Monday, May 25, 2009

Study of a Dead Baby Bird

Note, these drawings are referred to in order, but the text about each one doesn't fit next to the image, so I have put a number next to the drawing I am referring to. Although the drawings aren't numbered, I trust my readers to understand that the first drawing on the page is 1, the second 2, and so forth.

Growing up, we had a charcoal drawing of a dead baby bird in our house. (The image to the left is not it. That's mine!) It was truly beautiful, once I learned to appreciate it for the art that it was and not for the rotting corpse. My father loved to quote the artist, his friend Steve Halford, and I in turn liked to quote my dad. When asked why he drew a dead baby bird, Steve answered, "Because a dead baby bird is a lot easier to draw than a live baby bird." True. But a dead baby bird isn't that easy, Steve, so I am quite impressed with the drawing.

Yesterday, Kevin called me outside to see a dead baby bird in the front lawn. I scooped the bird up onto a disposable plastic plate and I promise I too would try my hand at my own drawings.

I did one yesterday and three today. I don't love the drawings, but I loved the exercise, and I never before got to appreciate the beauty and the delicacy of our feathered friends in such intimacy before.

Additionally, I loved the excuse to spend the day in the warm sunshine -- what a perfect day! (Drawing a dead animal certainly is an outside activity.)

Yesterday's drawing was simply pencil (1). After giving it some breathing room, I like it better than I remembered.

Today I stared off with a watercolor sketch (2) which frustrated me so I stopped. Looking back, I like the simplicity, lightness and unfinished nature of it.

Then I went to focus on a gouache drawing on a collage page (3) -- I started this piece when grandpa passed away in March. I collaged some pages from an old book full of synonyms. I found a bunch that described grandpa: merchant, soldier, and man. I found it to be the perfect base for the drawing, because in the last months of his life, I saw him as delicate as a baby bird. I am frustrated though because I don't like the drawing at all. The image became too colorful and too muddled. The gouache wasn't even adhering to the area where the head was. You can't see it because I scribbled over it in graphite -- while covering up my frustration, I think I was also trying to demonstrate the dark empty space grandpa left in all of us.

Finally, I did a simple pen and ink and then filled the background in deep red gouache (4) which I am not loving, but I don't hate it either. I love how the red really makes the little bird pop off the page.

I am wondering how I can take this gorgeous creature and maybe turn it into a silk screen. Or is it too delicate for such a bold medium. Maybe it would work for just that reason.

This little bird had a short life, but I like to think that I immortalized it in some way.

My little friend is starting to smell and attract flies (but a citronella candle works wonders for the later) so I think tomorrow will be our last day together. I don't know though. If the smell gets much worse, these might be the final drawings.

1 comment:

Linda Branch Dunn said...

I bring home dead birds, too. It is an exquisite feeling to be so close - so sad and so amazing at the same time.

I heard one illustrator say she kept the small creatures her cat brought home in the freezer. When she wanted to draw, she'd thaw them out a bit and pose them in her kid's doll furniture, then pop them back in the freezer til next time!