They told me that Emily recently graduated from college with a music degree in voice.
Naturally, my original idea was to do something opera inspired. I thought of popular operas that I love, Puccini's Turandot, Verdi's Aida, Janacek's House of the Dead. But these are all so tragic (almost to the point of absurdity). "Here is a ridiculously dramatic painting of two lovers slowly suffocating in a tomb, Happy Birthday!". I felt this was not the proper direction.
I google imaged the word "song". I was most interested in the picture of a song bird which came up between a photo 90's shock rocker Marilyn Manson and a photo of a group of cheerleaders. The bird seemed to fit the best. I liked how bright yellow it was. It could be corny but with the right colors I figured I could work through it.
I started this painting in a completely different direction from where it ended. Originally, our bird was in a city, with an old apartment building and telephone poles in the background. But it looked akward and didn't seem to be about songs at all. I painted a piece of paper blue and covered the building with it and asked Theo, my five year old son, if it looked better with or without the background. He told me that when it is all blue it looks like the bird is singing. but when there are buildings, it looks like it is screaming. So I made it blue.
In the last couple of paintings I've introduced phalo blue to my pallet. Usually, I'm pretty minimal with colors. I use ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, some kind of pale yellow, and white and mix all the secondary colors from there. Why do I need to waste my money on green and browns when I can just mix them up? Well, early on in this project I added a burnt umber (for the Flemish Feast) and stopped mixing my own blacks and now have this goofy extra blue, which can be beautiful, but takes over a painting easily. Here it is mixed with ultra marine to tone it down.
With the taking away of the background, I realized the way to go was faux Japanese. I consulted one of my favorite art books which is about the Shin Hanga, the new Japanese print movement of the early 20th century that combined traditional printmaking techniques with a Western influence. I stole some my composition and the sky from it.
Originally, this post was going to be called Nichola Tesla is Singing in his Grave because in the first draft of this entry, I marveled at how antiquated telephone poles and electric wires seem and how that great electrical scientist would be in disbelief to find out that they are still in in 2009. But I painted over the poles and wires so it doesn't make much sense now...
Thank you, Myers and Emily.