“I want to paint the way a bird sings.” Claude Monet
Sometimes I wish I could compose beautiful poetry. If I could, I’d write some lines about the beauty of a bird in flight, the graceful curve of the wing, the focused determination in the eye, head down, feet up. There is just something magical in the sight of a bird soaring through the air that begs for poetry.
If I could be a storyteller, I’d make up a story about the birds chattering in the trees and swooping down to the feeder to snatch a morsel or two. I wonder if they talk to each other? They make funny little noises when they congregate in the trees around the feeder. I imagine them gossiping about who’s hogging all the seed or who flew off for a few days and didn’t tell the others where they were going or whose feathers were looking a little shabby. Can cardinals understand the chatter of chickadees? Do finches converse with sparrows?
Since I am not a poet or a storyteller, I paint birds. Sometimes I paint the single bird in a stance I believe to be a pose for the camera. At other times, I paint them in groups or pairs and arrange them as though they are conversing. While I paint them, I imagine what they are thinking and what would they say if they could talk? Maybe they do talk. I just don’t understand bird language.
Since joining the American Birding Association, I am learning more about different birds and bird behavior. My camera has become a constant companion as I wander around searching for subjects to paint. Every now and then, I capture the image of one I don’t know so I go to the ABA’s bird identification Facebook page, “What’s this Bird?” I post the image. The identification returns quickly and my bird knowledge expands.
As I learn more about which bird is which and why one swoops and another soars, I’ll go on wondering if they talk amongst themselves or if they concentrate on each flight and not on what their companions are doing? Maybe a story will come to me. Or possibly some lines of poetry will pop into my head. Perhaps a painting will be a poem one day or possibly tell a story. Paraphrasing Monet, I hope to paint like birds fly. In the meantime, I’ll just keeping painting.
This beautiful article was a humbling thing to read but I was also quite proud of the things it highlights. The Art to Heart Project was a three year project from start to finish and quite involved. It took another year to see it published. Even though it was time consuming and arduous, I would do it again in a heartbeat, no pun intended. Tears still spring up when I think about what a difference art made to patients and staff. I think the effects on the staff were more meaningful to me than the results of the patient part, perhaps because I was one of them too.
Teaching is a total delight to me. I love every minute of it and I love to see the progress people make with their art. If it was up to me, I’d mandate all students be required to take art classes. Something beautiful happens when art is created. Whether or not anybody thinks they have any talent, everybody can create something when given direction and the right tools. Some will discover they had more talent than they thought and will continue on to develop that talent. Others will go on as better creative thinkers and better creative problem solvers for having the experience of art in some form. Most people don’t know that many of our greatest inventors and scientists are frequently artists too. Albert Einstein kept sketchbooks of his ideas. And he is by no means, the only one to do so.
Many artists take classes to stay fresh and to stimulate new directions. These artists are so much fun to have in classes. They stimulate me to try new things and new directions. And they keep me on my toes trying to keep up with them. Watkins College of Art has so much to offer
besides lots of fun classes. I get to meet so many artists from different walks of life and different artistic styles and mediums.
As I head into new directions in my life, I turn to new directions in my art. Birds are becoming an obsession. All summer long it was the beautiful and elegant waterbirds. With the approach of Fall, my bird obsession has turned to feeder birds, chickadees, cardinals, titmice and lately, nuthatches. Maybe a woodpecker or two, will turn into a painting. Painting is the ultimate goal but following the birds around with my camera is gaining in obsessive territory. As with all artists, I’ll see where the new direction leads.