PenguinArt by Kate Garchinsky

Tag: birds


When the world is a scary mystery, it’s time for self-care.

Self-care can be as simple as calling a friend and hearing a compassionate voice, or as elaborate as a trip to a secluded beach on a private island. For me, it’s paying attention to the birds. Really, really paying close attention. The best way for me to do this effectively is to sit down and draw them while they buzz around my birdfeeders. So, I’m going to do some of that this weekend. I’ll also take long walks in the woods with my binoculars, lay flat on the floor and let my dog lick my face, pet the cats until they chirp when they purr, and hug my husband a thousand times.

I think that’s a good start anyway. What will you do?

Tag: birds

November Northwestern storm. Uclulet, Vancouver Island, BC

The rain sounds like crinkle paper as it overflows the gutters and forms pools around the house. The trees dance in the wind gusts. Water coats the surface of every sill.

Every place has it’s own style of rain. Here in Philadelphia, an evening thunderstorm is summer to me. When the electricity in the air makes my lungs ache, it stirs memories of camping on the living room floor with my sister, Maureen, in our childhood home. We’d roll out our Care Bear sleeping bags on the green shag rug, and scoot inside with our most frightened stuffed animal or doll. Storms were good, Mom would tell us, because they meant a change in the weather. Everything cooled off after a storm. If we didn’t have storms, it would never cool off.

When I lived in Colorado, rain was precious as snow. The headwaters of the Colorado River were a few miles from my house. They needed filling. A humongous water pipe stuck out of the mountain and plunged down to a tunnel that lead to Denver, which has been in a drought for over a decade. Any one who wanted to build a house in the mountains had to find a well first. Water was precious, and storms seemed magical. I’ve never seen so many rainbows–doubles and triples. Lightning was a fearsome creature, to be avoided at all costs, like a mama moose with a calf.

When I first visited the Northwest last fall, I expected rain all day, every day. In some places, it did, and others, it didn’t. On Vancouver Island the air is rain, and it creeps into your bones at 45-55 degrees. It’s not warm, it’s not cold, just damp. Chilling. You wish the temperature would make up it’s mind already, because dressing for “coolish” wet weather means layers. A fleece? A rain jacket? Wear both. Switch them up. Bring an extra pair of wool socks. The best remedy for cold hands is to wrap them around a hot cup of coffee. It makes total sense that Seattle is the home of the coffee shop. Yet the absence of Starbucks on every corner feels very alien, especially since Starbucks is headquartered there. No one in Seattle drinks Starbucks. There’s no reason to. The original old independent shops that Seattle built their business model on have better beans, and they vary in character from place to place. No one puts another out of business.

Then there’s Costa Rica. The sun rises at 5:00am and sets at 5:30pm. It’s best to embark upon adventures as early as possible, because by 9am you feel like it’s high noon, and by 11am clouds begin forming and bumping into each other. Clouds over the mountains mean rain at the beach, and clouds over the beach bring rain to the valley. It’s best to be prepared for a deluge.

It’s LOUD. Don’t try to have a conversation until it is over (don’t worry, that will likely be in about 20 minutes). When the rain stops, the sound shifts from tapdances on tin roofs to the awakening of birds. Birds who spent the hotter hours of the day under the parasols of palm and ficus trees pop up to the top of the canopy. Giving their feathers a shake, they proclaim, “the rain is over!” and get busy chasing insects. The flycatchers are especially fun to watch as they dive from telephone wires, then swoop UP SIDEWAYS and DIVE in a millisecond. It’s one thing to see a gnat make the gesture, and another to see a predator 10,000 times gnat size follow its movements. A flock of green parakeets darts across the skyline, and you only know it’s parakeets because you hear their rusty old bicycle screeches just long enough to know that they’ve passed you. Now they’ve disappeared into the canopy. They mimic the leaves as they preen.

I think the perfect combination would be a Rocky Mountain rain storm followed by a Costa Rican post-rain chorus.

Scarlet Macaw, Costa Rica


Tag: birds

12 days in Costa Rica helped me prepare for this late spring heat wave. 12 days in Costa Rica taught me a lot about cloud forests, rainforests, and tropical birds. 12 days in Costa Rica cleared my mind of past ghosts and made room for new thoughts and experiences. 12 days in Costa Rica made me realize how bad I can smell, and that it’s ok because everybody does. Except Brian. He is suspiciously sans body odor, even in the hottest and most humid conditions. Either I married up, or I married an alien.

12 days in Costa Rica yielded scores of little sketches and studies, but not much in the way of finished art. Drawing wild birds in a wild place makes for wild strokes. My favorite drawings from the trip are the least finished. They resemble life drawings from my days in college, where you had 10 seconds to get the gesture of the nude model on paper before they changed poses. Birds give you one second, if that. They don’t stop moving. Even when roosting for the night they fidget and preen until they can’t stay awake any longer. And then it is dark.

I’ve been lugging a lot around in my head since we got back from our honeymoon last Sunday. I’ve been mentally writing this blog post over and over. It’s not coming out the way I had planned. It almost feels somber. Not at all as deep and colorful as the trip. Why?

