Roseate Spoonbills Nesting

Roseate Spoonbills Nesting

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48" x 65" unframed

55" x 72" framed

© SHELLEY HESSE 2016

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

This painting began as a commission for a family in New Orleans who owns a rice farm in north Louisiana. Their property is graced with numerous beautiful Roseate Spoonbills, so this bird was particularly special to them. Each commission is an honor for me to paint because it entails someone trusting in me to bring a vision of theirs to life based on my own imagination. Its a very unique process. One that often pushes me to evolve as an artist and to create pieces that I didn’t know I was capable of. This commission did just that. The male roseate perches on the upper branch flapping his wings as they often do after having just landed, and the female has just fed her babies in the nest. Two of her babies are visible, though one more lies sleeping in the shade and is only barely visible when looking at the piece in person. It is a painting about family and about the unity of love.

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