Tagged Small Friends’ Chronicles

Peter Pangolin celebrates pangolin trafficking ban

Good news for Pangolins

Peter Pangolin (pictured below) passed on a report from Smithsonian.com: good news (a ban on pangolin trafficking) and bad news: Pangolins are still the most trafficked mammals in the world.

Peter Pangolin
Peter Pangolin

Peter Pangolin – world’s luckiest Pangolin

Pangolins eat ants and termites, and Peter was allergic to them, so as a sickly little pangolin, traffickers ignored him. It was Peter’s luckiest day when he was scooped up by a Veterinarian Without Borders who put him into a tiny diplomatic pouch and sent him to her family in France. Her parents took great care to find food that he liked. He fattened up, calmed down, and stopped curling into the tiny “I’m scared” ball which is characteristic of frightened pangolins.

Peter Pangolin welcomed by a family of truffle hunters

Peter’s luck apparently knows no bounds. He had been welcomed into a family of truffle-hunters who had been living and working in France for generations. It turned out that Peter was the best of all truffle-hunting mammals: he can find them, but he doesn’t like to eat them.

Peter eat up some profits

French LLLama
French LLLama

Because Peter is really skilled at truffle-finding, Peter and his new family make lots of money. After carefully saving 25% of his earnings, he travels to Paris one weekend each month to visit with his close friend, the French LLLama. They stroll on the Champs-élysées, drink café au lait, and continue their search for Paris’ best apple cake.

Peter Pangolin and French LLLama in the world

Peter Pangolin in books, cards and prints

Peter Pangolin is featured in The Small Friends’ Chronicles, a 70-page compendium of whimsical creatures’ portraits and stories, available in softcover, and electronic versions. Find his cards and prints at The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market.

French LLLama in books, cards and prints

French LLLama is one of 36 LLLamas featured in Meet the LLLamas, available as a Kindle edition,  from Create Space, online or in signed copies at the Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market.


Trilobite Revisits Photoshop

Photoshop has been my friend for a while. At first, I used it to create an archive. Because I started “image-a-day” painting in 2010, I have a HUGE archive of images. Sometime in 2011, I discovered the magic of Photoshop and began to manipulate images.

Original Trilobite

It was easy to identify the original image as “Trilobite” from a dim memory of studying geology. It is 5×7″ and beautifully framed. Thank you, Frameworks.

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Entering Photoshop’s Magic World

Once the Photoshop light came on, I spent hours tweaking this image, learning about Filters and Adjustments. (Working with Layers came much much later.) Surprise! The same person who categorically refuses to make round color wheels, declined to learn to play scales (C sharp? C Major?), also steadfastly refused to take careful notes about filters and adjustments, making it impossible to recreate any of this.

The image with the eye on the right is Teresa Trilobite. The fellow with the eye on the left is Tommy Trilobite. They are featured in The Small Friends’ Chronicles. Here is their story:

Although trilobites who roamed the oceans between 526 and 250 million years ago have long been extinct, The Small Friends’ Research Institute (which funds some of my work) found Theresa (eye on the top) and Tommy (eye on the bottom) living quietly in a small pond in Northern Minnesota.

Theresa and Tommy were thrilled that Trilobite: Four by Five (below) was selected for the Still Point Gallery’s Abstraction Distraction online exhibition (November-December 2011). They are still delighted that they were able to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by appearing in the Square Inches of Love traveling exhibition.

In 2011, this image was accepted in Square Inches of Love, a giant quilt that was a fundraiser for St. Jude. Want one for your very own? It’s at ETSY.



Trilo 2 four by five

Two Fish: learn from mistakes

Two Shiny Fish
Two Shiny Fish


How was it made?

I made this image my Facebook profile picture, and (thank you) got lots of “likes” and some queries about how it was made.

STEP 1. I started with one of the 8″ rounds from the pile that has aged like fine wine under my staircase for 17 years. I used gesso to attach a piece of round watercolor paper, penciled in the tiny box design, painted it with my double zero brush.

STEP 2: I then covered it with an acrylic medium to make it shiny.

Gasp. Screams. Pain.

It dried and I learned a very hard lesson. Just plain watercolor will melt and blur if you fail to apply a protective coating before splodging on layers of acrylic medium.

