Here’s what I like about this painting:
1) I like the edges. I tried to lose as many as I could, so the magpies could be part of the background instead of popping out of it. The tops of the black heads– where the light hits them– are white enough to disappear, but your eye naturally stitches them back together and nothing looks out of place.
2) I like the sense of atmosphere. This goes back to the first point about edges. But there’s actually a little story here. In California’s Central Valley in wintertime there is a weather phenomenon called “Tule Fog“, pronounced, “Too-lee” with the accent on the first syllable. For anyone who’s driven through it, it’s like having your car wrapped tight in thick, wet cotton. You might be able to see one car length ahead of you, two if you’re lucky. It’s disorienting and dangerous. I’ve had to pull over and wait for it to burn off. It gives me vertigo to have no horizon line, I feel like I’m tipping over. There are terrible multi-car pileups on Highway 5 and Highway 99 when this world-class pea-soup pours in.
So the tale this painting tells is of finding your way through the fog, seeing a break, and rising up into the light. And, of course, being a magpie. A Yellow-billed magpie. All those metaphors being thrown around–interpret as you will.
3) I like the successful turn of the lead bird’s head, as it looks upward toward the sun. A challenge in foreshortening where the clay model was very helpful.
4) I like the background, with the thick, raised texture and the two colors used: a bare touch of burnt umber mixed into a lot of titanium white with exactly the same value of a bare touch of cobalt blue mixed into a lot of titanium white, warmth and coolness lightly dry-brushed into one another. Very hard to see, especially in this picture taken with my little digital camera.
There are other things I’m happy with, a couple of things not (it will ever be thus), and tomorrow I’ll take it to Konrad, my friendly neighborhood photographer and high-quality framer, for a good clean slide and hi res image. He always does a great job.
Another one down, many many more to go from here. All I need is a title.