03 December 2013


I just finished reading Donna Tartt's highly anticipated new book, The Goldfinch. I seem to keep happening upon these art-related novels without intending to--this one is based on a story about the 350-year-old painting of the same name by Carel Fabritius, currently on loan as part of a Dutch Masterworks exhibit at the Frick Collection in New York City, loaned by the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands.

It's a beautiful little gem of a painting, with that simultaneous depth and light given such skilled life by the Dutch masters. Tragically, it's one of the few surviving paintings by Fabritius, who died at age 32 in an explosion of a gunpowder magazine in Delft, taking nearly all his work with him.

My ambition, after dwelling so lovingly on the painting through the words of Tartt, is to see it in person some day; but the other emotion her story evoked in me was the desire to paint a European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) of my own.

No, I'm not aspiring to duplicate, or to set myself and my puny skills up against a master like Fabritius--that would be laughable. But one of the things I have discovered, in the pursuit of my short and part-time avocation, is that to paint something is to really see it, to take in, take it apart, put it back together again, and forever know it in a more intense and personal way, and this is what I wanted to do.

So, here is my Carduelis. Not very gold at all, compared to the American variety, but bright, colorful and endearing in his own right. The only other bird I have ever painted was a raven, and the task of conveying feathers, some of which are soft down while others are spiky, stiff and strong, is challenging. I really enjoyed making this little painting, and I think I will try a few more birds in the future.

You can read my review of The Goldfinch on the Burbank Library Blog at this link.