Currently creating art on beautiful Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


Bird Watching, March 2024

Yesterday I spent the day at the French Creek Estuary, near to where I now live, counting birds on my eBird app. In 2 1/2 hours we counted 18 different species of birds. In or near the water there were scores of Mallards, a few Common Mergansers, some Buffleheads, a Kingfisher and more Seagulls than we could count. Fortunately the estuary’s riparian zone is protected as a nature preserve

In the adjacent upland area we counted more Juncos and more Spotted Towhees than I’ve ever seen in one place, a couple of Hummingbirds, some Quail, many Sparrows, and a few birds that are rare at this time of year such as a Townsend’s Warbler. There were majestic Great Blue Herons nesting in the trees and flying overhead to fish. On a cold day in March the trees and bushes were simply alive with birds and it was entrancing.

The joy of seeing these exquisite creatures up close in my binoculars is my reason for bird watching. These elegantly feathered animals so entirely at one with their surroundings, are a strong contrast to us humans in our environment. We constantly ward off our surroundings with walls, heating/air conditioning, machines, clothing and devices. But birds belong to a different, more attuned, more perfect way of life than us domesticated human beings. Is this innately what it is to be human or were we at one time more like birds and other wild beings? Their beauty, super-awareness and finely-focused attention on the present moment, every moment, is like a lesson in how to be in the world.

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The Golden Bird, 2023, printing inks on wood, 23” w x 15” h

In Margaret Atwood’s forward to a book on birds by her late husband Graeme Gibson, (The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany, Gibson, Graeme, Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2005) she describes what bird watching meant to him. ”…every new Bird was a revelation to him. He wasn’t much interested in making lists of the birds he had seen, though he did make such lists as an aid to memory. Instead it was the experience of the particular, singular bird that enthralled him: this one, just here, just now. A red tailed hawk! Look at that! Nothing could be more magnificent!

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Cover of The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany, Gibson, Graeme, Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2005

But yesterday it was difficult to be enthralled in the present moment knowing that an area of marvellous bird habitat near the protected area of French Creek will be bulldozed for more human habitat. Sadly this is not a protected area but private land slated for development of 14 patio homes (a local name for a complex of smaller attached bungalows.) This is the dilemma of bird-watching: the more you watch them the more you treasure birds, and the more pain you feel as their habitat is destroyed, lot by lot, forest by forest, ecosystem by ecosystem.

There are several earlier blogs that have explored birds in both sculptures and paintings and a current series of prints also includes bird images. And there are more planned for the future.

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Then Again, 2019, Marion-Lea Jamieson, oil on canvas, 42″ h x 35″ w

Then Again was one of a series of paintings called Time Lines, that used schematic images to examine the linear concept of time or the understanding that we are constantly moving forward into the future and out of the past. They explored time as a more circular, phenomenon that is relative or even illusory. This work was inspired by European Neolithic images from from 7000 – 3500 BC. Their simplification of images produced an abstract, symbolic, conceptual art that subverts the idea that art is progressing such that whatever is created today is superior to what went before.

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Creation, 2020, Marion-Lea Jamieson, oil paint on canvas, 5′ w x 4′ h

Time LInes also continued the exploration of the relationship between humans and other species using figures with both animal and human characteristics in 2D and 3D. This investigation is one that had been ongoing for many years and always seems relevant. The melded figures investigate the belief that humans are separate from and independent of nature. The series also referenced ancient animal/human mythological images suggesting that the split between mind and body, human and natural, is a fairly recent paradigm that replaced the previous understanding of a more interactive relationship with other species.Some of the paintings, like Flight, shown below, were painted as though sculptural.

Flight, a melded human/bird figure, is a painting in which I visualized sculptures that I would like to make in steel. I was fascinated by the elegantly constructed armour I saw in European museums, and imagined how wonderful it would be to use the same techniques to build a sculpture on the animal/human fusion theme I had been pursuing for many years.

Flight, 2019, Marion-Lea Jamieson, oil on canvas, 42″ h x 35″ w

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Conversation in Blue, Marion-Lea Jamieson, 2007 wood & spray paint 24″ h x 24″ w x 12″ d

This series included some pieces on wood such as the image above. These works are in praise of birds – these gorgeous, jaunty, mysterious beings. May they persevere, survive the Anthropocene era and continue as they have done for millennia and for eons to come.

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