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“What brings a smile to your face?” I was asked this simple question the other day and here was my answer:

My grandchild!

The love of my life is two years old.

Câlin Mamie, huggies for Mamie

Everything about him makes me smile

His smarts, his sense of humour, his beauty, his energy

His ruff and tumble attitude

Everything about him!

I decided to write a book for him. It might take me a while but the story is fully written and I started on the 17 illustrations I planned.

Here are some of the first colored sketches for this project:

As a next step I will paint these that are all drawn on gessoed canvas paper.

Think about what makes you smile and see the effect it has on your mood.

Best to you!

Suzanne

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Connected by Suzanne Belair

Connected
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic on canvas 30 X 30 in

My inspiration for this artwork was the coming spring

 

For this painting, I wanted lots of textures and to show the flow of energy between all the animal and plant worlds. Insects, fish and birds are connected. Doing the endangered birds paintings inspired me to complete the two loons I saw in the paint strokes of the background. There is a couple of loons that come to nest on our lake each summer and we get to witness the chicks being carried on their backs and their interaction all summer. They are majestic! I wanted to portray their return and their habitat, their lifeline and also their excitement at coming back here.

 

In the painting, a large butterfly is close by, they are looking at fish in the river below, and the plants they use for nesting are represented. They will soon mate and there is an explosion of leaves and joy at seeing summer on its way back, at witnessing life!

 

Because of its great public appeal, the Common Loon (Gavia immer)  is an iconic Canadian bird specie and one of the best studied birds in North America. Many organizations (non-governmental) are dedicated to conserving this species since they are widely-recognized symbols of northern wilderness and indicators of aquatic health. Both individual loons and the overall population seem resilient and able to tolerate landscape alterations, habitat disturbance, fishing practices and pollution, which is good news.

 

Loons are found throughout Canada, breeding on quiet, freshwater lakes of 5–50 hectares in size. They are an important top predator in lake ecosystems and their wail call is one of the most identifiable bird calls heard around lakes. It symbolizes wilderness and solitude.

 

When you hear the loon, you know summer has arrived.

 

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Watching
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic on canvas 8 X 8 in

Another week gone by and we are definitely getting closer to spring and summer! How great is that!!

In my last blog I mentioned that the group Artist for Conservation, which I am a part of, has decided to concentrate its effort in 2018 in bringing to light  endangered bird species, so we decided to get involved in our first international collaborative mural project. This installation will comprise the world’s 678 endangered species of birds and will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress to be held in Vancouver in August 2018.

This is the second species of birds I signed up to do: the Collared laughingthrush(Trochalopteron yersini), which is can be found only on the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam and is on the IUCN red list of endangered species since 2000.

It is a striking colourful bird that features a black hood with a silver ear patch and measures between 26 and 28 cm (10-11 inches). It had already been on the threatened and vulnerable species list since 1988.

There seems to be information missing when it comes to this bird’s habits. Flocks are small, comprising of only 4-8 individuals. It is a resident of “dense undergrowth of primary and evergreen forest, secondary growth and scrub bordering forest” according to IUCN, and occupies a narrow range for altitude (between 1,500 and 2,440 m).

The population has been declining due to habitat loss and degradation but there is a lack of survey in the area to help define the extent of it.

According to IUCN, there has been a government resettlement program that has greatly increased human pressure on the Da Lat plateau. Forest degradation and fragmentation have increased because of it, logging, shifting agriculture, fuel wood collection and charcoal production being the main culprits. In certain areas, all land below 1,500 m is now logged or under cultivation. Higher up, the broadleaf evergreen forest is being cleared for coffee plantations in the “Da Nhim Watershed Protection forest”.

There are conservation efforts underway in Chu Yang Sin and Bi Doup Nui Ba National Parks since 1986, but not nearly enough to ascertain the survival of this beautiful bird since there currently are no real protective measures.

Reference: http://www.iucnredlist.org

To find out more about Collared Laughingtrush click here

For more details on this mural project, click  here

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Banasura laughingtrush
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 8 X 8 in

Today I received the newsletter from David Suzuki.

 

Here we are complaining about our government but in this week’s budget, the government of Canada has demonstrated its commitment to the environment and doing something to protect endangered species and the planet and I am very proud of this.

 

They decided to invest $1.3 billion over the next five years to protect nature, provide financial investments for new parks, protected areas and science to make sure all of this is done properly.

Here are some of the budget highlights provided in the newsletter:

  • $1 billion over five years to make proposed changes to Canada’s environmental assessment laws.
  • An additional $172.6 million over three years to improve access to clean and safe drinking water on First Nations’ reserves.
  • $167.4 million over five years to better protect, preserve and recover endangered whale species in Canada.
  • $20 million over five years to assess the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change measures and identify best practices.
  • $22 million to renew the Sustainable Aquaculture Program for two years in support of an improved regulatory system. Renewal must include a focus on the environmental performance of Canada’s aquaculture sector.
  • Significant investments in scientific research.

