For the Love of Birds

From 2014 to Present

Bringing birds into my repertoire has pulled me out of terrible dry spells and creative funks. I can count on them to lift me up every time. The mechanics of bird flight is an on-going fascination. How ever do they do it? The reality is that there is an on-going decline of bird populations around the world. According to a study published in the journal Science North America alone has nearly three billion fewer birds today compared to 1970—that’s more than 1 in 4 birds that have disappeared from the landscape in the past 50 years. It’s not just threatened species, it’s our backyard favorites that are disappearing, too.

Seven Starlings © Kristin Maija Peterson 2022

Seven Starlings

Archival ink on Mulberry Paper
30” H x 25.25” W. Unframed. 2022 © Kristin Maija Peterson I 2000 USD

It all started when I was visited by seven starlings (to be exact) one cloudy late March afternoon. They captured my imagination and curiosity that lead to the piece you see above. Read the backstory here. It’s about birds, of course, and our relationship with them, a different kind of immigration and bringing together two perceived pests into something of beauty. I think you’ll find it fascinating.

painting of a Northern Flicker sitting in snow

One Snowy Day

Watercolor + Graphite Pencil on 300lb 100% Cotton Hot Press Fabriano Watercolor Paper.
34.5” H x 27.5” W. Framed. 2018 © Kristin Maija Peterson I 1200 USD

The Northern Flicker (Woodpecker family) is so striking no matter the season. Alone on a snowy day, I’ve made him a regal general. Though I was nervous about being true to his spotted feather pattern, in the end, I feel I did him justice.

Ophelia © Kristin Maija Peterson


Watercolor Pencil on 140lb 100% Cotton Hot Press Stonehenge Watercolor Paper.
30.75” H x 26.75” W. Framed. © 2020 Kristin Maija Peterson I 1800 USD

I want to live in a time before plastic. That would probably place me around 1907 when my grandmother was just a little girl. Ironically, plastic was to relieve stress and dependence on natural resources. Wood, metals, ivory, horn, and tortoiseshell are finite. At first, plastic was a good thing for the environment. We were free to develop the things that served a need without taking from the natural world.

By the time I entered the world in the 1960s, the world was just waking up to the plastic nightmare it had created. I remember seeing the now-classic environmental message, the television footage of the Native American who paddles his canoe ashore drawn to tears witnessing the piles of floating (plastic) trash in his wake.

Plastic continues to be a colossal environmental problem. It’s floating around everywhere, including in our bodies. So on a lovely bright sunny autumn day, I look up to see a robin’s nest partially constructed with one of those single-use plastic bags you find in the produce aisle. Oddly, it struck me as beautiful and at the same time tragic. How clever the bird! With plastic lining its sides, her nest insulated against moisture. The loose plastic blowing in the wind acts as a deterrent from predators looking for baby birds to eat.

I can only speculate the long-term damage plastic exposure has on her offspring and no doubt herself. Are her babies destined to use plastic in their nests, too? How much plastic ingested while handling fraying synthetic sacks while building a nest?

If you’ve read to this point you’re probably still wondering why I titled this piece “Ophelia.” True, it might not be the most fitting but the flowing plastic falling out of the robin’s nest made me remember seeing a production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” on the Guthrie stage.

The costumes were stunning, each designed to mirror the characters and their station. At the beginning of the play, the young and very much in love Ophelia is beautifully dressed, not a hair out of place. As the story unfolds and Hamlet disses her, Ophelia begins to go mad. Likewise, her clothing becomes unhinged, loose, and flowing, out of control.

We are out of control, addicted, so much that there is no spot on earth left untouched by plastic. But we know what to do. There are ways to reduces our dependency on plastic though it takes time to find resources and change habits. I want to live in a time without plastic. I want to look up and discover the robin’s nest built as it should be, with mud, twigs, and a little down.

color drawing of a black chicken by Kristin Maija Peterson

Black Smiling Chicken

Color Pencil on Cason Drawing Paper.
17” H x 16.5” W. Unframed. 2019 © Kristin Maija Peterson I 900 USD

While domestic chickens are in no short supply, this is a message on how they should be raised. This lovely gal was running around happily on an organic cloud coffee plantation we visited on the Big Island of Hawaii. Look at those legs! Clearly, she gets a free-range lifestyle.


Featured Work

The Three Muses (Flamingos)

Oil pastel + color pencil on Cason drawing paper.
18.5” x 13” I Unframed I 900 USD
2014 © Kristin Maija Peterson

Bracing The Cold

Oil pastel + ink on artisan paper.
8” x 5” I Unframed I NFS
2014 © Kristin Maija Peterson

Little Red Bird (Scarlet Tanager)

Oil pastel + ink on artisan paper.
9” x 5.5” I Unframed I NFS
2014 © Kristin Maija Peterson

What Mamas Do (Finches)

Oil pastel + ink on artisan paper.
11.5” x 18.25” I Unframed I 900 USD
2014 © Kristin Maija Peterson

All artwork shown on this website is protected by copyright law and can not be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the artist.
Be kind. Share but don’t steal.


Terra Kind Studio showcases the creative work of visual artist and designer Kristin Maija Peterson. Growing up among prairies, lakes, rivers, and oak savannas along with her project work with environmental nonprofit organizations have collectively influenced her creative path. Kristin works in watercolor, graphite, color pencil, oil pastels and pen and ink, interpreting in detail the beautiful chaos within native wild spaces and its inhabitants found living there. She sees all living creatures as kin and is always kind to spiders.

Contact the Studio

p: 651 318 7100

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