Birds of Florida

25 Florida18, Birds Six, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 10x8
1 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 9x12

1 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 9×12

BIRDS OF FLORIDA

DAVE AND ELLEN gave us the chimes, and asked for a bird in return.

These were no ordinary wind chimes outside our Florida rental home. Their deep, soothing B-minor tone and the occasional nearby train whistle provided sweet music at Dave Chandler’s and Ellen Fernandez’s modest-looking, one-story house in Melbourne, where we stayed for more than two weeks for the second year.

Inside, the house is crammed with artwork of every description, much of it with nautical or warm-weather themes: mosaic fish, carved birds, and ceramic suns crafted by Dave, and paintings, photographs, masks, carvings, and stained glass by other artists (including a bright giclée print by Phyllis Shipley, who we visited during our stay). Dave uses found wood, broken glass, and other salvaged materials for his sturdy furniture and artwork, calling his business Upcycled Designs.

2 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

2 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

Everywhere you turn there is something interesting to look at. It’s a mix of North and South, as Dave and Ellen spend a good part of the year rehabilitating an old house in upstate New York. That’s where much of the wood comes from, as well as collections of small, antique bottles, oil lamps, and other interesting arcana, plus cacti, orchids, and other houseplants. (Dave is also a fabulous chef; the kitchen overflows with well-used pots and pans, dishes, knives and cooking utensils, and the bedroom is lined with cookbooks).

We spent many hours every day lounging around Dave’s large wooden table in the screened porch just off the kitchen, soaking up the warmth (with a few cool days mixed in), eating, talking, reading, absently bird-watching and looking for anoles, working on puzzles, dozing, and painting.

Ellen dropped by with oranges from her backyard on our second day, and when we told her how much we enjoyed the chimes, she surprised us the following morning by offering them to us, asked only for a painting of a bird in return. I quickly embraced the challenge and ended up giving them a number of choices, right up until our last day.

Here are the results, amid the other paintings I made during our stay, in the order they were painted.

3 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 9x12

3 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 9×12

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4 Florida18, Bird One, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

4 Florida18, Bird One, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

5 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9 (Waved at the January 20 Women's March in Melbourne)

5 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9 (Waved at the January 20 Women’s March in Melbourne)

6 Florida18, Bird Two, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

6 Florida18, Bird Two, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

7 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 9×12

8 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

8 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

9 Florida18, Birds Three, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

9 Florida18, Birds Three, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

10 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

10 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

11 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 9x12

11 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 9×12

12 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 9x12

12 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 9×12

13 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 9x12

13 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 9×12

14 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

14 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

15 Florida18, Birds Four, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

15 Florida18, Birds Four, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

16 Florida18, Birds Five, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

16 Florida18, Birds Five, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

17 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

17 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14×11

18 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

18 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

19 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

19 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

20 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

20 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11×14 (Begun before we visited Phyllis Shipley, completed the following day)

21 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

21 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

22 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

22 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

23 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 10x8

23 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 10×8

24 Florida18, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

24 Florida18, acrylic on canvas, 12×9

25 Florida18, Birds Six, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 10x8

25 Florida18, Birds Six, acrylic on canvas, 10×8

Dave and Ellen chose Bird One, 4 Florida18.

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In memory of my good friend Roger, known for his own exquisite tastes in music, former athlete, fellow naturalist and bird lover with ties to art and culture and Florida, who passed away the day after our return. Like many, I will miss his lively intellect, endless curiosity, and good cheer.

7 thoughts on “Birds of Florida

  1. Love the changing depth perception of 3, intriguing 7, marvelous curtains of watery light in 8, the way in 9 the river is a tree holding up the sky for the birds to fly, and my favorite 25 where the birds swim and fly simultaneously. Beautiful Russ!

    1. Many thanks, Leslie. I appreciate the kind words, and I am always fascinated to hear what other people are seeing. As you can tell, it was great fun.

  2. It would take me days to figure out my favorite, they are all so interesting and for different reasons. The first painting speaks to me especially. I hear God’s BANG at the creation.

    You are going to have to build yourself a warehouse for all of your paintings. Or a very big barn that will become your very own art gallery. “The Russell Powell Museum.”

    1. Thank you so much, Damaris. So glad you like them! Working on smaller canvases made it easier to complete more paintings, but the number surprised me. You are right–I am running out of space to store my work. Another reason for sticking with smaller canvases! I value your encouragement and support.

  3. Hi Russell, I am immediately drawn to 25 as it reminds me of how “secretive” many birds lives are; the painting is ephemeral and changes with the light. Nice work indeed! Secondly, I enjoy looking at 11 FL 18, its “smooth airy” quality allow me to float and even surrender into the mists of a dreamy landscape. Glad to see you trip was fruitful.

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