Maybe it’s best to just post the pictures. The gestures of birds. Scribbled notes and brain maps. A verbal summary feels impossible. My photos appear too dull and small. I felt so much more than can be squeezed into a viewfinder or expressed in adjectives.

I have some scanning to do. I’ll be back.

Tag: birds

Osprey sketches for a children’s illustrated chapter book. Sketches are done, color to come.

All images ©2015 Kate Garchinsky. All rights reserved.

Tag: birds

Use this image to #RememberMartha in your social media streams on 9/1/14. Full post to come on the subject.


Tag: birds

AUDUBON, PA — Opening Reception on Saturday, September 13, 2014, 10:00 AM – NOON
Live book readings by Kate Garchinsky (10:30 am) and Ponder Goembel, Artist(11:00 am)
Show hangs through Saturday, November 15, 2014

This special exhibit, displayed in the historical childhood home of John James Audubon, will honor the life and loss of the Passenger Pigeon. Once the most numerous bird in North America and possibly the world, the Passenger Pigeon met its extinction at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 2014. Not a “messenger pigeon,” “carrier pigeon,” or a “homing pigeon,” the Passenger Pigeon was a wild force of nature that mesmerized anyone who witnessed it, including John J. Audubon. Despite its abundance, in just a few short decades of the 19th century, the Passenger Pigeon was extinguished forever through the careless exploitation of humans. The centennial of its extinction is a teachable moment. Learn more at Project Passenger Pigeon.

The show features Kate Garchinsky’s new collection of children’s book illustrations in mixed media, plus sketches and studies of the Passenger Pigeon on paper. Her iPad drawings will be on display in a digital picture frame slideshow.

Michael Adams (
Kate Garchinsky (
Ponder Goembel (
Mallary Johnson
Brigida Michopulos
Lisa Lapoint Roese (

RSVP on the event’s Facebook Page.

Tag: birds

…and I could not be happier about it.

Up late after churning out some informational graphics for a client, I’m kept company by a warm beagle at my feet, and a pair of barred owls in the woods outside my window.

“Who cooks for you, dear? Who cooks for yooooooooooou?” they hoot and hop from tree to tree, as if asking around for a restaurant recommendation. I suppose that’s one way to trick a mouse to dinner.

These and other birds have been stirring my imagination in new ways lately, which only felt like pecking until I participated in a guided meditation. Since then I feel renewed and back in touch with my creativity, and I have my dear friend Katrina Martin to thank for it. She can help you get unstuck too, you know. That’s what healing dreamers who love purple do best.

You go check out her blog while I head to bed and quickly, before the dawn birds begin bickering with the owls.

Oh no, I am too late. It only takes one. Today it is Crow.

Tag: birds

“How I love the mist of dew drops in my feathers this morning,” tooweets the Towhee.

“Yes! And I am hungry!” barks the Blue Jay.

“Swwweet thistle seed! Swweeet thistle seed!” squeaks the Goldfinch between beakfuls.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” peeps mother Robin.

“Meeeee?” Catbird mews.

“No! You! Not you! Not you!” scolds Robin.

“Me? Who, me?” Robin’s little fledge pips.

“You! Yes, you! You there!” she replies. “Here! Over here. Get over here.”

“Whyyyyyyy?” mocks Catbird.

“Not you! You! Come Fledgeling, do not dilly, dally not!” mother Robin peeps and chups. “The ground is soft and wormy. Eat! Eat! Autumn  will be here soon.”


Tag: birds

Common Yellow Throat, Car Collision, Appleton Road, Kemblesville Pennsylvania
Screech Owls munch on Katydids. Carolina Wrens play with their food. Bats don’t like Barred Owls. Cedar Waxwings flap backwards for blueberries. Don’t look at the Wood Ducks the wrong way. Female Scarlet Tanagers are not scarlet, they are an olive-yellow. Mourning Doves are sweet and far too vulnerable. Pigeons don’t roost in trees because they’re Rock Doves. Baby House Wrens and Carolina Wrens do huddle but trust not! Mallard Ducks make great pets if you really love duck poop all over everything. Bow your head and lower your eyes in the presence of the Bald Eagle.
Grey Catbirds have tiny black whiskers. Blue Jays may seem a bit slow as babies, but don’t get used to it. They learn fast. Ignore the desperate cries of baby House Finches, Cardinals, Grackles and Cowbirds. They will beg until they eat themselves to death. Baby Brown-Headed Cowbirds are never fed by Brown-Headed Cowbirds. A Northern Cardinal is a very large finch. During migration, a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird might return to the same feeder on the same day of the same month year after year. Crows bore easily and require special toys in captivity. They also appreciate mirrors when alone, as do Purple Martins and Barn Swallows. To observe an American Goldfinch chase after a little white butterfly and catch it in mid-air is inspiring.
In 2014 the Passenger Pigeon will have been deemed extinct for 100 years, with its untimely demise due entirely to human ignorance and exploitation. The species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century to rapid extinction early in the 20th century.

Tag: birds