My little ponies!

Every birthday between ages 5-12ish I wished for a pony, I dropped subtle hints and since we had a pretty good sized yard I was pretty sure this was totally possible. The birthday pony daydream scenario closely resembled the Christmas Lexus commercials, adorable pony in the backyard sporting a giant red ribbon! Sadly I grew up pony-less but these days a few times a year I visit my Mom in Maryland and spend a few afternoons wistfully pony spotting/drawing at Assateague Island. Here are some of the pony-licious residents of Assateague!





Assateague is somehow extra pretty in crappy weather.


Ultra pregnant pony, it looked like she swallowed a barrel... poor thing


A young she-pony taking a nap in the dunes!


Here she is again the next day munching her way down the road!

Nobody deserves it more.

If something is hard it helps to be sure of your motivation. I'm a fledgling vegetarian and lately it's been extra hard, it's getting chilly and the Thanksgiving turkey looms large. Today I went to re-meet my "motivation" at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, an animal rescue located in Saugerties NY specializing in farm animals http://casanctuary.org/. The place is a miracle for these creatures, some of whom have been rescued from dumpsters, slaughterhouses, meth labs, and the most obscene neglect by their owners.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary was founded by Kathy Stevens in 2001, and since then 2000 animals have been given the love and care that they should have had in the first place. The first time I visited was unplanned, open house flier 2 years ago, but today was a more mellow visit, small group tour led by Melissa the volunteer (thanks Melissa!) and lots of time to really interact with many of the residents and learn some of their life stories.



This is Dillinger the Phoenix rooster and his girlfriend, he was rescued from a meth lab in St. Louis along with 50 other chickens, malnourished and suffering from frostbite. Chicken and pig farms are useful around a meth lab to cover the drug smells.



This is a little drawing of M.C. (Middle Child) and his little girlfriend Sarah. So it turns out lady chickens have it pretty good, today I heard many stories of rooster chivalry! The rooster does not eat before his woman has had her fill, the finest worms are hers, and if a hawk is flying overhead he guards her under his big strong wings, thats awfully manly! As for smarts chickens are about as intelligent as house cats, which may mean different things to different people;)


This is Ethyl the turkey, I need to go back and do a really good portrait of her sweet face, she has the softest, green almond shaped eyes and was making the softest little noises with her turkey BF. Those 2 followed us through the barn wanting some petting and to be sang to (they say they like it!). The sad part was learning that because of growth hormones they were the equivalent of a 300lb human, in other words morbidly obese and would not be living the long and full life of an unaltered turkey. Also upsetting to learn that there are no Humane Laws in place for poultry... My Thanksgiving problemo solved.



Piggy daydreams...



Peggy Sue and Nadine.



Nadine and a pot bellied pig enjoying a gorgeous fall day. Many of these larger pigs are rescued from the meat industry and having been given growth hormones and will grow to a weight of 700lbs, a normal pig weight should be around 250, again morbidly obese and not living the full normal pig lifespan... Some of the rescued pigs were runts "thrown on a pile to die". A few pig facts I didn't know, smarter than dogs, won't lay in their own waste if they can help it, and love belly rubs ( that's a lot of belly), also good swimmers (how??) and super cute when they run:) the pigs I got to hang out with were super doggish, very friendly, came when called, clearly checking people out for food, and wagging their piggy tales which is adorable!



This is Rambo the ram, he was found in a stable with 13 other farm animals and they were never allowed to go outside. Took him a long time to settle down and trust people and now is kind of the mascot of the place. He also has a pretty sheep girlfriend named Hannah who doesn't give him enough "space" and is a little jealous.


This one really broke my heart. Bobo the horse locked in a stall for 9 years in 6 feet of manure. But now she has the good life with a pasture, 2 other blind horse buddies and a handsome boyfriend named Casey (who was found in a junkyard covered with ticks).


This guy stole me heart! Atlas the Nubian goat, recent rescue, owned by a hoarder, malnourished and super crippled. So friendly and sweet and doing so well. In this drawing he is down on his knees eating the grass, his front legs do not "unbend" completely (I don't know how else to explain it), when he came they said he could only walk a few steps before he would tire out and go down in this position but I saw him getting around pretty good, and he's getting stronger...



with the help of his junior physical therapist doling out the goat Scooby Snacks and the very generous donation of a goat "wheelchair".