Starting over.

STEP 1. I did it again. I gesso’d another piece of paper onto the round and made the painting again. When it was finished, I applied layer after layer of fancy French fixative before laying on the acrylic medium to make it shiny. I was going for REALLY shiny.

STEP 2.  After carefully layering the acrylic medium, I kept my own fingers and Max The Cat’s paws away from the piece while it dried.

STEP 3.  Not enough fixative. No “gasp-screams-pain,” just a grim determination to make something of this exercise.

STEP 4:  Calling on my heretofore unknown Inner-Princess, I turned to glitter — specifically Golden Brand Pearl Mica Flake — which covered the blurred spots.

STEP 5:  Glitter wasn’t enough. I consulted with one of my favorite characters from The Small Friends’ Chronicles, Harry Herringbone Fish, to finish the piece. Glad to do something useful in addition to appearing in prints and cards, and co-starring in the book with other fish based on Uncle Leon’s Pewter ashtray, he was eager to make this piece work.


Harry Herringbone Fish
Harry Herringbone Fish

Harry and I tried out three versions, and settled on two fish. I applied the fish with very permanent glue and, finally, covered the piece with the shiny clear acrylic that had been the goal in the first place.  There is just one of these, and it is $60 plus shipping directly from me (susangainen@comcast.net), payable through PayPal.

Please Protect Pangolins


Peter Pangolin
Peter Pangolin

I read a piece in National Geographic in 2011 that introduced me to The Plight of Pangolins who are wildly sought after as bush meat and because they are rumored to have medicinal properties. I wrote a blog post, painted Peter Pangolin’s portrait, dedicating it to Pangolin Preservation, and included his story in The Small Friends’ Chronicles.

Peter Pangolin Today

Unlike Pangolins in the wild, Peter is living a good life in France as a truffle hunter. As recounted in The Small Friends’ Chronicles, Peter is allergic to ants and termites (typical Pangolin food), so he was too sickly to be attractive to bush meat hunters. Luckily he was scooped up by a Veterinarian-Without-Borders and sent in a diplomatic package to her parents who are 6th generation French truffle hunters. The parents fattened him up (on chocolate truffles), and everyone was delighted to find that Peter is a natural truffle hunter. He makes a tidy living, and once a month he goes to Paris to visit his friend The French LLLama (from Meet the LLLamas). They walk on the Champs-Elysées, drink Café au lait, and visit La Boutique Jaune de Sacha Finkelsztajn for the best apple cake in the world.  (Peter Pangolin Print:$30 plus shipping at ETSY)

Pangolins in the world today

Sadly, things are much much worse today. The New York Times recently published a long and sad piece about their current situation.

Bonnie Somdalh Needlefelted Pangolin
Bonnie Somdalh Needlefelted Pangolin

A needlefelted pangolin

One very lucky person can celebrate Pangolins with Bonnie Somdahl’s needlefelted Pangolin, from the Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market. Call 1-612-965-8581 for availability.



Peter Pangolin lives happily in France

Peter Pangolin
Peter Pangolin lives safely and happily in France

Peter Pangolin is part of a very small family of scaly anteaters who are native to parts of Africa and Asia. In his native land, he would have eaten ants and termites, but was found to be wildly allergic to ants.  Instead of thriving, he became thin and sickly. To save him from slaughter as bushmeat, a kindly member of Veterinarians-Without-Borders slipped him into a diplomatic pouch and sent him to relatives in France. He hunts — but does not eat — forest truffles, and spends his money on only-the-best-chocolate-truffles in Paris.

Please protect pangolins

Pangolins are nocturnal and have very thick scales that look as if they were borrowed from Tricerotops’ heads. Sadly, according to National Geographic, they are being consumed to extinction. In a blog post dedicated to an international campaign to stop poaching and bushmeat, you will find wonderful photographs and  25 Things You Might Not Know About Pangolins.

Peter is featured in The Small Friends’ Chronicles, a 70-page compendium of whimsical creatures’ portraits and stories which is available in softcover, ebook and as a jpg at http://www.blurb.com/b/3479674-the-small-friends-chronicles.

Original: Not for sale. Prints $30 plus shipping at ETSY.