Dempsey Essick is a self taught, self expressed realist watercolor artist. He is known as the Hummingbird Bird Artist; not only for the hummingbirds he paints but for the hidden hummingbirds he hides in his paintings.
Hummingbirds are Dempsey’s “good luck charm.” Since the day in 1997 when daughter Beth held one in her hand and stroked its head before it rejoined its companions, hummers have been an Essick talisman. As a memorial to that event Dempsey did his first hummingbird painting (Camilla & Friends) and dedicated it to Beth.
It was around that time that he began hiding a rebus type image of a hummer in his paintings as well. The hidden hummingbird may be made up of twigs, blooms, shadows, or void space. You may hear the flutter of wings as you enjoy these many Essick paintings with hummers as subjects, many of which include the hidden hummingbird image.
Since that spring day, several years ago, when a hummingbird landed on his daughter Beth’s hand and she held the tiny creature for several minutes, Artist Dempsey Essick, has been fascinated with the colorful little birds. Beth had been in the hospital for an extended time and was recovering. Both she and her Mom and Dad considered the encounter a blessing from above; a sign from God saying that everything would be all right.
Since that remarkable event Dempsey has included a rebus, or hidden, hummingbird in each of his paintings. In fact, locating the rebus hummer in each of his print releases has become a challenge to collectors of Essick art.
For his current offering Dempsey has created a trilogy of beautiful watercolor paintings celebrating the courtship of the hummingbird. “Lady’s Choice” and”“Gentleman’s Choice” are two mid-size prints which feature a female facing right and a male the left, respectively. The two small birds become enamored while sampling the nectar of some columbine blossoms and the spark of romance is almost visible as the two fly on to the main columbine plant to enjoy “Dinner for Two”. This larger print accommodates an abundance of beautiful blossoms which form a perfect setting for the blooming romance between the two tiny jewels. Always a gentleman, the male allows the female her choice of blossoms.
The set of three prints, collectively titled “Date Night” depict the classic ‘Boy Meets Girl’ scenario and will, no doubt, result in the classic union of a compatible pair who will likely produce nestlings- a possible subject for another Essick hummingbird related painting. And yes…each art image has its own hidden hummer.
It was a summer to remember. For the better part of July and August I was painting hummers to be used in our 2014 Wall Calendar entitled ‘Just Hummingbirds’. I guess that focus made me more aware of the hummingbird activity around me and I was constantly entertained by their antics.
A highlight was the hummingbird swing that we placed on the back door. The birds found it after 13 days and fought over it. With the glare on the glass door they could not see me and I was no more than 8 inches away from the tiny creatures. I could count their feathers and even see the tiny w-shaped tongue.
It was a rare treat when I saw the Red Bellied Woodpecker drinking from the hummingbird feeder. The big guy tipped the feeder so much that nectar leaked out but there was still plenty for him to suck up using his long bill like a straw. I made a great video of him from the house as he returned frequently to dine.
Maybe it was all the rain but it was our best year for hummers ever and we hated to see them leave in late September. We did leave a single feeder out for any hummer that failed to make migration and I saw a lone one just this week.
When Shelley and I heard that hummingbirds were drawn to Penta plants we hurried out to buy two, potted them, and waited to see. Sure enough there was never a hummer far away from the star shaped bloom. Since then I have done several paintings with Pentas with “Choice Pentas” being my most recent release.
As is my custom there is a rebus type image of a hummingbird hidden in this painting. Yes, there is an obvious hummer but there is a hidden one as well. Enjoy your search in and around the flowers.
“Choice Pentas” is part of the Essick Sharing Series. The prints are not for sale, cannot be purchased in the shop or on the internet. They are available only through a fund raising event.
In laying out the painting I felt that a blue enamelware bucket would complete the scene. My good friend Dennis Crotts has an extended collection and when I saw his graniteware bucket I knew it was exactly what I needed. Dennis loaned me the bucket and several other pieces to be displayed with the original painting.
I found painting the Penta plant to be quite challenging. Each little clump has multiple blooms and their detail was very time consuming. The enamelware was a lot of fun to paint in that it is almost like a painting within a painting trying to duplicate the blue swirls.I am so pleased how this piece turned out. Even though it may appear simple, it was very complex to paint with the flowers, the swirls, the grain of the wood and the texture of the bricks. As always I have included a hidden hummingbird and locating it will, this time, prove to be a challenge.
A companion piece to "Wait Your Turn" is "Pump House Shadows". They are of the same palette and the two group perfectly together.
It was like a harbinger of all good things that morning almost ten years ago when Beth Essick held a hummingbird in her hand. It is not known how or why Beth was allowed to cradle the tiny creature in her hand but we do know that it was not stunned and it was not sick. It responded to human touch as Beth rubbed its little head and stroked under its neck. Fortunately, Beth's dad, Dempsey Essick, had a camera handy and recorded the remarkable moment in time. Allowed to leave when he was ready, the small speedster circled Beth's head once then zoomed away.
