Batty About Art (or, artists draw a crowd)

Bat photo, artI spent most of the summer busy with a couple of large art projects that forced me to move my studio out to the barn.  Having the extra room to paint was wonderful, and being a barn I didn’t have to be quite as neat as in the house.  I spent numerous hours each day painting, in the company of our horse and cat, or so I thought.

After a few days it was evident we were being visited by raccoons at night via the cat door.  Fortunately, my supplies and pieces were elevated so the raccoons didn’t make a mess other than around the cat’s food dish.  We closed off the cat door which put a stop to their nightly rendezvous.  But the calm didn’t last long.  One morning I was greeted by a skunk that had dug it’s way into the barn under an exterior wall.  Luckily he ran back under the wall without spraying.  But it didn’t appear that he came out the other side either.  I placed a rag soaked in ammonia near the hole on the inside.  Within seconds he scampered out into the woods.  Now, to begin painting again!
One morning as dawn broke I entered the barn. Immediately after turning on the lights I noticed a pair of bats flitting about.  I knew we had one that returned every summer to roost by day on the floor joists of the underside of the loft floor which runs the length of the aisle of the barn where I had set up shop.  There are plenty of places to ‘hang out’ but I had only seen the one for a number of years.  I switched the lights off quickly and waited for them to light someplace.  As the sun rose high into the sky, the barn illuminated with wonderful light.  Perfect for painting the horse troughs and cutouts.  By late morning I was painting an upper portion of the Master of the Hounds which are 6′ tall.  As I looked upward, I noticed a bat flying wildly in the air in front of me.  I paused, and he landed on the side of a crossbeam above me.  He stretched out his wings and tilted his head repeatedly.  Okay, I’ve watched too many horror flicks to know this is probably not good, right?  The paint brush went one way as I went the other out the door.  I know artists like to draw a crowd, but this is not what I had in mind.  After a few deep breaths I made a couple of phone calls.  I finally spoke with the bat expert at the US Fish and Wildlife office.  He agreed I had seen too many movies and said bats move around more in the daytime than we realize.  He said he was probably looking for a cooler spot when he came upon me and was trying to figure out if I was a threat.  He felt sure the bat had already roosted again and it shouldn’t be a problem unless I find him on the floor flopping around or dead.


Taking his advice on faith I ventured back to the barn for my afternoon session.  Sure enough he had re-roosted:  directly above my paints so he could keep a close eye on me.  I studied him for quite a while, snapping a few photos also.  Occasionally he would clean a wing and look at me, then rest again.  I started doing a head count every morning and discovered there were 6 bats that I could see in the floor joists.  There was always one over the painting area, but everyone behaved.  Since fall has arrived they have left to hibernate for the winter, as I have also moved my studio back in the house.  I actually miss seeing them when I go feed the animals.  Bats do get a bad wrap, but I believe with proper awareness we can live with them instead of against them.  At least my art is drawing a crowd, sort of…and they noticeably lowered the insect population in the barn!



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