Toby

Years ago, I was commissioned by a fellow parrot lover, on a trade basis to create this portrait of an African Grey named Toby.  Toby was an unusual grey in that he was a bit clownish in contrast to most greys’ sort of stuffy and dignified manner.  The trade was to be this portrait in exchange for her art. She sculpted darling little parrots in clay, and her touch made them seem like the most fun loving and mischievous critters. This is my favorite sort of trade — pure joy in art and parrothood in trade for same.
I’d finished this portrait for her, and was excited for her to see it. I mailed it off and waited anxiously for her smiling voice to call me and tell me it had arrived, and hopefully her little sculpture would not be far behind. But a day later, someone who knew her posted on the bird message boards — this was before Facebook — that she had been killed in a terrible car accident. My heart was broken. Not only did she never get to see the portrait that I’d hoped would bring her so much joy, but she was unable to share her gift of joy with me either. The sculpture and portrait both were lost in the shuffle after the funeral, and my only memories of her that are left are captured in this portrait. I think about her all the time and remember what a sweet woman she was, and all the love she’d given her Toby that made him so silly and happy.
9×12″ Watercolor Pencil on paper.
Original in private collection.
Prints available.
*signed JBray
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