This place is amazing, and the people are truly amazing and clearly dedicated but the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how these animals, many of whom have had these nightmare pasts and should have no reason to trust people at all are still so sweet and trusting and lovable. Absolutely worth a visit, and so humbling. Kathy Stevens, and everyone at CAS thanks for all you do!

xoxo-April

Celebrity portrait.

I had dinner tonight with my good friend Kati and ended up strolling down memory lane while showing her some drawings from the elephant project I started last February. I'm hoping to go back next winter to pick up where I left off! Here are a few drawings of a very special lady, Miss Timpa the glamorous actress playing Royal War Elephant #1 who graciously allowed me to draw her portrait and take some AMAZING video footage...





her handlers very kindly managed to encourage her to face my direction while I was drawing her. Everyone I met in Thailand was so helpful and friendly, including this big girl who was a real sweetie and a good sport. The whole time I was drawing her she was eyeballing my bag of supplies and finally made a grab for it at the end, crafty girl!


You'll notice she snuffling my foot hoover style, a few of them did that, why can't a dog just smell your foot to get all your info?

Assateague Island.

Last weekend I visited my Mom in Maryland and spent a few afternoons at Assateague Island National Seashore, home to famous residents the wild ponies! There are not many places left in America where horses roam free but these hardy ponies have made a go of it on Assateague Island where the conditions are less than ideal for horses. I visit this place a few times a year and really need to draw there more often, but here's what I have from last weekend, seagulls, bathers, and of course the local ponies!

This post is dedicated to a friend of the ponies who is no longer with us.








The waves were so rough that day, I couldn't believe anyone tried to go in, the kids were being knocked over left and right!


Stormy weather on the way!


These little herds always have a stallion (on left) and several "harem" mares (on right), and sometimes if you're lucky a sweet little baby, which is nice when you're drawing because when baby takes a nap the whole herd stays in one place for while and you don't have to follow them around as they eat their way down the island.


This was drawn after this little lady walked directly up to me to see if my paper was edible, then she nuzzled my knee with her velvety muzzle and tried to bite me (and I swatted her away).




While drawing this pretty girl pony the herd stallion suddenly ran towards me across the parking lot (I thought to attack me) but ran past me to his lady and they both made soft horsie noises and snuggled faces for a few seconds, so sweet!

La Ferme, la ferme...

So, when you hear the name Marie Antoinette what first comes to mind? "let them eat cake", 3 foot hairstyles, gross overspending, guillotines? well that's fair...(although she never said "let them eat cake", that was somebody else before her time, and when they said cake they actually meant brioche, in context - bakers, if you run out of basic bread give the peasants fancy brioche for the same price so they don't starve. - So, meant to be fair not patronizing (thanks "Stuff You Missed in History Class" for setting the record straight, Sarah and Katie, I love your podcast!!). So Marie Antoinette was a pretty serious victim of BAD publicity, which didn't end so well, but the great Antonia Frasier has cleared her good name in her book "Marie Antoinette: The Journey", a little light reading before heading off to Versailles. The book was really humanizing and I totally fell in love with Marie Antoinette! long story short she had simple country girl tastes at heart and with that in mind had Louis XVI build her Hameau de la Reine or in English the Queens Hamlet out behind Petit Trianon. And I can understand why, as impressive as Versailles is it is not exactly cozy or welcoming, a little too formal/oppressive/prison-like for my taste and apparently hers as well, so why not use your riches to create an alternate universe out back where you can live the simple life and breathe...

If you ever have the chance please go to Versailles. First you must experience the Chateau (the main palace) where you will be hurried along ever forward like cattle in a gilded Rococo slaughter house, senses stunned by gold leaf and wallpaper and chandeliers and marble busts and velvet and not a single surface undecorated, then you will then be spit out into the famously lovely gardens which you will marvel at until you realize there is not an centimeter of shade and the sun above is so fierce that you will go from being doomed cattle to feeling like Lawrence of Arabia, so hot, so hot, but look there is water far ahead... yes, head towards the grand canal, there are trees down there, trees, and shade, if you can make it, wait, it's farther then it seems... After a brief recovery at the canal you hang a right and make your way to Petit Trianon which feels downright modest compared to the Chateau and then a little wander down a winding path through the loveliest forest to the Queens Hamlet, a little village, filled with hard work and family values. Aaahh, exhale...yes, the perfect place to unwind and maybe have little fun on the side with a certain mister Count Fersen.


