Chilling with the Birds

TM9628 Chilling with the Birds 24×72 oil on panels diptych (click on image to enlarge)

Trees in full color, blown by the wind, hosting multitudinous birds in concert – sometimes it can be gloriously deafening. I’m always in awe of these impromptu flash mobs of sound. Chilling with the Birds is my homage to these special events. It began with the idea of showing a bird’s eye view through the boughs, but then I got caught in one of those flash mob concerts while walking to the grocery store, and I knew there had to be some way to express the excitement I felt and heard. I think it was unconscious, letting the caligraphic descriptions of leaves morph into bird shapes too. However it came into being, it is still full of surprises for me, and suggests the wall of sound and energy I felt. Details below (and you can click on the diptych above to see it enlarged). Enjoy.

TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from upper left corner
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from upper edge
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from lower right
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from center

Technical painting notes: The initial thinned oil colors rolled onto the panel were dark blackish browns, siennas, and a touch of dark green. While the paints were wet, I manipulated them with rags, scrapers, and spritzes of solvent, defining shapes and drawing in the major lines with narrow rollers or silicone scrapers. I wanted to capture the basic values and get lots of textures in this first day of work. Once the paint was dry, I brushed on glazes and began developing the shapes of the leaves. This continued for a few days, and while it was descriptive, it didn’t have enough energy, or the feel of controlled chaos, that I experienced at the actual tree. I brought out my collection of rubber rollers and started over, employing dark thinned oil paints over the existing image. Lots of spritzes of mineral spirits and rerolling produced interesting colors and textures on the underlayer, richer effects, and much more energy. When the new layer was dry, I began working on the leaves and sky spaces again, using narrow rollers and brushwork to weave leaf-like calligraphy across the panels. I also more consciously widened the palette, so that there was more red on the left moving toward coral and various yellows on the right. The introduction of stronger blue sky and white cloud shapes contributed more energy and variety to the mood. Now, everything was in motion. As the piece dried, I began to see countless “bird” shapes overlapping the leaves. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, as I had joined the birds at the tree, they had now joined me in the studio.

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