It must have been shortly after last year’s New Year that I began work on what was to become one of my most defining artworks of 2020, being Charm on Blue, a painterly composite work which grew out of goldfinch photography from my own (at the time) sparten collection plus collected insight from some short videos of goldfinches in flight that I watched on YouTube (needing to get right those birds on the wing), put together with a sunflower from some other source I had been saving as inspiration. Its the very nature of composite artwork to almost collage together the various factors that you want and then paint into the work to make it cohesive and to add missing details, exactly as you would with paint on a canvas, only using digital means. So, as you can imagine, this was an engrossing piece that went through many versions for a number of weeks, on and off, and my mind was firmly on goldfinches that whole time. They were everywhere in my imagination, as though flying about in my head.
The end result was this version plus some other colourways for fabric and a more traditional take on the scene (much more like a painting)…but it is this final version made for design applications such as fabric that I prefer. Since creating it, with a view to printing onto a square silk scarf, its also ended up on prints, interior fabrics such as canvas and oilskin, lampshades, cushions, bags and purses, journals and notebooks, shoes, even a velvet kimono which a friend in America took delivery of just before Christmas (you can explore the collection here). In its way, the design took flight from that original concept and became my busiest of the year.
The thing is, when I decided to create it, goldfinches were very-much the rarity in my life. Time was, it would be the highlight of summer if just one or two landed in the tall tree visible from our garden for long enough for me to grab my camera, maybe just once per year. We had had one or two more sightings, for slightly longer, in 2019 but they still remained the exotic rarity, making the sparrows seem as though they were in their dress-down Friday’s the moment they arrived. As such, they became the symbol of the real high-points for me because, was it coincidence but, they always seemed to arrive when the frequency felt the highest, on the kind of days you could just feel a rarified note hanging in the air and then their distinctively animated song that sounds like chatter chatter chatter “beep beep” would, as it were, solidify that etheric note into a trill, their gold and scarlet regality making them seem like the emissaries of a higher dimension come for a visitation, peeping through the fabric of the sky.
So, I began my year on that focal point, thinking back to the previous summer with its handful of afternoons when a goldfinch would settle in the tree just outside my garden and regale me with its song to the dazzle of afternoon sunshine while I closed my eyes, transported though the crack between dimensions for a half hour or so….visits which, though few in number, left behind the remnants of a frequency that stayed with me long afterwards and now demanded to become art.
And I guess I must have said it outloud, because I surely thought it more than once, “please come back this summer, bring your friends, let their be goldfinches this year”.
So, guess what happened…this year they came in droves, entire flashmobs of them, filling first the trees on the right of the garden as they nibbled off the nectar of newly opening leaves and then the trees to the left to do the same, perched where the dazzle of afternoon sun turned them, mostly, into silhouettes yet I still managed to zoom in enough to capture the kind of shots I had previously only dreamed of, so small and elusive are they. Then there they were on my walks, poised for the camera in places we had never seen them before. Once or twice, they even came into the garden to peck at dandelions on our “lawn” or to see what all the other birds were making such a fuss about but, by and large, goldfinches don’t do gardens unless there is niger seed on offer; remaining independent and aloof, the contrarians that bestow their visitations like royalty and who would blame them, being not so easily bought by food on a feeder…I like that about them and would have it no other way.
So to have them still here this winter is yet another first and feels somehow connected to my invocation of last New Year since we can hear a lot of the time these days in our new normal, the cheerful soundtrack to life, “beep beep”. Then we walk right under them frequently on our routine stroll onto the common next door (them chattering up in the high branches, extremely hard to see even at this leafless time of year) plus, when the mood takes them, they swoop down between the horses legs, with their friends the pied wagtails, tiny yet distinctive in their red and white outfits. This is mostly when the sun is out and the wind down…and seldom when I have my camera with me…but yesterday I did have it and captured a few shots from a viable distance. We also got to see them from our garden yesterday morning, straight after the full moon (a trend I’ve noticed before) and them all in such high spirits, chattering away, their reds and golds gleaming against a winter blue sky as I stepped out into the frosty morn to feed the other birds.
It was then, with the new year right upon us, that I suddenly got into thinking how it had very much been The Year of the Goldfinch for me, as though occasional bursts of golden frequency, once the high-flying rarity in previous years, had suddenly grown and multiplied in number, flying right into the secular world boldly now, as the concerted flock of a higher reality experience where my garden became, somehow, transformed…not in a third-dimensional way so much as the feeling became more rarified than I had ever known it. Now this version of reality had taken to landing here so very much more often within the commonplace reality and everyday trappings of old, and all on the back of the invocation that was those early weeks of such focused goldfinch-inspired creativity in January. Another thing I’ve now noticed with a smile, the colour yellow with flashes of red is newly everywhere in my life since, where there have been choices, I seem to have chosen this colour theme over and over again and how much does it make me smile, uplifting me where life could so often have become dour this year? So, all coincidence or the result of a trick we so often miss? Because, don’t we all know by now that what we focus on we get even more of? Our thoughts like seeds not to be thrown carelessly in the gentle garden of our lives (unless we should want weeds and stranglers to gather there)? I had put out the call, and they had answered.
So, as we turn the page of another year…a year that’s been far from easy in so many ways yet with so many unexpected gifts attached to its underbelly (see my other post of today You may have gained more from 2020 than you’ve yet accounted for? for more on that) it felt like food for thought for all of us. When we make conscious what we focus on, choosing what to immerse ourselves in, allowing ourselves to be the prime orchestrators of what we spend our time thinking about, we become the manifestors of so much more of that which would bring more light and joy into our lives…not a complicated theory that needs any further elaboration really, except to add (a message straight from these golden birds) that we are the pilots of our own flight path, or destiny, much more so than we often realise or admit.
Wishing you a bright and optimistic New Year wherever you are!
This is so lovely!
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Thank you! Happy New Year to you and see you on the other side.
Beautiful and uplifting Helen. Best Wishes for 2021.
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And to you Clive, wishing you and yours all the very best!
There may have been a lot of negatives about 2020 but, gee-wiz, there have been some big positives! Have a happy healthy and wonder-filled new year!
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Thank you and yes there has! Have a wonderful New Year too Ashley, I’m feeling quite galvanised into the positive slipstream as the new year gets started, hope you are too.