24 x 19.5 in | 61 x 49.5 cm
One of my friends was delighted when she saw that I had painted a bird. She added, “And don’t tell me this one is about a tree”. Well, it is. Green Herons have their particular shape because of the trees. They don’t have webbed feet for diving and they don’t sink like Cormorants who can chase fish under water. Instead, their strong legs and feet grip low lying branches while they spear fish passing underneath. Looking at this stubby body you wouldn’t think to compare them with a spear but that’s because they have their necks retracted while they stalk. In a flash they can extend their necks as long as the entire length of their bodies.
Since they do their spearing while firmly anchored on a branch their hunting technique depends upon the presence of low branches, preferably coming right out of the water. On the salt water coast, that role is filled by the mangroves, while in the fresh water ponds, the Pond Apple is the tree of choice. It grows right out of the water with many small branches perfect for perching. I’ll admit that you can’t see much of the Pond Apple Tree but it is critical not only to the bird but to the painting. Its reflection in the water covers most of the painting.
Despite the amazing immobility of Green Herons, they won’t sit for weeks while I complete the painting so I had to work from photographs. At first I was concerned about the blurriness of the reflections because I thought it was an artifact of my camera. As a Nature painter, I don’t want to paint an artifact. When I realized that the shadow of the branch on which the Heron is sitting, which was close to the water, was not blurry I knew that the blurriness was caused by diffraction.
The Pond Apples (Annona glabra) live in The Everglades National Park, in Florida.