Above is “Taking Flight”, an original pastel painting of two whooping cranes taking off in a marsh on a summer afternoon. Visiting what had once been their habitat on Assateague Island, Virginia, I imagined what they might have looked like in the whispering marshes as I watched the other cranes and egrets as I enjoyed the quiet rustling breezes of the marsh.
Studying a wild animal in its natural habitat is a reminder that the world does not revolve around us, that these creatures have their own lives and are not primarily subjects for our entertainment or sport. And while, for me, the inspiration to put an image on paper is always primarily a visual inspiration, wild animals carry the same emotional inspiration as domestic pets—animals are so un-selfconscious and don’t care what the artist does with them. Add to that the beauty of a natural landscape and you’ve got a perfect recipe for visual pleasure.
I have traveled too little to see any real wildlife aside from the critters who inhabit my suburban garden, but the Pittsburgh Zoo and National Aviary in Pittsburgh are quite impressive places of natural habitat, and we also have conservation sites to visit in the western part of Pennsylvania where endangered species are kept in hopes they’ll breed enough to carry on their species, so I do get to see these species in life aside from the many magazines and visit websites I learn from.
Many years ago I saw two captive whooping cranes, likely at the Pittsburgh Zoo. I marveled at their size—they were nearly as tall as me! But it was when one of them spread its wings that I was truly enchanted by the pure white body, neat brown wing tips and tiny touches of yellow highlight here and there, and the grace of that huge bird.
And I read about them and discovered their plight, having no idea they were so imperiled, I remembered again that visit to Assateague Island.
What would their afternoon have been like? Using my photos of those marshes and many images of whooping cranes plus another visit to the Zoo, I painted this in pastel, trying to capture the details that had stayed with me at seeing them, and also the feeling of movement in the marshes I had visited, the waving sedges, lapping water and constant breeze from the ocean.
And those summer colors, blue sky reflected on the water, reflected on the cranes.
The painting is 23″ wide x 15″ high, matted with a 4″ warm cream acid-free mat with 1/4″ burnished gold wood fillet edging and 1-1/4″ burnished gold frame. The backing is acid-free foam core and the glass is premium clear glass.
You can find the original painting, “Taking Flight”, along with a number of other wildlife paintings.
Prints are available, both a full-size high-quality giclee: www.etsy.com/listing/104435028/taking-flight-whooping-cranes-giclee, and an 18″ x 12″ digital print.: www.etsy.com/listing/104435800/taking-flight-whooping-cranes-digital.
I’m happy to be donating a print of this painting to Operation Migration, the non-profit that teaches Whooping Crane chicks the migration route from Wisconsin to Florida, for their benefit in September. Read about the difficult but rewarding effort this organization puts forth to help reintroduce this endangered species to their original lifestyle and pattern of migration.