Tanya Piatz’s ‘Le Conte’s Sparrow’

Le Conte’s Sparrow by Tanya Piatz, Dye-based alcohol ink, ink, gouache and pencil, 14 x 11

This year I had the honor of serving as a juror for the drawing and pastels class at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition. Each year, the Exhibition proves an amazing showcase of amateur and professional artists representing the diversity and talent of Minnesota artists. This post is to highlight the artist who I awarded a fourth place ribbon: Tanya Piatz and her drawing Le Conte’s Sparrow.

There was a tremendous amount of wonderful wildlife and animal themed work entered, but Tanya’s image stood out to me for the clean and detailed technique of the drawing of the sparrow and its opposition to the tonal landscape behind it. My imagination was caught by the vibrant bird in its beautiful grasses precariously perched on the edge of a dry foreboding landscape. I asked Tanya about the work:

The LeConte’s Sparrow is part of a series that I am working  on “Species of Special Concern” using the Minnesota DNR’s Species in Greatest Conservation Need list.  The LeConte’s Sparrow is seeing a decline in population due to habitat loss from habitat fragmentation, housing developments, agriculture and climate change.  The sparrow’s preferred habitat is the tall grass prairie in the upper north west part of the state.  The other species in the drawing is the Western Fringe Orchid which is on the federal endangered list. They share the same habitat. 

The color in the piece is the species that is showing population decline with its preferred habitat.  In this piece you will also see the native Bluestem Grass.  I want people to see the bird and learn its name so they can start to pick them out in a crowd. But then notice when they don’t see them and ask why. 


The gray and pencil in the piece is the reason for species decline which is the changing landscape of Minnesota caused by climate change.  Prairie potholes are drying up and the sparrow nests are near these wetlands.  This year has been an extreme year for drought and heat but serves as an example of what our wildlife has to contend with.  However, the reason I draw it in grays and pencil is because we can still change the outcome of these species and “erase” the problem.

One simple thing we can do is plant more native plants in our own gardens and have smaller manicured lawns so we use less water. 

In a year when Minnesota is suffering a severe drought and the forest fire smoke in the air makes us keenly aware of climate conditions, Le Conpte’s Sparrow celebrates the beauty of one of the smallest sparrows and its natural habitat, and serves as a call to action.

If you attend the Fair this year, stop by the Fine Arts building at the corner of Randall and Cosgrove, otherwise take a look at the online catalog. Learn more about Tanya Piatz at tanyapiatzarts.com.