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.
Vineyards are cropping up in the Yadkin River valley of North Carolina where tobacco used to grow. Old tobacco curing sheds are giving way to wineries and, in places, the landscape reminds one of scenes along the Rhine or the Moselle River Valleys in Europe. Farmers hanging around the feed store nowadays are as apt to be discussing the current vintage as they are blue mold on tobacco.
In his painting, "Vineyard Rendezvous," Dempsey Essick has filled the frame with ripening muscadine grapes hanging from the parent branch. Contrasted against the distinctive muscadine leaves, a pair of goldfinches sporting their new summer plumage of bright yellow and black seem to be scouting for a nice location to build a nest. The male goldfinch, typically, sports the brighter colors so that he may fulfill his function of guardian. Being more visible, the male can cry and fly across the path of intruders and distract them from the nesting female who has retained much of her duller olive coloration so that she is harder to see when she is sitting on the nest.
They couldn't have found a friendlier neighborhood than the Essick backyard. Dempsey, the bird lover and past President of the NC Bluebird Society, loves not only bluebirds, he loves all birds. His back yard is an avian oasis where he feeds mealworms to the bluebirds, sunflower seed to the cardinals and wrens, Algerian thistle seed to the goldfinches, peanuts to the woodpeckers, and bread crumbs and crackers to the ground feeders.
"Vineyard Rendezvous" reflects the skill and devotion to his craft that we have come to expect of Dempsey Essick. In this painting each small bunch of grapes is perfect. Each leaf is painstakingly depicted. Each shadow and spot of light are exact. The painting could be cut in half, and each half could stand alone as a creditable painting.
Yellow is the color of springtime. After the snow and ice and the drab leafless trees of winter the first yellow blooms of the forsythia give us the promise of springtime. Daffodils pop out of the ground and there are yellow flowers in almost every yard. But it is when we notice that the goldfinches have changed from winter drab to bright yellow and black that we know it is time to get out the short sleeves and sharpen the blades on the lawn mower. And if you don't happen to have one of the tube thistle seed feeders that draw goldfinches like a magnet you can still enjoy Dempsey's painting which is like having a bit of springtime right in your room all year round.
Those who admire Essick's work will not be disappointed with "Vineyard Rendezvous." On close inspection the viewer will see that his powers of observation and natural sense of proportion seem to improve with time. Indeed, while his work ethic drives him to work long hours on each painting, it is his eye for beauty and composition and his love for his subjects that come through in each of his pictures.
As is the artist's custom, he has included a hidden hummingbird image in the painting.