As I grew up in suburban London as a young girl, I developed an interest for the wildlife around me. I became fascinated that in this urban landscape of tarmac and brick, birds and animals lived happily alongside. We had a small garden and my mother would throw left-over scraps of bread out for the ubiquitous sparrow and on Sundays she'd leave out on the lawn our discarded chicken carcass until all the garrulous neighbourhood starlings had picked it bare. Birds for me in my urban landscape for the most part were made up of these commonplace, noisy squarking avians, and of course pigeons.
|© 2014 Angela Cutler. Sing for the Sun. Pencil, acrylic and oil pastel on paper.|
Being the yougest of three children and a girl, I wasn't allowed out as much as my older brothers, I seem to remember that a lot of my time was spent gazing out of the windows at the world outside that was denied me. One of my brother's had an ever-changing hobby interest and for a short while he joined a respected UK birding organisation and became a 'RSPB Young Ornathologist', and it was quite a responsibility to have a hobby that consisted of five syllables at the age of ten! So rather than lobbing scraps on to the lawn, he made a bird table and made very serious notes of all the different varieties of birds that visited our garden...which as noted above was quite a small repertoire.
Luckily, my mother is blessed with green fingers and she would plant a variety of roses, climbing plants, perennials, annuals and vegetables all around the borders of our tiny lawn. I remember one year as perhaps was the fashion in the 1970s visions of Sweet Honesty, colourful Strawflowers and large spikey Teasels. Our garden was always a riot of scent and colour, hers still is and I try with mine. Imagine my wonder when a small flock of sweetly twittering, beautifully feathered finches descended in our garden attracted by the teasel seed heads in our flower borders. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. They looked like sparrows that had been blessed by good fortune. They sang beautifully to each other rather than chirped noisily, rather than a drab brown and grey they were dressed in bright colours of scarlet, gold and black. They flittered, sang and caught the sunlight on their feathers, ate their fill of teasel seeds and flittered off. I don't think I'd seen anything so fascinating, exotic and beautiful. From my brother's ornathological bird guides I discovered that they were goldfinches. And I found them to be very special to me ever since. If I think of beauty and lyrical songbirds, then it's always is a goldfinch.
|My goldfinches taking on new life!|
I'm not the only one who is mesmerised by these little birds, as John Keats wrote:
“Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop
From low hung branches; little space they stop;
But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek;
Then off at once, as in a wanton freak:
Or perhaps, to show their black, and golden wings,
Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.
Were I in such a place, I sure should pray
That nought less sweet, might call my thoughts away.”
I really enjoyed drawing these goldfinches and bringing their beauty to life - I used a lot of gold paint which I'm not sure the shimmer of the irridescence comes across in the picture scan. I wanted to capture a feeling of movement - they're quite tiny birds and they don't stay still for very long. They'll settle and then in a blur of colour they'll take to the wing and fly off again. And they undulate as they fly, chittering and singing merrily. I hope I've captured a little of this!
UPDATE November 2014: I am so pleased to announce that I have been given a 'Nature 2014 Art Exhibition Special Recognition Award' from 'Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery' in the 'Painting and Other Media' category for this piece. I am thrilled to be placed from amongst 627 entries from 16 different countries. I have more information in a blog entry which includes the exhibition catalogue with all the winning entries/art works - http://souls-heart.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/light-space-time.html