Five Questions for…Matt Adrian

The local artist and author is back with another installment of trademark paintings featuring his feathered friends

The local artist and author is back with another installment of trademark paintings featuring his feathered friends, this time ones whose inner monologues could easily land them in the psych ward (see the slide show below). We caught up with Adrian to talk all things avian jackassery.

The Mincing Mockingbird—an exercise in what you call “avian jackassery”—is a hilarious concept. How did you come up with it?
I had been flat out failing in my artistic life, just having a hell of a time. I was working on some bird paintings for a bird-themed art show here in L.A., and something snapped in me. I walked outside and I suddenly noticed every bird in the yard, that there was this entire universe going on all around not just me, but everyone. After that I started filtering my writing through the birds, and it all seemed to click. I’ve painted nothing but birds for seven years.

In your newest, The Mincing Mockingbird’s Guide to Troubled Birds, you attribute some pretty psychotic thoughts to these little guys. Has living in L.A. informed your humor at all? Any run-ins with crazy hummingbirds or finches whilst hiking one of the city’s many trails or mowing your front lawn?
L.A. totally inspired my humor. Shortly before I started working with birds in my art, I moved from a very rural part of Illinois to Los Angeles. While I’d lived in large cities before, Los Angeles was a lot to take in, so I filtered it through my art. The stories in the book may have bird beginnings, but they have a lot to do with the more bizarre encounters with humans that I’ve had.

On another note, hummingbirds are evil, evil creatures. We associate them with flowers, so they get labeled as cute, but they are extremely territorial and are known to impale each other. I’ve been scared out of a hummingbird’s territory by some wicked close fly-bys where I felt wingbeats on my eyeballs.

Let’s talk about process. Do you paint the picture and then create the inner monologue? Or come up with a line and then create a fowl character to accompany it?
Usually a phrase will pop into my head, and then I’ll create the bird painting. Once I see the bird and the phrase, I get inspired to write a little story, usually involving drinking, insanity, death, or all three. It’s a comedy recipe for pies filled with laughter and/or disturbed, confused silence.

You’ve said that you and your wife try to make each other laugh often, which is where some of these ideas were born. How influential was she in the making of Guide to Troubled Birds?
My wife is my sounding board, and her sense of humor is just as bent as mine, so if I make something that can make her laugh, I know I’m on to something. A blank stare is death, and if I get that, into the trash it goes. She’s also a pretty talented graphic designer, so the look of the book was all her. Writing this, I’m starting to realize that I’d be in real trouble if she divorced me.

What are your future plans for these nestlings?
This is L.A.—maybe I need to get these birds agents. Who knows what trouble they could get into via animation?