Pine warblers aside (and mine is getting all porky on his daily diet of suet) my top dollar backyard bird has got to be the the Painted bunting, a certified tropical with temperate zone breeding habits. Gotta love a bird that color-clashes with everything. It’s a twanger in the eye-candy department, the visual equivalent of Frank Zappa playing Bach on the banjo while riding a costumed alpaca. You’ll do a double-take when you see it.
It’s also a summer bird in the northern hemisphere (meaning my backyard) and it is, ahem, currently winter here. I’ve been asked to paint another cover for Bird Watcher’s Digest (May/June issue) and this is the way things work in the publishing world- you work months ahead of time. I’ve been doing this forever, always working on Christmas stuff in July, trying to get in the holiday mood when I’d rather go swimming. The subject of this cover is the very summery Painted bunting, and it’s terribly out of season for it.
How nice it is to have a pile of sketchbooks with assorted drawings to choose from. How unfortunate that there is no living habitat to work from outside where the temperature is below freezing. How nice it is to have photos of my beloved garden to work with. (I heard Monet had a staff to tend his waterlilies. That’s so unfair).
Usually I paint something and then wrack my brains to think up a title when I’m done. This time, however, I did it the other way around and came up with the title first. It’s a nice title: Up Jumped Summer (stolen from the Herbie Hancock tune, Up Jumped Spring) It conjures up a lot of images for me, and I’ve been playing around with three in particular. One is of the bird perched on the stem of a violently red daylily (remember how I said this bird clashes with everything?) I had to drop the red daylily due to a dogfight between bird and flower- I even tried a rough version of it with the daylily faded back and I liked it well enough but it didn’t really scream loud enough to fit the vision, or the title.
and finally, one with the bunting scouting around in my Romano pole-beans, a slightly more prosaic approach but one that’s kinder on the eyes, and one that speaks of the humble need to eat that connects us all. I’m leaning in the latter direction.