Today, as part of a tissue session, I talked about the story of the black swan.
Once upon a time, all swans were white. It was inconceivable that they could be any other colour, let alone black. And yet in 1790, the English naturalist John Latham received a remarkable specimen from the other side of the world. It was a swan, and it was almost entirely black. Everything the Western world had known about swans until then was turned upside down.
It was this event that gave rise to Taleb’s Black Swan theory, the idea that unforeseen, unpredictable events can change everything. Discussing the principle of a changing, uncertain world was a lot more interesting in this form than a PowerPoint slide.
I prepared the sketches in eyeliner ahead of time to ensure that I didn’t waste time in the presentation itself.
The final work was completed during the session, with the colour of the beaks and key words from the discussion added in. Were I painting these in a more controlled enviroment, I’d probably make sure that they were neater and the reflections a little more symmetrical.
I posted the finished works to Twitter and got a positive response; I already have a new commission from someone who wants a black and a white swan. Black swans are fun to paint, and I’ll probably do more of them.
As an aside, swans are one of the foods forbidden in Leviticus, along with swine, hares, bats and others. Who knew?