I braved the un-plowed roads and parking lots on campus today in order to obtain some new birds from the ornithology department. Despite my best intentions I’ve been lax on releasing the previous group of birds but sadly, it was time I returned them to the heavy gray metal drawers that serve as their final resting place.
I form attachments to inanimate objects so it’s no surprise that I have established some sort of bond with the birds I use in the studio. They become alive again the more I work with them and I no longer hesitate to touch them or interact with them – it’s hard to give them back. I gave them back.
It took me almost two hours to patrol the drawers and choose which specimens I wanted this time. I couldn’t decide. I picked out a new group to work with: a blue-jay, dark-eyed junco, indigo bunting, house sparrow, another wren that I’d missed before, a gold finch, and a parakeet.
I’m excited by the new birds but I haven’t started photographing them yet. Photography is always the first stage of acclimation, followed by sketching, and then painting. I was in the department for too long and started getting a headache and general wooziness.
I retired to my studio with my loot and popped open a ginger-ale (kept for just such reactions) and took some medication for my head. I was still holding onto the idea that today was a “studio day” so I couldn’t make myself leave despite my bodies antagonistic actions.
I started to glue some areas of my lily still life back together and then leaned back in a chair and stared at it for a bit and talked to my mom on the phone while my stomach started to recover.
I got anxious and just started laying out the work in light pencil to see if it was even going to work. I’m filled with anxiety about this piece and plagued with doubt that I can pull it off. It’s an important piece. I don’t know what I’m doing with it.
I don’t know what media to use so I’m going to do some studies tomorrow. I want to maintain an early explorer’s sketchbook meets Morris tapestry model vibe. I think a combination of media and technique might work best to make the sorts of references I want to make.
I got into the sketch and I ended up fleshing out the main part of the composition (minus the birds). It’s a decent start. My headache finally overwhelmed me and I packed it up and went home. I’m eager to get started on some studies tomorrow.
I have decided to call the work Lily Eaters as an oblique reference to the Lotus eaters from the Odyssey.
I’ve always liked the allegory of the Lotus eaters – if you haven’t read the Odyssey or just don’t remember much about the story here’s a recap: Odysseus leaves Troy and comes to an island where the inhabitants all eat Lotus plants which makes everyone disconnected from reality, disinterested, and lazy. Eating Lotus plants make it easy for everyone to forget where they came from and apathetic about their future – they just float in a false sense of ease and comfort without real awareness of their situation.
I only hope that the title is not too cheeky, considering that the birds will be devoured by the plants, or that it’s so esoteric that no one will get it… just because I’ve finally figured out a balance between these things visually doesn’t mean I’ve figured it out when it comes to titles.
There’s always something you can work on.