Minnesota folksinger Scott Alarik used to crack up audiences at his concerts in La Crosse with his fresh-water whaling chantey, Farewell, Superior Sperm.

Jokes aside, though, you don't get many cetaceans in the upper Midwest. Aquatic mammals tend toward beaver, mink, and the occasional moose. Not the most charismatic of fauna.

But I grew up watching Flipper.

Flipper, for the younger folks, was a family-friendly drama adventure series of the friendly-animal variety. Think "Lassie," with scuba gear. (Or "Skippy," for any Australians in the audience.) Clean-cut American boy is befriended by an animal at least 10 IQ points smarter than he is. He gets into scrapes. Flipper saves him.

Flipper, of course, being a bottle-nosed dolphin.

I loved that show; I dreamed of having my own dolphin friend, even though I lived in a landlocked state, and had never so much as seen the ocean.

These days, I live in a coastal state. An hour's drive will bring me right to the edge of the Pacific, where, I'm sorry to say, I still don't get to see dolphins. I've seen humpback whales, and sea otters, even an orca (though the last was in a rehab tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium). But dolphins don't come this far north, I guess.

So I paint them. It's not easy; smooth curves are harder to draw than jaggedy lines and abrupt changes of form, and the proportions are really tricky. For the moment, I have them only on dessert plates. If they're popular enough, I may start putting them on pie plates or serving bowls. We'll see. There's nothing dolphinite just yet.

I made that pun on porpoise.