Bourbon & Birdies: Genesis

Welcome to Bourbon & Birdies. You’ve made it to my website, so let’s get to know each other a bit. Have a seat and I’ll pour you a drink.

Bourbon & Birdies had its official start in March 2015 when I launched a rinky-dink Facebook page with a few prints for sale. It was a scary moment, taking that leap of faith, presenting my art to the world and hoping that others valued it as much as I did. I was lucky to have the support of my friends and family who encouraged me to take those early steps.

But how did I get to that point in 2015? This is the story.

As all good stories begin, in 2014, I met a boy. We shared a love of Florida, of nature, of the special spirit that ran through this state. We also shared an appreciation for art in all its various forms. One day we were driving back to Tallahassee from a hike in the Apalachicola National Forest when he showed me an Instagram account of a Finnish artist who painted these strange and whimsical watercolor owls. I fell in love with them and thought I’d try my hand at making some owls of my own. Using an old set of watercolors and some bargain watercolor paper, I tried, and failed. And tried again, and failed again. I gave up, hid my miserable series of “owls” in my closet, and set the tray of watercolors aside.

Months pass, the boy and I grow closer, 2014 ends, and 2015 begins. In early January, I decide I want to paint him something. Even in retrospect, I do not know why I thought to use watercolors or why I even thought he would want something I painted, especially after the disastrous owl incident. Call it fate. I picked up a couple tubes of Windsor Newton watercolors, a pack of watercolor paper, and went home. I sat on the floor and painted. I remember moments after I finished, sitting on my floor, looking at what was once a blank piece of paper, and looking back at me was a California quail. Its face was bright and inquisitive. Its body was full of movement and color.

I loved it. But more importantly, I couldn’t believe that I had painted it. Me, the owl-failure. So I tried another bird, this time a great blue heron. Then another: a roseate spoonbill. And then another: a red-shouldered hawk.

For that first week, I would spend the day sitting behind my office desk, trying to ignore this buzzing energy running through my body as I counted down the seconds until I could get home, squeeze some thick paint onto my makeshift palette, dip my brush in water, and create life. Each little bird that I painted was a miracle to me. From blank pages I created expressive and joyful friends. Each day I could feel the stress from work leave my body with each brushstroke.

I was lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who over the next few months encouraged me to continue painting, and more importantly, encouraged me to sell. Taking the step to create Bourbon & Birdies was an exercise in vulnerability and faith that I could not have done without their support.

Nearly four years later, I still think about the beginning of Bourbon & Birdies. I think about those ridiculous owls and the California quail. I think about the roseate spoonbill that has since found a home in my parents’ house. I think about how lucky I am to have so serendipitously stumbled upon my passion for watercolor. It’s been a long journey, but I still get that feeling, moments after completing a painting, a quiet rush of contentment as I introduce my new bird to the world.

California quail, watercolor, 2015.

California quail, watercolor, 2015.