New Comic: Pioneer Plants (And Where’s D.K. Been?)

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So you may be wondering “Where has D.K. been?” Or maybe not. Either way, the fact is that this is the first comic I’ve posted in almost three months. And to be honest, I burned out. Badly.

That’s not the only thing that contributed to my disappearance, but it’s a big part of it. I just put too much pressure on myself. I thought that in order to have any chance of What You Need To Know About Nature becoming a success on some level, I have to post content frequently and regularly. There is some truth to that, of course. You want people to know they can reliably come back and find new content. But I had set a pretty high bar for myself, considering that I have a job and other things that keep me busy. I thought that two one-page comics one week, and a longer multi-page comic the next week would be a good cycle. And maybe in the future that’s something I can aspire to, once this thing has a little more life of its own and I’ve managed to carve out more art time for myself. 

But for now, I’m not going to hold myself to a schedule. Instead, I’m going to draw as I’m able to find the time, and focus on whatever catches my fancy at the time. That will still include comics, of course. But I recently picked up my colored pencils for the first time in a year, and I have a pretty great piece I’m working on right now. (If you follow my social media you’ll get to see work in progress shots of it!) 

I’m also going to be honest and say that I love a good morale boost. Every time someone likes my work, comments on it, or shares it, I get those nice, warm serotonin fuzzies. So if I create something that makes you smile, or think, or otherwise take notice for a moment, let me know! If you know of anyone else who would like my art, send ’em over here, too. While I need to focus mainly on making art for myself and my own enjoyment, a little outside appreciation never hurts.  Heck, if you’ve got an idea for a comic, drop me a line.

And…it’s good to be back. I missed this.

Species portrayed: bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum)

Coloring Page: Wolf and Ram

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So far my coloring pages have largely been little slices of various ecosystems. This time I wanted to try something a little more allegorical in nature. I was thinking about wild and domestic animals and how they’re linked together. Domestic animals have been selected over thousands of generations for certain traits that humans prefer, but these traits are still rooted in millions of years of wild evolution. Even the most sedate of domestic animals still relies on instincts and behaviors found in their wild counterparts and forebears. Wild animals, on the other hand, are bound to domestic animals through us, and specifically how we try to control the wild to make space for our livestock and pets. The most ethical farmers are those who try to maintain wildlife habitat amid and even within the spaces they reserve for their domestic animals, but many more simply kill whatever native wildlife happens to inconvenience them. Domestic vertebrates account for much more biomass than wildlife across the planet, testament to how much we’ve changed our home. 

In the same way, our crops have taken over massive amounts of acreage that was once the sole province of native wild plants. Wheat and soy are shown here, though corn is also up there in how much space it consumes, to say nothing of water. Meanwhile demand for farmland and timber has eaten up huge swaths of forested land and prairies, such as oak savannas. It can take decades, if not centuries, for land to recover from intensive industrial farming practices. 

It is not the fault of the ram, the wheat or the soy, though; they were put here by us. Instead, it is our responsibility to rein in our avarice, and to make better and more efficient use of the resources we have, rather than over-producing and letting a quarter of it go to waste, often before it ever makes it to the consumer.

I wanted to represent that connection between the wild and the domestic in this piece, and I hope you enjoy giving it some color! You are more than welcome to share it with others, and print out multiple copies for non-commercial use. I’d love to see what you do with it, and you can email me at wyntkan(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Species portrayed: gray wolf (Canis lupus), domestic sheep (Ovis aries), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), English oak (Quercus robur), wheat (Triticum aestivum), soybean (Glycine max)

Latra & Lontra: Playing It Cool

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I felt like revisiting these characters for the first time since the end of March; you can see the first comic featuring Latra and Lontra here. My scanner didn’t like all the earth tones and red and yellows, and tried translating them all in the bright orange, and my lack of skill with image editing is pretty apparent, so I’m really unhappy with the scans here and all the inconsistent coloration. I’ll need to make sure and add some greens or other colors into future comics to balance things out a little more, and maybe fuss with the scanner and GIMP more. I guess that’s part of where digital artists have it easy–just click on a color from one page to drag it over to the next.

Right now the characters are all sort of one-trick ponies; since these are sort of a fun sideline, maybe it’s all they’ll ever be. I’m having fun with them, though, which is the most important thing. if others get to enjoy them, so much the better!

Species portrayed: Coyote (Canis latrans), North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), American badger (Taxidea taxus)

Nice Things To Do For Nature: Plant a Tree!

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Just make sure you’re planting trees that are native to where you are. The Arbor Day Foundation can certainly help you identify native trees. Most states have a Native Plant Society, and other nature orgs like Audubon Society chapters can likely help with suggestions. You may even have a native plant nursery in your area, or at least your general region.

Species portrayed: big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)

Did You Know…That Trees Make It Rain?

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I keep forgetting that my scanner bed is just slightly smaller than my sketchpad, and occasionally these full page comics end up just a hair too large. I have a program to splice two images together easily, but I have to be out of the house for a long time today so I’m in a bit of a hurry. Pardon the cut off words, please and thank you. 

Also, a shout-out to Peter Wohlleben, whose book The Secret Network of Nature is where I first learned about this really cool process!

One Year Anniversary!


