Monday, June 2, 2008

A dead bird and fresh starts...

Yes, I really did mean a dead bird. I was driving down a country road this morning and I spotted this red winged black bird by the side of the road. It had obviously just been hit by a car. I pulled over and popped him into the trunk. Why you wonder? Well for reference photos of course. While I don't have any of my bird pics on my website, I have enjoyed drawing birds in the past. My biggest problem is obtaining good reference photos to work from. Birds just don't stay still too long. The picture of his feet is worth a lot to me. Enlarged, this photo has a lot of detail. Capturing a true likeness of a particular bird depends on getting the beak right, the thickness of the neck, feather features etc. (Lest you think I have completely lost my sense of propriety, I did take the pics outside on the deck. Yes it is on a scrap of old carpet - for the sake of the photo - but I did not have him on my best carpet inside the house!)

If you haven't heard of such macabre activities before, let me assure you that many artists have resorted to such measures. According to Harry Davis, in his book entitled The Art of Tasha Tudor, the famed illustrator used carefully preserved dead animals as models. They were kept in a basement freezer. She apparently had a mouse 'morgue' with as many as a dozen occupants. When partially thawed, she could pose them in various positions. In addition to mice, the freezer contained a variety of frozen birds, including an owl that she kept for years. Mr. Davis also tells of how when Tasha was illustrating The Great Corgiville Kidnapping she was reluctant to work on the villains of the book as it had been many years since she had painted a raccoon. As fate would have it, Tasha discovered that the nightly intruder to her garden was indeed a raccoon. She borrowed a trap, set it and managed to capture one. She put this very much alive wild raccoon on her table and proceeded to paint her model for the next day and a half! Another famous illustrator, Beatrix Potter also kept many animals such as mice and rabbits. She would spend hours observing them, studying their behaviour and sketching them. I don't know if she had a stash of dead ones.

I spared you the rest of the photos. I hope you like seeing the first poppy to open here this spring.

So, June 2nd...does the start of a new month give you a sense of a fresh start? It does me. I love the notion of a fresh slate, and a new start. I feel this way at the start of a new month, at the start of a new week, as the seasons change, when a new year begins, in September as we mark the end of summer and the start of new activities, etc.

Yes, I love new beginnings and I use lots of opportunities to celebrate them. Why do I love them? Well, I guess it is the whole notion of getting a chance to start afresh. I am an organized person and I love making lists. Each week I take stock of what I have accomplished and what yet needs to be done. I make my notes and my plans. Ultimately this helps me have a sense of direction with regards to my career and my other responsibilities. When I have a sense of some sort of control over my life, I gain a sense of peace. I may not be getting everything done that I would like but I have it down for some time in the future!

Of course, life does throw us those interesting curve balls. Like a week and a half ago when our elderly frig stopped working. We scrambled to find friends who had a freezer with enough room for our stuff. We borrowed additional coolers. We spent six hours on a Sunday (not how I planned or hoped to be spending my weekend) shopping all over the city of Ottawa for a frig that we liked (and that was in stock, ready to be shipped). I guess the start of June is a busy time in real estate. This is when many people get possession of their new homes and they need appliances. We have had to wait for delivery. 'Camping' with coolers and buying ice for the past nine days is getting real old. Good news though, the new frig is to be delivered tomorrow morning. Yippee. Then there was the unexpected frost a week ago that snuffed my newly planted tomato and pepper plants. I had to take the time to buy new plants and now I get to do some replanting. Just when you thought a job was off the to-do list! Oh and how about a few weeks ago when my old printer stopped working just as I was preparing for a presentation I was to give. You know how it goes...sometimes life is just like this.

I don't let this stuff bother me too much though because it really isn't important in the big scheme of things. I recently heard of a very young wife and mother who is about to graduate from her nursing program and who has a job waiting for her...but her cancer is back and now the horrible treatments are completely derailing her plans - not to mention that she fighting for her life. Yup, a frig conking out and the loss of some perishable food is really not important.

Yes the month of May had some interesting surprises, some wonderful, some not so wonderful. I wonder what this fabulous fresh month of June will hold?


Jeanette said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who collects corpses! :)

I photograph birds and other animals who have died and keep the images for reference. There is nothing as good as the real thing but a photo that you just can't find for detail elsewhere is wonderful.

I sympathize with your fridge breaking down. Mine is heading that way and I'm coaxing it on til I can afford a new one - as if we ever can afford a new anything! My stove needs replacing as does my car. It seems the year to replace appliances as the washer and dryer were replaced in March.

A new month, a new chance at everything.

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Jeanette,

I guess the moral of the story is don't go looking in an artist's freezer, you just might find some road kill instead of a steak! I have a friend who once kept a dead gerbil in her freezer during the winter months. Her daugher wanted to bury it in the spring. Good thing her Mom wasn't an artist or the daughter might have come home from school to find the gerbil partially defrosted and posing for a painting! :-)

Ah yes, new appliances. When we bought this house last year we were able to get it at a very good price as there were certain things that the homeowners hadn't updated. Part of this is that we inherited their 30 yr old washer and dryer. To start with several settings no longer worked - like the washer gave you a full tub of water no matter what you set it at. Within just a few weeks it had a major meltdown. It started leaving gobs of oil on clothes. So much for the items in that white load. I knew that we were going to upgrade eventually but I had hoped we could make do for a while. The delivery guys that took the old stuff said they hadn't seen such old appliances.

The selling real estate agent was able to convince them that the 30 yr old brown appliances in the kitchen had to go. So they replaced them with used 20 year old almond ones. Groovy. And we even have other nice touches like the original Armstrong vinyl floor with a wonderful 70's pattern. Yes, there is much renovating in our future.

Good luck with your fridge and your stove and your car! At least once everything has been replaced, you should enter a time in your life when all appliances and the car are purring along reliably. Of course that is when we get to do stuff like put on a new roof, replace the decking... :-)