Sudden Flight at Muskegon Museum of Art

Sudden Flight will be included in the Muskegon Museum of Art’s 87th Regional Exhibition, which is open to all Michigan artists.


The annual competition runs June 4 through August 5, 2015 with the reception June 4 from 5:30 – 8:00 pm.The Museum also has a small, but highly outstanding permanent collection with many superb paintings.

Muskegon Museum of Art
296 W Webster Ave, Muskegon, MI 49440

Birds of a Feather Group Show, 2015

As the official grand re-opening, Mixed Media Gallery will be hosting a themed group exhibition titled “Birds of a Feather” starting over Memorial Day weekend.


Come see some great art and meet some artists at the reception, May 23, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. I’ll have ten of my own pieces in the gallery with two of them as part of the group show. The exhibition runs two weeks.

Mixed Media Gallery
23 Center St.Douglas, MI 49406
(269) 857-8738


Sudden Flight

I was in South Haven, Michigan, out on the north pier watching jets of water shoot up in the recesses along the steel side as the waves rolled in. This gull had been standing there on the soaked concrete, looking at me instead of the water behind, when it was startled into flight.

I felt this was a great image, and revisited it on and off for months. It started out as a thought about how life is fragile, and tied in with how I’ve been seeing gulls as metaphors for people. Here was this bird with all the world crashing around, and it seemed so small and at the mercy of the greater power of nature – so transitory.

"Startled Gull", 2011, Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for Sudden Flight), 2011
Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker~click to enlarge~

It took some time for the deeper personal connection to percolate up, and motivate me to actually get started on the painting:

When the phone rang the second time, I had a feeling something was wrong. Mom’s in the hospital; she had a massive stroke and might not live more than a day. That’s not something you want to hear.

I was on a plane bound for Florida early the next morning, a sudden flight filled with fears and barely restrained, intense sadness.

In spite of the reality of the situation – knowing that this wasn’t going to end with a miracle – hope would come and go throughout each day as I sat in the hospital room, traveled with family to a second hospital that had neurology specialists, and watched mom hooked up to tubes, machines, and monitors.

When you’re sitting there, and hope is not with you at the moment, a vacant numbness takes its place. These two things trade off, back and forth, and mix in with other powerful emotions to make a thick stew.

She never woke up. Her sudden flight had already happened about a week before she finally passed away.

Losing a parent changes something deep inside of you, way down in your core. The truth of your own mortality is never more clear. If you’re fortunate, you come away with the beginning of a more profound understanding of your own heart, and of the things that give meaning to your life.

The thing about life is we never know how much time we have. There is a glass-like fragility to life, to being out there in it all and experiencing the world through this gift we’ve been given.

Get out there and do something meaningful. Live with purpose. Try to be a better human being, be kinder, be more understanding, and especially be more open. That’s how I want to live.

"Sudden Flight" (Detail), 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, by David Jay Spyker

“Sudden Flight” (Detail), 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

"Startled Gull", 2011, Watercolor and Acrylics on Paper (Lanaquarelle 140 lb. Cold Pressed), 10 5/8 x 11 1/2 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for Sudden Flight), 2011
Watercolor and Acrylics on Paper (Lanaquarelle 140 lb. Cold Pressed)
10 5/8 x 11 1/2 in., by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

Study for Sudden Flight, 2012, Graphite on Paper (Stonehenge 100% Cotton), 11 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker

Study for Sudden Flight, 2012, Graphite on Paper (Stonehenge 100% Cotton)
11 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

Sudden Flight is displayed in ArtPrize from September 18 – October 6, 2013 at St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. If you’ll be visiting ArtPrize, please stop by St. Cecilia’s to see the painting.

ArtPrize 2013 Vote Code: 54406

Compass and Piper on Display at Portage District Library

If you are in the Kalamazoo/Portage area, stop by the Portage District Library to enjoy the group show “Birds”. The painting, Compass, and the drawing, Piper, are both part of the exhibition, which runs through May 31st.

The Lost

"The Lost", 2000, Acrylic Painting by David Jay Spyker

"The Lost", 2000, 5 x 3 3/4 in., Acrylics on Hardboard

In representational art, a man or woman pondering the human skull is used to convey an awareness of mortality, or more accurately, mankind’s awareness of his own mortality. The presence of a human skull in painting is a reminder that each of us is here only for a short while, and that our time is indefinite and unknown.

The bird skull in “The Lost” is meant to remind us of the interconnectedness and mortality of every living being with which we share this ever-shrinking globe. It is tiny, fragile, easily overlooked; and while the bird is living, it is swift and fleeting, impossible to simply grasp in one’s hand.

I found this particular skull in a hedge row in my overgrown back yard. I looked down, and it was just lying there atop a single brown leaf in the midst of a patch of dead leaves, pale and ghostly in the near twilight like someone had carefully placed it there as an offering. I could easily have missed it – and stepped on it – as I crept beneath the tangled branches. I knew I had to paint it.

“The Lost” is a small, simple painting. There is no one to ponder the skull; only the skull – painted in life size – hovers before you, the viewer. You are the philosopher, meant to think over this tiny thing. It is intended to engage you, and make you the human element to this painting.

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    ~ Arnold Böcklin, 1897

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