Back in spring 2015, I painted my first seagull. In fact I painted a flock of seagulls.
That year, the seagulls of St Ives, long believed to be particularly aggressive, were getting a lot of airtime about their viciousness. Surpassing pasty and ice cream theft, they were now attacking our children and pets.
I was reminded of a book I’d read many years previously – Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – about a bird determined to be more than ordinary. My subsequent paintings of seagulls are all dedicated to Jonathan Livingston Seagull and his antics and beliefs.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull lives within us all. We all have the ability to be Jonathan.
Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.
Jonathan is a seagull frustrated with the meaningless materialism, conformity, and limitation of the seagull life. He is seized with a passion for flight of all kinds, and his soul soars as he experiments with exhilarating challenges of daring aerial feats. Eventually, his lack of conformity to the limited seagull life leads him into conflict with his flock, and they turn their backs on him, casting him out of their society and exiling him. Not deterred by this, Jonathan continues his efforts to reach higher and higher flight goals.
He transcends into a society where all the gulls enjoy flying. He realises that you have to be true to yourself: “You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”
However Jonathan understands that the spirit cannot be really free without the ability to forgive, and that the way to progress – for him at least – is to return to the Flock to share his newly discovered ideals and experiences. He understands that love, deserved respect, and forgiveness are all equally important to his total freedom from the pressure to obey the rules just because they are commonly accepted.
Of course flight is a metaphor for anyone seeking a higher purpose in life, even if your flock, tribe or neighbourhood finds your ambition threatening. By not compromising his higher vision, Jonathan learns the meaning of love and kindness and gets the ultimate payoff – transcendence. “He was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all”
My current exhibition at Cafe Art in St Ives majors on paintings from the last 18 months or so that have been created whilst I’m taking flight. I’m not sure where this flight will take me but I’m hoping to return with a new perspective. To be continued….