After the village you will come to the most charming fairytale farm, I would happily clean stalls for the rest of my life if someone would let me live there... sigh...really just perfect....

also you get points if you spot the lady bug, she came by to check out my progress:)


They had all the regular farm animals and in addition an area for cute bunnies, each with their own little red bunny hut, and wacky chickens for company. I don't want to think too hard about what bunnies are doing on a farm, the answer I like best is that they are there for cuddles so let's leave it at that.

Stay tuned for a Versailles post... I'll be dreaming of goats and bunnies tonight...

Feathers



Lil' portrait...



This is not me, but Jeanette said it looks like me so I'll go with it. Portrait of April Kelly with giant pigeon;)



Pigeon in foliage, check out the weirdo with the painted green beard in the background, unfortunately I didn't have neon green on me!



Awesome headband!



Long time no blog, I'm a little backed up!

Here's a few drawings that I did a few weeks ago while waiting for free comedy in Union Square! there is no end to the fun NYC provides in the summer! check them out www.nylaughs.org/ As you can see I've still got pigeons on the brain, somethings percolating there... also there was a drunk girl with an amazing feather headband, I'm guessing they weren't pigeon feathers though.

Feel better Lulu!



On an average day I may have a moment of fleeting curiosity about what any of my 6 animals might be thinking, but when somebody is sick you really wish they could communicate. My dog Lulu is a little under the weather, clearly something is bothering her, but she's been to the vet twice this week and they can't find a thing (maybe she's faking it to get better treats, could she be that clever?). Oh I wish she could talk, I'd love to know where it hurts and maybe also what she sounds like.

Feel better tiny friend!

Punk to the third power!


Being sweet.



Hiding. On the right is the old Kraal!



Checking in with Mom.



Up to no good... Watch out!


Last month I was able to cross a biiig big item off my wish list, playing with baby elephants! BABY ELEPHANTS!! ! ! !!! I have seen them from afar many times on "safari" at Animal Kingdom and always felt a little cheated having been born in a country with no elephants of its own, certainly none that I'd ever be able to touch much less mingle with... but one day while planning my trip to Thailand Lonely Planet blew my mind - you can volunteer with elephants - what did they mean?? what did this include???? could I touch one? certainly you could never ride one, wait, you can ride one???!!! REALLY???!

During my month in Thailand I had a series of elephant encounters, the first was volunteering 2 weeks at an amazing program called the Elephant Mahout Project (which I will feature in a future post, I rode an elephant, it was great! http://www.theelephantmahoutproject.com/), the last was accidentally wandering into the Prakochaban Foundation/ElephantStay (not for profit). I had read about this place also, they do excellent work with retired and rescued elephants, as well as rehabilitating killer elephants, and they are home to an impressive breeding program, but it was not open to visitors, so I didn't try to go. But I totally lucked out... I went to see the Royal Elephant Kraal, just the old structure according to the map, no elephants anymore, none nearby, but I smelled elephants, there were turds in the Kraal! there was an elephant camp right next door (it was a very bad map)! missing my own elephant I couldn't resist taking a peek, and I am so glad I did! the first person I met was Paul Hayden, a British volunteer who'd been working there on and off for years, finally an elephant person who speaks English! the questions poured out and he was so generous with the information (Cheers Paul, keep up the good work!).

The whole camp was impressive but the highlight for me were the 3 babies! little ones running around free, playing in the kiddie pool, running up to people, nursing a few feet from me, loving being loved up! my favorite baby was named Pocket Elephant (English translation) so tiny and shy, her poor mother was rescued from neglect and the stress may have caused Pocket's smallness, hopefully Mom will soon realize she is with friends. I'm aware I may be anthropomorphizing but baby elephants are exactly like children! Putting everything in their mouth, occasional brattiness, fighting sleep and staggering around, hiding behind mom when scared, testing limits, aware of their unbelievable cuteness, using cuteness to get away with naughtiness! After coming home I found out baby elephants are called punks, totally fits, the little boy elephant had tried to knock me off the fence, little Opal had pulled my hair and had to be corralled because she thought breaking windows was super fun, hundreds of pounds of fuzzy lovable mischief!

