Peggy Macnamara ,Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, is posting Essays on Drawing and Painting.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Circumstance, Persistence and Luck.
This series of watercolors is the result of circumstance, persistence and luck.
And as fortune would have I,I got an idea! I say that with humility, because ideas come, you don’t go get them. I’ve been paintingaround migration issues for the past five years. I was quietly hoping something would shift and my bird-insect-habitat-seasonal-studies would click.
With hindsight, it was the movement inherent in the concept of migration that was missing. But my decade long process working from dead specimens lacked any sort of movement. What I needed was another method, one specifically designed to capture the subject. I needed a new collaboration. And fittingly, migrating birds are a performance about just that, “collaboration".
Every Wednesday the Field Museum third floor Prep lab is alive with activity. A group of birders are preparing skins and skeletons which have come into the museum as a result of migration mishaps. Arlene K was part of this group. And as circumstance would have it she is also wonderful wildlife photographer. I asked about photos of big flocks moving and she began forwarding her complex photos of birds in fight. At first I began piecing together various flight patterns on a page.
The more I designed the less success I had. Yet I couldn’t quite lose the notion that I was the composer. It was a bit like the mother that is still telling her kid what to do when she has ceased to be the one in charge. Finally I surrendered and took an artistic vacation and just measured out each bird in correct relation to its neighbor exactly as it appeared in the photo.