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Lightning Bird

Lightning Bird. Oil on canvas. 36x24. Spring 2014.
A few additional pictures can be seen here, on my blog.

"Of course, one of the most dangerous kinds of current is lightning, which is also one of the most remarkable of all electrical phenomena. It's powerful, not completely predictable, much misunderstood, and mysterious, all at once. In mythologies from the Greek to the Mayan, lightning bolts have been either symbols of divine beings or weapons wielded by them. And no wonder. On average, there are about 16 million thunderstorms on Earth every year, more than 43,000 every day, roughly 1,800 every hour of the day, producing about 100 lightning flashes every second, or more than 8 million lightning flashes every day, scattered around our planet."

'For The Love of Physics', Walter Lewin.

So this is a character of my own creation, one you can find in the Experimental Text Adventure I put on this site! Lightning Bird is a character that really did strike like lightning out of thin air. One minute, I'm writing a scene, the next minute, boom, this bird of lightning has appeared. Not a conscious decision or creation, just something that took shape.

I became very fond of this mysterious character very quickly, and it wasn't long before I found myself planning out entire storylines centering on this magnificent creature. Lightning Bird stepped up to take hir place as a lynchpin character in the world I had created, refusing to accept the simple role of single-sidequest-keynote I'd originally planned.

Please excuse the raw and grimy first draft writing I'm about to quote:

"There is a horrendously loud crackling sound. You flinch a little, drawing back --- and then cower when there is the crack! of lightning and a blinding flash, followed by the tumbling roar of thunder. When you open your eyes, you see a tall bird standing in the space between you and Sparky. Tall as an ostrich, but slimmer, statelier – and shining bright gold, glowing, as if it were made of the very lightning that you heard."

This painting started out as a simple midnight sketch:

I decided to paint it on a whim, working from this sketch. I also decided to be ambitious and chose a canvas the size of a small child,
the largest size I've worked with so far in this crazy painting hobby of mine. It felt right. I didn't want it to be too small. This is a bird
with a big presence.

I felt very strange and self-conscious while painting it, because I haven't painted one of my own characters since I was a small child,
and it feels very revealing to me, somehow. And I had no idea how other people would see it or react to it. I knew I could connect
to it, because after all, it's my character, but will it be incomprehensible to someone else? I had no idea.
But the reaction was startlingly positive. My parents loved it, my classmates loved it, my teachers loved it, and I was surprised. Comments
included words like "crazy"; I said that was exactly what I was going for, that this bird is supposed to be crazy. Fantastical, Dr. Seuss-ish,
a strong and enchanting presence. This was all very nice to hear.

Of course, as has been happening to me in recent years, I quickly lost interest not long after the first layer. I'd chosen a giant canvas,
something I wasn't used to, and I was going through a difficult spell rife with physical and mental exhaustion. (hm, perhaps I don't always
make the best choices? Ambition and joyous fantasy, often greater than practicality and realities of life). I wanted to do the bird justice,
because I do love the character very much,
but my motivation dwindled rapidly. I was tired and unhappy, and to me the painting reflects that.
I decided to spare myself the turmoil and
stopped working on it much sooner than I'd originally planned. I certainly don't think it's the Greatest
Painting Ever, and if I were to do it again I'd approach everything so very differently (and only work on it when I'm feeling well!), but even as
it stands, it is beloved by my family. And so I'm happy I chose to paint it, I'm glad that I tried, and gave it my best shot. Even as I write this, a thunderstorm is raging, which is a lovely bit of chance. The Lightning Bird has certainly made me very interested in storms and electricity.

Though I set the painting aside, I did have another ambition: to turn that midnight sketch into a more polished and substantial drawing:

This was completed in June 2014, several months after the painting. I ran into a lot of the same issues with lack
of patience and motivation, but was able to deal more successfully because I felt better. Though I did still have that
moment of saying "I am done, I am simply done!" even knowing there was more I could do. There is a point where one
must simply walk away. But this won't be the last you see of the Lightning Bird. No, definitely not.

"Be the lightning in me
That strikes relentless"
'The Lightning Strike', Snow Patrol