Fine Art Watercolour Paper
Size: 297mm x 430mm
Original Painting Medium: Pastel
Scientific Name: Ara chloroptera
Region: South America
In 1990 I was commissioned to paint six macaws by a lovely gentleman, Michael Augustus Fox Lane Pitt Rivers: the Great Grandson of the renowned Historian, General Pitt Rivers. I will always be grateful to Michael for giving me such a super commission at such an early stage in my career.
As the macaws were living in pairs, I decided to produce three paintings, portraying each of them with their partners. Painting them in pastels, my wish was to capture the character of each of the birds and as I really enjoyed portraying them, I later produced this painting of Ruby and Soyez, for my own pleasure.
Macaws are large, colourful parrots that inhabit the rainforests of tropical America. All have long pointed tails, naked cheeks, and a prominent short blunt bill with a down-curved upper mandible.
In 1989, whilst living in the Larmer Tree flat, my home, and studio, within the grounds of the Larmer Tree Victorian Gardens. I was asked if I would look after these exotic birds. The bird collection included peacocks, six macaws, golden, silver, reeves, and blue-eared pheasants. I dislike birds being kept 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-keeper hat’.
At that time, I was unaware one could develop a relationship with a bird and was amazed at how clever and inquisitive the macaws were. We came to know and trust each other well, and to this day, 30 yrs on, I still have a lovely relationship with them.
Often when sitting in my garden, the macaws would fly in to say hello. If I was drawing en plein air. they would walk around the tabletop investigating everything in sight, including the ‘chewability’ of the pencil with which I was attempting to draw.
Going for a walk was also a lovely 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: within minutes we’d all be sitting on the fence in a row. They would sit closely on either side of me, communicating with quiet croaky macaw sounds whilst the two that were closest, would periodically investigate my jacket pockets seeking hidden treats. Everything was a big game to them and they were, and still are my buddies. I am pleased to say that even though I no longer live in the flat at Larmer Tree Gardens, the two surviving macaws, Soyez and Tolly, eventually discovered where I live and often visit me.
Macaws were once common in forests across much of South America. However, they have been much reduced because of illegal trafficking for the caged 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 all birds should be left in the wild, where they belong.