King Penguins
(scroll down for description)
12” x 16”, acrylic, 1985
Everyone knows that penguins are flightless aquatic birds that live in the Antarctic. Some species do go further north, such as the Galapagos penguin that lives near the equator. There are many species within the south polar region. Of these the king penguin is the second largest. He is exceeded only by the emperor penguin, which I have not yet seen in the field.

In some places, the king penguin breeds in colonies numbering in the thousands. The only ones I have seen were in a small colony in the Falkland Islands. Even so, this was a great thrill because these birds are so spectacular in appearance and so trusting.

There is an invisible circle of comfort around most living creatures. In the case of hunted mountain sheep, the size of the circle may be miles; in the case of the garden slug, it might be millimeters. Many polar creatures lack the fear of man and can be approached to within a few feet. Since penguins cannot fly and cannot outrun us, we have to be very careful to stay well back of that circle of comfort so as not to disturb them, especially while they are breeding. This is still close enough for good observation.

This painting is meant to revel in the glorious colours and modulated tones of the king penguin. Each bird looks like a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. Although they have very expressive movements, their faces are hard to identify with. This is partly because of the lack of highlight in the eye that is characteristic of creatures that have to see under water.