The Better Part of a Year

Winter light on an oxbow’s sandy bluff on the Canadian River in Norman, Oklahoma. Pastel on sanded paper, about 8 1/2″ x 11″ or so.

It’s been a strange year, and most of us are glad to scrape the last of it off our shoes. But who doesn’t love a holiday year-end letter? It’s one last chance to send a few humble-brags and over-shares. Here are a few of mine. Enjoy.

My personal highlights for 2016: 

Took up chess.

Took up mixology (it’s like drinking, but fancier).

Painted from sketches for a couple of shows, local and regional. These are orange-chinned parakeets from Gamboa, Panama. Oil on cradled panel, 11 x 14.

Holed up for six weeks in Panama with Antman.

Learned how to take slo-mo digiscope videos of birds as a distraction from trying to write a book while holed up for six weeks in Panama with Antman.

Painted outdoors more- honed my plein air pastel skills while downsizing and refining gear, improving odds I’ll paint outdoors more.

Painting on Maine’s Monhegan Island in the company of great pastelist Cindy House. Although hurting from a toothache (got a root canal the minute I got home), no sooner did a nice couple hike up to chat and buy this painting than I felt much, much better. Pastel 8 x 10 on sanded paper.

Began identifying butterflies in my postage-stamp, mid-town flower garden. Discovered we’re hosting over 35 species-and that was just in the fall, which is when I started paying attention.

butterflies Southern dogface
Once you start parsing the sulfurs, they seem almost endless. This is the Southern Dogface. Here is the pup’s profile, looking left from the upper wing.

Teamed up again with writer/photographer Susan Dragoo on another article for Oklahoma Today Magazine- this one on free-flowing rivers in Oklahoma. I’m the roving illustrator, Susan the writer and gung-ho adventure coach. She drives the truck, too. Sometimes over boulders.


At the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. The headwaters are a jumble of boulders, riffles and quiet pools with high fish and freshwater mussel diversity. Plus, it’s a lovely stretch of water.

Oklahoma’s Bernie Sanders campaign headquartered last spring in our Main Street studio (which I share with two artists). We painted to the melodious hubbub of cold call volunteers at work in the background. They were inspiring, committed, and pretty effective- Bernie carried Oklahoma in the primaries. While they were here the studio felt like a staging ground for democracy, in an almost old-fashioned way. And I almost wish they’d come back.


Finally, I’m working on a new process for converting field sketches from pencil drawings to oil paintings- taking the extra step of redrawing them in charcoal. Seems to switch on a part of my brain that sees in a painterly, as opposed to linearly, manner. Below: yellow crowned night herons sketched in the front yard of a friend in town who just happens to have a rookery in her sycamore tree. Some people have all the birds.


That’s my list for 2016, such as it was. Onward. Hope to see you in 2017. And thanks for stopping by. I’m always glad you’re here.

Happy New Year.


6 thoughts on “The Better Part of a Year

  1. Corienne Cotter says:

    And, we’re ever so glad you’re here too, dear Debby. Loved your retrospect of good things last year. Love you too.

  2. hmunro says:

    What a wonderful retrospective — such beautiful work! May 2017 bring you even more opportunities for creative exploration and growth. Happy new year!

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