Pelican Diving
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48" x 42", acrylic on canvas, 2005

One of the most spectacular of nature's phenomena is a feeding frenzy. It can happen with various creatures and their food chain but one of the best known begins with a dense school of herring or sardines. These get pushed near the surface by predators from below and the watchful sea birds seize the opportunity. Birgit and I were lucky enough to find ourselves in the middle of this madness (safely in a Zodiac) in the Sea of Cortez. There were hundreds of blue-footed and brown boobies as well as pelicans hovering and plunging like vertical rockets, with dolphins working the fish from below. Dozens of Heerman's gulls were striving to rob the diving birds of their prey when they came to the surface.
This painting composition was inspired by the abstract expressionist Franz Kline and also the awkward, tumbling figure painting of Robert Longo. The pose is the slightly out-of-control contortions the pelican makes in the split second transition from a great, flapping bird into a diving javelin.