For Dempsey it was a good luck sign. How often, in a lifetime, do you have a chance to observe, up close and personal, one of nature's smallest birds? After developing and studying the photos of Beth and Bird Dempsey began to observe the tiny creatures more closely. This lead to him doing numerous hummingbird paintings and eventually even developing a gift line referred to as Hummer-ville, USA.
As Dempsey Essick's popularity as the Hummingbird Artist has grown, so has the demand for his hummingbird art. "Daylilies for a Day," features the male Ruby Throat Hummingbird hovering over two blossoms in the field of daylilies behind Ruby Potts' home in Advance.
"In the world of flowers," Ruby said, "the daylily flashes on the scene for a day and is then gone." Ruby's field of lilies was the subject of two prior Essick paintings, "Daylily Days" and "Ruby's Daylily".
In the painting, Dempsey has caught not only the iridescent beauty of the small bird but he has captured, in the scene, the pure essence of a summer day when the flowers are in bloom, a soft breeze wafts through the trees and the world is good.
As is his custom, Dempsey has included the rebus type image of a hidden hummingbird in the painting.
Dempsey Essick sees the world through the eyes of an artist. While the rest of us may see and admire a beautiful building, or a bed of flowers, or a breathtaking landscape, Dempsey will frequently focus on a small segment of the whole and he will paint a small picture of that miniature scene and the picture will glow like a jewel.
He saw such a scene as he was scouting Ruby Potts lily field for his large painting “Daylily Days.” Ruby has bird feeders in her yard that attract many small birds of all types. On an average day in the summertime one can spot everything from a nuthatch, to a downy woodpecker, a purple finch, a Carolina wren, - almost any variety of songbird that can be found on a summer day in a friendly back yard, among them, dozens of hummingbirds.
In this painting Dempsey has captured the beauty of one of Ruby's isolated daylilies. Photographed and used for reference, he decided it would make a beautiful painting on its own. Being the hummingbird fanatic he is, he added the mother hummer sipping nectar to create the perfect painting. Appropriately titled, "Ruby's Daylily", this piece is lovingly dedicated to the talented gardener Ruby Potts.
As is his custom, Dempsey has included the rebus type image of a hidden hummingbird in the painting.
When it comes to painting you could say that Dempsey Essick is a man of all seasons. His snowy winter scenes make you want to put on a sweater and turn up the thermostat. His fall foliage makes you long for a thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie. His spring scenes are reminiscent of newly planted gardens and the sound of lawn mowers. But it is the weeks of summer that he loves.
Summer is warmth. It is a time when the trees are green and all the flowers are in bloom. It is a time when migrating birds, like the ruby throated hummingbird, in one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal world, return to decorate your back yard. When the nights turn cold this tiny, and most remarkable bird, will head south by stages, eventually crossing the Gulf of Mexico, to spend the winter in warmer climes. In the summer the miniature bird will return to the exact same back yard and expect to find the same feeders and flowers in the same places.
The hollyhocks in this latest Essick painting are flawless. Each fold, petal and shadow is faithfully recorded. Dempsey’s friend and Welcome, NC botanist, Kitty Craver, was reminded of her childhood days when they would trap honeybees in hollyhock blooms by quickly folding the leaves over the bees then they could hold them up to their ear to hear them buzz.
To further emphasize the tremendous skill evidenced in "Summer Hollyhocks", there is a perfect, weathered, fencepost with an old fashioned canning jar used as a flower vase. The depiction of the canning jar almost filled with water, with all the reflections, the embossing and threaded top and with flower stems showing through the glass and water took over thirty intense hours to accomplish. If there were Olympic medals for painting, this simple Ball Mason Jar would win the Gold.
The world of great art can consist of everything from carved and molded sculptures to the impressionist’s swirl of blended and contrasting colors seemingly splashed onto the canvas at random, or it can be the realist’s depiction of segments of everyday life. Dempsey Essick is a master realist who sees the beauty in nature as well as man made objects and has the perception and great skill to bring that beauty into focus in his remarkable paintings.
Onlookers may continue their search for the hidden hummingbird that has now become a hallmark of an Essick watercolor painting.
“Summer Hollyhocks” related gifts items will be the newest addition to the ever growing hummingbird accessory line at Dempsey's Place, referred to as Hummerville, USA.
The baby hummers, who when born, are the size of plump raisins, eagerly await mother's return with their nourishment. Not only do the babies eat nectar, they also enjoy flies, ants, and tree sap.
Baby hummingbirds hatch in 15 to 22 days which is relatively long compared to other birds. At birth they have no downy feathers. Their eyes are closed and their bodies are black.
The mother feeds her young by inserting her bill into each baby's mouth and regurgitating food from her own crop.
