food webs

Over the past couple of years, I have been increasingly interested in the dynamic and complex relationships between organisms in ecosystems. I started developing this series of drawings that explores these relationships.

I call these “food webs” in recognition that often, these inter-species relationships are based on who eats or is eaten by whom. I particularly like the word “web” because I think it most accurately describes how these relationships work. Traditionally, this is referred to as a “food chain” but a chain indicates only a single line of relationship where a web describes a more complex set of relationships. The idea of a web also draws attention to the fact that there are crucial connections between many organisms in an ecosystem and that the loss of even one of those organisms can impact the entire structure. 

I have chosen to arrange the organisms in these drawings in such a way that (I hope) demonstrates the complexity of those relationships. I chose the circle as the basis for the composition of these drawings in part because it helps reinforce this idea of interconnectedness. Plus it allows for some fun shapes!



A couple of years ago, I did some illustrations for a book on the First People of the northern Sacramento Valley. I was recently contacted by the author, a historian, to create some new illustrations for another book. This book is focused on the flora and fauna of the same area. These are my preliminary sketches.

progress and receptions

This Sunday, December 6 from 2:30 to 4 PM, there will be an opening reception for the Jewels of Nature show at Tilden Park in Berkeley. Several members of the California chapter of the GNSI will be showing recent works. Please stop by! I have three pieces in this show, including a California sister butterfly and a desert moth with its host plant. 

The Miniatures show at the Monterey Museum of Art is open now through January. If you’d like to support the museum, this is a wonderful opportunity to do so! I submitted a small version of the pigeon featured in my series Birds We Love To Hate. 

While working on the sketches and research for my large life cycle of the White-lined Sphinx Moth piece, I am keeping myself busy with more butterfly drawings. Here’s the latest progress on a Common Buckeye, done in colored pencil on Duralene. 


simple pleasures

I have an exhibition in San Francisco this winter and I wanted to try something a little different for it. I’m working on some small, loosely painted installation pieces that have moving parts. The process of making these has involved some experimental engineering and more than a few prototypes. I’m still working out some of the details but here’s a preview of what I’ve been doing:





I have been remiss in my updates! About a month ago, I completed some pen & ink illustrations for a book on Native Californians. Initially, I was simply going to illustrate some Valley Oak leaves and acorns. The twin acorns will serve as a design element throughout the book. The leaves and acorns serve to illustrate an important food source for the people living in the northern Sacramento Valley.

Then my client asked if I could illustrate some baskets and other artifacts. I was thrilled to take on the additional work. It’s been awhile since I did any pen and ink work and I forgot how much I enjoy it! Here’s a look at a couple of the illustrations:



from birds to baskets

One thing I do to keep myself connected to citizen science projects as well as to continue honing my field-sketching skills is to volunteer to monitor nesting raptors at Pinnacles National Park. This past weekend, as temperatures in the park hovered around 100 degrees, I spent two full days hiking and observing nest sites throughout the park. This is a tough year for nesting raptors so each site is precious and the data I help collect gives park staff a better understanding of both the current and long term raptor behaviors at Pinnacles.

One of the highlights this weekend was observing three Red-shouldered Hawk nestlings who are just about ready to fledge. I use a spotting scope so that I can get a good, close-up view of the birds without being close enough to disturb them.

Red-shouldered Hawk nestlings, about 37-39 days old and ready to fledge!
Red-shouldered Hawk nestlings, about 37-39 days old and ready to fledge!


Back at home, I have another project that involves contributing pen and ink illustrations to a monograph on two groups of Native Californians. My illustrations are of Valley Oak leaves and acorns as well as baskets woven by these groups. I am so excited to be working on this project and to be doing some new pen and ink work. Here’s a preview of those sketches:


Cradle basket
Cradle basket
Three baskets with chevron, mountain, and quail top-knot designs
Three baskets with chevron, mountain, and quail top-knot designs


This promises to be a busy few weeks but I am looking forward it!


Please also remember that my Monarch piece is still up at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History as part of the annual Art of Nature exhibit. The show runs through June 30.

Speaking of Monarchs….

A friend of mine posted this recently and it was so important, so relevant, that I have to share:

If those numbers don’t paint a clear picture of what is happening, particularly with the eastern populations of our Monarchs, I don’t know what does. It just doesn’t get more serious than this in terms of population crash.

an updated portfolio

I am in the process of applying to be an artist-in-residence at the California Academy of Sciences for the spring/summer 2014. Toward that end, I have complied a new portfolio showcasing a range of my work over the last five years. Please see the link below to a PDF of my portfolio.

M_Gnekow_portfolio_arts residency

birds at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Recent additions to my project Birds We Love to Hate will be on exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History for the month of August. The opening will be part of the First Friday Santa Cruz events for the month of August. Please come join me on Friday, August 2 at the museum to see the newest members of this series. Four of the works on exhibit were most recently featured in the 2012-2013 Berkeley Civic Center exhibition. Four new works will be added for the show next month. Here is a preview of some of the new drawings:

chickens mockingbird