I love owls. We live in the countryside, surrounded by fields with sheep, rabbits, mice and the occasional fox, and woods with deer, a few badgers and masses of birds which also inhabit our garden. Sometimes at dusk, we listen to owls hooting across the woods and fields, and have heard three different cries at the same time – but the barn owl is the one that we hear most often.
I have been painting watercolours for over ten years now, and decided to paint a barn owl. This is my effort on the left – and I have called him Cedric, for no particular reason other than that it is a wise-sounding name.
We also have buzzards, who wheel about the sky high above the garden watching for prey scuttling around below. There are the usual medley of garden birds including sparrows, robins, tits, blackbirds, thrushes and a wood-pecker. And we have rather noisy crows and rooks too.
I also love exotic birds such as toucans though we don’t get them in England, of course. And peacocks who are very noisy and proud, flaunting their plumage. I like storks too, or cranes as they are sometimes called. Two years ago I did a series of paintings on Aesop’s Fables, and my watercolour of The Peacock and the Crane is here:
The peacock boasted that he was very beautiful and colourful, and thought crane was very ugly. The crane responded that the Peacock could only walk upon the ground, where as he could fly wherever he chose and had the freedom of the sky. My peacock looks disgruntled!
I am not particularly fond of crows, but I liked the story of the clever crow who was thirsty, and I did a watercolour version of the The Crow and the Pitcher, which is on the right. The story relates that the crow was hot and thirsty and could find no water but spied a jug on a table but the level was too low for him to reach when he put his beak into the jug. He looked around and saw lots of stones and started to drop them one by one into the jug, and when the water level rose he was able to drink. Good solution!
My other favourite bird is the magpie, a cool dude in black-and-white who struts around scavenging for food. Just like Marmite, people either love him or hate him. I’m a fan.
I use this wonderful bird as a symbol in my most recent novel, entitled “Dear Magpies” where the main character writes to her long lost grandchildren on the other side of the world, addressing them as her Magpies. There are more myths and stories about magpies than any other bird, so it seems obvious that very soon I should paint a joyous watercolour of a couple of magpies (‘Two for joy’). The drawing below is by someone else, far more accomplished than I am: