Another City Bird and a Thought on Friendship

November 14, 2011


Above: Pigeon study in my 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia in-studio journal. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen with Schmincke and M. Graham Gouache.

The day after I finished this study, which I find quite cheery, I sent it via email to one of my friends who also happens to be a painter. She'd just had surgery and I thought it might cheer her up.

My bad. I totally spaced on the fact that she is scared of birds. Let me say in my defense that this is the woman who never balks at pulling over at the side of the road to check out birds or stop at zoo exhibits of birds. She even took me to an isolated farm where a legendary goose lived (who then proceeded to peck and peck at her feet, and believe me you don't want a goose pecking at your feet in a territorial manner!).

I love birds so much—all birds, not just the small, fluffy cute ones but also the raptors and scavengers who rip into the world to help it process—that I have trouble imagining the difficulty others might have with birds. (I think Hitchcock's "The Birds" is silly and the people are being hysterical.)

My own father after a tortuous adventure as a toddler in a chicken coop is not fond of birds, but he allowed me to have a budgie when we lived in Australia (despite the fact that we were both allergic). It seems people around me have been enabling my love of birds my whole life, often at no small cost to themselves.

I endeavor to be a considerate person. It seems however that when it comes to birds I fail time and time again. I don't ask people to sit with me while I sketch and obsess over pigeons while on a visit to a new city, but now that I think about it, they often do sit with me, but they sketch the buildings. They speak companionably with me, in short, they indulge me.

I like to think that there is tit for tat. When they want to stop and sketch (or photograph) a building there is always a pigeon nearby for me to sketch.

But then I'm not afraid of buildings am I?

My point today is I can't promise that my love of birds won't block my sense of courtesy in the future; but I will focus anew on the concept that birds aren't everyone's cup of tea (Dick on why people don't buy my large, large bird paintings: Not everyone can live face to face with a dinosaur 500 times life size). I'm still going to paint birds (even large versions). I'm still going to stop to sketch random birds. I'm still going to travel to destinations for the sole purpose of encountering a bird.

I am also going to make sure that everyone in my life knows how grateful I am that they indulge me in this love. It's not as if I read road signs aloud while we're confined together in the car on lengthy road trips…

Wait, I do that too.

Let's just say I have the most tolerant and indulgent of friends, and I'm grateful every day.

And my convalescent friend when she saw this pigeon, what did she say? "I love it. I'd duck for cover if a pigeon flew at me, but I love the look in its eye. Send me more."

That's a great friend—the kind who also stops for road kill when we're on a road trip.

    • karen
    • November 14, 2011

    You are kinder than I am, Roz. I find myself getting as impatient with the bird-phobic as my husband gets impatient with me ’cause I don’t like to fly on airplanes.

    Last week I let one of the turkey vultures at the raptor center where I volunteer bite my thumb five or six times before I stopped struggling with her leash. I love taking her out in the sunshine and feeling her spread her massive wings. And I cannot see why anyone wouldn’t love this, too.

    Also: Your pigeon is excellent. As are many actual pigeons. 🙂

  1. Reply

    Miss T. Of course we need crow TV too—that would be for the action, the sort of Law and Order portion of the line up! But one couldn’t watch that all day!

  2. Reply

    Karen, I love that you are volunteering at a raptor center!!! And helping a turkey vulture.

    I would be a useless volunteer. All I’d want to do is stop to sketch constantly.

    I agree, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t love that! (They have the best noises on the planet by the way! And I mean in ability to smell, though their beaks are lovely too.)

    Glad you enjoyed the pigeon.

    • Nita
    • November 14, 2011

    The good thing about friends with obsessions is that you always know how to entertain them. And what category of gift to shop for. To be obsessed about one particular thing is to free up your friends in various ways, I’d say!

    • Diane Wesman
    • November 14, 2011

    While I would just as sson have a piece of glass between me live birds I do love their portraits. No one can capture their spirit better than you, Roz. I quite liked the pigeon you sent me–the look in its eye was one only you can get with a brush. I never mind stopping for you to draw a bird–in fact I have purchsed the book you suggested in hopes I can learn to draw them myself. You are a wonderful friend and an inspiration.

