Harvestman rides a roof in Ohio

Marlin Peterson’s Mural in Ohio from Jonathan Jackson on Vimeo.

I had a fantastical experience painting another species of harvestman on a roof for a prolific art collector in Akron, Ohio.  I did the 3D, (or anamorphic), painting so it was viewable from the incredible setting of the Hieronymus gallery.  There were some tricky logistics, for example the sun only beat down onto the roof for an hour or so per day, usually shaded by large trees around.

For this project, I chose a local opiliones called Leiobunum vittatum.  It has a bright bold brown and reddish orange mottled body with darker brown legs…remarkably different from another opiliones I did in Seattle Phalangium opilio.  

It was an amazing experience to be one of the many indescribably awesome artists represented at the gallery.  The trip was worth it just to see the collection of art!












Here are some images of the process….

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master brain mural

For the final 3 weeks in my illustration 1 and 2 classes the project was to transform the MAC gallery into a giant painted mural.  We chewed on all the options and decided to use a “space” theme as a starting point.  Each student contributed to a particular few areas and subjects, and in the end we were all sad to be finished!  It became the pattern to just come in and paint a few days a week, and it was so, so much fun to paint so big and without much in the way of constraints.




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Killdeers love watercolor

I taught a class for the Leavenworth Birdfest at a crazy amazing garden lodge retreat center down the chumstick road called Tierra.  A packed class that threatened to use up every last art supply I had brought, but we made it and it was super fun.  I chose a Killdeer for our subject and we worked mostly in watercolor…a little gouache and watercolor pencil to touch up at the end.  Ran out of time, as always, but got a lot done.  Here are some images of the day…

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Murals are the focus for illustration this spring

Illustration this upcoming spring quarter will focus on working big!   We have the magnificent walls of the MAC Gallery to paint murals on, in addition to other spaces we can arrange.

If you have ever wanted to work huge and understand how to transform your sketches into huge colorful art that covers entire walls, you are in the right place!

Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 1-4:30pm.  Art 141

Feel free to contact me with any questions:  marlinpeterson@gmail.com


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Fossil Gastoris bone discovered in the dark northerly fossilbeds of Ellesmere island!

I have so much love for Gastornis aka Diatryma.  Not only was it scratching 7 feet tall, not only was it flightless, not only was it likely a vegetarian…now they have found a fossil bone confirming its existence on Ellesmere Island!  That means that adding to the entire surreal existence of this giant lumbering bird was the fact that it ambled around in swamps and wet forests in the DARK for 6 months each year!  Their diets changed seasonally too, eating different things in the dark times of the year.  Ellemere in the Eocene was at about 75 degrees latitude, now it is at 80 degrees.

On Ellesmere paleontologists have found fish, turtles, crocodilians, many clades of mammals ranging from primates to brontotheres, and birds5

Here is the formal article:  http://www.nature.com/articles/srep20912

and a great summary more findings


Click here to read the UCB article






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Steelhead art class in Leavenworth

I led an art class about how to paint and otherwise render a realistic yet artistic “winter Steelhead”.  It was fun for me, and an opportunity for the students to use media they might not have.
It was touted as a “watercolor” class for beginners, but in the end we talked about and used gouache and watercolor pencils.  This was from 9-4 on a Saturday, so a nice long session.  I have certainly run out of time in other classes, and despite me shoving us along throughout the day, we stuck to my timeline and finished right at 4.  Amazing.  The students turned out some super awesome work, especially as some of them never painted fish nor used any of those highly finicky media before.



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reciprocating black vultures

This is an assignment I gave my science illustration class, where the bulk of our work was to scratchboard the head and another part of the bird, then digitally create the black or dark silhouette for the body.  There were opportunities to use our artistic licenses, which I took.  I am not finished but almost to the point where I will scratch.  The mockup went from a stylized few vultures feeding on an armadillo to a triad of birds plucking each other’s eyeballs out…I sketched out ripped out eyes on the bottom.

