Updated: Jan 26
I was talking with a friend about the birds in our garden and how much food they consume. Sometimes we replace the bird seed feeders every day. As we talked, we discovered that her husband loves birds, particularly the red robin. My friend asked me if I would paint a robin for his birthday. I did not hesitate and thought it was a great idea. I have painted blue tits before whilst living in Northumberland, England. I used to visit a garden in one of the national trust properties and sit underneath the feeders drawing maybe 10-20 blue tits darting around at a time.
Her suggestion inspired me, and I started drawing the birds in the garden again. After a few weeks, I painted the red robin partly from memory and photographs. I wanted the painting to be the same size as the bird, so it was pretty small, allowing me to catch their spirit and fragility.
My friend was delighted with the painting as I was. I enjoyed painting the robin and had already started to paint blue tits and woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are tricky as they are so shy and elusive, except you can usually hear them first in woodlands and fields.
I had been working on a large oil painting of a weeping willow with gold leaf for some time. This painting is a series of works I call ‘dream landscapes’, often with trees, rainbow rivers and floating mountains. I was so engaged with painting the birds that I suddenly incorporated a red robin into the willow tree branches, poking its head out. Then I added a woodpecker to the bark of the tree. Within a few days, the dream landscape had various birds ranging from blue tits, sparrows and songbirds. It seemed a natural progression to add these birds. However, I am still surprised that they have found their way into the dream landscapes.
I have been interested in and concerned for the environment, particularly finding solutions to dissolve global warming. As an artist, it is difficult to articulate my feelings towards sustainability, carbon footprint and climate change. However, seeing the available positive solutions encourages me to spend more time in nature, watching birds and learning their behaviours, and respecting nature by creating habitats in the garden that can help nurture young and unborn animals. Part of our garden is left wild, and we are collecting more rainwater than ever. I am also keen to turn off lights and avoid using fossil fuels such as log fires at night. This unnecessary luxury pollutes cities and towns and harms the lungs—one of the many reasons log fires are banned in cities.
I believe there are enough solutions for the next generation to tackle climate change, and the best way for me as an artist to make a difference is to inspire and entwine nature and animals into my paintings. The birds in my pictures are common everyday garden birds. I avoid travelling abroad to save my carbon footprint, and I don't feel I have to travel. There are beautiful parks and gardens where I live. We have magnificent local beaches that don't take long to get to and technology that can show us all the local walks through quiet woods and countryside where I often spot these birds and deer, badgers and foxes.
If I can avoid driving in a car, I will always walk. This summer was hot, so I took my bicycle instead. I found new bicycle routes quicker than the car leading me along streams and parks I never knew existed. I also got fitter and enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air. Again I would spot herons on lakes, foxes and spots of wild hedges where blackberries could be picked.
The new 'Birds of feather paintings' are the start of an adventure and a positive outlook for our children’s future. I want the paintings to expand and grow in an abundance of ideas that inspire people to hold themselves responsible for making a difference. A world where people will be conscious of their surroundings and individually do their bit to be a part of this world that embraces all animals and constantly seeks to build better relationships to conserve nature.