All posts by eifert

Red-throated Loons – My 48 North story for November, 2017

This is my 48 North magazine story for November. I thought t he subtle colors of this beautiful winter bird came out fairly well. Here’s the story:

“On the Port Townsend ferry, we crossed those notorious tide rips out in Admiralty Inlet and I spied quite a group of large striking birds, all milling about and diving for dinner in the turbulence. The red-throated loons are back from the north for winter in the Salish Sea. At about 24” long, these are the smallest of the three species of loons we see here, but they are still large birds. Easy to identify in flight, they have a hunchbacked look unlike any other Salish Sea bird and appear to fly very fast. Specialized bodies with legs placed as far to the stern as possible make for fast underwater swimming as they chase down and catch small fish. As with many species, they have evolved into a very specialized and successful fishing machine.”

“They arrive here in winter plumage, basic tux black and white with a very subtle mix that would drive a painter wild trying to portray. As winter progresses, they change profiles completely and sport a dramatic red-orange front and overall soft look of doe skin. Then they’re off for the long flight to the far northern lakes to nest, and here is where it gets interesting. These birds, with legs placed so far back on their bodies, make them almost unable to walk. They cannot stand upright! So, the loons push vegetation around to create a floating nest or simply push themselves up on a low shore. How the eggs stay warm enough to hatch is a mystery to me, but somehow it works – and next November we’ll see the results here with more red-throated loons to enjoy.”

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Aztec Ruins National Monument – Along the Animas River

This week I moved on from this completed painting for Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico. Projects are piling up here. Below is the sketch I posted some weeks back, and it’s a great example of things changing as they go along. The Park Service, of course, hates change, but, I don’t know, it just happened. The entire thing got reversed, river got bigger (like it is), cottonwoods got smaller (like they are), the chickadee changed into a turkey. It’s just the process of creating something from nothing but a blank piece of paper.

Some things remained, especially this little desert cottontail that I followed around the native plant garden near the visitor center. I could have petted it if I’d had a Cheeto to use as a bribe.

Desert Cottontail at Aztec Ruins

And here’s the river in summer when I was there. A green ribbon of life. Amazingly, even though the bottomland is packed with people, the original ecosystem is almost perfectly intact, right down to the cougars and bobcats. This will become a wayside exhibit panel with some text added to explain all this. It turned out pretty well, I think.

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

A Vibrant Pueblo at Aztec Ruins New Mexico

Click the image to enlarge it.

Quite an interesting project here.  This is one of the half dozen paintings for the National Park Service at Aztec Ruins, New Mexico. Photos I took like the one below of the real ruins today were about all I had to go by – that and Google Earth. The task was to paint this place 1000 years ago when the Indians had migrated from Chaco Canyon and set up a real economy on the banks of the Animas River. I asked the Chief of Interpretation at the park just how much of the land would have been under cultivation: “all of it, every foot”. That sketch didn’t make the grade ‘too jumbled’, and I couldn’t put the many irrigation ditches in because ‘we don’t know where they were’. So, I just made it all up! And tossed in a red-tailed hawk to keep my heart alive.

Here’s a section view of the pueblo painting, today a World Heritage Site. Yes, there are tiny people down there; yes, it’s pretty much the same layout as today but the photo below shows how much it’s changed.  I really love working out these challenges. I was surprised the NPS really doesn’t have a good grasp of what it was really like. Yes, COULD be, yes, it might have been like that – but in the end it was just a big cloud of not much to go on.

Probably the best set of reference photos I took were of the native plant garden just outside the ruins. It had the same native species that would have been in all those gardens, and how they think it was grown. Flooded occasionally, it’s all grown on mounds.

This painting will be made into an outdoor wayside exhibit with some text added. The original art will hang in the visitor center with the others I’m doing. Only one more big one to go. Thanks to Rosene Creative in Jasper Georgia for putting up with me on this one. It’s been fun.

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Wildlife of the Old-growth – a new jigsaw puzzle for Christmas

Click the image to enlarge it in your browser.

