Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

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48" x 65" unframed

55" x 72" framed


watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, and pastel on paper

This painting began as a commission for a very interesting, very feminine woman who lives in New Orleans. She specifically wished for a Roseate Spoonbill, though left the rest up to me. This bird and this painting both flowed from me so easily, almost painting itself, revealing itself painlessly and with bursts of color and pattern unlike any of my other animal studies. A floral vine-like pattern grew across it, very graphic and fabric-like, though very natural. The face of this bird particularly speaks to me, and has a kindness in her eyes that very much reminds me of the woman who commissioned her.

This beautiful, large, and gregarious bird was nearly hunted to extinction in the last part of the 19th century.  Its pink feathers were used in ladies' hats, and its wings were sold as fans.  By 1939, about 30 birds remained in Florida.  Interestingly, the spoonbill's pink plumage quickly fades once the feathers are no longer attached to a living bird.  The good news is Roseate Spoonbills have made a comeback and currently have many champions monitoring and advocating for them, particularly the Gulf Restoration Network and Audubon of Florida.  Now over a thousand pairs nest in Florida where they are stable along the Gulf Coast, yet still sinking in numbers in the broad estuary between the Everglades and the Keys.

“How can hope be denied when there is always the possibility of an American flamingo or a roseate spoonbill floating down from the sky like pink rose petals?”

- Terry Tempest Williams