From an early age, 14-year-old Tova Beck has loved to paint avifauna. Now the teen has channeled her passion into an enterprise: She’s co-authored a book about birds with her mom using CreateSpace.com, an offshoot of Amazon. The Girl Who Loved to Draw Birds is both biographical—it’s based on Tova’s fondness for winged creatures—and instructional, describing various common species kids might see across the U.S., such as northern cardinals, bluejays, and even rock pigeons. “We wanted it to be something that would actually encourage young people to be successful as birders,” says Beck’s mother, Mimmi. It’s also a call for conservation. "The more people know about birds,” says Beck, “the more they'll care."
Beck’s watercolor paintings sing in vibrant colors—one image in the book, for instance, features three Canada geese flocking across a sky streaked in sorbet colors, reflected in a watery cove fringed by dark foliage. Mimmi's companion text, as well as her own illustrations, capture defining moments in her daughter's close relationship with the natural world.
The eighth grader has been drawing birds since she was about five, after an encounter with a chickadee awakened her passion. While visiting a nature center, young Beck opened her palm to reveal a peanut. “A chickadee came and landed on my hand,” she says, “it seemed so magical.” After that, she began to draw, starting with markers. By second grade, she had filled a book with her artwork, after which she graduated to larger watercolor pieces. Though she’s never taken a painting class, Beck has taught her classmates how to draw birds.
Her family’s yard inspires Beck. Along with her parents and three siblings (plus four chickens and other pets), she lives on the edge of Puget Sound, a stopover for migrating waterfowl. A birdfeeder, where hummingbirds spar, also provides entertainment. Though she says it's hard to choose, hummers are probably Beck’s favorite birds. “They seem like they have so much personality," she says.
As for what lies ahead—Beck has already enrolled in an advanced art class for the fall, when she starts high school. Is she planning a life-long career in the arts? "I think I'm probably going to be a teacher,” says Beck, “but I’ll paint on the side because I love it so much.”
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