And here we are, a year later! I’m so used to letting projects like this fall to the wayside, and when I started I honestly worried whether I’d be able to keep up the pace. And yet here I am, still posting comics at a rate of one one week, two the next, wash, rinse repeat (plus those extra Mt. St. Helens comics I did last spring!) I’ll admit that people’s enthusiasm for my work is a big part of what helped keep me going even when I was tired, or discouraged, or really stinkin’ busy, because I wanted to keep sharing what I was creating with you all. But I also found that this continued to be fun instead of work, which is the whole point: something in my life that wasn’t just a way to make income. 

Which isn’t to say there aren’t ways to help me pay for art materials, of course. My Redbubble shop, for example, actually has a few more designs than what I said in the comic since there were a few drawings that I liked enough to add as stickers and other fun stuff (that last page design is available as a greeting card, with and without text!) But this is still by and large a sideline, a nice break from my day job and a creative outlet that doesn’t need to be measured in sales. 

If you want to do something nice for my anniversary, please share my work with others! (Or reblog, or retweet, whatever’s appropriate.) You can find my social media links at the bottom of any page at I also always appreciate likes and comments, and I’m open to suggestions for topics for future comics, too. 

Finally, again, THANK YOU! It’s been nice to have people to share this piece of my creative life with, and I look forward to giving you more fun nature comics to enjoy.

Species portrayed: raccoon (Procyon lotor), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus), redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), American crow (Corvus brachyrhyncos), beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), Pacific golden chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Garry oak (Quercus garryana), Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), cascara (Frangula purshiana), coastal manroot (Marah oregonus), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), old man’s beard (Usnea longissima) king bolete (Boletus edulis), beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis), fly agaric (Amanita muscaria, Amanita Muscaria var. guessowi), vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla), western bunchberry (Cornus × unalaschkensis), western lily of the valley (Maianthemum dilatatum), Western matsutake (Tricholoma murrillianum), early blue violet (Viola adunca)

Did You Know…: Mantis Shrimp Eyes

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These are just such cool animals (and a real challenge to draw, too–so many bits and parts!) If you want to read more about the research on their eyes, here are a couple of links to get you started:

This research is also helping to develop new camera technology. Not only may it help us to see the underwater world more like its denizens do, but also to be able to detect cancer. And so nature continues to teach us new things!

Like other beings of the ocean, mantis shrimp are threatened by climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and habitat loss. If you enjoyed this comic, consider donating to organizations like Oceana and the Ocean Conservancy.

Species portrayed: Peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)

Coloring Page: Color In Your Field Marks!

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This coloring page is a little different! As a birder, if I see a bird that I haven’t identified before, it’s much easier for me to record what I saw in pictures than words. This tool allows you to skip past the sketching portion (which may be useful for those of you who don’t feel you have much in the way of drawing skills) and just want to record the colors of the bird you saw. Maybe you only caught a quick glimpse as the bird disappeared into the underbrush, or it was far enough away that you could only get basic blocks of color. Even if what you saw was a waterfowl or raptor instead of a songbird, this will allow you to quickly jot down your initial impressions of the bird’s colors and pattern.

You are welcome to make a few copies and take them out into the field with you, or at least keep them handy any place you might see a bird you haven’t been able to identify before, and might not recognize immediately. You might even consider keeping a few in your car. You can take markers, colored pencils or crayons with you to record the pattern of colors you see on the bird, or if you don’t have these you can still use a pen or pencil to make notes and sketches of these field marks. If you don’t have the coloring pages with you, try to get the field marks recorded as soon as you get home and can print one off. 

While I used generic songbirds for the models here, you can use this resource to color in the field marks of any species you see; it’s just a way to be able to color in things like “white chest with brown spots” or “green head with white ring around neck”. Coloring outside the lines is fine, too, especially if you have a bird with a crest or other ornamentation that doesn’t fit the models here. 

I hope you find this useful! As noted on the bottom of the page, I am fine with you making as many copies as you like for personal use. If you want to use it beyond that, please contact me and we’ll make arrangements. 

Ghosts in the Woods…

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If you are so fortunate as to find ghost pipe, instead of yanking it out of the ground, find a different, more common and renewable medicinal plant to harvest and look into how to protect the land that this increasingly rare plant needs to survive. Habitat loss causes more species to go extinct than any other single factor, and because mycoheterotrophs in general need such particular conditions to grow in, it’s harder for them to find new habitat when existing places are destroyed. Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy actively work to buy and protect wild land from development and other devastation; you may also have a more regional or local group doing the same thing in your neighborhood. Any organizations doing reforestation and other habitat restoration are worth supporting as well. You also may wish to study which trees or other plants seem to be feeding your local ghost pipe, and what fungi facilitate this transfer of nutrients, so as to better understand this unique interaction. 

Species portrayed: ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora), pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys), Pacific coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana)

Brought To You By the Byrds

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If this bad pun got an audible reaction out of you, you are now obligated to inflict it upon other unsuspecting victims. You’re welcome.

Species portrayed: Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia), bridled tern (Onychoprion anaethetus), white-winged tern (Chlidonias leucopterus), large-billed tern (Phaetusa simplex), roseate tern (Sterna dougallii), whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybrida)