Skip to content

Okotoks art duo creates vivid creature compendium

‘Colours of the Wild, Animals of the Americas’ by Birdsong Studios' Heather and Russell Thomas now on sale.
Heather and Russel Thomas of Birdsong Studios co-produced the book ‘Colours of the Wild, Animals of the Americas”, featuring an A to Z compilation of colourfully painted creatures and fact sheets suited to curious young readers and parents alike.

An artistic Okotoks couple has created a creature compendium for all ages.

Elma Street artist duo Heather and Russell Thomas of Birdsong Studios have released their first book, Colours of the Wild, Animals of the Americas.

“We have so many skills and talents that it just made sense,” Heather said.

“Russell has been working hard on getting the animal paintings done – he already had a lot of them when we thought up the idea, but he did a few more.”

The book features an animal for each letter of the alphabet, with an opposite page of facts and trivia. Despite Russell’s prolific array of paintings, he still had to create plenty of fresh content for the book.

“It was interesting and fun, and when you have a great inventory of images like this, it does lend itself to a publication,” Russell said.

“I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of animal portraits, and what was interesting when you lay out the alphabet, there were still missing letters.”

Sorting out all those animals led to a few false positives along the way.

“I quickly got busy painting the missing letters, and in fact I did one, the vulture, then did research and it was the wrong vulture,” Russell said.

“But Heather’s writing and research takes it to a whole different interactive level, especially for parents that want to read to their kids.”

Those inquisitive minds, Heather added, are their target audience.

“It’s the inquisitive eight-year-old, as well as the parent reading to a younger child, and even just the artwork alone, looking through is fun,” she said.

“It’s geared to both, so we simplified the language, but we also have some bolded words, and there’s a glossary in the back, so kids can look up the word that they don’t know.

“That makes it even more interesting.”

Having raised their kids on staple children's books, Russell said they had specific ideas of what they would like to see.

“I think if you’re the parent of an infant, remembering those years when we were reading Robert Munsch books, they're about the same size physically,” Russell said. “But what Heather has done is put prompting questions that work really well with a young kid that makes them think, like ‘How fast can you run after a jack rabbit?’

“And there’s facts about each animal that even as adults appreciating the art then looking at the writing will go, ‘Really?’”

For example, Heather pointed out, the average American alligator will grow up to 3,000 teeth in its lifetime.

Colours of the Wild, Animals of the Americas is available at Yooneek Books in Okotoks, as well as at the Thomas’ Birdsong Studios on Elma Street.

For more information, visit

Brent Calver

About the Author: Brent Calver

Award-winning photojournalist for the Okotoks Western Wheel and
Read more