I had great plans, but then again, I always have great plans. Finish off this semester, do a quick spin around a summer class and then I was on sabbatical for the rest of 2020. Not due back at school until mid January. I was going to Iceland, Scandinavia, along with Canada and Alaska, in an attempt to get a photograph of the ever elusive aurora borealis. The Canada/Alaska portion was to be travelled via a nicely rigged out van sized RV. Then something else happened. I guess I should have known, it was inevitable. You see, my artwork is based on Free Association. So when I work, if I cross something in my path, I abandon my current path and take off on the new one, until, another one crosses my path. This way I always end up in some place new. So when the Corona Virus decided to cross my path, I should not have been surprised. All of a sudden, my sabbatical dreams of a trip imagined for several years was lying in a pile of cancelled reservations. As my ability to walk is diminishing faster than the Trump presidency, the window of opportunity for me to take these trips is getting smaller. With a disease that affects the lungs, I am a prime example of someone who needs to avoid the virus at all costs. This means I sit in a chair at home. The pandemic has given me plenty of time to sit. Sit and think and sit and stare. Being compulsive, I count things, how many window panes, how many wood strips in the ceiling. Every day, the count never changes. Mostly I stare out the window and watch the birds on our feeders. We started out in the Spring with over a dozen feeders hanging outside our windows, but a visit from a huge black bear made us rethink that idea. Now we hang just a few and bring them in every night. In the morning, the goldfinches remind us “It’s time” to put out the feeders. Thank god for the birds.
So you could say that my sabbatical has gone to the birds, but after all, that’s not such a bad place to be. Feeling confined, I was looking for a subject to draw, or paint, something that was readily available. I decided to embark on a series of paintings about the birds on my feeders. Not really wanting to create a photorealistic or James Audubon likeness, I wanted to try and come up with an abstract means that would convey the idea of a bird and everything about them into an image. I made a series of sketches of my visitors, thinking I would glean something from these images that would give me an idea. But soon my mind started to wander and I found myself surfing the interwebs, checking up on what my friends were doing and seeing if the world had crumbled yet. I came upon a post from a friend who is heavily into sailing and read of their adventures in a race on lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The post included a simple picture taken from their boat with nothing but part of the boat and endless water ahead. But the story was enough to get my mind out of my stagnate room and out onto the water. I imagined the regatta of sail boats, dancing on the wind and I was gone. I was no longer stuck In my house, I could feel the wind and the spray. Thank god I wasn’t actually in a boat, or I would have been puking my guts out as I am incredibly motion sick enabled. I spent the afternoon drawing sailboats and the result is posted above. Like paintings of the old masters, where they have x-rayed the painting to discover other previous images buried beneath, to get a glimpse of the artists process. If you would just look at the original Photoshop file I used to layout the image before taking it my paint synthesis program, you would see, the bottom couple layers are all sketches of birds on my feeders. As the layers were added, the birds disappeared and sailboats emerged. I’m still drawing birds, but I don’t know if I can share them, it’s kind of like posting pictures of your kids on social media. They are still a little to close. Throughout the pandemic, I have been sketching everyday, and everyday I start out with a perfectly good plan but Along Comes Mary, (see how I worked that reference to The Association into this, they were a singing group from the 60’s for you young punks) and I’m off on something completely different. I’ve not finished a plan yet, and plan not to.