Lucky Birdie

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Project Description

Lucky Birdie

Original acrylic on board
Image: 14″ x 24″

Some years ago my mother looked after an elderly neighbor who was almost a total recluse. When Aunt Claire (as we kids called her) died in 1996 at 97 years of age, she left the house and contents to my mother, and I was one of the first people to look through the house. The house was so musty and dirty that I had to wear a surgical mask most of the time. While there was nothing of any real monetary value, I found some great “stuff” for subject matter for paintings such as an almost complete set of “Flow Blue” china from about 1895 (I used a couple of pieces in the painting “Flow Blue,” which is shown on the website). I found the china on a top shelf in a pantry closet and like everything else in the house, it was absolutely filthy, covered with a thick layer of grease and dirt. I nearly threw it away, but I wiped a plate clean and realized what I had. I didn’t know anything about “Flow Blue” at the time; I do now.

I also found an old trunk with ladies’ high button shoes, flapper dresses, hats and costume jewelry (Aunt Claire must have been hot stuff in her day!) much of which will sooner or later show up in paintings, or already has. I found another trunk containing old photos, postcards, ticket stubs and programs from football and baseball games, including a 1923 World Series ticket (used it already-in a painting- NOT the World Series). The program and tickets for the 1936 Army-Navy Game (used both in “Annapolis Girl”) were also in the trunk along with a bunch of horse racing programs from the 20’s and 30’s.

When I was 12 years old, Claire’s husband, Al, who was the neighborhood grump, died of a heart attack. He had been an avid fisherman and hunter, and Aunt Claire eventually gave me Al’s shotgun. It was a hardware store model Iver-Johnson, that probably sold for $5 when he bought it, and it isn’t worth much more than that now (but I still have it) and it kicked like a mule and gave me many a split lip. With all this in mind, I just KNEW that somewhere in that house was some more hunting/fishing stuff. It had to be in the attic, so, surgical mask on and Raid wasp killer in hand, up I went.

I really had hoped to find some old decoys, but I didn’t. I found a trunk full of rusty fishing lures, sand-jammed reels, a rusted compass, a box of paper shotgun shells, Al’s L.L. Bean wool plaid hunting shirt and britches with a 1950 dime in one pocket and a fat wad of napkins in another (for when nature called, I guess) and finally a deck of dirty French playing cards in a jacket pocket. I always thought Al was a dirty old man. I also found a box of assorted baseballs that Al had confiscated from us kids when we were unfortunate enough to let one stray into his yard. I had some chuckles while in that attic.

I found the best thing as I was leaving the attic. Stashed in the corner among a pile of old Christmas ornaments was the “Lucky Birdie” gambling game, still in half of a dried out and rotted box. Made of stamped and lithographed tin, the game dates back to the early part of the 1900’s. I guess Al and his buddies gambled a bit in the hunting camp, when they weren’t playing cards with the French girls. I knew that it would make a great subject for a trompe l’oeil painting, so thanks to grumpy Al and Aunt Claire, here it is.

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