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Wood Stork Study No. 1 (Marilyn)

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

5 X 7" OIL & COLD WAX ON GESSOBORD




I’VE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT WOOD STORKS — LIKE CERTAIN INDIGENOUS TRIBES, MIGHT BELIEVE THAT PHOTOGRAPHS STEAL THEIR SOUL 


There's a gang of them that hang out like thugs at the Hungry Howie's near my house just waiting to be thrown pieces of food. I don't know who gives it to them. I've never seen anyone do it. They've got my number though. They know I won't give them food. I just photograph them.


THEY SEE ME COMING AND CAN'T WALK AWAY SLOWLY ENOUGH


They don't move quickly. It's kind of creepy actually. Everyone who comes out the door of the pizza place gets mobbed in slow motion by the storks. Me, they kind of move away in a slow-motion mob. They know I have no food. But yet I'm moving toward them with my camera and they aren't sure what this is all about. They just know that it doesn't involve food and they want nothing to do with it. 


Wood Storks are quite large, if they stretch to their full height, a male will be over 4' tall easily and their wingspan is massive too. I've never measured but watching them come in for a landing on top of the Hungry Howie's sign is well, bizarre.


They congregate in large groups in treetops which is a strange sight as well. And their legs, the way they bend backward when they go to scratch their heads is just adorable. If you're one of those people (like me) that can sometimes confuse vaguely creepy and adorable.




They're all attitude which is probably another reason I love them so much. Also because I can't look at them and not be reminded of the plague doctors of the middle ages (I don't know why I've added this to the plus category).


They're just so strangely compelling, especially when perched high up in the trees on those long knobby legs. Everyone else around here likes the pink Spoon Bills and the beautiful Sand Hill Cranes and the Herons and oh yeah, for sure, they're amazing but these crazy, little food bullies kill me. I can't get enough of them.



Stomping his feet because he's annoyed with me. Notice: no motion blur - this took ten seconds per foot.


When they get super annoyed with me taking their picture (after about 30 seconds) they'll move lazily a good two feet away from me, never bothering to move more than that or God forbid ever fly away and then slowly and slothfully stomp one foot and then the other, taking literally a good ten seconds to do a full foot stomp of a single foot. Sometimes they'll slowly open and close their beaks. And they do that so slowly it looks like they're choking on something. It's honestly so disturbing to watch I just have to leave.



This is the guy I call Crazy Bread. He's the most food crazy and suspect of cameras (this pic captures him so well) I so badly want to paint those feathers. And he so badly wants me not to. 


I feel so bad that I'm annoying them so much that I can't stand it. They're so dramatic. I can never stay more than a couple minutes, I just feel too guilty they just carry on so much, in slow motion. But it's a lot to take in. I really hate doing it, annoying them. But I love them, I love painting them and I need reference. I try explaining it to them, that I'm a painter and they're my models, my muses, you'd think they'd care, that it would mean something but no. It seems to annoy them more when I speak.


SOMETIMES THE STORK I CALL MARILYN BLOCKS THE DOOR TO MY PHARMACY, WHICH IS NEXT DOOR TO THE PIZZA PLACE. YOU HAVE TO KIND OF SHOO HER OUT OF THE WAY. SHE COMES RIGHT BACK AGAIN AND STARES IN THE DOOR. IT'S HARD TO TELL IF SHE'S LOOKING INTO THE BLACK WINDOW AT HER REFLECTION LIKE NARCISSUS OR SHE'S AFTER A LITTLE SOMETHING MORE UM, INTERESTING


Marilyn staring in the door of my Pharmacy which is next door to the pizza place. The males are all outside the pizza place - but here she is. You can't make this shit up.



I call her Marilyn because when the wind blows her feathers fly up like Marilyn Monroe's white dress in the Seven Year Itch (not because of the pharmacy thing - that obsession of hers happened later, oddly and rather hauntingly). She is a beauty though. The males are never far away from her. I have video of her pacing and spinning like she's on the catwalk.


A lot of Florida artists paint the colorful birds and the white herons and egrets, they're everywhere and they have such personalities they're kind of hard to resist. I once saw a huge white phase blue heron that I'm quite sure was trying to mate with a white Toyota Prius in a McDonald's parking lot. He walked around it bobbing back and forth, he hopped up and down on the roof. I was surprised the owners didn't come out. I got pictures of that too but there was something in his determination that you just had to see in person. Everyone knows that bird. My friends and I call him Stanley. He's a local character and obviously quite a ladies' man. The Prius didn't leave and she wasn't pecking him in the eyes so he naturally figured she was into him. What guy wouldn't have? 



The birds here are all constant entertainment but these Wood Storks are my true loves. I just want to take them home with me and I believe if I just bought a couple of pizzas they'd probably follow me. They follow people with boxes to their cars like puppy dogs. But they belong in the swamp a half-mile as the crow flies (because lord knows the storks aren't flying there) on a place we can only access by boat called Stork Island (just my family calls it that, most people have never seen it) actually I think they are still mostly going there at night, I don't see them in the evening.

I've gotten more interested lately after looking at some of the photos in the compositions of the yellow parking blocks and lines. Both from a graphic perspective and conceptually. The birds are spending more and more time in our world and less time in their own. Theirs is becoming ours.




Almost no one seems to get that it's bad to feed them. Our health problems will soon become theirs but I'm not here to preach, there's so much negativity I think too much of that makes things worse. I just hope to bring some awareness that when we feed them we are destroying their health. It's best not to, most people just don't know. I enjoy them immensely and they pretty much just think I'm a jerk. It's funny because I've never thought about birds as really having taste buds but it is clear and obvious that that do! And they prefer pizza and apparently at least with Stanley (the white heron) McDonald's french fries, as he pretty much lives in that parking lot and he's a terrible beggar. 


People are moving to south Florida at an alarming rate and watching the birds and animals here is something I've been doing for a long time. They are adapting but it has to be strange for them. Florida is a strange place for all of us, so crowded and turbulent. I can't imagine what it looks like from their perspective.





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