Little Birds - Big Atmosphere
When I was a kid, a painting wasn't complete without some obligatory seagulls. Lots of children's paintings have them, together with houses with windows and a door, some people, a dog and blue sky with some clouds. As we get older and take up the brush we can easily assume all that birds-in-the-sky thing is just kids stuff. At best it can be regarded as quaint and more than a little predictable.
I confess that even after nearly 60 years of drawing and painting, I hardly ever do a landscape without adding some birds. I can tell you though, it's not just for decoration or just for something to fill the empty space in the sky. There are two main reasons I paint birds in the landscape. Firstly, it's a sign of life and movement. Some paintings have no sign of animal life whatsoever. Even works that are masterfully produced can look somehow sterile without this important aspect. Birds are a minimum but effective way of saying that life still exists on earth.
Secondly, and importantly, birds in the sky can give it extra depth. It is embarrassingly simple to even mention it, but birds in flight add to the other ways of projecting the expanse of the sky and aerial perspective. They also add an important mid-distance object in the sky when no other objects may be available. The placement of birds between the viewer and say a mountain range or cliffs adds an enormous quality of depth that so few utilise. Birds painted with the intention of adding to the illusion of space need to be painted a certain way. Unless a bird is the focus of the painting, they just need to be a couple of strokes of the brush or even just one! Remember that they are just props in the show you are producing and other things will be the stars.
So, even in a simple child's painting, those birds tell us in the simplest and most effective way that this is the expanse of sky. It may be simple, it may be quaint and it may even be regarded as predictable, but the power of those little creatures in flight needs to be considered seriously by all landscapers.
he birds between the viewer and the headland at Hallett Cove add to the impression of distance and expanse of atmosphere.