Artists for Conservation

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve been invited to join a wonderful organization called Artists for Conservation as a signature member!  

From their website:
“Artists for Conservation is a Canadian based international non-profit. AFC represents 500 artists from 30 countries,in the nature/wildlife art genre, who are committed to conservation. Many of the world’s most recognized names in the field are actively involved.
Our mission is to support wildlife and habitat conservation and environmental education through art that celebrates nature.”

If you enjoy any type of nature art, whether wildlife or landscape, you will find something to explore on their website.  Their members include such renowned artists as John Seerey-Lester, Terry Isaac, Guy Combes, Morten Solberg and many more.   You can visit their 2017 virtual exhibit here.

To celebrate, I will be donating 100% of all limited edition print sales originating from my Artists for Conservation webpage before April 1st 2018 to Le Nichoir.  Le Nichoir has been providing care and treatment for injured or orphaned wild birds and releasing them back into their natural habitat for the past 20 years.

Please visit my new Artists for Conservation webpage to see more!!

As always if you have any questions at all please feel free to contact me !  If you enjoy wildlife drawing, you can also follow me on facebook.




Strathmore toned paper – Wolf study

Strathmore toned paper – Wolf study

Lately, I’ve been working on sketches using Strathmore toned paper.  I’ve always worked on white paper before so this is quite a change.  Working on toned paper is a great way to easily cover a wide range of values by using the colour of the paper as the midtone. In its simplest for, you could simply work in black and white to great effect but if you want to expand your possibilities then this is a wonderful paper to try.  It’s an 80 lb acid free quality paper.  It comes in tan or gray and in a variety of sizes.  As per Strathmore’s description it accepts graphite pencil, coloured pencil, charcoal, sketching stick, soft pastel and oil pastel.  I have also seen artists get wonderful results using ink liners, felt markers, ballpoint pens and gelly roll pens.

LSpino_wolfl on toned paper.jpgThis wolf study was done on tan toned paper, 9″ X 12″.  I used Staedtler pigment liner in various sizes, Derwent terracotta drawing pencil, Conté white pencil, white gelly roll pen and graphite pencil.  This is a great way to test ideas for a finished drawing but whether or not a sketch like this ever finds its way to  a more formal drawing, it is great fun just as a practice piece.

As always if you have any questions at all please feel free to contact me !  If you enjoy wildlife drawing, you can also follow me on facebook.

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Mallard hen

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Mallard hen

Often the most humble of subjects can be the most appealing. I’m fortunate to see mallards often where I live and I’ve learned to appreciate their surprising beauty. Easy to overlook, they are actually very appealing birds and I’ve spent a lot of time observing them up close. Whether they are caring for their young or keeping watch while other members of the flock feed, they exhibit complex social behaviour.


I’ve drawn the male with his distinctive markings before. Here I’ve depicted him on rippling water in bright, low sunlight. 



LSpino_mallard2This time I wanted to show the female in low light on calm water.  The idea was to provide a dark background to show off  her lighter plumage which is just as lovely as the male’s, but offers softer contrast and is more monochromatic.

I’m very happy to respond to any comments or questions so please feel free to contact me !  If you enjoy wildlife drawing, you can also follow me on facebook.

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Barred Owl

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Barred Owl

Owls are fearsome and seemingly fearless predators. They steal in on silent wings, seize their unsuspecting prey and generally swallow it whole. Some of the larger species have been known to prey on eaglets in their nests. Yet, we are seldom aware of their presence. An owl sitting quietly on a branch near us, exquisitely camouflaged, is nearly invisible.It is this aura of mystery surrounding owls that has always fascinated us. They have held an important role in mythology and were long thought to be symbols of wisdom. They are also quite simply among the most beautiful of birds. 

LSpino_barred owl 01The barred owl with its large brown eyes is especially beautiful in my opinion.  It usually hunts at night or at dusk, but can be active in the daytime.  It has proven to be very adaptable and can be found almost everywhere in Canada and the eastern United States.  It is a medium sized owl and perhaps surprisingly the great horned owl is its primary predator.  


LSpino_barred owl 02Owls have been seen over the centuries as symbols of wisdom, of death, and of the power to heal since their feathers are often worm by medicine men and women.  I believe that owls like all animals, can and should be appreciated simply for the beauty that they bring to our natural world.   

Once again I have prepared a short time-lapse video of of the work-in progress for this drawing.  I hope you enjoy it!

I’m happy to answer questions you may have, just let me know ! 

Digital drawing – Bald Eagle

Digital drawing – Bald Eagle

There has been a lot of controversy concerning digital art in the past but today I think that it’s undeniable that digital programs are a wonderful addition to any artist’s toolbox. Many artists use them to plan their compositions and in that sense they’re invaluable because placing various elements and resizing them has become much easier and quicker than re-drawing or even than using a photocopy machine.  Artists have always used whatever means they had at their disposal to create art.

LSpino_digital eagle

Of course this is more of a sketch than a refined drawing but I’ve seen digital art that rivals traditional in every way.  Like all mediums, there are masters of digital art as a quick google search will prove.  If you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it.  I think that it will be an indispensable skill for all artists in the future.

Hope you give it a try! 

Strokes of Genius 9: Creative Discoveries

Strokes of Genius 9: Creative Discoveries

North Light Books publishers of Strokes of Genius 9: Creative Discoveries have announced that it will release this latest volume shortly. It is available for order from their online store, as well as all major bookstores. One of my pieces, Red Fox- Renard Roux, is included in this volume. 

Strokes of Genius 9

LSpino_Red Fox

This is the fourth publication by North Light Books to include one of my drawings and I feel very fortunate to have had such a rewarding relationship with this publishing house.  

