Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bird's Eye View

This morning over coffee I watched a couple of sparrows splashing around in the fountain. Each year many birds return to build nests in the creeping ivy that thickly covers the wall of our back patio in downtown San Diego. Mankind's fascination with birds is the stuff of legends and in Greek mythology the sparrow was attributed to the goddess Aphrodite.
Like my parents before me, I tell my son that the voices of birds are a sign that Spring is approaching and remind us of hope and renewal of life.

Im excited to be working with Environment for the Americas as this year's International Migratory Bird Day artist. My passion for birds goes way back to my childhood and as a young boy I remember listening to a nightingale who always helped me fall asleep. Because they are connected to the sky many cultures believe birds link heaven and earth. The song of the nightingale is considered a positive omen by poets, writers and artists around the world.

Birds appear often in many of the illustrations I create for children's books. This painting from My Name is Celia features a soaring red bird that evokes the spirit of Celia Cruz's incomparable music.

For Our California I hoped to capture the magic as swallow scouts, messengers of the air arrive at the old stone church. Even though this chapel is the most ornate of any of the missions it's humble destiny is linked by nature to housing the mud nests of birds
cherished by St. Francis.

A boy with blue-black hair scatters berries from his basket on the back of a bright bluebird in this scene from !Yum, Mmmm Que Rico!

The migration of birds is nothing short of magic. These navigators use the sun, the stars, the earth's magnetic field and visual landmarks to travel thousands of miles to the same spot each year. In this painting for the Delaware Book Festival a bird guides the reader true North.

I have used birds in my work to symbolize positive thinking, hope and inspiration.

In this mural the bird represents the energy and spirit of community.

Birds can express the hidden nature of spirituality and beauty.

I made this painting to celebrate the renaissance of visual and performing artists in Tijuana who overcome adversity with the power of their creativity.

An interior figure appears inside a bird for this Latino Film Festival poster to represent the freedom of a filmmaker's imagination.

The flight of a bird reminds us of the essence of freedom and liberation.

So here's a personal bird story. There was a wonderful, large tree in downtown San Diego and each Spring the voices of hundreds of birds could be heard hidden in it's thick foilage. When that magnificent tree was cut down to make way for a high-rise all the birds returning to that spot to nest were confused with no where to go. We then had the idea to build an urban bird park in the heart of the city and talked about this dream with some of our friends.

We connected to Jerry Selby who worked with Centre City Development Corporation and convinced him to secure a small plot of city land that was not being used to build the park. Our good friends Amy and MaeLin Levine with Joel Sotelo at Visual Asylum coined the name Tweet Street and designed the park with impressive environmental graphics to sell the city on the idea.

Working with the American Institute of Graphic Arts, San Diego chapter the call went out for artfully designed nesting boxes that really worked. In 2007, two strips of overgrown land near the Interstate-5 freeway perched high on Cortez Hill were transformed into an urban oasis of colorful birdhouses. Thanks to the vision of the creative community this once undesirable piece of earth is now a whimsical landing strip for birds.
There are also plenty of families with kids who stop by just to hear the birds sing.

Here's the nesting box I designed that was installed in the urban bird park. If you ever get to San Diego there are many fantastic, functional birdhouses worth checking out.