In what will likely be my last content change for the Downing’s Town painting, I’m adding a small bird (a Brown Creeper, a species I choose on more of an aesthetic basis than an association with Downingtown) eating a bug on the fence post in the foreground. This addition may prompt some further changes as I work the rest of the painting around it, and vice versa. Here you can see my first attempt at outlining the bird, where I realized it was too small, and my second attempt where I made him larger.
So, why this addition? There is the basic compositional concern; I felt the fence post needed a bit more detail due to its central position on the work. I also have some other, more personal reasons to include the Brown Creeper.
I enjoy painting still-lifes, landscapes, and portraits and I particularly enjoy painting these things together in a holistic way. It would be easy enough to staple three different types of painting together on one canvas, but I want to do something more nuanced than that. The bird adds elements of still life without being disconnected from the rest of the work. I could technically put it anywhere, but it actually means something on this fence post.
I also have an emotional connection to this kind of detail work, when I was child I needed glasses for my near-sightedness and didn’t have them. As a result my world sometimes felt very close up, and I spent a great deal of time just examining the details of objects, the things I could actually see. Thus having small details in a broad scope is an element that has a very powerful effect on me, and one that I’ve painted many times.
There is also a matter of scope that I find compelling, no matter how large or dramatic our human lives get, there will always be birds and other animals, unconcerned and going about their own lives, regardless of what we do. For all of these serious reasons, there’s also something comedic about a little bird in this grand drama and I like the levity he adds to the work.