Macaw Magic Card
Size: 297mm x 210mm
Original Painting Medium: Pastel
Scientific Name: Ara chloroptera
Region: South America
In 1990 I was commisoned to paint six macaws. At that time, I had only ever portrayed one other bird, an Afican Grey parrot. The African Grey was also was a commissioned painting. The Macaws were great fun and quite a challenge. As they were in pairs, I decided to produce three paintings, portaying each of them with their partners. Painting them in pastels, my wish was to capture the character of each of the birds. I really enjoyed portraying them and later produced this painting of Ruby and Soyez, for my own pleasure. This commission, from a very special gentleman, was a lovely introduction to the world of birds and bird paintings and a great opportunity at such an early stage in my career.
The popularity of keeping parrots as pets dates from early times. It is believed that Alexander the Great introduced tame parrrots from the Far East to Europe.
Macaws are large, colourful parrots that inhabit the rain-forests of tropical America. All have long pointed tails, naked cheeks and eye-rims. Most prominent is the short blunt bill with a down curved upper mandible fitting neatly over a broad, up curved lower mandible. This unique design enables the parrot to crush the seeds and nuts that constitute the diet of most species. Another characteristic is the typical parrot foot, with two toes pointing forward and two turned backward. Parrots show remarkable dexterity, using their feet for climbing or for holding food up to the bill.
In 1989, whilst living at my home and studio in the grounds of the Larmer Tree Victorian Gardens, Tollard Royal, I was asked if I would look after the exotic birds residing there. The collection included peacocks, macaws and golden, silver, reeves and blue eared pheasants. I dislike the fact that people keep birds in cages, but as the birds at Larmer Tree were allowed to fly freely and were in need of someone to care for them, I donned my 'bird-keepers hat'.
At that time, I was unware one could develop a relationship with a bird and was amazed at how clever and inquisitive the macaws were. They each were individual characters. Boulec was gentle, trusting and enjoyed close contact and I became extremely fond of her. Houdini, her partner was quiet, watchful and appropriately named - he did not miss a trick. Ruby was somewhat aloof and would nip you given the opportunity, whilst Soyez, her partner; the leader of the six, also seemed to enjoy human contact. The youngest pair, a brother and sister called Rupert and Goldie were comical and always up to mischief; squabbling noisily or performing daring feats in the treetops.
Often when sitting in my garden, the macaws would fly in to say hello. If I was drawing they would walk around the table-top investigating everything in sight, including the 'chewability' of the pencil with which I was attempting to draw. Going for a walk was also an experience as four or five macaws would often accompany me. Sometimes they would fly so close, that the tips of their feathers would stroke my face as they passed by. If I stopped to sit on a fence, we would all sit, in a row, on the fence. Sat closely either side of me, they would communicate with quiet croaky macaw sounds whilst the two sat closest to me, seeking hidden treats, would periodically investigate my jacket pockets. Everything was a big game to them and they were my buddies.
For the following ten years, I was less involved with the birds as a new gardener/bird keeper was finally employed but the macaws would always visit me each day. A couple of months after moving from Larmer Tree, to my new home in Tollard Royal, I was in my garden when I heard the macaws circling overhead. Even though I was a few miles from the Larmer Tree Gardens, I couldn't believe it as they flew down to say hello. From that day on they have visited me regularly in my new home. My life with the macaws has been a beautiful experience and one that I will never forget.
In my pastel painting I have portrayed Ruby and Soyez. Ruby is a red and green, also known as a Green- winged macaw, Ara chloroptera. Red and green macaws have a naked face adorned with rows of red feathers and are predominantly red with blue and green wings and a blue rump and tail. Soyez, I believe is a cross between a green wing macaw and a blue and gold. The blue and gold macaw, Ara ararauna, has yellow underparts, a blue back and tail, and several rows of black feathers on the bare, white face. Blue and gold macaws, measure 32-36 inches and were once common in forests across much of South America. However, they have been much reduced because of illegal trafficking for the cage bird trade.
Many millions of birds are taken each year from their natural environments to supply the pet trade. The trade kills more than it sells and I feel very strongly that the birds are better off where they belong - in the wild.
From sales of my wildlife art and with the sale of each 'Macaw Magic' Fine Art Print and Greetings Card a donation is given to charity.
At the beginning of this year I was delighted to discover that Larmer Tree, my home for many years, was once again available. In need of more studio space, I am delighted to be back at Larmer Tree Studio, Tollard Royal. The macaws called in almost immediately to say hello and to see if there was anything edible around. It was a lovely 'welcome home' and to celebrate, we shared an apple!