Two of my dearest friends recently commissioned watercolors, which I have put the finishing touches on this week.
The first, an American Kestrel, was my friend’s spark bird–the species that inspired her love of birds. Twenty-five years later, kestrels still thrill her. When she asked me to do this painting she was very specific about the bird’s position, the habitat, and the background. Her preview of the near-completed work, bordered on elation. For me it was a relief to learn that the painting was exactly what she wanted.
The American Kestrel is the smallest member of the falcon family in the United States and Canada. Once a common sight across most of North America, this colorful bird of prey is now in serious decline, as shown by this 2009 map posted by the Peregrine Fund. In some areas, their disappearance has been precipitous, and I join legions of birders who hope that we can help them regain some ground.
It was equally uplifting when the husband of one of my best friends asked me to do another bird painting to commemorate a landmark birthday that she was about to celebrate. While spending the winter in Ecuador, she selected the subject species. Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan is a gorgeous bird found only in the humid tropical forests of Colombia and Ecuador. For visiting birders, it is high on the list of must-see local specialties. Good reference material is essential when I am painting a bird like this, so my friend’s husband provided several photos of the mountain-toucan that he took while in Ecuador. Fortunately I had explored the same areas in Ecuador several years ago, which helped get the creative juices flowing. It was indeed an honor to be asked to paint such a special birthday present.
There aren’t words to describe the exhilaration that comes from using one’s own hands to create a work of art that brings such joy to a friend.
Click on the photos to see a larger version.