Tufted Titmouse

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When I first heard this name, it struck me as sort of odd or a bit funny. My sister Jeanette mentioned this bird when I just finished my Chickadee painting last year. She said, “You should paint a Tufted Titmouse; they are so cute.” To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen this bird in the wild -have any of you?  I looked up a picture and these birds are indeed adorable with their tuft of hair at the top of their head and their chubby body – similar to the Chickadee which they are related to. Well, I kept this suggestion in mind and recently felt inspired to paint the Tufted Titmouse, the second bird in my bird series. (See the Chickadee at http://www.mjnicole.com).  I learned that the Tufted Titmouse has a call that sounds like “Peter, Peter” and I painted the words on my painting.  I again selected one of the many past holiday cards I have kept over the years and used it to make a few of the wild red berries capped with snow, a tail feather, and also parts of the arched branch. When you see this painting up close, I like how the card paper gives the scene depth. I hope this winter, I will see one in my backyard and call “Peter, Peter” to it.

The Castle

The Castle

After living in the Berkshires for over 10 years, I have found that in order to really know the true Berkshires, one must explore! The Berkshires hides some of its natural beauty, but also some pretty interesting national organizations keep a low local profile. One example is in the town of Great Barrington, if you drive down a rural road called Division Street, you will come to a massive stone wall. If you turn between the stone pillars, and drive up the long windy driveway, there at the top of a large hill sits a brick mansion that is fondly called “The Castle.” This Castle is home to two organizations: one is the American Institute for Economic Research http://www.aier.org (that conducts independent, scientific economic research) and the second is American Investment Services http://www.americaninvestment.com (that provides asset management services). American Investment Services (AIS) is where my husband works. I bring my children to visit occasionally; the view from the top is delightful and the grounds are fun to explore. We have visited in all of the seasons, but when there has been a fresh snowfall, the Castle and grounds look magical. My painting is of the Castle coated with fresh snow. The view is from someone coming up the main drive; snow clings to the branches of the grand tree that stands post by the back courtyard. This image will be used for some really special AIS holiday cards and the original can be viewed at http://www.mjnicole.com