A beautiful print of many, many birds in flight hangs by my bedside. It is a perfect circle of airborne seabirds. A maelstrom of wings that swoop and soar. Countless, delicately drawn souls. The canvas is crowded and difficult to take in all at once, and yet it brings me a deep sense of calm. Every night when I look at it, before I put out my bedside light. Whatever the day has brought me, I find solace in picking out my favourite birds, or seeking fresh patterns in the spaces between them. One night it may be the giant gull with head swiveled as if tracking a fish. Another, trying to conjour the silhouette of France in the forms made by spaces between wings. It is a firm night painting, that grants me a nocturnal audience.

I love this print, and thank my lucky stars that I spotted it in a local charity shop. I was hunting for LP’s at the time, but my gaze was arrested and held by the wondrous explosion of fine lines, encased behind the dusty glass frame. It was love at first sight, and I bought it straight away, without a backward glance at the records. Over four years later, my admiration for this wonder grows and grows. It has become a form of psychological anchor for me, and I am immeasurably grateful. We live in a world in which mindfulness is  a term bandied around with wild abandon, but there is a deep serenity for me in poring over this drawing. It makes me calm, by giving my mind a focus.

I suffer from severe anxiety, which often chooses to pounce in the hazy moments before sleep. At times, it does most unpleasant things to my mind, and my body follows suit. Yet thanks to this wonderful work of art, I can turn to the right as if giving a military salute, and plunge in to the delicate lines and shapes of flight. They give me a focus, and something for my flailing mind to cling to. Something akin to an anchor, or a visual security blanket. I keep turning to look at it now, and it glances back at me bathed in lamplight, as if saying ‘look at me. I am here’. So I look, and feel my heart rate settle. It is powerful.

I want to offer my heartfelt and most grateful thanks to the creator of this work of art. Research has told me that the artist is a Mr Clive King, who is currently the Professor Emeritus of the School of Art and Art History in Florida International University. I managed to email him just after I bought it, and he graciously replied, but I have mislaid this message, along with his contact details.  Mindless of me, I know.  At the time I wanted to find out more about his creation, and he was very kind in his reply. Now though, I would like to express something deeper. His hands have created something that grounds me, and even though I have spent hours and hours looking at it, never fails to fascinate me. I want and feel the need to say thank you. So should anybody read these words who can direct them in Mr King’s direction, then please, please do. He is out there somewhere, a point in a map, on a globe, like one of his wonderful birds. I would be honoured to hear from him.


Copyright Tom Tide 2017


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