Finally, a new interpretive jigsaw puzzle is here, all 43 cases in our little warehouse. This is a really fun puzzle, I think, with lots of hidden critters, a story being told and lots of details on the box. As usual, we put the full story on the box back, an interpretive essay and key. Few commercial puzzles have all this stuff on the box, but I never thought it should JUST be a puzzle, but more an experience. If you’d like to purchase it, along with the others we current have in stock, click  here. If you buy more than one, it helps our freight costs – these are heavy.

This painting was a commission, along with a bunch of others, for the Whidbey – Camano Island Land Trust, just to the north of us here in Port Townsend Washington. High on a bluff above the ocean, Admiralty Inlet Natural Area is a preserve with ancient trees and a restored natural prairie. This is also part of the much bigger and very beautiful Ebey’s Landing National Historical ReserveThe high winds here above the Strait of Juan de Fuca have made this a battered forest, creating strange gnarly old-growth Douglas-fir. It’s a fitting place to paint a jigsaw puzzle.

Again, here’s the link to purchase the new puzzle.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Riparian Ecosystem Painting for Aztec Ruins National Monument

Click this and it should enlarge. Too big for small screens.

I’m painting some other installations for Aztec Ruins National Monument, a World Heritage Site in New Mexico, but this additional image just received funding to proceed – and I like how it’s looking and wanted to share. Aztec Ruins is in the town of Aztec, NM and straddles the Animas River, life blood of this green little valley. People 1000 years ago also thought this was a good place to live, so they build a massive pueblo with upwards of 500 room! The rooms are still here, the Indians not so much.

Here’s the Animas with cottonwoods and willows I used for reference in the sketch.  Amazingly, almost the entire original ecosystem is still in place, more than I can say for most places. Several additions such as saltcedar are here now, but they’re not goofing things up like so many other western desert rivers.

Here is a small section of the park with trails through the ruins. The river is just a few hundred yards south. I could really see how the river directed what went on here. The pueblo is close to it, but not close enough for flooding. When I asked the Chief of Interpretation how much land would have been dedicated to farming, he said “all of it, every inch”.  The people lived here on top of each other so as to not ruin their the very land feeding them. That’s NOT the way it is today!

They have a giant kiva that was restored many years ago, over 50 feet in diameter. I thought these big kivas were used mainly for religious events, but it was more, a communal place to hang out in winter or blisteringly hot summer days. My site visit highlight was a guided tour into a closed section of pueblo off-limits to visitors and not restored at all. Absolutely fascinating to see how these places looked before they were ‘cleaned up.’

Give me a project in a new park and I’m a happy painter! And if you, too, think our heritage is important, resist, I SAID RESIST ANY ATTEMPT to reduce or revoke national park designations. This is not who we are!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Mules and Horses – Old Santa Fe Trail painting for the National Trails System

This will enlarge by clicking it.

While the Hoh Visitor Center mural is proceeding, I did this “little” wayside painting for the Old Santa Fe Trail with the National Park Service. A fun and very different sort of project for me.

Last year I did this sketch for Aztec Ruins National Monument, but  it wasn’t used. They wanted something less ‘social’. This is Armijo’s Expedition in 1829, a group that went from Santa Fe to California and back, proving this route could be used for trade. In the painting, they’re crossing the Animas River in New Mexico. They’ve had a difficult day herding 150 horses and mules, and the group is setting up camp for the night, beans are in the pot, gear is being unloaded.

To do this painting, I went over to Olympic National  Park and photographed the two ladies that take care of the 34 mules the park uses for backcountry use. Amazing afternoon! Here are Heidi and Jill, seasonal drovers who push those big mules around like they were goats, and you can see I turned them into Spanish young men in the painting. Others models included my neighbor, Michael, who is the cook. Jill and Heidi are in other poses, as well as Henry the mule.

And this is what it’s all about for me. I learned a LOT on this project, had a great time figuring out how this might look, how the gear would look in 1829. It took over a year from field trip to Aztec Ruins to painting completion. It went from an installation at Aztec to several other installations along the Santa Fe Trail, and I really know about pack mules.

And here’s the Animas River at Aztec New Mexico where the scene is located. It looks exactly the same as it probably did 188 years ago.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center progress

I’ve come up for air just long enough to post this – sorry for the big blank spot in my blog. Click the images and they should expand.


