Taking Flight, 2013
oil on belgian linen
60 x 75 in
(152.4h x 190.5w cm)
I rarely shy away from possibilities. When a Houston couple asked me to create a very special featured painting in the open concept entryway and dining room of their new home, I was excited about developing an idea specific to the space. When I visited the residence I noticed that the room was defined by palette of light columns, ochre plaster walls and a dark, concrete floor, all of which had to harmonize perfectly as the area would serve as a public space to greet and entertain guests. The archway where the painting would be installed allowed for a large work, but it would to be experienced close up and from a distance. A beautiful stone-topped buffet table was situated beneath it, with the dining room table only feet away.
The couple had collected other works of mine, but we were all in agreement that this painting should be a signature work. As with most of my major commissions and ‘Wild Interiors’ projects, I extracted concepts from my mind that had been percolating for years and combined them with the spatial elements of the room to create a composition that not only stood out in subject matter but was visually integrated with the interior. Spaces reach out with certain defined concepts once experienced, and this one allowed for two distinct possibilities.
One was an iconic tree, a baobab or an acacia with animals beneath. The other idea presented, and the one which was chosen, was an immense flock of flamingos impressively taking flight. I began with a concept sketch to compose the birds in a harmonizing pattern against the dark blue ridge of the distant mountain. The placement of each flamingo was very important as it would generate movement across the canvas. The wing placement, up and down, would help to guide the viewer’s eyes through the composition. The flamingoes at the top of the composition appeared slightly closer, represented as already having taken off into the sky. Also notice the light blue-ish band of water behind the flamingoes; this represents hundreds that have already departed. The reality is that we are only seeing the last of the flock "Taking Flight”. The three hyenas below are in a tense, direct pursuit of something in the water. Their story was left for the viewer to complete. With their tails up it seems as though they are chasing something…possible an injured flamingo, or some other prey?
When examining the entire painting, the viewer will discover seven species from the animal kingdom: lesser flamingoes, white faced whistling ducks, crowned cranes, waterbuck, Thomson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle. All were situated in the scene to reward the viewer when exploring the background as well as to enhance the depth of field. And when guests are seated at dinner discussing the painting, it will, like a lover, reveal new things as long as its admirers continue to contemplate.