"I could only imagine how it would look for the mother to return to the nest ready to feed one or the other starving baby," Dempsey said. "I really enjoyed doing this painting. It appeared in our wall calendar and because of the great demand we expect to reproduce this image into a small edition print in the near future."
This original painting was sold during March Mini Month.
You can’t ignore a hummingbird. Other birds, yes. You can be aware of sparrows in the trees without actually looking at them. You might notice the flash of red from a cardinal perched on the limb of an apple tree or even pause to admire a bluebird sitting on a fence post, but a hummingbird absolutely demands that you take note of its presence. They flash into view at almost supersonic speed then stop, astonishingly, in mid air. You just cannot ignore that.
The Ruby Throat in Dempsey Essick’s painting, “Hummer’s Choice”, has stopped to milk the nectar from a beautiful Rose of Sharon blossom. Dempsey has captured the moment as only he can. Each leaf, each fold, even the texture of the blooms are reproduced with such realism that one can almost hear the beat of the hummer’s wings.
“Hummer’s Choice” was first released as a collector’s plate but due to the great demand from the public, it is now offered in a limited edition giclee.
Three days before her 17th birthday, Beth Essick received a rare and unexpected gift. She found a ruby-throated hummingbird on the back patio of her family's home. She picked up the apparently uninjured miniature creature and petted it for about five minutes during which time it made no effort to escape. In fact, it seemed to nuzzle up to Beth's finger when she would stroke its neck.
When the tiny bird finally took wing, it circled Beth's head several times before it flew away. It was a magical moment, one that turned an ordinary summer day into one that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Beth's dad, Dempsey Essick, had been searching for a suitable subject for a miniature print to offer customers at his art gallery. Beth's encounter was like a heaven sent sign and he painted "Camellia and Friends" to commemorate the event.
The painting, "Camellia and Friends," has been featured as a signed featured as a signed and number thumbnail print, a checkbook cover, a mini pillow, a magnet and a mug.
Gift Boxed w/Easel: SOLD OUT
Everyone is fascinated by hummingbirds. They streak across your field of vision then they stop abruptly in mid-air to investigate a colorful flower. You can't help but watch as the tiny bird moves up and down, backward and forward, then plunges its long beak into an inviting blossom in search of nectar. When you are close enough you can hear the hum of the wings which beat so fast they are just a blur.
Hummingbirds are pugnacious little rascals. They will attack, with their long sword-like beak, birds three times their size. They are not intimated by humans. If you hold up a vial of sugar water, they can easily be enticed to perch on a finger.
Of several species of hummingbirds in the United States only one, the ruby throat, is usually seen in the eastern states. The colorful little flyer visits for thirteen to fifteen weeks between May and October. As fall approaches they move to the gulf coast, usually in Louisiana; and in what has to be one of teh most heroic migrations in the animal world, they fly across the Gulf of Mexico in one long nonstop flight landing in Yucatan and Guatemala.
In his painting of "Hummer," Dempsey Essick has created a stop-motion view of a male ruby-throat hovering at a favorite dining spot. The large red trumpet vine flowers are a sure fire attraction for the miniature bird who will dip his long beak into each blossom to extract the sweet nectar and perhaps an insect or two.
Dempsey has captured all the colorful aspects of "Hummer" from the bandana-like red throat to the iridescent greenish color of his head and back feathers. The flamboyant blossoms of the trumpet vine point in different directions like horns calling to any other Hummers in the neighborhood.
"Hummer" has not only been a signed and numbered print but also a pill box, perfume bottle, and is included in our 8 pack of hummingbird note cards.
In celebration of summertime Dempsey Essick has portrayed a cascade of petunias overflowing their container and spilling across an old porch railing. It is the time of year when days are long, nights are warm and there is an abundance of nectar for the ruby-throated hummingbird.
On a visit with Irena McCormick, in Albermarle County, Virginia, Dempsey placed one of Jerry Beaumont's hand turned pots filled with petunias on the porch railing of Irena's home.
Irena and her beautiful home with it's remarkable architecture and a gazebo built right onto the front portch was the subject for one of Dempsey's prior paintings, Springtime at Irena's.
The arrangement made a beautiful study in contrasts between the sheen of the pot, the texture and color of the flowers, and the weathered paint of Irena's banister.
The scene is so realistic some viewers have been known to reach out and try to lift a loose chip of paint with their fingernail.
Jerry (Gerard) Beaumont, of Beaumont Pottery in Seagrove, gave me the beautiful spongeware pot used in Summer Fragrance.
After trying other locations I wound up at Irena McCormick's hundred-year-old home in Albermarle County, Virginia. It's one of my favorite locations, and Miss Irena, who is now 106 years old, is one of my favorite people. The contrast between the new pot and the aged paint on the banisters was just what I was looking for.
Enjoy these wonderful videos about hummingbirds and other interesting things.