After Hurricane Irma destroyed the territory, artist Jill Tattersall found inspiration in the birds she saw while sitting on her back porch. The paintings that followed now comprise an art show at Nutmeg and Co. themed “Beaches and Birds of the BVI.” (Photo: JOEY WALDINGER)

The nights following Hurricane Irma were some of the darkest Jill Tattersall could remember. The days were eerily quiet, she said. 

Living by herself in a ruined condo in Nanny Cay, Ms. Tattersall, a writer and artist who has exhibited her work for years in galleries across the territory, lost all motivation to paint, she said. Then one day, while sitting on her small porch, she saw a bird. 

“I was so heartened to see a living thing that I thought I would start to paint birds,” Ms.Tattersall said, adding, “They saved me really from going completely nuts.” 

The paintings that followed are now hanging in a show at Nutmeg and Co. themed “Beaches and Birds of the BVI,” which opened with a small party at the Road Town store last Thursday and runs until Saturday. 

Lightly coloured, filled with puffy clouds and soft shades of blue and green, the collection of paintings couldn’t be more different from the darkness with which Ms. Tattersall describes the storm and its aftermath. 

One painting, “Happy Pelican Couple,” depicts the two birds standing beneath the curved branch of a slender tree. 

As with all of her new work, it is accompanied by a description that gives a peek into the artist’s creative mindset.

“The male in the painting is stealing a glance at his mate’s flat skin-covered feet, while he considers whether they would be large enough to keep their eggs warm until they hatched,” the description speculates. 

The show 

Before the show last Thursday, Ms. Tattersall thought that at most six people would show up.

But when she arrived at the small Main Street gift shop, where people were lined up around the centerpiece displaying her most recent works, she was delighted to see several unexpected faces, she said. 

Christine Taylor, a VI artist who has been friends with Ms.Tattersall for about 30 years, stopped by the gallery before the party began. 

Ms. Taylor had seen Ms. Tattersall at work on most of the pieces in the exhibit, and seeing them on display brought back memories of her friend at work, she said.  

At the opening of Jill Tattersall’s art show last Thursday, she was happy to see some unexpected faces. (Photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

Ms. Tattersall found solace in birds starting shortly after the storm, but it was months before she found the inspiration to paint them, she said.

The first time she and a group of artist friends met after Irma, they realised that any art supplies they still owned were trashed from the hurricane, and they ended up spending their time discussing what they had been through. 

“A lot of us found it hard to paint,” Ms. Taylor said. “Everyone was really traumatised. … We were living in a broken world,” she added.  

‘Life goes on’ 

As the months passed, the artists decided that they had to start creating again, Ms. Taylor said. Ms. Tattersall said her first piece of art after the hurricane was a painting of a wrecked boat, bobbing offshore in Nanny Cay. 

But Ms. Taylor remembers this slightly differently: She said that the first post-Irma painting she can remember Ms. Tattersall making depicted a bar a man had built beneath an overturned boat, which served as a reminder that “life goes on.”