Attending In the Tradition of Audubon

rachelle and wes siegrist miniature paintings

Wes and I were delighted to attend the opening for the In the Audubon Tradition Exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center this past week.  The beautiful museum is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the exhibition will be on display through January 5th.  Since Wes’ parents decided to join us, we drove to their home in Indiana, and then the four of us headed to Cincinnati Thursday afternoon.  The grand museum with a gorgeous water feature in front, set against the backdrop of the evening sky, was a beautiful sight to behold indeed!

Cincinnati Museum Center

Upon walking through the front doors, you enter the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere and with its art deco style grandeur, it’s truly amazing!  The sound of 800 voices at one point created a most unusual sound in the dome’s acoustics.

cincinnati museum center dome

Walking into the exhibition was just as impressive, with several of John James Audubon’s elephant folios on display.  There is even a large digital “book” where one can flip slowly through the pages of the historical book, simply with the swipe of a hand, making a digital image of the next page to appear on the large blank canvas in the shape of the big books.


great auk john james audubon
A Great Auk on display


Several rooms have numerous Audubon prints and mounts of now extinct birds on display throughout the exhibition.

john james audubon

There is even one of his original stone etchings for making lithographs on display, complete with all of his intricate cuts, and most interesting to see.

in the audubon tradition

Several of his books, containing numerous print images are on display, such as this one entitled “The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America 1845”.

john james audubon print

The preview was very well attended and we were delighted to see people thrilled with viewing our miniatures in person, and being amazed by them, asking how in the world we paint such detail in such small paintings.

n the audubon tradition wes and rachelle siegrist

Of course, a big part of the fun during the evening was seeing and spending time with several artist friends, some that we hadn’t seen in quite a while!  Before we knew it, the evening had come to an end, so we said our goodbyes and started the two-hour drive back to Wes’ parents home.  The next day we spent taking advantage of the numerous ripe persimmons on several trees on their property.


Christie and I spent quite some time picking up persimmons off of the ground, as well as collecting a few very ripe ones from the trees.  Zeus the family dog, watched us and kept looking into the bucket to see what in the world all of the fuss was about.

rachelle siegrist

Next came time to process the small persimmons, which was done by washing them and tossing them into a food mill, where it takes one person to hold the mill and the other to turn the crank around and around, while it separates the seeds and peeling out, forcing the rich, sweet pulp down through the tiny holes in the bottom.  It’s a laborious process, so we took turns turning the handle.

rachelle siegrist2

But alas it was worth all the work in the end after the creamy pulp was turned into homemade persimmon bread and a large pan of persimmon pudding, both of which were totally scrumptious!

persimmon bread

The next morning we said goodbye to Wes’ parents and headed back to our home here in the Smokies, where we’re currently getting ready for the upcoming Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition at the beautiful Briscoe Western Art Museum, opening this next week in San Antonio, Texas.

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~ Rachelle


An Unbelievable Experience

rachelle siegrist snorkeling5

Wes and I have had the chance to snorkel several days this past week while exploring different areas and streams here in the Smokies.  While we always see an assortment of fish and greatly enjoy our time in the water, sometimes we encounter things that create a remarkable experience!  This past week, it started out like all other late afternoon snorkeling visits, showcasing several schools of beautiful fish in unbelievably clear water.

rachelle siegrist fish photo

Then as we embarked upon a journey into yet another pool and swam up to the cascade feeding it, Wes spotted what we’re always hoping to see . . . a Hellbender!  We were both thrilled to see this beautiful aquatic creature which is one of the largest salamanders in the world and can grow over two feet in length!  We carefully watched and videoed, as it slowly made its way up the cascade.  It seemed to be having almost as hard a time as we were just trying to stay in place, but had the advantage of rough pads on its toes, giving it extra traction on the slippery rocks.  Meanwhile, we carefully held onto rocks to keep ourselves in place, so we could watch it.

wes siegrist underwater photo4

It finally managed to crawl into the deeper water where the current wasn’t quite as strong, and I was delighted to watch as it slowly crawled by while making its way upstream!


rachelle siergist snorkeling

With wee little eyes and poor eyesight, it relies mostly on vibrations detected with a lateral line and didn’t mind at all, us observing it from a safe and respectable distance.  It was truly amazing to watch and we couldn’t believe this incredible opportunity we had been given to observe this Hellbender who spends most of its day hiding under rocks.

wes siegrist underwater photo5

We carefully and slowly followed along behind it and watched as it appeared to be hunting for food, which is mostly crayfish while peering and searching underneath rocks and ledges before moving on.  The fish, especially the smaller bass, were as intrigued by this magnificent creature as we were, and kept swimming all around it, even going right down to it and bumping it with their mouths a couple of times!

wes siegrist underwater photo1

As long as it let us, we continued to watch and observe in amazement as it crawled along, and at times it would crawl right by us, making for a great photo-op for Wes at one point!  After resting there for a bit, he crawled underneath Wes’ arm and went along his merry way.

