My first oil painting was a still life of three pears. I followed it up with a painting of a bowl of cherries, then the makings of an egg cream—seltzer bottle and all. I continue to paint a still life now and then, but that series was the start, followed by sandwiches, china cups, and more. My first painting of tango dancers was a happy accident that I continued to paint on sixteen more canvases over the years, sometimes just painting the legs, others up to the dancers’ waists, and a few including more of their torsos. A visit to the New England Aquarium with my granddaughters inspired me to paint my first jellyfish, and I’ve done ten paintings of jellies in all. Nervous at the thought of attempting portraits when I was a novice, I painted a series of pop portraits first, taking inspiration from Andy Warhol and other artists from the 60’s, because I thought it would be easier than capturing all the more realistic details of a face. I segued to realistic portraits and figures soon after and, today, consider myself a portrait painter above all.
So it was no surprise that after I painted In the Pink, my first roseate spoonbill, I wouldn’t be done. I thought I’d do another 36” x 36” canvas, perhaps to hang as a diptych. Commerce intervened, and I found myself with a commission for a small painting of a spoonbill. Ready For My Closeup was the result, and once he was done, I was ready to paint that other large roseate. I’ve worked on him for the last month and couldn’t help thinking that he looked all dressed up and ready to dance in his glorious pink feathers, so I thought I’d call the painting Shall We Dance? I’m not saying I’ll never paint another bird…there are eagles and cranes and blue herons that abound here in Florida…but this spoonbill is it for me for now.
I have a good friend who has had a good friend for many years who is nuts for spoonbills. I don’t think she gets to see too many in the flesh, since she lives in California, and roseate spoonbills are the only spoonbill species found in the Americas, mostly in Florida and parts of Louisiana and Texas. After seeing In the Pink, my friend commissioned a small canvas portrait of a spoonbill for her friend, and Ready for My Closeup is what I came up with. Hope she likes it…
A year after we bought our condo in Palm Beach Gardens, I was playing golf with my friend Marlene and suddenly looked up, because of an unfamiliar noise, to see a HOT PINK flock of birds flying closely past us. My immediate response was to say, “What the [expletive deleted] was that?” I knew they weren’t flamingos—the color was off—but what were they? Marlene didn’t know, so I went home after the round to see if I could find out. The first iPhone wouldn’t be launched for over a year, but my husband had become completely enamored of the birds of south Florida, so I had a beautifully illustrated book to look through. The roseate spoonbill was shown in all its glory. Not the largest of birds, it’s more the size of a greater egret or a stork than a blue heron or a sand crane. Its beak is remarkable—hence the name spoonbill—and it sweeps it back and forth through the water to gather its food in that spoon. I see the spoonbills all the time on our golf courses here, but always just one alone or perhaps two. I’d love to catch another glimpse of a whole flock again…now that I know what they are!
I’ve had it in mind to paint a roseate spoonbill for months and finally got to it. I’ve found that there’s so much less pressure around painting an animal than there is doing a portrait of a person. I’ve had some fun painting a few animals this year: JJ the Beast, my grand dog, Charley Redux, my friend Herb’s Shichon, and, now, In the Pink—a roseate spoonbill that has just touched down on the tip of a branch, not yet hiding those glorious hot pink wings.