As you can see, its just been penwork so far with a micron 0.5mm.  There is no volume in the head and it will be very different once I get much more darkness in it.

A likely tshirt design for me in the near future!

Let me know what you think


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2015 Natural Science Illustration class!

For the second year I will be teaching Natural Science Illustration at Wenatchee Valley College.

This class is taught in the fall only, and is held on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 1-4:30.

Here are some images from students and their projects last year…

If you have any questions at all about the class, feel free to email me, Marlin at:  marlinpeterson@gmail.com  or you can call or text me at 509 881 8652

I look forward to making art with you!

Also here is the link to an article that ran in the Wenatchee World about the class…but might be somewhat blocked if you don’t get the paper:


Rendering a B&W Song Sparrow for birdfest

I did another scratchboard class for the Leavenworth Birdfest.  Great festival with all kinds of fascinating talks and experts and field trips.  My class was self described as less birders and more on the artistic spectrum.  They turned out awesomeness as you can see.  It was about a 4-5 hour class and we used all the time!  I still have some left to do….great time.  You would think all I do is scratchboard birds these days !?

For those who wonder, I garden too.

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Hard Cider labels

I made some hard cider labels for an awesome new company called Wenatchee Valley Cider Company.  They have 4 main “strains” so far and each name and image was chosen for its own back story.  I can’t wait to see it for sale, which should be this summer.  They were originally created as CMYK files for print, and consequently the colors are all jacked in these fotos here…sorry!

All the best to the enterprising owners Floyd and Betsy Stutzman!  Enough with the apple dumps…we need more hard cider!

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Library Owls

I was invited to give a class to a couple libraries in the greater Seattle Area, and so I took our little Pygmy Owl on the road!  This time, perhaps to make it simpler (?) I decided to have the artists work up from black.  That is probably the best way to start scratchboard…

Amazing crowd at my home library- Fairwood!  Such a fun time, here are some pix from the 3 hour class




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retouch up of the harvestmen, -women….well, “harvest people”

I had a great first day sweeping off, foot-skitching seagull crap, then repainting large sections of the mural.  Some of the colors had faded and become an odd purple, while others were holding up pretty well.  The second day I got rained off the roof and it was sad.  I had taken all kinds of notes from the Needle on all areas I wanted to ramp up the highlight, deepen a shadow, or rein in a longer or more intense highlight.  (on a side note, the previous word is indeed spelled rein, never reign in this metaphorical sense…I had to look it up 🙂



I dragged my rolling box o’ stuff up and had to get a whole slew of new color quarts, (of which I promptly ran out).  But I did manage to get a once over on everything except the core shadow which I thought would be cool to deepen in a way that hadn’t ever been even when it was brand spanking new 2 Augusts ago.  But the drizzle then fierce wind then full on rain started and I left…before I could check to see if the grayish blue of the core shadow was coming down in runnels like teary mascara.


A good friend went up a couple days ago and reported it looked good, so great!  I do hope to get to the roof again this spring to tease out some even more realistic highlights…but until then, it feels great to have it looking clean and new again.

The following photo is before touch-up, by the way…





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My class on scratchboarding Pygmy Owls

I have scratchboarded a few owl species in the past and thought it would make a good subject for people to get an introduction into scratchboard.  It is surprising how many artists have dabbled with scratchboard at some point, then left it behind.

We are NOT doing the rainbow bleed make it yourself type from middle school!   This is what everyone prolly thinks about when I mention scratchboard….


Lets leave that to memories better left forgotten.




I chose the mindbogglingly tiny Northern Pygmy Owl for many reasons…it is a local resident and it has real neat coloration that just would work well for scratchboard.  I had to hastily dash around the scratchboard in order to show everyone the techniques for different parts…so I didn’t work the way I normally would have, but it has a loose sketchy quality that I like.  I have more to do, but it is close.  I had some great artists who were there for the class, and you can see everyone’s work at the bottom of the images.

