As ever, I’m not sure how a simple prompt of “trees” led me here today, but it did. So we have a little tableau of a bird, and a bee, in a tree. Which sounds like some sort of nursery rhyme, or that Jewel Akins song from the 60’s. I’ve no idea what style I’ve attempted here as I just sort of splashed paint around and played until this came out. As kids, many of us heard the phrase “birds and the bees” uttered by parents who didn’t want to use the word or indeed actually come close to explaining sex. It was often used to answer the terrifying question from curious youngsters of “where do babies come from?” The story, if parents dared to even tell it, explained nothing and raised more questions than it answered. Bees pollinating flowers apparently refers to men and birds laying eggs to women, but how the bee got the bird pregnant in the first place remains a complete mystery. I was intrigued as a young child to think I might have hatched out of an egg, but more than a little mortified to think about my mother actually laying them.

The real popularity of the phrase came in 1928 when Cole Porter wrote the song “Let’s Do It” which is just as suggestive as it sounds. The opening lyrics soften the edge a bit as it’s revealed that it’s actually masquerading as a love song:

Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The words are ridiculous and strange, and one has to pity the poor fleas who couldn’t afford a proper education and therefore forced to live a life of loneliness. If the idea of birds and bees was still too close to actual description, another option was to ditch the bee entirely and just talk about birds. I was first told that storks delivered babies, which if you think about it, is slightly more ludicrous than a bird and a bee making a baby. The original German tale said that the storks got the babies from caves and marshes, but how they got there in the first place is anyone’s guess.

Eventually, we all learned the secret and today, it’s advised to skip the storytelling and be more direct and honest with kids. Imagining my parents being direct when it comes to sex talk is absolutely terrifying so, I’m happy to have had these stories instead. Seriously, I feel like I really dodged a bullet there. But these stories that become part of our culture are a wonderful thing. I would hate to live in a world of simply facts as it sounds incredibly dull. I’ve never wanted everything to be black and white, but rich with glorious color. So, I’m happy that the facts of life involved so much fiction. The secret that parents never knew, was that kids didn’t care what the answer was, we just wanted a story. There was plenty of time left to learn about what really happens. But just that one special little time when the gift of life was just a simple case of the birds and the bees.

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About the Doodlewash

Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Quinacridone Gold, Dioxazine Purple, Phthalocyanine Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Phthalo. Green Light, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Deep. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon with black ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.
 Day 11 - #WorldWatercolorGroup The Birds And The Bees Watercolor - #doodlewash
Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

24 replies on “The Birds & The Bees

  1. When I was four and my mom hugely pregnant with my brother, she told me a little door would open in her belly so the baby could come out. Of course I wanted to see the door, and that caused endless grievance between us. I found out eventually but I think you got the better story.

    This painting is really beautiful – enchanting for all the detail and color and the composition with the flowers and the bird looking at the bee – I think we can tell who’s got things figured out about what goes on. I’m simply enchanted by your artwork. No science need interfere.

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  2. First, I love the full scenes you’re painting – stories unto themselves! And I never thought about the uneducated fleas in Cole Porters song. Now I feel a bit sad for them, too. Nonetheless, I think you are right that everyone really just wants a good story.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ellie! 😃💕 So happy you’re enjoying the scenes… they’re really a test and practice for me as I realized I’m not that practiced in them. 😊 Yeah… I was always sad for the unschooled fleas, but only in theory of course. Fleas aren’t something you want multiplying anyway. hehe

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  3. “Even educated fleas do it” – I did titter rather a lot at this, even before coming to the education bit. I mean, fleas, of course! That old trope of the love song.

    A seriously beautiful doodlewash! So vivid and bringing a springlike, comfortable warmth that’s much appreciated. Good job keeping the bird standing out from the sky too; with the soft focus vegetation behind, the chaps up front really spring forward!

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  4. Great painting and story! Plus I love Cole Porter.

    LOL – I was told that babies came from mothers’ bodies, but not how. I imagined it had something to do with the bellybutton, which must open during birth. Later I learned that babies were only given by God to married women. Eventually I asked how God knew that a woman was married – I was told that God knew about marriages because they happened in his (Catholic) churches. These beliefs were rudely challenged when a classmate laughed at me and told me the truth! All this in the 1950s.

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  5. All these stories are so hilarious! And now kids see all sorts of sex on tv and online from the age of about six… it’s a strange world . Love the painting, which, for some strange reason, made me think of Japan! (The blossom on the tree? Who knows…)🌺

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  6. Reminds me of the hobo folk song “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, which featured birds, bees, cigarette trees, lemonade springs, and such.

    When I asked “The question”, at the super table, of course, Mom abdicated, and Dad said “later” . After supper, away from my little sisters, he gave me a rather detailed explanation of male and female body parts. I still couldn’t figure out how the sperm got to the egg. Nor why it all was such a secret. Probably just as well, a 5 or 6 year old me would have thought the sex act sounded icky.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehe… yeah… at that age even a kiss could seem a bit icky. I’m sure a full on description of a sex act would have sent us over the edge. But it was funny how the omitted parts in the stories just raised more questions and did nothing to satisfy our curiosity. hehe 😃💕

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