Thistledown Studio : Nan Wilson : Rochester, NY

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My interest in butterflies is leading me far afield. I decided if they migrate I might as well do the same. Recently I've been following them to one of their main gathering places in the Rio Grande Valley. A number of our butterflies end up there, as do many strays from the tropics of Mexico. It is a great playground for nature lovers and critters. and I fit right in with both. This valley inspires much of my new work.

I have done several shows while in Texas including the Riod Grande Valley Birding Festival In Harlingen in November, and the Texas Butterfly Festival in Mission (now on hold). For Mission, I designed their Tenth Anniversary Festival T-shirt (right) around the ten favorite butterflies of the Rio Grande Valley.


In what's becoming an annual pilgrimage, I stop at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center just outside Austin. This coming year I will be showing my work there at An Artisan's Festival in March. It's a great gathering of local musicians, artists, volunteers from the Center and people from all around Texas.

As a place to stay in "the Valley", for both Butterfliers and Birders, you can' beat the Alamo Inn, in Alamo, Texas. Innkeeper Keith Hackland has tuned everything to the needs of nature people. Keith is a knowlegeable naturalist himself, a writer about travel and nature, and a member of the board of the Valley Nature Center. Each of the Inn's spacious rooms has a colorful theme. A fully stocked fridge holds breakfast food, snacks and drinks for each day's outing. The kitchen is a cordial spot for meeting other guests from around the world.

I've recruited a network of accomplices who make possible the tricky business of tracking down all the stages and host plants of each of the butterfly life cycle I paint. While most people chase the flashy adult butterflies, Ronda Spink (right) shows inconceivable perserverence—literally turning over every leaf and enduring the most brutal sun and heat to find the tiniest butterfly eggs and caterpillars. She's making an indispensible contribution to my research.

On a recent trip, I met Raye Allen, one of those bigger-than-life personages you come across in Texas.  Historian, author, conservationist—no way to sum her up. Currently she's working to preserve Green Oaks Farm, a family homestead and prairie habitat to native plants and insects. The ranch is threatened on all sides by development. Raye and her daughter, Ginger, have put up a website and are making the ranch available to rent for vacation stays. Check out

Raising butterflies is as fascinating as painting them. Here is a Tiger Swallowtail, dining on his egg just after emerging. There's more where that came from so you mightwant to check out a new addition to my site,

The Making of a Life Cycle.

PS I had a couple of new "critters" creep into my life!

They sometimes put a crimp in my art plans, but what can you say?

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