Flamingo Chasing

Artist Jeremy Houghton charts a career painting these endangered species.

“Flamingos give you infinite possibilities for composition. With flamingos, when I start painting, I don’t know what I’m going to achieve: I just go for it. And I always find something fun, colourful and uplifting. It’s a totally different way from how I usually work, which is great because it stops me getting stagnant.”

Flamingos have become a visual signature for artist Jeremy Houghton – bright and uplifting, the paintings are intentionally joyful.

50 Shades of Pink by Jeremy Houghton
50 Shades of Pink by Jeremy Houghton available as a print 25cm x 37cm £395 or 40cm x 61cm £650

One of his first jobs as a professional artist presented itself in South Africa after 5 years teaching art at the International School of Cape Town. He was asked by the Oppenheimer family to document the spectacular scenes at Kamfers Dam, a breeding ground for tens of thousands of flamingos. He has painted them ever since and joined in their advocacy for South Africa’s threatened birdlife. The birds allow the artist to play with vivid colour palettes in contrast to his monicker French ultramarine blue.

The Oppenheimer family, in their fight to protect this endangered species, helped to build an artificial island on the Kamfers Dam wetland to provide safe breeding grounds. As part of Jeremy’s residency and study of the birds, his patrons allowed the artist to fly across the estate and alongside flamingos in flight, giving him further insight into this rare bird.

Kalahari Desert South Africa
Kalahari Desert South Africa

“I’ve had a lot of fun giving titles to my flamingo paintings! I wanted to put the birds into urban scenarios – like Girls Get in for Free, was an idea of a gaggle of girls on a hen night, dancing and having a great time! Groups of birds become abstracted from a distance, so I can concentrate on colour and shape rather than detail.

There’s also a rhythmical quality to them – the beating of their wings in flight, the way they stand. One client likened them to musical notes. It’s true that there is a musical quality and that’s why recently I’ve been giving the paintings musically related titles like ‘Sweet Dreams are made of These,’ to conjure up feelings of happiness.”

Standing Room Only by Jeremy Houghton
Kalahari Desert South Africa
View from the helicopter!
View from the helicopter!

Jeremy returned to the Kalahari Desert earlier this year to check up on the lesser flamingo, in one of the only four breeding sites in Africa. With thousand upon thousand pink birds, as far as the eye can see, it’s a truly spectacular sight. With numbers ranging from 20,000 up to 50,000, Kamfers Dam has become an incredibly successful breeding ground for these fussy birds, travelling here for the algae. There are threats, however, particularly from sewage, so the fight to preserve them persists.

Jeremy will continue to paint them with recent work elevated by gold leaf in a comment on their rarity and beauty. Work can be seen at his gallery in the Cotswolds and also through his global gallery representation.

You are Gold Baby, Solid Gold by Jeremy Houghton
You are Gold Baby, Solid Gold by Jeremy Houghton as seen at Houghton Art Gallery

Houghton Art, 6 High Street, Chipping Campden, Glos UK GL55 6AT

[email protected]   +44 (0) 7759 364 461

Representation – Jeremy Houghton

For images please contact [email protected]