Learning to Fly

Baby swifts are just about as big as their parents

This week the baby swifts are leaving their nests. They perch on the gutter right outside our kitchen window and wait in a row until the adults swoop in and stuff something in their beaks. They seem very innocent, as they sit outside our open window and stare up at us without fear. We could reach out and grab one if we were so inclined…which we are not. The terrace creates a kind of cavern which the swifts love, especially in the evening, to navigate at high speed. As Rick pointed out, the gnats are also in high season at the moment and since this is what the birds eat, they are able to catch them easily in the enclosed space. They just open their beaks, and scoop them up. The babies, however, until they are independent, seem to require something more substantial than a mouth full of gnats. I haven’t been able to observe what the parents are feeding the “little” ones.

The third floor perch is also an excellent platform for the baby birds to try out their wings. Their bodies are such a perfectly aerodynamic design that flying seems to be cake to them.

Sparrows also use our top floor gutter to survey their nests, which they make in our honeysuckle

This week I spent most of the time in my atelier working on an unusual piece. It is unusual in the sense that I have never done anything like it, either on paper or as a “painting.” I don’t know why I decided to pursue it, but the idea came into my head and I just followed it to its conclusion. I started out with one of those failed abstract paintings on masonite that I created in early spring. In this case it was mostly reds, yellow and oranges, with a touch of green. I had envisioned a dark purple background for my image, so I put some blue acrylic in two corners and some red and green in the other two corners and started mixing them together right on the board. I had the whole thing covered when I thought better of making it just flat color, so I took a sponge and wiped off some of the purple to allow the under colors to come through. I liked it like that. I then began to draw a kind of vine pattern all over the board. I have never really made patterns before, but I liked the way it turned out well enough.

The vine is drawn with a white pen

I painted all the leaves green and then got the idea to put some silver leaf on all of them. Part of the way through that step, I decided to leave some green leaves to have the contrast. Gluing down the fragile thin silver leaf is quite tricky. I didn’t do an expert job, but I wasn’t entirely dissatisfied with the results. I decided it was more folk art than refined. The gold leaf in the middle of the flowers was much easier to handle. For some reason the gold is not as flimsy.

Gold and silver leaf
It looks best from the side with the light reflecting off the gold and silver leaf

I happen to have a whole collection of gold, silver, copper and aluminum leaf as I have always loved their luminescence. I’ve used it on various projects over many years.

Flight,” a deep-bite etching with gold leaf and surface drawing.

4 thoughts on “Learning to Fly

  1. I myself often
    “need something more substantial than a beak full of gnats”!!!
    so I know how the little birds feel waiting on line at the diner.

    Congratulations to you,, Nancy, for letting the creative spirit
    move you through layers of discovery.


  2. Love this! I love the painting/drawing, and it’s always so great for hear about how you let your process unfold.


  3. I totally agree with James! I also love how you write about your little swifts…. I wouldn’t mind swaping them for my mice here and pigeons there!


  4. WOW, yes, I would never have looked at that picture and thought you had created it, but I LOVE it! I look every day at one of your gorgeous gold, copper, and silver leaf projects, lucky me!
    Big smiles!


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