When I was growing up, my babysitters at the Illinois State Museum were staff artists and curators, professionals that were the best in the business. They came to work in pristine studios and took months and months to paint stuff just like this. Me, decades later? I do this in a low-ceiling studio and only have 6 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just happy that I get to do this – a giant four walls with six paintings in one of my favorite places on Earth. And it’s pretty much a completely fictitious scene. There are 3-d branches and models of birds, moles and others that all have to be connected somehow to my paintings. It’s been interesting!

Nancy joined me early on with this and is now pushing paint as fast as I am. How wonderful to have someone to talk to in the studio. And she sounds like she’s maybe going to make this a habit, at which I’m thrilled.

The facts: this is going in a room at the visitor center with a big opening, so there are four sides. I’m painting it in acrylic on Yupo poly paper at 70% size – the reason is I can’t get it bigger and it speeds things up. It’ll be scanned and printed so when the place burns down, another copy can be put up. The bottom two sections, the dirt and forest floor, are being painted at 85% because eyeballs will be closer. The bottom dirt section will be printed on aluminum to withstand the three million people with six million hands that come here each year. I’ll have more soon!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Picnic table painting

Nice fire in the campground, our ancient folding chairs awaiting. The famous ant tablecloth, a real red-cedar old-growth table. Notice the details: painting, brush can, funky Richeson paint tray, artichoke can for water, tablet with reference photos, little pencil sharpener for those wonderful Dixon black wood pencils that feel like the carbon has oil in it – brae and crackers, glass of red. I only stopped because it was getting too dark to paint in this old forest. 

And then the painting that’s appearing. This one is part of the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center project and is 12″ high and 330″ wide when it’s installed. It’s being painted on a roll of polypropylene Yupo tree-free paper that I can roll out to where I’m working on it. I don’t know, why go home until October?

And what are we doing the rest of the time? Section hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail is part of it. Avalanche lilies and bear grass in bloom and still some snow drifts to navigate. We just have to make sure they’re all okay.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Salmon Cascades wayside painting for Olympic National Park

Finally finished this nice little painting for Olympic NP. Spawning coho salmon are here and we’ve seen them several times milling around waiting to jump.

Lots going on here in the paint department, but this one was truly fun for me. Below is the concept sketch.

And here’s the real place. The wayside panel will be located just at the top of the cascades on an overlook. As I posted before, I dropped my GoPro camera into the water here and found out the bottom was full of colorful gem-like rocks, tainted organic sierra on the upstream side. Hummm?

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

 

A Pelagic Cormorant – my monthly story in 48 North

I always try to write these things from a recent personal experience. This one came from a site visit to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, and, while we were waiting for the ferry to shove off, we watched about a dozen pelagic cormorants on the pilings right outside our window. They had a playful look to their smallish heads, almost like they were having fun diving around the backwash of the prop keeping the boat against the ferry pier. Maybe they were – it looked like the fishing was easy.as the boat disoriented the fish. Seen close, I was amazed to see the variety of colors in the ‘black’ birds.

 

Three cormorant species live in the Salish Sea. A year ago, I wrote about the largest, the double-crested cormorant and now here’s number two. At first, the pelagic cormorant seems jet black, but that’s certainly not true. I like these birds very much because, as the light changes, their iridescent colors change from purple to red and green. The pelagic is smaller than the double-crested. It has a thinner neck, much smaller head and very thin bill. Almost snake-like might be a good descriptor. Two white flank patches and, during breeding, a red beard also help with identification. A third variety, the Brant’s cormorant sports a tan cheek patch.

 

Per-sketch before the painting.

I admire these birds for their fishing skills. Recently we were on one of the San Juan ferries and I watched a group fishing and occasionally fly to nearby pilings for rest. They were all very chatty with each other and seemed curious about us. Some were below at the base of the pilings and were diving in the turbulent backwash for disoriented pile perch. Almost every dive produced a fish, and as the birds surfaced, we could see some quickly toss the flapping fish upwards, then swallow it headfirst as it came back down. This way, the fish went down those skinny throats with scales backwards and fins retracted. Stomach juices did the rest. To help all this, cormorants ride low in the water thanks to solid bones that aid in long dives. A very successful bird!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.