-ambivalent will notice this sign of winter’s demise.

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

Usurper: Summer

Three species of bluebird are present in the area around the lake, but the mountain bluebird’s cobalt shimmer and soft call is the most common. Bluebird enthusiasts abound, too, as evidenced by nest boxes peppering the edges of yards, pastures, and the municipal golf course. Of course tree swallows don’t know they aren’t the intended occupants…


Coot du Jour: Autumn through Spring

Like mushrooms after rain, American coots sprout on the surface of the lake in early autumn. The antics of 70 or 80 over-wintering birds amuse me until spring, but before the trees have finished leafing out they are gone. I never see them arrive, and I never see them leave.


No Time Like the Present: Winter

Winter is the time for waterfowl on Sands Lake. Because so much water moves through from the hatchery the lake remains open even in the coldest days of winter. Common and Barrow’s goldeneye, buffleheads, scaup, wigeon, and more fill the lake with noise and motion and offer consolation for the absence of warblers and swallows.



Positive Thoughts on Negative Shapes

Lake Wampanoag, Gardner

The third sanctuary I visited for this project, back on May 4, 2015, was Lake Wampanoag in Gardner.  (see A Taste of the North, May 4, 2015).  That day, I found some striking pileated woodpecker excavations in a red spruce tree.  I found the holes in the usual way – woods chips scattered across the trail caused me to stop and look up.  The holes were very fresh.   The heartwood glowed a bright orangey-tan, outlined by the rich burnt sienna of the inner bark.

Spruce w Pileated WP Holes, Lake Wampanoag - at 72 dpi

sketchbook page, 9″ x 12″

I made this pencil drawing at the time, and took some color notes.  As usual in cases like this, I never saw the bird.  However, pileated woodpeckers are common around my home in Princeton and I’ve had many opportunities to observe and sketch them in the past.

Weeks passed, then months.  But the spruce trunk and those woodpecker holes stuck in my mind, and I finally got around to developing them into something more…

Pileated in Progress - at 72 dpi

the work in progress…

In the studio, I worked up some sketches of a male pileated to “fit” with the spruce trunk, taking care to adjust the viewpoint, scale, pose and balance.  Working at a large size is much easier in the studio than in the field, so I scaled things up here.  At 22.5″ x 14″, this is the largest watercolor I’ve done for the residency so far.  The composition I developed is as much a portrait of the holes as it is of the bird, and I liked this idea of a dual center of interest, with both carrying equal weight.  After all, you couldn’t have one without the other!

Pileated Crest retouched - step 1 - at 72 dpi

When I want a red note in a watercolor to really POP, I almost always start with an under layer of pure lemon yellow.   I allow this to dry completely, and then glaze over it with a strong wash of cadmium red.

Pileated Crest - step 2 - at 72 dpi

The yellow under layer gives the red a glowing quality that it would not possess by itself.

I originally intended to add a full background to this painting – or at least a background tone.  But as the work progressed, I realized that I didn’t need a background of any kind, and that the bird and tree trunk alone made a stronger statement.  The spruce tree here acts as a surrogate for the environment – representing those unusual, cool spruce woods at Wampanoag.

Pileated Woodpecker and Red Spruce, dropout - at 72 dpi

Pileated Woodpecker and Red Spruce, watercolor on Winsor & Newton cold-press, 22.5″ x 14″

Another reason I decided to leave out the background was because the negative shapes (i.e. the white shapes between and around the objects) worked nicely to strengthen the composition and reinforce the main subjects.

This is not always the case.  Take a look at this watercolor done last spring at High Ledges in Shelburne (see On the Waterthrush Trail, May 21, 2015).

Canada Warbler in Witch-hazel, High Ledges - at 72 dpi

I always felt there was a problem with this painting – the negative shapes overwhelmed the subject and made the image visually confusing.   The negative shapes were definitely working against me, here.   Just recently I added a full background, with more witch-hazel leaves and stems, and a background tone.

Canada Warbler in Witch-hazel, REVISED, High Ledges - at 72 dpi

I like the painting much better now.  The bird takes center stage, as it should, and that glowing yellow throat and belly have a lot more impact!  I hope you like it better too, since there’s no going back!

Inquiry, Intentional Curiosity, Discovery, and Art!

Homeschool classes at MABA

In an environment rich with nature, science, and art, our homeschool classes are full of excitement, laughter, focused awareness, and curiosity. This blog post highlights some of the activities and programs we have done over the past few months at MABA. To learn or sign up for our spring courses, click here.

