From my bedroom window a vast tidal estuary spreads in three directions. In wintertime, when tides cooperate, these flats are a festival of seabirds. A dozen species of ducks overwinter here, as do Western sandpipers, Ruddy turnstones and many others. Hundreds of Dunlins fly together in one-minded units, moving like undulating amoebas, flashing white then black, like performing whales of the air. Through the binocs: Whimbrels, Curlews and Willets. Every evening 10,000 Glaucous-winged gulls abdicate a distant dump, lazily cross the sky above our home and head into the USA to roost — Americans overnight — effortlessly passing through Customs and Immigration, only to return in the morning for Canada’s pleasant welfare.
These birds remind me of specificity painters like Fen Lansdowne, Glen Loates, Raymond Ching — and all the other greats who came before — Audubon, Fuertes, Roger Tory Peterson, etc. Looking back, had I been good enough, I might very well have gone along with them.
Below the window, flagstones leading to the studio have tiny cracks where winter’s mosses grow — miniature, moist forests marching along their tiny canyons of opportunity. Out this window, everything suddenly seems luscious and intriguing.
If you’re going for a walk today you should at least take a camera. Not just for the smiling shot of your bride, the children playing on the swings or the elderly couple leaning on each other along the trail. Take a look for the minutiae of ferns and winter plants, snowberries and, yes, spring budlets. I can see them from here.
Art is a path on which we honour our world. Art may not be the only path, but it is a good path, even though at times a difficult one. As bearers of this honour, we artists do not need to simply render our world as we see it but as we might ourselves redesign it. As artists, one of our privileges is to invent. “We are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.” (Maya Angelou) On our path, design is everywhere and invites the soul.
From my window, art is a worthwhile cause. Whether we choose to delineate the rare birds that come to our shore, to broadly honour the spirit of the sunset, the deep forest beyond or the tiny foreground mosses, this is our opportunity to connect. In a world that appears now to have more connectivity than ever, and yet also less, this is what art looks like from my window.
PS: “This is what I think art is and what I demand of it: that it pull everyone in, that it show one person another’s most intimate thoughts and feelings, that it throw open the window of the soul.” (Felix Mendelssohn) It appears that others are opening their souls in our comments below.
Esoterica: As well as gaining proficiency, our job as artists is to open our eyes and our hearts to the world. “When a workman knows the use of his tools,” said George Eliot, “he can make a door as well as a window.” My advice for those of you not behind glass: Take in the day. “All the windows of my heart I open to the day.” (John Greenleaf Whittier)
Clink Street Nocturne
oil on panel, 14 x 11 inches
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