Reimagining the Roseate Spoonbill

Hanoch Piven relies on serendipity to piece together his interpretation of this vibrant wader.

It was the spoonbill that got him. When Hanoch Piven—widely known for his witty and colorful illustrations—contemplated which John James Audubon print to remake, he immediately felt the magnetic pull of the Roseate Spoonbill, one of the most vibrant and unusual birds on earth. "The more I looked at it, the more I fell in love with it," he says. "It is so majestic and languid."

Serendipity plays a big part in Piven's artistic process—that and 99-cent stores. "I went into one of these stores saying to myself in my head: 'Green ball—find green ball.' And when I saw this green-and-pink ball, I knew I had the spoonbill's head."

Coming up with the torso wasn't as easy. He was stuck until one day, when working in his home studio, he went into the bathroom to clean some brushes. "I saw my wife's pink hot water bottle and immediately snatched it to try as a body."

The wings made of pink fans like those used by flamenco dancers are an homage to Spain, where he lives. In creating this illustration, Piven has become completely smitten with his muse. "Their flight is just so elegant that it is more beautiful than any piece of art."

This story originally ran as "The Illustrated Aviary" in the July-August 2014 issue.