Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Searching for Life

This week, Janis Ward reflects upon how wildlife inspires her art.


Birds have always been my passion since childhood. Our small yellow canary entertained us with cheery chirps from his cage in our kitchen and delighted us as he made his swing go back and forth. As a teen, I acquired a beautiful, brightly-colored parakeet who used to sit on the edges of our coffee cups and fly into the dining room mirror to join the “other bird” there.


My husband and boys often went duck hunting, returning home with those beautiful birds for me to cook. It almost broke my heart. We also raised ducks from babies in our atrium pond and garden. It was fascinating to watch them grow. One day, a neighborhood boy brought us an owl that had been hit by a car, which we nursed back to health and watched him fly away to freedom with great joy.


We winter now in Florida, as do the birds. When we first drive into the golf course condo area in Pompano Beach, we are fascinated by the activity on a small lake. Ibis, a few pelicans, and occasionally one or two storks wander freely on the grass lawn. Many are diving and swimming in the water. Often, there are so many they block the cars. Most drivers slow down to avoid contact with the beautiful white birds.


Having been an artist since childhood, I often paint birds. There is nothing more thrilling than a flock of 200 or so squawking parakeets following their leader, bunched together. Geese are interesting to watch as well.


I came upon a large white swan who’d lost his mate a few years ago. They mate for life, so it was hurtful to see him always swimming alone in his large wooded pond. What a delight, however, to find a large black Anhinga stretching his wings to dry and hanging around with this gorgeous swan.


The winter of 2016 in Florida brought some disastrous news to the birding lovers. The flocks of ibis were nearly nonexistent. I kept looking for them and wondering why they weren’t in their pond. Finally, a newspaper article explained it all: Because of the ocean’s rising, salt water has infiltrated the pond, killing the small fish on which the large ibis had been feeding. Where the ibis went, I don’t know, but they are missed.


And so, I continue to paint these beautiful creatures in their winter habitat. This is the last one I painted early this year that shows the ibis wandering among the shrubs looking for food. Whether they can survive on worms and such is a big question.


My watercolor is entitled “Searching for Life.” I’m certain many more paintings will come as I follow their plight.


Janis Ward has been an artist since childhood and has studied under inspiring artists such as Carol Barnes, Maxine Masterfield, Stan Kurth and, most extensively, with M. Douglas Walton. She says: “Watercolor is exciting to me because of the unexpected. A true artist paints life as it is around him. Because I see the beauty of nature most keenly and wish to preserve all life that supports that beauty, most of my work depicts the natural world in bright, bold color. We must preserve our wild plants and animals through conservation to prevent humanity’s complete extinction.” She is a member of Fort Lauderdale Branch NLAPW.

“Searching for Life” image provided by J. Ward

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.


  1. I also love this piece and the story. Watching birds in Florida is one of the happiest things.

  2. Florida birds are so beautiful and you have truly captured their essence. I just love this piece. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.