    • j.long
    • November 14, 2011

    Great! I love your pigeon, color, everything. You always make my day.
    BTW/ I lived in Australia four years and had a cockatoo and a magpie.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • November 14, 2011

    The boring scientist bloke in me ( he’s a pain in the behind, but he pays the bills ) has to say you’ll need new televisions for the pigeons, as their brains run at such an astonishingly high frequency they’d see the black scan line on the telly and not be able to piece the images together, about 500hz will do. And the idiot in me want’s to book avertizing. “Buy My new, improved buy one get one free, supersized speciality, only avaiable here, as seen on crimewatch something or other, or the pigeon above will be round ; and will get you!!” It’s a great pigeon, BTW. And now I want to goto Martin Mere to see the ducks.

    • Arika
    • November 14, 2011

    I think art can make us see things in new ways, too. Don’t hurt me when I say this…but I am not a dog lover. Now, I’m not a dog hater by any means. But I just never saw the appeal. I’ve been a cat lover my whole life, and have rarely met a cat that I didn’t fall in love with upon first glance. But dogs? They just didn’t do it for me.

    But since I’ve been reading your blog, Roz, I have to appreciate dogs in a way that surprises me quite a bit. I’ve seen such personality in your drawings, such life. Honestly, some of my favorite pages you’ve done have been dog pages! (Along with the fair sketches, of course…love your fair pages.)

    So I’m not surprised that your bird-phobic pal can still enjoy and appreciate your bird pages!

  3. Reply

    Nita, you’re right, I never thought about it that way before. I’m providing a service with my obsession!

  4. Reply

    Diane, I look forward to seeing what your artist’s eye does with birds. I know it is going to be wonderful! I’m glad I’ll get to see it first hand.

  5. Reply

    J.Long, a cockatoo and a magpie!!!! Be still my heart.

    I’m remembering the magpies in Australia as being large (and wonderful), black and white? I loved them. They were all over the golf course where my father played. (I of course just went for the birds.)

    Cockatoos of course are so beautiful. You were very lucky indeed!

  6. Reply

    Leslie you’re funny. All I want is to see them roaming around. And hearing them cooing. I hadn’t thought beyond that. I hope you got to go and see the ducks! A day is always improved by the drawing of ducks (or geese).

  7. Reply

    Arika, thank you for sticking with the blog even though it is not exactly cat-heavy in images. I have friends who have cats and I do sketch cats upon occasion, but more people take their dogs out and about so it’s easier for me to get access to them for sketching. I actually find it difficult, because I haven’t spent much time sketching cats, to get their features right, but I keep working at it.

    I’m glad you enjoy the dog paintings (and Fair, which reminds me I still haven’t posted a wrap up post, I have been buried here).

    I am glad you see personality because it’s what I hope to convey. Thanks. (I’ll work harder on the cats!)

    • Zom
    • November 14, 2011

    Fear and dislike of birds, who would have thought? I think we are so alienated from nature that people are getting frightened of all kinds of animals, if they aren’t domesticated.
    I love snakes, reptiles, bugs and even jumping ants (the kind that bite you and sting you at the same time.) I think there are so many poisonous creatures in Australia, few people would bother being scared of birds. Except maybe geese. They are intimidating.
    I didn’t know you had lived in Australia.
    A huge bird painting sounds wonderful. I am so glad you aren’t going to stop painting them.

    • Caroline
    • November 15, 2011

    The magpie who terrorises my cat would agree that he/she is nothing to be scared of; my cat would disagree. And so would most of my neighbours. We have a nesting pair close by and as its breeding season (Aussie spring) they are quite a handful if you are on foot, so I think I shall give sketching them a miss. I already feel about 2 inches high when they eye me up, so the thought of a six foot high maggie with chicks is not to be contemplated!

  8. Reply

    Is there no safe distance Caroline? Where you could sketch the couple? I suppose they are more territorial in breeding season. A six foot high magpie would be wonderful on a wall however!

  9. Reply

    Zom, I agree that people are pretty detached from nature and a lot of it frightens them, and I love that you love non-mammals, but I have to draw the line at jumping ants!!! No way can I love them.

    I think Australia has more poisonous creatures than ANYWHERE in the world. And the birds are so lovely. I used to see 3 or more types of Ibis when I went out to sketch in the morning. It was amazing. (I lived in Melbourne for 5 1/2 years.)

    With so many worrisome creatures I think you’re probably right, no one gives a thought to the birds!

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