A scratchboard drawing of Towan, orangutan from Woodland Park Zoo, resting under a burlap sack. By Elizabeth Smith of rowntreestudio.com


posted in: Mammals, WIP | 0

It’s taken far longer than I ever intended, but my scratchboard portrait of Towan is finished.

Towan was one of Woodland Park Zoo’s beloved orangutans. He passed away this year and his keepers, fans and fellow orangutans are still feeling his loss. He was a wonderful ambassador for his people of the forest.

Orangutans are critically endangered, largely due to habitat loss. Palm oil plantations are a major threat, taking over land that used to be vibrant forest. I hope that this portrait of dear Towan will inspire people to learn about orangutans and take action to protect them. Here is a resource to start with: Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.

While working on this piece I recorded a couple of short videos and shared them on YouTube. Here they are:



Towan: Work in Progress Video

posted in: Mammals, WIP | 0

In honor of International Orangutan Day, here is a short video of the Towan scratchboard in progress. I do most of my scratchboard work with an X-Acto 16 blade. I rotate the blade in my fingers and change the angle of the tip to create lines of varying widths.

You can read up on orangutans and the dangers they face at the Orangutan Conservancy website. These amazing animals are sadly endangered and need our protection.

A Great Blue Heron, the Moon and Towan

It’s been far too long since I posted anything here! It was a busy albatross cam season followed by recovery from albatross cam season. I’m starting to get my balance back.

Here are a few nifty non-albatross images from the last few months.

First I’d like to share the amazing great blue heron that posed for me at the park in May. I was just about to pack up and leave when this incredible bird showed up and spread his (her?) wings. What a thrill! He showed off a drop wing pose that I like to think of as “the satellite dish.”



On to a completely different subject: the moon. I recently amused myself by trying to take a series of photos of the moon. It offers different challenges than birds. I enjoyed the change of pace!




Last but certainly not least, I’m working on a scratchboard portrait of Towan, one of Woodland Park Zoo’s resident orangutans. He has wondrous eyes. This is a detail of the portrait in progress. The finished piece will be 8 x 10 inches and will show him looking out from under a burlap blanket.

Towan of Woodland Park Zoo
Towan of Woodland Park Zoo

I hope you enjoyed this little update. Thank you for taking a look!

Artistic Genus at the Edmonds Artwalk

Artistic Genus at the Edmonds Artwalk

April 17th, 5-8pm

Windermere Real Estate/GH LLC
210 5th Ave. S., Suite 102
Edmonds, WA 98020

Artistic Genus signage and art at the Windermere Edmonds, by Elizabeth R. Smith of rowntreestudio.com
A small part of the Artistic Genus display at the Edmonds Windermere

Yesterday the members of Artistic Genus hung a display of framed prints at the downtown Edmonds Windermere office. Our artwork will be on display in the lobby through the month of April, with a special focus on the regular third Thursday artwalk. That night we’ll bring in even more artwork, prints and notecards and will stay to chat and share snacks with artwalk visitors.

In March nearly twenty downtown businesses participated in the event. I had a great time strolling through town, chatting with artists and checking out their work, and I’m looking forward to participating this month!

Berggorilla & Regenwalk Direkthilfe

Gorillas by Elizabeth R. Smith of rowntreestudio.com
Gorillas at the Woodland Park Zoo

Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe (Mountain Gorilla and Rainforest Direct Aid)

This German gorilla conservation organization invited me to share my gorilla artwork and experience on their website along side other artists. You can find my page here, along with a wealth of other gorilla information and links in German and English. Animal and environment conservation are subjects dear to my heart, so I’m delighted to see what this organization is doing for gorillas.


The Jaguar Cubs Celebrate Their First Birthday at Woodland Park Zoo

jaguar cubs' birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith of rowntreestudio.com
The cubs stroll in and check out their Happy Birthday sign.

Yesterday Woodland Park Zoo celebrated the jaguar triplets’ first birthday in fine style. They were given beautiful handmade papier-mache turtles scented with their favorite things. I’ve taken a pile of pictures of Arizona, Inka and Kuwan, so I’m going to share just a few here.

Thank you to all the zoo staff and volunteers that made this event happen and who care for these entrancing animals!

jaguar cub birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r smith rowntreestudio.com
The siblings stroll into their newly decorated exhibit.
jaguar cub birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r smith rowntreestudio.com
Those turtles sure smell interesting! They were treated with spices and perfume.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r smith rowntreestudio.com
My house cat gets this look on his face when he’s playing, too.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Just look at those beauties!
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Taking a break from the cardboard carnage.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
The best present is one your sibling is already opening.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Hello, gorgeous!
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Om nom nom nom!
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth R. smith rowntreestudio.com
Two-and-a-half hours in, the cubs are ready to take a break.

Thanks for taking a look! The cubs are full grown and will soon be moving off to other zoos. Kuwan, the male, will be going up to Canada, and as far as I know destinations are still being worked out for the sisters. I’m sure they’ll be loved wherever they go. We’ll miss all of the cubs! It was wonderful to have this chance to celebrate with them.

Work In Progress: Scratchboard Jaguar Cub (One)

posted in: Mammals, Vertebrates, WIP | 0

This is one of my current projects, a jaguar cub on scratchboard. I’m working from a photo I took at the zoo of Kuwan, an adorable male cub. At least I’m almost sure it’s Kuwan.

Scratchboard involves scraping through a layer of dry ink to reveal a layer of white clay underneath. White clayboard is also available so an artist can either put ink or other materials (like colored pencil or paint) down on a board and then scratch through that instead. The exciting thing about scratchboard is that allows one to draw in white over darks. Many drawing and even painting materials require darks to go on over lights, so reserving thin white lines is challenging if not impossible. Scratchboard is all about thin white lines, so it’s perfect for subjects with pale whiskers and tufts of fur.

For tools I mostly use a Speedball scratch knife 112 nib (a sharp metal point that’s a lot like a pen nib and fits in a pen nib holder), an X-Acto 16 blade, a 4mm diameter fiberglass brush that’s rather like a clicky eraser, and whatever other pointy things I have nearby that might work. I have a large soft paintbrush handy to brush scratchings off the artwork.

The following three images show recent progress on Kuwan. It’s slow.

Jaguar Cub
Scratchboard in progress.
Jaguar Cub Two
More lines are scratched through the ink layer.


Jaguar Cub Three
The current state of the drawing.