|Maracas waterfall, Trinidad.|
|Sunset view from Grand Anse beach, Grenada|
|Cocoa bean pods and the tiny flowers from which they form.|
|Orchids blooming among coconut husks.|
|Colourful bougainvillea gracing an old stone wall.|
... and bats hanging from the rafters of old buildings, napping in the noon-day heat...
... and turtles poking up their noses for a breath of tropical air.
And of course it's the birds that really captivate me. From noisy flocks of orange-winged Amazon parrots perched high in trees just outside my apartment window in Trinidad...
...to drunken hummingbirds sipping carambola (star fruit) nectar...
...to cheeky bananaquits squabbling among the foliage just about everywhere I go. They're as common as sparrows or chickadees back home.
|A typical bananaquit with bright yellow breast feathers.|
|A more unusual jet-black bananaquit, found in Grenada and also neighbouring St. Vincent.|
My blog readers will remember that last winter I captured the image of a mockingbird in an urban Trinidad setting in this drawing "Song of the Tropics: Mockingbird".
To my delight, just next door to my apartment in Grenada there's a resident juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron who defies his (or her) name and can be seen most mornings hunting for small crabs. He/she is not at all shy about posing for my camera:
One thrilling morning I was able to observe a handsome adult on the same quest for a crab breakfast.
It's hard to imagine that the night herons' range on the Pacific coast of North America extends from the tropics as far north as British Columbia. The Reifel Bird Sanctuary plays host to a handful of Black Crowned Night Herons each fall/winter, although this one that I observed last year appears to be longing for more balmy temperatures while huddled among cold, bare branches:
Below my balcony hummingbirds make regular visits to some pretty pink flowers that grow on a latticed arbour, waging territorial wars with the bananaquits and bees who compete for the flowers' nectar.
I recently listened to an interview with portrait artist Phil Richards (he was commissioned by the government of Canada to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II) speaking about his life as an artist and his artistic process. I can't remember his exact words, but the gist of something he said truly resonated with me: he described being an artist as being an observer of the world rather than an active participant; that artists always have a certain detachment as we continually contemplate how to depict our vision the world around us on our canvas, or sketchbook, or whatever our chosen medium may be. We're on the outside looking in, so to speak.
Even though I'm here in this lush, gorgeous part of the world, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and the grit of sand between my toes as cool blue waves lap at my ankles, lulled by the rhythm of the surf, the warbling of mockingbirds, and perhaps the notes of lively human music drifting in from a distance, my mind is often completely absorbed by the interplay of colour, light and form. I'm captivated by the antics of seabirds diving for fish, lizards scampering among the undergrowth, or beach dogs dozing in the shade. I can get completely caught up observing something as ordinary as a preening pigeon perched on a telephone wire while others in my party enjoy drinks and lunch in a local waterfront bar.
I don't feel that being an observer of the world means the experiences life has to offer are any less rich, or enjoyable, or that I don't fully appreciate them. However, it does mean that I'm always, always, always "working".
Such is my life as an artist - and a lucky one, at that!