In my adventures in the last post, I became a “birder” chasing birds around the back yard here in Harker Heights, Weimar and Muldoon, TX, sometimes on rooftops. So, I set to weeding out the pics with half a wing, my foot in a blur or branches where the bird left the instant I pushed the shoot button from those that actually had a bird and a decent possibility for a composition. Below was a shot of a Blue Jay here in Harker Heights that got tired of my stalking it and sat down in a tree in a “moment of repose” while I took a pic. It could just have easily been called “please stop following me”, which describes the look in the picture perfectly.
I learned a LOT from the last painting in having to discover and invent a background. So, my goal for this painting to not the technicalities of bird so much as setting a mood with the background. When I take a photo or paint an outdoors color sketch, I look for accuracy, not emotion. However, a real part of connecting to a painting IS the emotion and emotion is very abstract. The background colors are essential for this. For example, a powerful sunset is vibrant and dynamic, whereas a foggy grey morning is quite different. If you tried to describe why the clouds or grey fog made you feel differently, you’d quickly dive into abstract words and to describe specifically why, it’s abstract colors. Next time you see a sunset, try it. You might just connect with a part of yourself you haven’t felt in a while.
With this goal in mind, I had a warm feeling in the scene, but I wasn’t sure why. I wanted to connect with that in a real sense and feel that uncomfortable edge when you’re about to speak and don’t know quite how the words will come out. I found my fingers mixing the paints and dragging streaks of color down the painting, concentrating only on the mood I felt from that scene. It was the opposite of being technical, exact, realistic or … “me”. It was frustrating, freeing, exhausting and refreshing all at once. What came of it was a balance between a technically detailed bird with all the notes of the feathers, and the abstraction behind it, and felt closer to what I intended. When I look at it now, I don’t have the words to describe what I felt, but it’s there in a visual language.
I can see the more I do this, looking inwards and trying to put that abstract emotion on canvas, the closer I’ll come to clarifying and connecting to those that view it. The journey continues!
I used yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, cad yellow, cobalt blue, pains gray and titanium white. To add texture to the branches, I used heavy modeling paste, mixed with the colors and applied it with a knife. To add “glow” to the background, I watered down yellow over the areas to highlight.
Also, I made the colors more vibrant than the photo, so if you’re walking into a room, even dimly lit, you’ll see the bird and not a blue-grey mass and some twigs. If I’d thought it was going to hang in a brightly lit room, like in a sunlit spot on a wall, I might have opted to tone in down a bit to keep the similar grays as the photo.