Lizard & Elusive Painted Bunting

First, the oil painting, then the shameful story behind it… make sure you don’t miss my bonus video- real life new footage of the elusive Painted Bunting!

Watch me paint this lizard in 1 minute (time lapse)

“During our first summer in Georgia, the thing I feared most happened: the air conditioning went out. We had to deal with the intense humid heat with no AC [air conditioning, cooling]! The days and nights dragged on as we waited for the situation to be resolved.
The weeks before this happened, I’d made a new friend: a cute lizard on the glass patio door. He kept me company while I was working on my computer nearby. I named him Henry.
On one of our sweltering nights without air conditioning, I left the glass patio door open, which exposed a small gap in the seal of the sliding screen door. The hour was late night, nearly midnight, and my husband was working the night shift. That’s when Henry got IN. I chased him until I was overheated and sweaty. Finally, with the help of a spray bottle of water, I corralled him out the open door, while yelling, ‘Get out, Henry, you bast-rd!’ I realized too late, that our new neighbors didn’t know ‘Henry’ is a lizard.
Since then, I’ve rekindled my friendship with our patio lizards, as they keep the doors free of bugs. I’ve watched a lizard eat an entire pesky moth in two seconds time. As long as they stay on the other side of the door, we are good pals.”

– from the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

If our neighbors heard me in my crazy fit of heat-induced delirium, they’ve politely never mentioned it. No air conditioning while knee deep in the humidity of a scorching Georgia summer is akin to boiling one’s organs while draining the brain of consciousness. When chasing that slippery little lizard, I was near the brink of delirium.

Fortunately, the air conditioning is working just fine so far at the beginning of this new season. We saw the first sightings of the return of the lizards. One tiny lizard was declared the cutest one she’s ever seen by my daughter, and then she spotted another lizard that seemed to change colors (like the lizard in my oil painting video, which is inadvertent due to changes in lighting while filming, but it gives the illusion of the real life way that lizards change hues from green to brown and back again).

The lizards have a much higher favorability rating since they’ve not come back indoors, but they can’t beat the popularity of the birds. The cardinals are active and seem to have a nest nearby. Hummingbirds are crazy with hunger at all times of the day. But, it’s the elusive one that most catches our breath…

The painted bunting is back!!! There seems to always be just one each season (and sometimes his female companion). I call him the “elusive” painted bunting because it’s hard to get photos and video of him. He’s skittish of any sign of movement. It’s difficult to adjust the camera or zoom in to follow his movements, or even be quick enough to capture him at all.

I was able to get fantastic footage that I shared previously in the blog post “Bunting is REAL!“. I captured that during last season, from inside the house. This time, I was outside, from a different angle. The new footage isn’t as nice, but it’s fun to see anyway, as it puts you in the moment.

When I was processing this video for you this morning, I saw a flash of light from the patio window. I had a feeling… yep, it was the sun hitting the tower bird feeder because someone was in it and made it sway… YES! It was the painted bunting, back again this morning for breakfast. I tried to grab my camera, but he flitted off.

Here’s the glorious footage from last season, in case you missed it and didn’t want to bother clicking on the link I shared earlier… or if you just want to watch it again to compare. Notice how bright his colors are? It’s very difficult to get the breathtaking vivid hues to show up on camera. I’m glad I painted him. Oils do this bird justice better than my camera does. But, this footage here is pretty close!

I’ll continue to try to capture the elusive painted bunting. It would be nice to catch him when he’s perched on a more natural habitat, like when he’s waiting in the trees for the bird feeder to be free of pesky threats like other birds or women with cameras.

Not every blog post has to be a metaphor for loftier thoughts, but I do see one in this post. Why do my husband and I gush over this elusive bird, while largely ignoring many other types of birds, and never filming the lizards at all? Is it because the painted bunting is so exotic and beautiful, or because he is rare, his season with us very short, and he’s difficult to catch sight of?

Our human nature is to value more the things that are fleeting and rare, the moments that are difficult to obtain, and the experiences that require work and luck to achieve. It seems we’re always chasing after that mysterious combination of destiny and control. So while the common lizard may zip past our feet, we’ll barely glance at him when the painted bunting flies overhead.

But when winter stretches on too long, as this one did, and the first lizard makes his appearance, the sighting of his tiny green crawling, climbing, and leaping body induces relief and delight! So happy to see you, dear Lizard! For when we are without the joys of abundant life, we miss the lizards equally as the elusive painted buntings. All creatures great and small, we appreciate them all!

Painting on Black

Painting on black canvas is a fun exercise that pushes an artist to try new styles and techniques. The coating on a black canvas is often different, and possibly powdery. The stark contrast between the black background and wet oil paint can make the colors seem luminescent, which may be the desired effect for certain projects. I was happy with how this gorgeous bird turned out on black canvas. He’s called a “Painted Bunting“, and appeared one day out of the blue on our patio. Of course I had to paint him! A glowing vibrant painting effect was perfect to show off his vivid colors.

Painting on black canvas can be a surprising choice for some projects, making old standards fresh and contemporary. “Peaches in a Bowl” has an old school traditional fine arts look to it, with a twist. The glowing colors look almost chalk-like, yet this art was painted with oils. Changing our medium can lead to unexpected outcomes and (perhaps unintentional) renaissance.

This last example, “Miki’s Dragon”, illustrates when the medium is a perfect match for the subject. The project goal was to create a vivid red dragon that personifies the friend I was painting this for. A pediatric ER doctor, she collects dragons and was over the moon to see herself “as a dragon”. The dragon has her purple hair, is holding her initial M, and its tail is the medical symbol, the Caduceus. But, one of the most important elements is what was made possible by painting on black canvas- the fierce quality of the vibrant red, as it honors her strong spirit and captures her bold personality. I painted this art as a thank you gift, and when she looks at it, she is reminded of who she is. 

Experimenting with different mediums can lead to trying new styles and possibly even stumbling upon new methods, ideas, and techniques that will enrich our artistic journey forever. One creative venture leads to another. Do you remember “Eye of the Storm” from my previous blog about Painting Storms? That art was also painted on black canvas and I love the way our planet looks surreal through “glowing” colors. By the way, writing this blog has given me an idea for a future painting on black. This is how it is, when we expand our minds by trying something new… our imaginations are charged up and unstoppable!