I am going to be doing another couple classes for WRI and the Leavenworth Birdfest, and at least one scratchboard class for the Seattle Public Library system where we render a bird….and I will beg scratchboard to once again to reveal its secrets….








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coreid tribute painting class

I taught a watercolor class where we painted an insect quite large.  I chose to use a little familiar looking brown insect.  We might not know what to call them, but we know them and we love them; they are gentle, they are the coreids.   Also known as a leaf-footed bug, this beautiful hexapod lives simply, so that others may simply live.  Or something like that….
Just quietly jabbing and sucking plant fluids, they just do their own thing…

I chose this one because it has a somewhat subdued array of coloration.  I warned the class that this should really be a 9 hour class, and I came in at about 7 hours total.  I clocked about 3 hours during the class, and another 4 here at home, but the most important groundwork we all did in class, (getting proportion right, building the color foundation, figuring out the drop shadow). I built a wire voodoo insect that we could manipulate and light to understand how the drop shadow works, and it was very helpful.  Here is how it looked at the end of the classtime along with some images from the class:

I then built off of the foundation from the class and pushed it further in contrast and detail.  I used some gouache for the highlights, (which I recommend for all watercolor.  Don’t spend the precious time you have on earth trying to reserve every white or lighter area!)  This was minutes of time dabbing in some highlights, and is always the best time of all.  And at the very last, I nicked some areas with pencil and colored pencil to get some bright hints of translucency.  Let me know what you think!

I am also doing a class in Wenatchee at the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust on Thursday, December 11 from 6-9pm.  Sign up thru Wenatchee River Institute.


** update, the last two photos are from the class in Wenatchee.  It went great and was fun to have a packed house.  Look for more classes this winter in Leavenworth and Wenatchee.

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Suffering Sloths…

I have begun finally departing from the pencil and getting base coats of paint slathered onto my plywood.  I won’t explain anything, but let the martyrdom of this innocent sloth speak for itself.  It is 48 inches tall and 24 inches wide, and I really enjoy the unique vertical orientation and making the goods fit into it.

I have started to put in some of the wood grain, and am considering switching to oil paints for the sloth….but then again, my heavy ass hands need to rest on the wood to paint and oil ain’t not no good for that.

Probably go for a rainy/cloudy sky next after the wood gets a bit closer.

Update:  dark sky foundation brushed in…but still can’t decide if I should make this terrible day rainy and windy?  Tropical vs. Temperate?  I can envision some mold about to happen on the woods soon…

A new course in Science Illustration

If it wasn’t evident already, nature is cool.  My science art class will show you why…

I will be teaching a brand-spanking new course in Natural Science Illustration at Wenatchee Valley College this fall.  This is a one time only course that is damn-near impossible to find anywhere!

We will be exploring the anatomy and techniques to render many strange and fascinating natural forms of life.

Field trips, skulls, insects, high powered microscopes, ancient beasts, and everything I can fit into a 3.5 hour block.  We will learn to use traditional and digital techniques, creating portfolio pieces in both color and black & white.














Here is a link to the course description at WVC:



Seattle Opera Ring Cycle sidewalk graphic install

This is now mounted in the Kreilsheimer Promenade! It was quite the process of research, meetings, back and forth mockup versions, meetings in Seattle and Spokane, then formatting the huge computer-freezing file for print. Whew! The prints were done by Designer Decal in Spokane, and delivered for installation last Wednesday. Great timing because Friday it started to rain all day. I was able to record a time lapse of the whole installation and here it is:

This very familiar song most people don’t realize is actually from this opera, and not Apocalypse Now
here is what chalk WOULD NOT look like after a first rain….way to go 3M!

