I like going to concerts for so many reasons. One of them is that I find ideas for art projects between the notes. At a concert in SF last week I got the idea of 10, 8×10 pieces of wood with two warblers on each. In acrylic this time versus my watercolors before. The watercolor warblers taught me so much about the medium, It is my hope this project will yield the same with my work in acrylic. I chose 20 of my favorites to paint and paired them up by color contrast and in the case of one (I’m sure you can guess which) by name. This project is dedicated to my little nephew Walt.
She and I were counting rings on an old Oak stump on a prairie plot in Northern Illinois. As the sunset below the Compass plant, we lost count at 200 and something.
When I woke up I wrote myself a note on this piece of plywood to help me remember.
My father and I share bird reports regularly, he’s been sharing sightings of sharp-shinned hawks diving for birds at his feeders and in the field next door in Illinois. That’s had me wanting to work one into a pen drawing for a while. The prairie piece was the perfect fit.
The compass Plant is finished too, I ran some numbers and there are roughly 10,000 lines in the large bloom alone. Drawing Illinois plants in a room 2,300 miles west.
He not busy being born is busy dying….
The pen brings clarity to the flower and I. My Compass Plant flower that grew under light of the drawing lamps. Across from it on a branch sits an American Kestrel. A small and swift raptor of the prairie and open woodlands.
There is a Kestrel that hangs out by where I like to ride my mountain bike. Last week one hovered just 20 feet from where I sat. It has helped me a lot with illustrating to be able to watch them in the wild. Raptors aren’t easy to observe in detail. This local Kestrel did me a service in getting close for me to notice its face markings. A blessed encounter.
I put in two hours tonight, I’m sure there’s another half dozen to go. My sister tells me that the prairie plants back in Illinois have begun to push through the soil and make their way towards the sun to later make flower. At that rate, I’m ahead of schedule.
I remember well when I met my first mocking bird. A sunny California morning some five years ago. It was 7am and I was sleeping on a broken cot inside a closet of an office I rented in a house in this central coast town. The bird landed on a branch that scrapped against my window whenever the wind blew. it sat there for 40 minutes and sang, not repeating himself once. I awoke in amazement. Who is that bird and how do I become friends with it?! my first thought that day, and every encounter since.
I first became aware of the mockingbird from reading Harper Lee’s “To kill a mockingbird”. It was during my freshmen year in high school back in Illinois, English class.
While the bird itself is of smaller significance in the plot of the book. No book I’d read at that age before had woke me to the country I lived in. And the following year I read “Of Mice and Men”.
The two stories melded together in my mind to form a drive to travel around this American land. Mockingbird wrote me out a moral code, and Of Mice and Men put the wheels on my wagon and got me headed west.
There are a lot of fence posts and telephone wires down all the roads I’ve been down to get to this part of the coast. On those many posts and wires were plenty of different birds. Here and in my books you’ll find them on a page. And come to find out recently my favorite Grateful Dead song, “Jack Straw” was inspired by “Of Mice and Men” as well.
“We used to play for silver, now we play for life”.
Atticus has a bird in his name too.
I used to pretend I could find my way home by the moss on the trees, or the leaves of the compass plant in the prairie. That was my Illinois. A grassland spotted with rivers and forests. An existence on the verge of a great adventure.
But that was Illinois and this is California.
I don’t recognize many of the plants here, and I don’t know any wives tales about them. I can’t find any discernable moss on any part of a tree around here.
There are a lot of long nights of highway driving between where I write these words, and where I was born to do so. highway homesick blues.
Hearts and ideas going by like the tops of the telephone poles through the window while you lay on your back across the whole backseat while your friend drives.
Driving across the country I grew up in helped me fall in love with a whole planet.
To be embraced and cared for. Fragile like eggs in a backpack full of hatchets.
I’d heard it sung:
“Picture a bright blue ball,
Just spinnin’, spinnin, free.
Dizzy with the possibilities.”
Too look over my shoulder tonight at Illinois and all it taught me, It leaves me feeling blessed for this opportunity to try my hand at an age old craft, and with my time, give something to the world to help it see it’s own beauty tied into the thread of our life in Earth’s natural kingdom. And California seems a fine place, with great biodiversity…..and The Grateful Dead are from here so yeah.