Taking the boat ride down the Wakulla River in North Florida, the main entertainment on this steamy, rainy summer day was the wacky antics of the resident cormorants. Swimming, diving, fanning their wings and generally just hanging out with their turtle friends ignoring the humans passing by. They made me chuckle with their expressive faces. As soon as I got home and took a look at the photos, I just had to paint one little guy. His indignant expression cracked me up and those hilarious big webbed feet are priceless.
Wakulla Springs State Park, about 20 miles Southeast of Tallahassee, has several claims to fame besides it’s obvious beauty and wildlife. It is the home of a deep spring fed cave that can be dated back to prehistoric times with the bones of extinct animals littering the floor of the cave, or so the ranger told us. (I didn’t actually go down there to have a look for myself!) The water is almost crystal clear looking down to the seemingly bottomless spring pool but is apparently fairly cool for Florida water. The swimming area was full of people cooling off until the rain began. Too hot this time of year but in the fall, manatees come up the river to the spring area to have their young.
The two biggest claims to fame of Wakulla Springs Park and River is that it was the site of several of the old Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and the site of the cult classic horror movie, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Some say the Creature is still hanging around waiting to become a star again. Stories were told of Johnny Weissmuller practicing his famous Tarzan yell from the windows of the beautiful Wakulla Lodge and Inn. Gators were abundant in the waters and laying around on the banks of the river. I wonder if the film crews had any run ins with the scary guys while filming. I didn’t hear of any gators snacking on film crew or actors. Maybe they aren’t too tasty.
The cormorant painting was a start for some larger ones. This one is only 3 inches x 6 inches but I needed to get the expression down while the memory was still vivid. They are funny guys. Its a beautiful place to visit. The Friends of Wakulla have done a wonderful job of keep the area pristine. Check out their website and help them out if you can. Stop off at the Lodge for some great food in the Inn or an ice cream in the old fashioned ice cream parlor sporting a beautiful marble counter that claims to be the longest marble bar outside of Italy. Wakulla Springs is a beautiful, magical place for some serious nature time. And lots of artistic inspiration.
Birds look at us, and they’re glad that we can’t fly.
We look at them, and we wish that we could.”
Most of my art practice and teaching up until a couple of years ago, focused almost entirely on landscape and botanical subjects. The landscapes have been a sort of expressionist/impressionist outpouring of emotional color and texture while the botanicals are sedate, calm and realest. Two sides of the coin would be an apt description. Then the birds flew in.
It happened as an unplanned thing. Birds, since childhood, have held a fascination for me. They are amazing creatures. Why, I can’t imagine, did I never think of painting them. It just didn’t occur to me, even though I loved watching them at my feeders. My feeders were always set up where I could see them from my workspace windows. The bird’s antics were inspiring and joyful.
A couple of years ago, I was taking my work to art fair venues. Quickly, I learned the best tactic for financial success in these venues was to have a selection of things that were inexpensive and easy for people to carry around as they browsed the fair. The large landscapes definitely didn’t fit with that idea. The botanical watercolors did a bit better. Quite by accident, I discovered mini canvases in the art supply store and began trying my hand at painting small. The small canvases seemed the best suited to flowers rather than landscapes. The little flowers sold fairly well at the fairs so I looked for more venues to sell them.
Heart and Hands is a shop on Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee that carries arts and crafts made locally. The little flower canvases were a good fit in the shop and began to sell at a decent rate. One day while talking with one of the owners, she asked if I painted birds. She thought they might have a market for paintings of birds. It was a light bulb moment for me. I loved birds so why not?
And so it began! The first birds were the ones at my feeders and they are still the most popular. Hummingbirds and cardinals are the most frequent visitors to my feeders and the most common subjects for the paintings. The paintings each seem to have a life of their own like the subjects they depict. No matter how small or how many I paint, each one is unique. I don’t seem to be able to control that. In some ways, they paint themselves.
With the change in my art to mostly birds, has come a bit of life change. I am now addicted to roaming around with camera in hand, searching for birds, all kinds of birds, all sorts of places. The more I follow the birds, the more amazing I find them. I don’t know how I’ll find enough time to paint all of them but I’m going to try. It appears that my life is suddenly all for the birds.
The whole social media, website, newsletter, etc stuff can get so complicated and time consuming it leaves no time for other things like, oh painting maybe. I’m figuring that I can spend a great deal of time trying to keep up with all of the different platforms and keep people informed in each one or I can choose to go with one platform for everything. My goal is to use this site for everything but to also keep it fun and informative.
On this site, I’ll inform buyers and dealers of my latest painting and photography endeavors and where they are available or can be made available. Anybody interested in artwork will be able to click a page and there will be all the options. Actually, that is the ultimate goal, at least!
Next, I’ll keep folks up on potential classes and workshops coming up and where each one is located. It will be a lot easier to have one platform that will show all classes. I would love to hear from people on preferences for how that will work on the site. I can have a page to click on or a calendar on the front page or a calendar on both pages. Whatever will make it the easiest for everybody is how I want to set this up.
Tips and demonstrations is an area I’m looking for options to set up. I have been exploring podcasts and other similar formats to show the latest painting techniques so that I can share new things and help others with their skills. And possibly add a section for questions and answers for people who are working through issues in their own art. If I can figure out how to do it, I’d like to add a forum for group critique like we do in the workshops so we can all help each other.
And I’d like to add what I’m doing in my own art. Where I’m going with my work and where I’d like to see it going. The gallery will be one avenue for that. The blog is another.
After much trial and error, this is where I have ended up. Opinions are always helpful. Please let me know what yours are!