On a chance visit to the Raystede animal sanctuary in Ringmer two years ago, Eastbourne painter Ann Johnson met a beguiling cockatoo called Ice Cream.
“I paused by his aviary and he hurried down his walkways towards me, clearly wanting to communicate,” Ann recalls. “I was so enchanted by this little bird I knew I wanted to work creatively with him and his companions.”
Ann immediately began drawing, photographing and painting the parrots, parakeets, cockatoos and cockatiels but it wasn’t easy.
“They are active, acrobatic birds, constantly bobbing and twirling, full of curiosity, so I had to work quickly. And they can be quite destructive,” Ann added.
“I always worked outside the aviaries as I stood to lose my watch, earrings and iPad if I entered their space!”
An exhibition of Ann’s paintings entitled Wings of Enchantment is now on display at Raystede with 20% of sales of her work and gift cards going to the sanctuary.
It’s also an opportunity for children to get creative, too. Art materials are provided free and all work is hung up on the walls of the gallery next to Ann’s.
But as well as raising much-needed funds, Ann is hoping to increase awareness of the trade in exotic animals and to encourage the public to think twice before buying them as pets.
At Raystede there are many more suitable animals looking for loving homes and set in 45 acres of the Sussex countryside, it is a splendid place to visit. Dogs are welcome, too.
Wings of Enchantment is at Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, The Broyle, Ringmer, East Sussex BN8 5AJ (www.raystede.org) - 10am-4pm until Sunday, August 17. Free but donations welcome