 

This is here. In other parts of the world, we see decreased biodiversity everywhere we look. In order to bring highlight to endangered bird species, the group Artists For Conservation, to which I belong to, has decided to get involved in its first international collaborative mural project. As I mentioned in a previous blog , the installation which will comprise the world’s 678 endangered species of birds, will be  the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress to be held in Vancouver in August 2018. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.

Here is one of the birds I signed up to do: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni) which is endemic to Southern India and is on the IUCN red list of threatened species since 2016.

 

Trochalopteron jerdoni is restricted to high elevations in the limited districts of Wayanad (Kerala) and Coorg (Karnataka). Although it can be found in several localities, the species is severely fragmented and has probably gone extinct at a few locations  according to a 2012 research by Praveen J. and Nameer. “The largest sub-population is found at Vellarimala-Chembra and this likely numbers a little more than 250 mature individuals”  (Praveen J. 2016). The population is estimated to be between 250 –2500 individuals divided in 2 to 5 sub-populations, but no recent assessment is available.

 

The main problem the species face is the large-scale conversion of forest into plantations, reservoirs, crops and human settlements. Commercial plantations of tea, Eucalyptus and Acacia have been increasing in area.

 

Since Banasura is thought to be a sedentary resident that inhabits dense undergrowth and moist, shady lower storey vegetation of evergreen and semi-evergreen forest, densely wooded ravines, hollows and forest edge, the fact that 47% of evergreen/semi-evergreen forest was lost in the Kerala portion of the Western Ghats between 1961 and 1988, while there were increases in plantation and deciduous forest is a major threat. The indiscriminate use of inorganic pesticides might also be affecting its survival.

 

To find out more about Banasura Laughingtrush click here

 

For more details on this mural project, click  here

 

To find out more about the David Suzuki Foundation: Go to: https://davidsuzuki.org/

 

Ref: Praveen J. and Nameer, P.O. 2012. Strophocincla Laughingthrushes of South India: a case for allopatric speciation and impact on their conservation. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 109: 46-52.

 

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“Congratulations on being awarded Active Status with the Federation of Canadian Artists based on the evaluation of work recently submitted for jury. Congratulations!

You are now an Active member of the largest non-profit visual arts organization in British Columbia.”

I received this e-mail during the week before Christmas when activities were at a maximum, no time to read it before the Saturday after.

 

I am very excited to have made it as an active member of this prestigious association! This is opening new doors to be explored in 2018. The Federation of Canadian Artists has 2700 members across Canada.

 

A fun and worthy project I am getting involved in is the Silent Skies Collaborative Mural Project. This Artists For Conservation’s first international collaborative mural project will feature all 678 endangered species of birds of the world. The installation will be the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress that will take place in Vancouver from August 19th to 26th. The original artwork will then go on an international tour to select cultural/scientific venues.

 

I signed up to paint two species of birds: the Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni), endemic to Southern India and the Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini), endemic to the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam. Both birds are endangered because of degradation and fragmentation of their habitat. All canvases will be sized 8 X 8 inches. For more details on this mural project, click   here

 

 

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This morning, toc toc toc on the gutter, I thought a woodpecker sent its territorial signal but I do not see it. A large blue jay arrives in the shrub nearby! Surprise! The blue jays are very active and vocal this morning …

And then, I see them, it is a whole family of yellow-bellied woodpeckers in the middle hemlock. They fly from one tree to another and follow each other in a winged dance.

They play, chase each other, vocalize, follow each other more and more quickly, twirling between the trees, from one trunk to another, they land for a short time, go up the trunk and take off again. Excitement for this beautiful sunshine maybe… The race accelerates between the trunks and then between the trunks and the house. All this morning joy of the young birds on this sunny day becomes contagious. They are fascinating!

Then the noise! One of them has just hit the large window while the other has narrowly avoided it by turning at the last minute. The first one is projected with the momentum and ends up 16 feet from the impact, on the wood of the gallery.

His wings open, he is rattled but will survive, his eyes open, he waits to recover. His head is leaning on the wood but quickly enough, he able to put it up. His friends in the trees all around call him, encourage him, vocalize more and more loudly, perhaps to scare me, who just came out with my camera.

I speak to the little wounded in a reassuring voice, I gently stroke his back, he is not trembling, he is not afraid of me.

I watch the little one, the thing is, there is a cat that always prowls around here. After a few minutes, he closes his wings on his body.

A little more time goes by and he opens his wings to put them back against his body while he settles on his legs without getting up yet, then his head turns to one side and the other.

He looks at me, looks at the trees, wonders if he can take off, he gets ready, he believes it. That’s it, he takes off and returns to the safety of his favorite hemlock. What an adventure for this young woodpecker on a sunny Tuesday morning!

Animation of the small yellow-bellied woodpecker before taking flight

He and his friends are now calm and fly away gently.

Everything returns to silence. The sun is now higher and warmer, all go about their business. The small woodpecker had quite a scare!

©2017 Suzanne Bélair photos and text

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