For my 30th day’s artwork of the 33 painting-a-day series I am doing with Nikki Kinne, I reverted to a subject I’ve painted in the past. Painting bluebirds was one of my first commissions.
I remember fondly that both my Aunt Meg and my Grandmother Ruth asked me to paint them bluebird paintings. It was especially significant because both were near the end of their lives when they requested these images. Now I think of them as a sort of spirit guide, which actually means I pay close attention when one crosses my path. For the rest of the world, in many many cultures, they may represent the ‘bluebird of happiness,‘ but for me they symbolize stripping away the trappings of life and getting down to what really matters. I think its interesting that in at least one European myth (The Blue Bird) with the bluebird at its center the moral of the story is “…that the search for happiness is ongoing, and it is to be found within oneself.”
Bluebirds have always been symbolically significant to my family and others, but they are also an environmental success story. Between the 1930s and the 1980’s the population of bluebirds in the US had declined by 90%. They were truly endangered. By the time I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in southwestern Wisconsin, bluebirds were rare. Pesticides contaminated their invertebrate foods, and nesting cavities were in short supply. Sighting a bluebird was a rare treat that took on mythic proportions in my family. Bluebirds have come to symbolize all things good and beautiful.
Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW) When BRAW was organized in 1986, it was estimated that the Eastern Bluebird population in its historic range had declined by 90% during the preceding 50 years due to changes in agriculture practices, competition from the House (English) Sparrow and European Starling, severe weather in its central and southern winter range, and the loss of nest sites, such as tree cavities and hollow wooden fence posts. Today, bluebirds are common in suitable habitat thanks to the work of citizen volunteers placing bluebird nesting boxes in the right places and working to protect their habitat. It makes me hopeful so I paint bluebirds of happiness and give them plenty to eat.