My latest work-in-progress is highly atypical for me – not for any aesthetic reason, but because I loathe pigeons. This bitterness blossomed during my stint in London, where all pedestrians compete with these aggressive and plentiful nuisances for scarce sidewalk space. However, I’m challenging myself to get up close and personal with the urban winged pest in honor of the 100th anniversary of the extinction of a specific variety of the bird, the Passenger Pigeon.
The painting has taken me to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for visual reference material. Typically, I have access to their extensive ornithology collection. This time, I learned that there are limits when it comes to extinct species. Yet, I lucked out and was allowed to borrow a “crappy” specimen missing a tail and a patch of feathers on the breast. The mangled bird is temporarily sitting on my desk, staring at me as if to say, “it’s a good thing I’m stuffed lady, or I would peck your eyes out.”
Today, I drew the bird on paper at exactly the scale and position I want it on the board, which is already prepped with an intricately painted design. I’ll carefully cut the bird out of the paper and trace its outline onto the board before painting it in. In the end, it will loosely resemble the photo above (plus some variety of orange foliage and Darkling Beetles).
While I’m cohabitating with this creepy bird, it feels appropriate to name it. The very last Passenger Pigeon died on September 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. The bird went by Martha, named after Martha Washington, American’s first First Lady. So, I will call my pigeon George, of course.