Sunday, August 07, 2005

Illustration Friday - Empty

The Illustration Friday topic is Empty this week.
I spent some time brainstorming with my kids but couldn't come up with anything better than 'empty belly', 'a glass half empty' , the mathematical empty set or an 'empty head'.

So i decided to sleep on it and see if inspiration struck me later - but i didn't have much luck.
Then i wondered about opposites since sometimes its helpful to consider the opposite meaning, in order to get a handle on a topic.

I also looked up some famous quotes using the word empty to see if that would help. I liked a guote from Lord Byron "If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad." and i wondered about illustrating this but i couldn't work out what i wanted to do with it.

I also thought about hermit crabs and how they need to find an empty shell when they grow bigger as they don't have a very hardy body and need the protection of a discarded shell.
This seemed promising and i did a couple of sketches for this but i wasn't really happy with them.

While i was pondering the sketches i remembered visiting Paris with my husband, before we were married and had kids. We were sitting in a park having some lunch when we heard a thud. A bird that was almost as round as a cannon ball had landed on the ground from a nearby bush.

It was obviously a chick of some kind but immensely fat and not able to move or fly very well. Then several sparrows started feeding this bird as it chirped piteously , as if to say 'i am starving to death here'. It was a cuckoo chick and obviously managing to trigger 'feed the baby' responses from more than just the foster parents.

Cuckoos are unusual birds - they lay their eggs in the nests of other species of bird. Apparently cuckoo eggs have been found in the nests of 50 different types of european bird. The eggs are quite small for the size of the adult bird and the cuckoo chicks hatch quickly- usually quicker than the host bird species. Then, the newly hatched cuckoo pushes the other eggs and any chicks out of the nest. The adult foster parents don't seem to realise that they no longer have their own chicks or eggs and so they feed this ravenous chick. Apparently a cuckoo chick will increase its weight to 50 times its initial weight in 3 weeks.

I've heard that there are some birds called cowbirds in North America who will lay their eggs in other species nests but it seems these birds don't kill the original chicks or eggs - although the cowbird chicks will monopolise the food supply and the other chicks have a tendency to die anyway.

So I decided to paint a cuckoo chick and sparrow foster parents for this weeks topic as the cuckoo always acts like it has an empty belly and also it empties the nest of rivals.



carla said...

I was absolutely captivated by your story, and the illustration is just wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing both; your writing style is as lovely as your artwork.

isay said...

thanks for that wonderful story and info. lovely illustration, too!

andrea said...

This reminds me of the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" -- something we humans seem to have forgotten. Thank you for the interesting info and lovely illustration.

Mustashrik said...

Hey there!

Love the story and the image ;)

onclejohann said...

This was a story that hit home for me. I spend a good hour a day feeding the neighborhood sparrows their ration of crushed peanuts. Yesterday I had a baby sparrow at my feet with it's back to me, mouth opened and noisey as you could make it - getting a handout from his father. Just out of curiousity I gave the little feather a tiny boot (big toe) to the butt and observed what it would do. It immediately turned and was demanding a handout from me.

Michelle said...

You've got some great effects this week, that nest is fantastic.

Alison Ashwell said...

Thanks for the nice comments everyone.

Michelle -the nest is painted using 2 brushes that i created which are essentially digital rubber stamps - i used to use a lot of eraser carving and overprinting when i used natural media and now that I use Corel Painter, I can use similar techniques but don't end up cutting my hand or lose the important little piece of rubber.

Anonymous said...

A Cuckoo bird invaded the nest of Australian Native bird Honeyeaters at my place. They are the noisiest chicks and the only time I was happy a chick grew up and flew away. Nice illustration! From a bird lover :)

Rowantree said...

Great story a beatiful illustration !!

Emily said...

So the illustration! Good reflection of how people take care of each other too.

Kim Carney said...

I love it. I watch these enormous Crow babies chase their poor mother around. How lucky to have gone snorkeling with the jelly fish. Where in Scotland are you from?