At the beginning of 2017, I received the exciting news that I was being awarded the Donald Eckelberry Endowment from The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. This endowment is given in honor of Donald Eckelberry, one of the foremost bird illustrators of the twentieth century. Eckelberry was famous for his support and encouragement of budding artists, and the endowment continues his legacy by helping natural history artists gain valuable career experience.
With the help of the endowment, I embarked on a six-month project illustrating 31 endemic bird species from the island of Hispaniola. The illustrations were commissioned by the INICIA corporation for use in an educational book, website, and app.
A highlight of the project was traveling to Sierra de Bahoruco National Park in search of the birds I would be painting. For the first three days we stayed in a small camp near the foot of the mountains, traveling to different locations each morning in search of my target species. There were colorful birds you’d expect to see in the neo-tropics--Hispaniolan Parrots, Parakeets, and Trogons--and there were plainer, but equally fascinating birds such as the Palmchat, Flat-billed Vireo, and Hispaniolan Pewee. My favorites of all the species I encountered were the Bay-breasted Cuckoo and the Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo. There's just something about cuckoos.
My guide for the duration of the trip was Manny Jimenes from Explora Ecotours. Manny started an ecotourism business in the Dominican Republic after coming to appreciate the country during college road trips. He utilizes the services of locals so that money for ecotourism remains in the country and fosters an appreciation for conservation.
The book featuring my illustrations, “Alas & Colores”, was released at an event in Santo Domingo at the end of the year. While the book is not available to the general public, the entire publication has been made available for viewing digitally at this link. There is also a wonderful app, “Alas y Colors”, that can be downloaded on the app store.
The illustrations for the book were done on Arches 154 lb. hot press paper with transparent watercolors.