“Shama Thrush in a Mountain Apple Tree”, is a piece meant to share the best aspects of one of my favorite hikes deep in the shade and protection of the lush Ko’olau Mountains. In the background, you can see the same waterfall I featured in my prior piece, Sacred Space. I love this waterfall because the rocks have a lot of character. This time, the falls are not the star of the piece, but take a supporting role as the very real location where many white-rumped shama thrush live. The shama thrush, its flowing tail a visual echo of the waterfall, perches in the branches of the mountain apple tree. Here I have recreated the magical experience of finding the bright pink flowers of the mountain apple in full bloom. If I could show it all in the same painting, I would depict how the petals carpet the ground with a layer of vivid pink, and I would paint the smell of the cool moss and the sound of the water. Shama are very curious birds and will often follow you, gliding from branch to branch for a long time as you hike, watching and listening to you as you walk through the trees. As highly intelligent birds, they are not only keen observers, but also mimic birds to a limited extent, capable of learning short calls if you whistle to them repetitively. If you are lucky, they will whistle the song back, quickly evolving your small tune into their own variation (4 or 5 notes is a good maximum if you are trying to teach them). They may add clicks, chatters, trills, and melodic chirps until it blends seamlessly into their own repertoire. Their voice is one of the sweetest of the island, with a clarity I would compare to the Meadow Larks of my childhood. Some of my most unusual experiences with wild birds have been with shama thrushes. If you are quiet and still, they will venture extremely close, and examine you carefully with their shiny black eyes. Unlike Snow White, I haven’t managed to convince them to help me with my laundry…yet.
Fun fact: This painting was ranked #1 out of 80 paintings by Katherine Love, the curator of modern art for Honolulu Museum of Art.
Photos of the painting in progress: