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Roberts painting a tribute to the late island crocodile

By Staff | Feb 18, 2010

Sanibel artist Myra Roberts began a painting of the late American crocodile which lived on the island for more than a quarter century. She will complete her piece next week at BIG Arts on Periwinkle.

All islanders, it seems, have felt the sudden and unexpected loss of Sanibel’s most popular year-round resident, the nearly 12-foot American crocodile who passed away last month.

Letters and poems heralding the iconic reptile’s reign as the island’s best known inhabitant and a memorial service attended by more than 200 mourners have revealed just how revered the animal was to this place.

Myra Roberts, one of Sanibel’s top artists, was so moved by this outpouring of emotion, love and respect for the female crocodile that she decided to join in the best way that she knows how: by creating a painting.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it was to look out my back window and see the crocodile go swimming by,” said Roberts from her upstairs studio, which overlooks the Sanibel River. “I must’ve seen her 20 times over the years.”

One time, Roberts recalled, she was out walking along the river and spotted the reptile sunning herself along the bank.

Myra Roberts does some intricate detail work on her crocodile painting.

“I didn’t have any fear of her – I must’ve spent a half hour just looking at her,” she said, noting that she immediately called friend and photo enthusiast Blake Sobczak to come take some photographs of the animal. “He took a lot of photos and I just stood by, admiring her. She was an island icon and always will be. I think that she represents what Sanibel is all about.”

One of Sobczak’s images, a closeup of the crocodile with her mouth opened slightly, is the basis of her latest work. Inspired to start the painting last week, the image also features the text from a recent Anne Mitchell article reporting the death of the animal, expanding Roberts’ latest work in her ongoing “Text In Art” series.

“I decided to combine writers and artists in a single project… I’m always trying to be innovative with my work,” said Roberts, whose first piece in the series featured Anne Frank in a painting titled “Voices From The Past.”

According to the artist, she has included headlines, quotations and other text elements within her paintings, and that the new technique is “just the next step.”

However, how she plans to complete her crocodile tribute piece is yet another innovation Roberts was inspired to do. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, she and author Brian Johnson will appear signing copies of their collaborative book, “Retro Images From The Florida Coast,” at BIG Arts on Periwinkle. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., she will be putting the finishing touches on the painting.

“It’ll be a chance for the public to watch an artist at work, plus it’ll be a chance for meet to sign some books and meet folks,” she added. “My hope is that this painting not only preserves her memory but also serves to protect other creatures on the island.”

Roberts also mentioned that prints of the crocodile painting will be available sometime this spring. An 8.5″ x 11″ print will sell for $45 and an 11″ x 17″ print is priced at $65. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

For more information about Roberts’ work, visit www.myraroberts.com.