The Prakochaban Foundation is responsible for 1% of the baby elephants born in Thailand, and are working hard to boost Thailand's declining elephant population, on their website under RESCUE AND REHAB are ways in which you can contribute financially to help the Foundation keep up the good work, you can also go there yourself and do a volunteer stay (where you will ride elephants and go swimming with them in the river, it's true!) http://www.elephantstay.com/Prakochaban-Foundation.html! The elephants in this camp are well cared for and treated with kindness, help these guys out! You can also buy paintings from some of the resident elephant artists on http://www.elephantart.com (look under the elephants from Thailand and see who works out of the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal!).

Unemployed pigeons...


Today was an unseasonably warm day, one of those times when January throws you a bone so you don't give up on spring.  Soooo sunny!  the pigeons in my neighborhood thought so too. The Jersey City pigeons seem to clump up and sun themselves in the small park near my house and today they were really in heaven!  what, you hate pigeons?  they are flying rats who spread disease and sh*t everywhere?  well yeah, sometimes it seems that way (and under overpasses and on top of statues is that way), but how much do you really know about them?  They have quite a history, and it seems they may have kinda been the first internet...

Check it out:

Famous pigeons
During the First World War a pigeon named Cher Ami (Dear friend) saved the lives of many French soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle.  Cher Ami was shot in the chest and the leg, loosing most of the leg to which the message was attached, but continued the 25 minute flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home.  Cher Ami was awarded the French ‘Croix de Guerre’ for heroic service.  Another heroic pigeon named G.I. Joe saved the lives of a thousand soldiers in World War 2 after British troops had established a position within an Italian town that was due to be bombed by allied planes. Communication equipment was down and the only means of stopping the raid was to attach a hastily written message to G.I. Joe and send him to the HQ.  G.I. Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes arriving at the air base whilst the planes were taxiing on the runway.  Disaster was averted with 5 minutes to spare.  G.I. Joe received the ‘Dickin’ medal for his bravery.

Pigeons in Wall Street
One of the richest and most famous families in the world amassed its wealth, certainly in part, as a result of exploiting the pigeon.  In the early 1800’s the Rothschild family set up a network of pigeon lofts throughout Europe and used homing pigeons to carry information between its financial houses.  This method proved to be quicker and more efficient than any other means of communication available at the time.  The speed of the service combined with the ability to send and receive information ahead of the competition helped the Rothschild family amass a fortune which still exists today.

Pigeons in the news
One of the world’s most famous news agencies, Reuters, started its European business by using trained homing pigeons.  The service was started in 1850 with 45 pigeons carrying the latest news and stock prices from Aachen in Germany to Brussels in Belgium.  Although a telegraph service between the two countries existed, numerous gaps in the transmission lines made communication difficult and slow. The birds travelled the 76 miles in a record-breaking two hours beating the railway by four hours.

Are pigeons intelligent?
Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet with pigeons being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates.  The pigeon has also been found to pass the ‘mirror test’ (being able to recognise its reflection in a mirror) and is one of only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, that has this ability.  The pigeon can also recognise all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualise. In scientific tests pigeons have been found to be able to differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so.

and that's not all, there's lots more pigeon facts at www.deterapigeon.com/21-amazing-facts-about-pigeons.htm

So pigeons... Brave heroes, amazing work ethic, extreme navigators, mans other best friend, "one of the most intelligent birds on the PLANET", and good enough for the Queen of England! although now that we know all this the next time we get "bombed" we may have to take it personally...

First post ever!



Welcome to my illustration blog, I am very very excited!  aspiring to be as faithful a blogger as Doogie Howser with his diary.

So subject of first post.  Factory Farming is bad.   Reading "Eating Animals" at the moment and the gross-out has started anew, first read "Fast Food Nation", then watched "Food Inc." then "King Corn" and now this... Why? because I love meat, hoping to make that loved meat, and so when weaning yourself off the meaty goodness the more disturbing the reading material the greater chance for success right?  here's hoping!  

These drawings are of the resident cows at Bergen County Zoological Park in New Jersey, they are heirloom breeds, very rare, and increasingly so in the age of frankestein-ing everything.

So here are my cows, they are really very beautiful, big brown eyes, long long lashes.  One is a deep red color and super glossy, they call her Ruby, and the other reminds me of cookies and cream ice cream!