Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Dark-eyed Junco
(Artwork - 205)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

The great artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874 – 1927) was an American ornithologist and bird artist-illustrator whose brilliant work greatly inspired generations of bird artists and illustrators, myself included. He died relatively young in a rail-crossing accident, just as he was at the peak of his formidable powers, leaving behind a legacy of paintings and studies, including a small, unfinished watercolour study of a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) perched amid the autumn red leaves of a Staghorn Sumac, also spelled “suchach” (Rhus typhina). I think all Canadians my age were, as children, taught the poem Indian Summer by William Wilfred Campbell, and recall the second verse, “Now by the brook the maple leans With all his glory spread, And all the sumachs on the hills Have turned their green to red.” Just one sumac, actually, which spreads via underground rhizomes to look like many shrubs. I thought of all this last fall as I was wandering through Bob Hunter Memorial Park, near my home (and named after an old friend of mine) and saw a lovely male Dark-eyed Junco perched amid the glorious red sumac leaves that had “turned their green to red”, just as in Fuertes’ little, incomplete study. Mine got finished, and instead of a delicate watercolour, like the master’s, I went for oils, a medium Fuertes was successfully experimenting with at the time of his tragic death.

In this painting I’m showing the nominate race of the species, and adult male “slate-colored junco”, found nesting in boreal forests across much of northern North America and the Appalachian Mountains, but there are other subspecies so distinctly marked as to have been considered separate species. Even now they are often separated into groups, the slate-colored; the white-winged; the Oregon (brown-backed); the pink-sided; the gray-headed and the red-backed; each represented by one or more subspecies looking more like each other than members of the other groupings. But to make it really confusing, they are subspecies and so can hybridize where ranges overlap.

In winter Juncos range widely to the south of their core breeding range (I have had many in my garden this winter) and all subspecies are marked by their grey heads, pink beaks, white bellies and crisply white outer tail feathers. A favorite colloquial name is “snowbird”. Art supply shortages inspired me to experiment painting on a thin sheet of brushed stainless steel, which, with appropriate primer, worked fine. The painting, itself, in in oils and is 12 by 9 inches. I’ve also included an older painting, done in 2007, done in acrylics, showing members of the “brown-backed, Oregon” group found in Central British Columbia, along with a Song Sparrow, also of the subspecies found in that region.


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Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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