A Worthy Project For The Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

The name of my blog is kinda a dead giveaway–I love birds and love painting birds.  Much of the reason I love birds is due to my youth.  One place we would frequent was the wildlife refuges in Ridgefield, WA, in particular the Carty Unit–which is an all walking refuge.  Back in the day we’d just run across the railroad tracks to get there, then they built a bridge over the tracks (much safer but VERY steep and slick in the winter), recently, for the 50 year anniversary of its conception, they have made even more improvements.  Back to my youth–many happy hours were spent climbing the huge oak trees, running through the tall grass and playing hide and seek, checking out birds nests, ant hills, and eating blackberries–playing!  As I got older I took my children down there to enjoy it.  Now my children are taking their children.  Refuges are an important part of keeping the balance between wild-life and human-life.  They are truly a place of refuge for us all.

Recently I was asked to collaborate with a couple of local artists to create a temporary 4’x6′ mural to be included in the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge kiosk at the new and much improved Carty Unit.  The beautiful new, two-sided kiosk that will be revealed on October 3 at the grand-reopening/dedication event is somehow missing its second side.  So instead of having a blank section for the next 6 months or so, they asked for help from the local Oil Painters Guild.  Knowing how busy I was in preparing for two shows this fall as well as finishing and moving into my new studio space, I ignored the email “call for artists”.  I assumed I had missed any deadlines and then I got the call from Bud Fields, a local wildlife artist with a great artist name, telling me that he had taken on the project and would I please help him.  Knowing I loved birds, had mural experience and frequented the wildlife refuges he thought I should get involved.  Well how do I resist the call–he’s very convincing.

A meeting was set with myself, Beth Norwood–the third musketeer in our little group–Bud and the director of the unit on September 3–oh my, we have a quick deadline!  After collaborating and trying to decide who would paint what, what medium we’d use, etc., it was decided that we would be doing separate pieces of art, in our own styles, which would then be bolted onto the 4’x6′ background.

the scale of the mural and each of our pieces.  Also, some very rough thumbnail ideas I was playing with.
The process–here is the to-scale drawing of the mural and each of our pieces. Also, some very rough thumbnail ideas I was playing with.

I went about doing a “to scale” layout sketch and figured out what sizes we’d each need to paint.  Bud spent the weekend prepping all the pieces and we met again this last Tuesday, picked up our substraights and the work has begun.

Bud will be painting a scene with white-tailed deer which are being reintroduced to the refuges, Beth will be highlighting the lush and varied foliage and I will be illustrating some of the birds that are readily seen and not depicted on any other part of the signage.

I have so many reference pictures of the area but finally landed on doing a blue heron and a red-winged blackbird, as well as some geese flying in the distance.  I’ve blocked in my painting and I think I like the composition and idea so tomorrow the real work will begin–wish me luck–updates to follow.

20"x28" block in for refuge
20″x28″ block in for refuge


  1. Eric Anderson says:

    Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us all. What a great project!

    Eric Anderson, Refuge Manager, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

    1. kmcgheeart says:

      Thank you Eric, it was an honor to collaborate with two other artists whom I respect greatly–for such an important cause. I’m excited to see the new permanent panel.

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