All the Birds I Saw Last Year

All the Birds I Saw Last Year is my attempt to portend something of our future through the dedicated observance of local bird populations. By charting every bird I see – no matter how incidental – some rhythms or patterns might emerge that are telling of the health of our shared environment. As we wade into the Anthropocene Epoch however, the act of observing nature and nature itself has been inexorably altered by human activity and I fear what the birds might tell me.

Still, there is beauty in the pursuit. Making visual the ambient presence of the birds within our midst is pleasantly overwhelming. Each of the thousands of bird illustrations is a stand-in for being so particularly evolved and so innately beautiful as to boggle the mind. The unspoken instruction of the exhibition is to be a better observer of one’s surroundings and, by extension, a better steward of nature.

The first incarnation of the project was mounted at the Central Art Garage in Ottawa in September 2018. Michael Davidge wrote a review for Canadian Art, which was published December 13, 2018. It can be viewed here:

ATB exhibited at the Central Art Garage in Ottawa in 2018. Shwon here are the bird listings for the months of March-August 2018.

May-June prints (detail), 2018, inkjet print, each 111×33

In 2019 I decided I needed to create my own set of watercolour illustrations. Working from my bird guides, photographs, and occasionally taxidermy, I began to paint small watercolour renditions of birds as I saw them throughout the year. These illustrations are then scanned into the computer and used as digital tiles to create the larger monthly charts. I try to use as few brushstrokes as possible when painting the birds so as to lend these Peterson/Sibley-type illustrations an aspect of perceptual flux.

Notes and bird watching paraphernalia, 2018, photo credit: Julia Martin

Average Bird 2017-2018, 2018, inkjet print, 30×33” Using the year’s bird data and morphing software, an average bird was created for the year.