wes siegrist underwater photo3

He had wonderful little white-tipped toes and wrinkly looking skin through which it breathes, sporting some of the best camouflage ever, and it could instantly blend in with the rocks, seemingly disappearing! We kept pinching ourselves to make sure it was really and truly happening and that we weren’t dreaming this amazing encounter up!

wes siegrist underwater photo2

We said goodbye to our little friend and made our way up into other sections of the stream, and couldn’t believe it when we spotted yet another Hellbender!  It too didn’t mind us watching as it slowly crawled upstream, occasionally being rolled over and sent backward by the very strong current!

rachelle siegrist underwater photo1

Nonetheless, each time it gracefully recovered, almost looking as if it had meant to do that as a joy ride, and started making its way upstream once again.  I watched and videoed as it went along until it found a nice large rock to go under, and it wasn’t until we were back at home and watching the video in slow motion, that we actually saw that I had captured another Hellbender darting out from underneath the rock and biting the one I had been watching!  “WOW . . . What are the chances of getting something like that on video!” . . . we said as we watched it in slow motion again several more times.

rachelle siegrist underwater photo

What an amazing snorkeling adventure it had been and once again we were reminded of all the truly wonderful things nature has to show us if only we’ll take the time to go out there and patiently watch and observe.

~ In The Studio ~

While Wes has been very busy with office work for the upcoming Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition at the beautiful Briscoe Western Art Museum, I have been busy at my easel and finished this miniature painting of a beautiful Painted Bunting, painted from a gorgeous reference photo taken by one of my Dad’s good friends.  This painting will be featured in the upcoming show, A Tradition Of Excellence: American Women Artists. at the RS Hanna Gallery, in Fredericksburg, TX and runs from October 21st through December 7th of this year.


painted bunting painting by rachelle siegrist
“A Southern Kaleidoscope”


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~ Rachelle

Blue Skies Do I See

wes siegrist

It’s been another productive and fun week here in the Smokies!  Our weather has served up days of cloudy overcast skies spitting a misty rain at intervals, followed by sun-drenched days with cloudless skies!  The cloudy days were an inspiration to get a lot of work done here in the studio and office, so we each finished paintings this week.  When the first beautiful day came, friend Kit joined us for a kayaking adventure at a nearby lake.  It was like a dream paddling across the glassy surface of the water early one morning, as it perfectly reflected the cloudless azure blue sky above!  We love exploring and paddling up creeks and streams, and so we headed up one we always enjoy visiting.  A couple of large trees had fallen since the last time we were there, making us really have to work our way upstream in a few tight spots.

wes siegrist & kit gentry

Soon we had reached one of our favorite pebble beaches for picnicking, so we crawled out of the kayaks and pulled them up on the bank.  Of course, within seconds my feet were in the water, and I was looking for a sunny pool to swim in.

rachelle siegrist

We waded upstream through some shallow shoals, and upon rounding a bend in the stream, I found a great spot to get in.  On went the wetsuit, and within a couple of minutes I was once again carefree as I giddily paddled about in the clear, cold water.  It was great fun swimming up a short distance, then floating down whilst lying on my back.  What a delightfully free feeling it is, merrily floating down a stream without a care in the world for a short while, and obviously, I had to do it again a few times.  Soon I was back down where Wes and Kit were wading and looking at the amazing variety of rocks. There I found the perfect spot to sit in the middle of the stream and eat my lunch, and it proved to be one of the best outdoor restaurants ever!

Rachelle siegrist2

While Wes sat in the shade on the nearby bank, Kit waded in the water while eating, and kindly waded over at one point and offered me a wee donut for dessert.  Everything tastes better when eaten in or by the water for some reason, so it was even more yummy than usual!

rachelle siegrist & kit gentry

Wes shared his picnic spot on the pebble covered beach with this BIG spider, who didn’t mind at all us taking a few photos of him. I love this photo of him where you can actually see his teeny tiny eyes and little white fangs . . . Yikes!  What a great face he certainly has!

wolf spider photo

After spending quite a bit of time at our watery playground in the woods, we climbed back into the kayaks and paddled on to explore a few more areas. A gentle breeze filled the air, blowing through surrounding leaves and creating one of my favorite sounds.  The sky remained cloudless except for a wee puff of a cloud now and then, as we paddled our way back to the boat ramp, and soon we had the kayaks loaded up and were heading home, feeling quite blessed to have enjoyed another wonderful adventure!

Wes Siegrist2

~ In The Studio ~

It’s been a very busy week here in the studio with us spending much of our time at the easels.  I finished my miniature painting of my beloved Peedeepeeps, who loves to feel the warmth of the sun as much as I do!  He’s almost always sitting somehwere in the sun, where he spreads every feather out on his wee body, and his head is tilted to one side and eyes partly closed, making it quite obvious that it feels amazing to this precious little bird!

“Lil’ Sun Worshipper”

Wes finished his miniature painting of a beautiful White-breasted Nuthatch nestled amongst fall leaves on the forest floor.  We came upon this magical setting during one of our enjoyable walks in the woods last year.

Wes’ “The Glory of Autumn”

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Until Next Time . . . 

~ Rachelle