I love to paint wildlife, especially birds. I have always appreciated wildlife but it wasn't until I began volunteering at a local wildlife rehabilitation centre that I came to know and love them in a deeper way. Wildlife rehabilitation is the process of caring for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. Volunteering there was an eye-opening experience in two ways. First, it exposed me to just how many birds and animals are injured or killed as a direct result of human activities, mostly unintentional but often preventable. Secondly, by giving me the opportunity to see many different species up close, it taught me to appreciate them like I never had before. I couldn't believe that I had never noticed how beautiful they are. Some, of course, appear more beautiful than others at first glance. But when I got to know them, they all became beautiful to me. I also began to learn more about them just by paying attention. I realized that they experience a range of emotions and that they have complex ways of communicating which can allow us to understand them to some degree, such as recognizing whether they are comfortable or stressed. More surprisingly, I learned that they have different personalities, just like our pets.
But wildlife are not pets. They are highly evolved species that are deserving of respect. Survival requires incredible knowledge and skills which they teach to their young, and which we too easily brush off as mere instincts. It's not easy to be a hummingbird, or a fox, or a red-tailed hawk. All species are masters at what they do, but the challenges that they must overcome in order to survive are incredible, and also increasing. It is a very sad fact that many bird species are declining in numbers, a trend that has started in just the last few decades.
Seeing wildlife at the rehabilitation centre was a special privilege but I am happiest when I see them in their natural habitat, healthy and thriving and doing what they do best. I can't imagine not having birds and animals to fill our world with beauty and variety. I paint them in order to share my love for them and in the hopes that I will inspire others to love them too. Because, in the words of Baba Dioum, "In the end, we will conserve only what we love." And more than anything, I hope that we will conserve our wildlife, both for ourselves and for future generations.