I have begun stretching my artistic muscles a bit, taking my art to a level beyond my nature journal. The subjects of my paintings, though, all seem to originate from a page of my nature journal. I have just submitted one such painting to two separate exhibits. The experience was wonderful, and the feedback very beneficial. I’d like to share the story of the painting, “Nestmates.”
In the summer of 2013, a group of friends and I traveled to High Island, Texas, one of the birdiest places in the world. Smith Oaks is a wildlife sanctuary owned by the Houston Audubon Society, and it is located in the town of High Island. In that sanctuary, there is a rookery where several species nest, including herons, egrets, cormorants and roseate spoonbills. On that day in May of 2013, we decided to visit the rookery at Smith Oaks. We parked our car in the parking lot, and hiked into the woods.
As we neared the area of the rookery, the noise became almost deafening. We walked down the tree-lined path, unable to see the birds. Then, in the area of a clearing, I looked across the pond, and there they were. The trees across the way were filled with squawking birds! There were numerous great egrets, snowy egrets, tri-colored herons, little blue herons, double-crested and neotropic cormorants, and roseate spoonbills. We watched through our binoculars as our eyes and ears became accustomed to such a beautiful spectacle. Through the spotting scope, it was possible to get good looks at the eggs in the nests. The nests that already had nestlings in them were of particular interest. All the babies were adorable, but the ones that really caught my eye were the roseate spoonbills.
Imagine a bird that grows up to be a mixture of white, light pink, dark pink, hot pink, red and orange! All those colors, some very subtle, were evident on the chicks. And that bill!! Only God could put together such an impossible riot of color, attach an enormous, spoon-shaped bill, and have it turn out to be beautiful beyond belief. Another amazing thing was how much like mounds of pink cotton candy they appeared! One nest in particular won my heart.
In the middle of the nest sat one chick, all pink and cute, and alert, looking around at all the activity and waiting on mom and dad to return with the next meal. In the shadows next to this chick was another one, with his head tucked beneath his wings, nestled against the neck of the first baby. All around them were their wings, creating mounds and mounds of pink and white fluff. They stole my heart! We were able to get several good photos of them, using our digital camera through the spotting scope. It is from one of those photos that I created my painting, “Nestmates.”