Friday, September 8, 2017

Things with feathers

I’ve been painting birds off and on for many years. It’s an intermittent pursuit, and I’ve been met with resistance from galleries at times. “But,” they have said, “you are not ‘known’ for bird paintings.” Interesting how easily one can become a product instead of a painter. I would like to think I am just a painter, not a painter of ______. I choose subject matter because it is available, interesting, inspiring, and challenging.

With any subject, I initially try and decide what it is I don’t want my painting to look like. This makes the most sense to me. A painting is a possibility, good, bad, or mediocre. It is similar to a new day, somewhat constrained by routine and necessity, but open to whatever may transpire. So, from past experience and personal preference, I decide what to try and avoid.

Things to avoid in my paintings of birds:

1. The dead bird look (unless, of course, a dead bird is the subject).
2. The taxidermy bird look (similar to dead birds, frozen in time and lacking any sense of movement).
3. Painting an illustration for a bird identification book.
I am not an ornithologist. I do not need exact measurements and exquisitely detailed plumage. My painting should not be an Audubon print or a duck stamp. I am not Roger Tory Peterson, whom I hold in high regard for his exquisite drawings in the Peterson Field Guides.

What I would like in my painting:

I want complexity and simplicity. I would like to find the rhythm and pattern that is universal, but is also as individual as a single bird. I want the snowstorm and the snowflake.

Interesting and enlightening book:
"The Thing With Feathers" by Noah Strycker
The surprising lives of birds and what they reveal about being human.