Jim Parks is an Evanston artist who creates paintings and multi-media sculptures. He has spent this summer painting hummingbirds surrounded by nature in his own backyard.
All his artwork is based on interpretations of existing images. For sculptures, he sources works of the masters such as Van Gogh, Matisse and Monet.
The hummingbird paintings are based on photographs he found online. In both cases, he chooses to never replicate and to always reform and reinterpret the images.
After working on sculptures this past winter in his basement, his wife suggested he break out the oil paints and take his work outdoors. So Parks did!
Imagine painting nearly every day on your backyard deck shielded from the harsh sun under your patio umbrella while surrounded by a natural haven of trees, tomatoes, cucumbers and the summer breeze.
His strong, consistent work ethic results in a high level of production. He starts and often completes three hummingbird paintings each day. Around 3 p.m. he often looks around and wonders “Where’d the time go?”
“Tiny” is an apt descriptor for the materials Parks brings to his wrought iron patio table daily including 4” x 4” canvases, 1.25 oz. tubes of paint, small bottles of linseed and Terpenoid thinners, narrow width brushes and tabletop easels (as needed).
Parks starts by adding acrylic backgrounds to several canvases since acrylic dries so quickly. Each multi-colored background is applied thinly to create a mottled look, and each will be enhanced later depending on the hummingbird image painted.
Next, Parks opens the hummingbird image library he collected on his iPad and selects those he plans to paint. Using oil, he paints the form of the bird and sometimes adds a complementary flower. Usually he’ll then select a darker color tube, squirts a tiny amount of the color on his palette, and begins adding it to the image. Then he adds lighter colors to complete the image.
There are three main challenges painting the hummingbird. First is the precise form of the wings, beak, and feet. If these are off, it is very obvious and Parks repaints them. Next is the iridescence of the feathers which Parks chooses to create with individual colors rather than iridescent paint. The last challenge is capturing the quickness, agility, and energy of the tiny bird.
When he is satisfied with the hummingbird’s colors, Parks returns to the background. He creates a very distinct edge with contrasting color along the form of the bird except the wings where a blurred edge better suggests motion.
When the painting is done, he signs “Parks” on the right side of the frame, photographs, and catalog. He has completed 80 hummingbirds and is thinking toward the fall. Owls perhaps.