Animal Behavior Homeschool Class: Monarch Butterfly Natural History and Flight
The Biomechanics of Gliding

In one of our Animal Behavior sessions, we focused on the Monarch Butterfly migration to learn about animal migration and the biomechanics of flight.

Monarch butterflies via ASU.edu

Students created model monarch butterflies and conducted a test flight experiment in our museum.IMG_5032

To learn more about the incredible monarch butterfly migration, check out this fantastic BBC documentary

Monarch Butterfly amazing migration – BBC Life HD

Want to do more at home? Journey North is a great resource and citizen science project that tracks the migration of Monarch Butterflies and lets you contribute data that improves our understanding and conservation of these fantastic butterflies. We have tracked Monarch egg laying on the wildlife sanctuary and submitted data to journey north. Here is a publication that has used citizen science data from journey north to help us better understand migration and monarch population dynamics.

Learning about bird behavior and biology by making clay birds

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Learning about animal behavior and ethology by studying betta fish behavior & responding with art

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Field Biology, Pollinator Ecology, and Art Homeschool Class:
Exploring watercolor techniques and color theory

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To reinforce what we have learned about the biology and ecology of native bees and butterflies, each student cut out bee and butterfly silhouettes. They used these silhouettes to learned color theory and watercolor techniques, including wet on wet and wet on dry, by creating bold, fun, and colorful pollinators that they took home.

We have also learned about nesting habitats of native bees and created mason bee houses.


Studied the phenology of spring flowering plants through focused awareness and intentional curiosity

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Creating pollinators out of paper marbled with dye using the art of suminigashi

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Digital Photography Homeschool Class
Looking closely and creating nature’s treasure maps

In our digital photography class, students built a digital camera, learned about the technology in the camera, and the art of photography. We focused on composition, such as the rule of thirds, looking for geometry in nature, and taught students to be keen observers of the natural world by looking closely. We explored our expansive wildlife sanctuary and created nature treasure maps, thanks to the incredible naturalist and artist Jack (John Muir) Laws for this idea, both with sketchbooks and through photography.

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Taking opportunities when they arise: A coopers hawk had a mallard for lunch

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Exploring the technology behind the camera lens

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Exploring the end of winter and start of spring behind the camera lens


Solitary Ruminations

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

December 1, 2015

Solitary Sandpiper sketchbook studies - at 72 dpi

solitary sandpiper field sketches, pencil, 9″ x 12″

After every sanctuary visit, my head is filled with images and impressions, especially in the first few days afterwards. But as time passes, certain impressions are more persistent than others, and linger for days, even weeks. The solitary sandpipers foraging on the grassy mudbars at Skunknett River (see “A Skunky Place for Eels”, Skunknett River Wildlife Sanctuary, Oct 11, 2015) is a case in point. Something about the way the soft round volumes of the birds related to the gentle greens of the grass kept nagging at me, and I knew I needed to explore the impression in paint. (The winter months are a good time for developing these lingering impressions in the studio.)

I keep what I call “studio sketchbooks” on hand for exploring these types of ideas. The drawings in these books are NOT field drawings. They are, instead, explorations of picture ideas. Getting something down on paper focuses my thoughts and intentions.

Solitary Sandpipers picture idea - at 72 dpi

concept sketch of solitary sandpipers, pencil, 9″ x 12″

Using the sketches made at Skunknett, I first tried a scene with two birds, one passive and one active. Somehow, it didn’t match the vision in my mind. Examining some rather poor photos taken through my scope at Skunknett, I realized that what most interested me was the way the soft, round volume of the bird seemed to merge with the grasses, and all the tonal transitions were subtle and soft.

Solitary Sandpiper in the Grass 2 - at 72 dpi

photo taken through scope at Skunknett River Wildlife Sanctuary

Making another pencil sketch with just one bird, I adjusted the tones to get the softer feeling I was after. Now, I seemed to be getting closer to my original impression.

Solitary Sandpipers picture idea 2A - at 72 dpi

Concept sketch of solitary sandpiper, pencil, 7″ x 9″

I started my watercolor with two simple washes on a wet sheet- establishing the tone of the bird’s belly shadow and the green grass, and letting them merge slightly on the wet paper. These two washes established the tone and mood, and all subsequent washes were keyed to them.

Solitary Sandpiper in the Grass - at 72 dpi

Solitary Sandpiper at Skunknett River, watercolor on Arches rough, 9″ x 12.25″