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Finished! Coryphodons rumaging around the Eocene

Misbehaving Photoshop filters couldn’t stop me finishing! I finally finished it, and I am happy how it came out. It is large, made to be printed out at least 48 inches across, but the detail could hold up a lot larger…I have to print one myself to see how it looks on a format other than a computer screen. Otherwise if you want to see it in action, go to Western Washington University’s Environmental Studies building.
I shot screenshot timelapse video of the whole creation, including the modeling of the clay so hopefully I can get that video together soon. Until then, let me know what you think. Depicted are the creators of trackways found at the Racehorse Creek landslide that inhabited the low lying tropical estuary ~50 million years ago. There are prehistoric analogues of modern Herons, and Willets, and of course the group of Coryphodons- today we have nothing similar or even distantly related. They were fascinating creatures that had perhaps the smallest known brain to body ratio of any mammal. Do you think I created them in a believable rendering? As the artist, I chose all of the non-skeletal features such as hair, color, ears, snout shape, habitus, etc. Large responsibilities for someone who never saw them in real life!
Here are a couple wikipedia links of Coryphodons and the Eocene.

getting hairy

Shapes are bulging and sinking as I downplay areas not reached by that imaginary sun, and uplift hairs that glisten (oh so) tenderly in the Eocenic tropix. I still have many details to add, but this step is a big one when muscles and posture really develop. I absolutely loved doing neon orange on the ears to accentuate their thinness and glowthru. I wrote this song to go with the video…

Speed painting of furry Cory basebodies

Against my conventional wisdom, I have proceeded to paint mouths and eyes before the base detail! What is the world coming to? I always paint the eyes last when I work, (completing an eye early on in a composition is a crutch, right?) so we will see how it goes. I am still deciding on the coloration and hair details. Stay tuned for alterations ‘n’ iterations in composition….
btw I capture an image each 3 seconds

cow cuts

I recently did this picture as a gift. It is rendered in ink and pretty large (24×36 inches). It was an interesting project to do because ALL the references that I could find had contradictory information on them. Some had cuts broken up into the dozens- in French, Spanish and English- but the dashed divisions were drawn with no consistency, even if they were in the same language.
Fascinating to view an animal through that lens. Maybe I will make another with some tiny animal like a mouse or caterpillar divided up for the chopping block in the same way? any ideas?

juxtapozing anatomies

Really the only way to believably render Coryphodons is to look closely at similar animals of today.  Their anatomical contemporaries/analogues give some suggestion, but compared to a hippopotamus, for example, their skeleton and (therefore) distribution of muscle mass are quite different.  They aren’t even closely related to hippos or any living mammal.  The legs on a Coryphodon are relatively longer, but they have a much shorter foot than a hippo.  And of course their skulls are quite different in where features like eyes and brain lie.  Here are some of my layers of tracing paper anatomical reference sketches that I will digitally paint overtop, and adjust as I go…

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Modeling Coryphodons with take’n’bake clay

I thought that to get the light and anatomy best on a new paleo-reconstruction of the Eocene, I should start something I have been meaning to do since forever and ever…sculpting!  Yes, I could get by without it, but why?  Sculpting is so much fun!  I will use better tools and firmer clay next time, but as a first attempt, it went fine.

This semi-aquatic creature is not even a close ancestor of hippos and stands alone in earth history as having one of the smallest brain to body ratios of any mammal: ~90 gram brain vs. a 500 kg body!  It mired in swamps using its big teeth to drudge up aquatic plants…perhaps an uncomplicated task?

I used a wooden egg from a hobby store and wire and threaded inserts to reinforce it…the clay wanted to droop off the egg a bit.  I also screwed it to a tripod swivel base that I bolted to my easel and could manipulate in all directions at will.  I made a 3 wire neck that allows the head to be turned too.  It will be such a luxury to use as a reference for my shadows and highlights…here is a photo:

Palaeontology publishes paper with Peterson’s Diatryma

My image of the fruit-laden, lumbering Diatryma was featured in an article for Palaeontology by George Mustoe.  Cool.  I love how my fleshed out painting was aligned and mirrored facing a pic of the articulated fossil bones.  The bird seems to be asking “does this position make my heelpads look fat?…Can you photoshop in more voluptuous halluces?”