Paradise Found

With the exception of an occasional request for parrots, most of the birds that I paint grow from the ground. They are birds of paradise.


An orange bird of paradise painting by Elizabeth Barenis is shown with a deep green background.
“Bird of Paradise” / acrylic on canvas / 36″ x 48″ / 2008 / by Elizabeth Barenis

Although it is native to South Africa, this plant grows abundantly in Florida. Its name comes from the shape of the flowers, which resemble a bird in flight . . . or, a bird’s head, depending on how you look at it. Recently a friend sent me a popular meme which questions the correct way to perceive a bird of paradise:


A meme is shown with two depictions of how to interpret the bird of paradise flower. One shows the petals as the wings; the other shows the petals as feather coming from a goofy-looking bird's head with big eyes.


However, I’d like to debunk this idea and insist that the image on the right is also a correct way to interpret the bird of paradise. But, as with most things, it’s really up to each person to decide their take on it.


Two paintings by Elizabeth Barenis are shown. The one on the left is an orange bird of paradise. On the right is a white bird of paradise.
“Bird of Paradise 2″ / acrylic on canvas / 12″ x 12” / c. 2017 /// “Birds of a Petal” / acrylic on canvas / 12″ x 12″ / 2022 / Elizabeth Barenis


It’s always a pleasant surprise to catch sight of this colorful flower – both the orange as well as the white variations – and a reminder to take time to appreciate the beauty nature has to offer.


Two paintings by Elizabeth Barenis are shown. They both show orange bird of paradise flowers in bloom against a green leafy background.
“Bird of Paradise 4″ / acrylic on canvas / 12″ x 12” / 2023 /// “Bird of Paradise 5″ / acrylic on canvas / 12″ x 12” / 2023 / Elizabeth Barenis


My newest painting is called “Paradise Found.” Shown below, it measures 40” x 60” and begs to know how paradise on earth would look. Maybe paradise is already within us, waiting for expression. And whether it manifests as the majestic wings of a bird in flight or a googly-eyed dodo inciting laughter, may the end result be joy.


A painting by Elizabeth Barenis is shown, depicting a vibrant white bird of paradise flower with multiple blooms and a green and yellow background.
“Paradise Found” / acrylic on canvas / 40″ x 60″ / 2023 / Elizabeth Barenis


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