Of Robin's and Foxes
As many of you noticed, last year in particular, I started creating many artworks that depicted foxes and robins. I began to look at this pattern and wondered if it had some type of subconscious significance.
So firstly, I like the fox in general – it’s sleek like a cat, with cat-like behaviour and they really are quite adorable. However, when looking into the fox, we see initially that the fox is cunning, sneaky and always seen as the predator, stealing the chickens from the hen house – but let’s dig deeper again – the fox is adaptable, resilient and clever. These are characteristics we all should embody.
When I started painting robins, I chose them because they were a sweet little European bird. I had been travelling around Ireland, fell in love with the place and dearly wanted to go back. Initially, the robin for me represented the UK and Ireland and my passion for them. I also see the bird as symbol of freedom. I had conquered a big fear – travelling someone major on my own. I found freedom in that.
Historically the robin tends to now represent the coming of spring and also is used extensively throughout Great Britain to represent Christmas. This came about because the postmen of the time wore red coats and were called “Robins”. However, digging deeper into folk-tale and legend, the robin has been used quite significantly in various cultures. But probably the tale that pops up the most is in British and Irish Christian folktales. The robin tried to fan the flame on the fire to keep the infant Jesus warm on a cold night and she scolded her breast, or more often mentioned, the robin felt for Jesus on the cross and began to try and pluck out the thorns surrounding his head, resulting in his blood touching her.
Yes another account mentions how she sang to ease his suffering on the cross and when she came close, she got some of Jesus blood on her breast.
Whichever way you look at these, they all have something in common. The robin was a seemingly ordinary little brown bird, she freely offered what she had though, and then when she was touched by God, she was emblazoned with her amazing orange/red breast. We are all very much like this robin as Christians. We might think we are just ordinary boring brown birds – what do we have to really offer? But the truth is, if we give whatever we have, offer whatever talent we’ve got, then we can receive a touch of God and something amazing will happen. This bird is famous internationally – it is recognized, it is seen. This bird is not a nobody – and neither are any of us! So spread those little robin wings and offer what you have to the world. Offer what you have to God! And watch Him do amazing things through you!
The robin is now something I hold very dear – and I can see myself using it more in future paintings. So, now, I will introduce again all the paintings that depict this bird in order, and share a little bit about what I was thinking when I painted it. So far, all my robin paintings have been significant to me.
RATIONALE’S BEHIND MY ROBIN PAINTINGS
(Click on any of the images of the paintings to see the speed-video of their creation)
My first robin painting was “Gilded Freedom”. This was a painting straight from the heart for me, and would start my series and fascination with the robin as a subject. “Gilded Freedom” was quite raw at the time, and represented the feelings of being trapped, even though we are technically “free”. Through my journaling over the last year, I have come to realize that we are often trapped by our own mindsets. Just like an elephant who was raised with an iron-chain, still feels trapped when held by a string, it’s often all a matter of being in our minds. To recognize what’s trapping us internally is the first step to freedom.
...Now, that was completely generalizing it all, wasn't it? Lets get raw. I came from a domestic violence background. It didn't get to physical... but anyone who has been in this situation, knows that domestic violence starts with control, it can manifest in the form of verbal and/or psychological abuse... and these can be even more potent than psychical as they mess with your mind. It was scary to have to take a stand... but the pain of staying eventually became greater than the fear of the pain of ending it - so I did. For months afterwards, I felt trapped still and continued to live as if I was under that control, even though I wasn't... this is when "gilded freedom" happened. The figure is a likeness to myself, I didn't paint it with this knowledge - it just sort of - happened. But was the first robin painting of many that showed my journey of healing after getting out of domestic violence.
“LEARNING TO BREATHE”
I then began to research deeper meanings behind the robin with my second robin painting, “Learning to Breathe”. This painting was again very symbolic for me and goes hand in hand with “Gilded Freedom” ….for once we find “real” freedom, we must learn how to fly again or in my case – I said how to breathe… in other words, how to slow down, take in my surroundings, “really” take them in – to stop and smell the roses so to speak. It’s a process, a journey. I will say that as my journey has progressed, I’ve felt more akin to the robin, than the fox.
Learning how to be independent and learn to find my identity again was hard - I had gone straight from my parents home in a marriage that had developed into domestic violence. So for the first time ever, I needed to learn to be independent.
“TEA FOR ONE”
My next robin painting was again personal at the time. “Tea for one” … show’s the struggle I often battle when it comes to learning how to live alone. Whilst learning to stand on my feet again after divorce is something that only time can heal, I found the journey of being alone in itself is one that is full of ups and downs. Sometimes you are totally fine, fulfilled and busy, other times, you relapse into wondering if it will always be like this. “Tea for one” is about finding that peace in yourself and by yourself and knowing that everything will be ok in the end.
“CINDERS AND ROBINS”
This three-panel triptych was a lot of fun, and something that I stumbled upon while experimenting with background surfaces. Again, the robin would represent “us” and possibly also our dreams – we will always find that whatever our goals and dreams are, that we will come under some sort of fire or attack. There in essence will “always” be “haters” of some kind – they might be in the form of other people, situations or even just negative mindsets.
My cat, Cindy, represents the predator in this series of paintings.
Panel one – often when negativity creeps into our lives unnoticed. We “think” things are fine, but it’s there and we are unaware. It’s interesting to note at this point how the treatment of the background reflects the scene. At some base level, I chose the pages of a Wilbur Smith novel (The Leopard Hunts in Darkness). In this panel, the pages chosen we calm and serene and didn’t show any awareness of building up tension yet. Note how they are also mostly whole pages, barely marred in any way.
Panel two – That moment of discovery. The negativity has made itself known, we are aware of it – but what do we do with it. The Wilbur Smith novel pages in the background are now half torn and the scenes chosen were tension building scenes.
Panel three – The final panel is where things take flight. Our circumstances, or the negativity just gets too much! This is when we sometimes feel the total attack of nasty words directed our way, or a massive bill, an accident. It topples our perfect world – but how do we react? Do we allow it to consume us, or do we simply (and gracefully) take off, and find another branch to light on? The Wilbur Smith pages are now full violent scenes, which are shredded onto the background. This scene is a scene of utter chaos….but amidst the storm – we can choose to be strong!
I love this particular painting, and have it proudly displayed in my dining room.
This depicts a blown up study of a simple robin having a bird bath. The back-ground is layered old sheet music, and it’s been treated with oil pastels and oils on canvas again. This painting represents “healing” in our lives and that feeling of being renewed and washed clean. It’s a new start!
“SING IT OUT”
Again, a Robin study with sheet music in the background. This one has the added candles, representing that we should be a light in the world. The singing robin also represents the next chapter in my personal journey so far and the final painting in the robin series - which is to use what you have in your hand. Use the gifts and talents that have been given to you and use them to the best of your ability.
After completing "Sing it out" I had that strong sense of "It's done" - and so my Robin series came to an end... finding myself again, I now paint a myriad of other things from horses, to dogs to fish, to other birds! I have a new partner in my life and love him and his daughter to bits, and through finding myself again, I have a rich and fulfilling life.
Irish folktale of how the Robin got it’s red breast.
More Irish reference: