Turlington considers himself lucky to have had the experience of having lived in so many diverse cultures, but shared a grounding bond in hunting and fishing with his father.
The girls typically stayed home, but at 7 or 8-years-old Jim and his dad frequently went mucking through the river hammocks and oak swamps of the south whenever they found themselves stateside. To this day, Turlington and his papa remain close, though the elder hunts seldom in his longevity.
After tromping about, Turlington would rush home to sketch the wildlife in pencil. Soon he moved to pen and ink drawings and by the tender age of twelve, he was enamored of watercolor.
“I can work another medium, but I still work in watercolors. I really like the way watercolor comes out. I use a more controlled method than other people... I like the way I can work with it, the way I move it around,” he said.
Turlington is grateful that he did not attend art school.
“For what I do it was probably better because it allowed me to develop my own style,” he said.
Indeed, Jim does have a unique and crisp style that readily differentiates his work from that of many other watercolorists.
“My style is probably a lot more detailed, a lot of [watercolorists] use washes, but my paintings are more focused and controlled and detailed. It probably goes back to when I was out with my father and he'd shoot some ducks and I'd count the feathers so I know how many are supposed to be on a wing and sketch them before my father would clean the bird.” He recalled, “Especially in the birds-- When you're painting a bird in a tree, you can paint the tree however you want it, crooked or straight, but you've got to get the bird right...
“Let's say you're painting the wild turkey, there's 18 tail feathers on a wild turkey, 10 primary, 16 secondary. If I don't have that right, then I've cheated somebody. There's some people who might not know how many feathers that turkey's supposed to have, but I know how many feathers there are.”
An avid conservationist and researcher, Turlington regularly wakes up at 3 a.m. to head for the backcountry with camera in tow. Jim's a licensed researcher with the Saint John's River Water Management District for whom he maintains several wood duck nests.
He annually cleans and maintains the nests and counts the hatchlings and reports his findings to the district. Truly a labor of love, its no surprise that the wood duck is one of his favored subjects.
“It's neat when you're standing there one morning and you see the ducklings jumping out into the water. It makes you kind of feel good because you're giving something back,” he said.
Turlington hand paints his own duck decoys and uses duck calls to draw fowl for him to photograph. Often, though other wildlife such as bobcats answer his calls in search of their next meal. Turlington has had run-ins with rattlesnakes and countless wild hogs while pursuing his research photographs. Ever passionate about his work, Turlington is not deterred.
Though he considers himself primarily a painter, these photographs that he takes for inspiration are truly lovely in and of themselves.
“I can be out walking trough the woods and just see something and take a quick photograph. When I get back I'll tell my dad I just got a great idea for a painting,” Turlington said.
He uses elements from numerous photographs to sketch out what he thinks would make a single successful painting. Next he transfers his sketch onto watercolor paper and meticulously records the salient details to his exacting standards. He labors for days on end to achieve his vision until the painting finally looks the way he wants it to be.
This fascinating gentleman lives and works in Volusia County at the end of a private dirt road, tromping through the countryside and painting what he sees; a true gem in the central Florida community.
Jessica Pirani can be reached at JessieBerger@yahoo.com.