I love the time of year when you randomly see the Starlings gathering, weaving their magic as they begin to make their voluminous shapes as they fly together. It’s so interesting watching the group grow, picking up the wind thermals and beginning to transform into one mass as they are thrown together. Even the details of light within the mass is fascinating; as more birds join the group with a silver shimmer as they seem to float in the opposite direction of the main body of birds picking up the available light from the sun.
As a little girl, seeing a murmuration for the first time was captivating, it was an old man walking across the park, a neighbour, who stopped in his tracks as he watched it happening in the early stages, “Watch this” he said to me and described what was happening as we both stood there looking up at the sky, Starlings gathering and seemed to join the flock from far and wide. Somehow the memory stayed with me and as I’ve grown older the emotional attachment to such events has grown. I find it very ‘grounding’ a moment in time that minimises the importance of other thoughts in my mind at the time.
Starlings! – Funny, noisy, squawky and some say ‘messy’ and destructive birds, but I always appreciated how unexpectedly colourful starlings are. Creating this artwork and studying the birds made me realise just how beautiful they are too and how iridescent the colours are against their dark feathers within the many details of the beautiful glossy feathers.
It amazes me how many of these birds appear to join the murmuration, making it an absolute spectacle! It’s mesmerising, enchanting and even ‘other worldly’ as they gather momentum, shift and swing into layered shapes, building up and turning to something miraculous!
Setting the scene
There are several elements to this that made it such a complex artwork! I’ll explain a little my approach and what I did to achieve the final result
One thing about a murmuration is they always appear in ‘big skies’ so I wanted my composition to include a landscape and I loved the idea of focussing it around a lone tree. I have a favourite tree near to where I live and have attempted to draw it a few times. So, this is where I began. I created the background artwork digitally, which isn’t the cop-out it sounds as I still drew every branch individually and set it into the scene I had in mind to create.
Research was key – I gathered a number of Starling images for reference and set about creating a composition of them in flight. I wanted to achieve a ‘heart-shape’ of them all together, to represent the moment I had in mind. Again this was created by individually positioning each bird, angled and scaled in line with the overall composition, with each bird playing its part in the final artwork.
The light was also important to me, as a stand out moment for me when I’ve watched Murmurations has been in half-light as the sun goes down, so I’ve attempted to recreate the moment by including a ‘warm glow’ as a tinted cast across my composition.
Achieving the affect
Those who know me also know I have created a few layered artworks of varying subjects (you can see some examples on my website) this idea was perfect for what I wanted to try for this concept too and it’s turned out to be the most complex I’ve done to date!
Once the background artwork was finished, I printed it out as a quality canvas-print ready to set about creating the next stage of two additional transparent layers. The layers are individually hand painted starlings. So many Starlings were needed to get anywhere near to the flying formation I had in mind. I painted them onto transparent acrylic. At this point I was some way toward achieving the detailed 3D affect to represent the murmuration!
The final result
I’m so pleased with the response I’ve had to the final result, but you know when you start on what you thought seemed like a ‘good idea’ and as you get into it; realise there is more to do than you even imagined to complete it anywhere near to the artwork you had in mind in the first place – well this is one of those! I almost gave up, but stuck with it to complete something I was happy with to represent what I had in mind at the start!
So, taking the background canvas print I fixed the additional separate layers with sufficient gap to make it work as an artwork when combined.
I’ve been blown away by the feedback I have received so far, here are a few quotes in response “So therapeutic, calming and restful to look at” “So unusual”, “I could look at this for hours”, “The more you look the more you see”, “I’m sure they are moving, how have you done that?”
When you buy any artwork; or I should say when you buy one of my artworks, I want someone to have a positive emotional response and connection every time they look at it. The idea that someone can feel some kind of comfort or pleasure every time they look at my work; also brings me great joy and a sense of achievement too!