I’ve just finished a pastel painting of a King Parrot, a bird that is native to the eastern coast of NSW, Australia. His (and her) scientific name is Alisterus Scapularis. Australian King Parrots are natives of humid and heavily forested upland areas of eastern Australia, where they feed on fruits, seeds and small insects. They also frequent wooded gardens that have feeding stations and fruit-bearing trees. The pairs mate for life, and females lay their eggs on a bed of decayed wood-dust at the bottom of a deep hollow in the trunk of a tree.
They move around in pairs or family groups. The male, pictured below in my painting, is more colourful than the female, who is paler, with a completely green head. They grow to about 43 cm from head to tail tip. Their call is a loud, high-pitched whistle, with a rolling “carr-ack” when in flight. I had a hard time with this bird; almost every facet of the painting cost me much reworking, under the gentle but ruthless guidance of my teacher, Andy Reimanis. Andy doesn’t let you get away with short cuts or slipshod work; my worst experience is when the painting is, I think, complete, and he wants me to revise some detail of it. Complete or not, this happened several times; with the background,the leaves, the beak and eye of the bird, the green plumage, the placing of the upper foot …. it was only on this last point that I dug my heels in. He thought the foot looked wrong as it was, and wanted me to move it down to the branch. “No, I won’t”; I said. The first time I’d said this to him. I explained whey I wanted to stay as it was — I had worked hard to show the leg muscles under the feathers, reaching up to the branch, and it was part of the bird’s attitude. He accepted this, and just got me to rearrange it a little to make it look more natural. The background was an interesting journey. As I don’t (yet) have a visual imagination, I couldn’t see how it would evolve. Gradually, after I’d revised the leaves about four times (first they were too precise, then too messy,then too stiff,then finally, took on their own life) that I saw what Andy had probably seen from the beginning; that the King is in a forest, high up in a tree, part of this magical place. I’m glad I have finally brought him to a painted life. And I’m looking forward to seeing one in the flesh. My painting is, by the way, copyright. When it is framed, it will hang for a while in the Caldera Art Gallery, at the Visitors Centre in Muwillumbah. If you wish to copy it you will need my permission.