Strokes of Genius 10 : Inspiring Subjects

Strokes of Genius 10 : Inspiring Subjects

It’s been an exciting week!  I feel fortunate to have had two of my drawings, “Dance for Joy” and “Mocha”,  selected for inclusion in Strokes of Genius 10: Inspiring Subjects, scheduled for release in the fall of 2018.

The first, Dance for Joy, has an interesting back story.  I had photographed this goose just as it stepped out of a lake on a beautiful sunny summer day.  It honked and shook its feathers and flapped its wings and just seemed to be enjoying the gorgeous weather!  I was working on this drawing when I received the news that my first drawing ever published, “Mallard” had been chosen to be included in Strokes of Genius 6.  That day, I felt just like the goose did – I wanted to dance for joy! I chose to eliminate the elaborate background that I had planned and instead just showed him dancing on cloud 9!  Limited editions of “Dance for Joy” are available here.

The second one is more personal.  Mocha is my cat.  She has been my constant companion for the past 11 years.  Mocha is a rescue and her age when I adopted her was estimated by my vet to be between 1 and 1 1/2 years old.  for blog_LSpino_mochaIt came as a surprise to me when I saw her file that the vet had arbitrarily selected the month that my Mom had passed away as Mocha’s birth date and  I’ve always thought of her as a gift from my Mom.  Soon after I submitted Mocha’s portrait to  the Strokes of Genius 10 competition I learned that she has a form of cancer which unfortunately is terminal in cats.  Learning that her portrait was selected was bittersweet, but knowing that I’ll be able to share her portrait with so many people is comforting.

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Shetland Pony

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Shetland Pony

There a few animals so universally beloved as the horse. It seems almost every country or region on earth has its own trademark breed from the elegant Arabian that was bred to survive in a harsh desert climate to the proud and free Mustangs of North America. Of course Canada too has its hallmark breed the beautiful “Canadien” which I hope to feature in a future blog.

LSpino_Shetland Pony 2

Today though I’d like to spotlight the Shetland Pony.  The Shetland pony as its name implies originated on the Shetland Isles.  It is an ancient breed long admired for its intelligence as well as its strength.  They thrived in the harsh climate of the Shetland Isles.  While researching for this article I was surprised to find that miniature Shetland ponies are being used as guide animals in the same role as guide dogs, a testimony to their intelligence.

LSpino_Shetland Pony 1

Although Shetland comes in many colours, these two ponies were white which presented a challenge in itself.  When drawing in shades of grey, white can only be represented by drawing the shadows between the hair.  These ponies had been living outdoors.  They still bore their thick winter coats and their manes were beautifully and hopelessly tangled!  It was pure joy for me to try to depict that impossibly complicated labyrinth of hair masquerading as a mane!! 

Some drawings are just plain fun to do.  I think that I smiled throughout the whole long painstaking process of drawing these two charmers.  Many thanks to Janelle Shane for giving me her generous permission to use her photos as reference for these drawings.

Pastel & Graphite Wildlife Illustration

Pastel & Graphite Wildlife Illustration – Deer Mouse

Pastel & graphite are not traditionally mixed but anything goes when mixing media! One of my favourite small illustrations is of a deer mouse. The composition is simple and because it is a vignette, the focus is easily kept on the deer mouse. I have been using this illustration as my profile picture on face book and I’ve had a few questions about it so I’ll try to answer them here today. 

LSpino_Deer Mouse_2This was one of those times when the composition came about quickly. I had taken some reference pictures of deer mice and I really liked this pose. Now I needed something for the mouse to look at. Since this was meant to be a fantasy piece reminiscent of traditional children’s book illustrations, there was no need to be study the mouses’s diet or behaviour!

All I knew was that I wanted to play up the idea LSpino_Deer Mouse_close-upof a tiny creature in a world where almost everything was bigger than it was. I also wanted a punch of colour and berries seemed like the perfect choice. The leaves were sized with the same theme in mind. They had to provide a background without overpowering the mouse yet they had to tower over him. It was lots of fun playing with the idea of mixing fantasy and reality!  

Pastel and graphite are not traditionally mixed.  The trick I have found is to use the pastel sparingly otherwise the graphite just won’t stick to it. With the addition of graphite powder, the pastel can be greyed down so that the overall effect is one of older book illustrations.

You can see a step-by-step progression of the drawing in the video below.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you may have!

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Caribou at Creek

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Caribou at Creek

Composition can mean making difficult choices. When I composed Caribou at Creek, I struggled with the fact that I would be cutting off a good portion of the antlers. After all, although caribou have many beautiful features, those antlers are what we all think of when we think “caribou”.  

I wanted an intimate view of the animal that showed off that beautiful beard or dewlap, as well as those hooves.  LSpino_caribouWhy the hooves? Well, caribou actually do click when they walk, although it’s due to tendons in their legs, not to the sound of their hooves on rooftops!  Their hooves are large and help support them in deep snow.  Caribou are also excellent swimmers and their large hooves help them in this respect too.  

Both male and female caribou can grow antlers and they are the only species of deer to do so.  During mating seasons males will use their antlers to compete for mates, but both males and females also use their antlers to dig through snow to look for food.  

LSpino_caribou_close-upCaribou are uniquely adapted to their very harsh habitat.  Although when we think of the world’s great migrations we tend to think of the African continent, in summer reindeer start heading north in herds that can number in the hundreds of thousands.

I prepared a short time-lapse video of of the work-in progress for this drawing.  I hope you enjoy it!

If you have any comments or questions at all, please let me know!