Monday, November 9, 2015

Painting the Flying Spirit of the Bird

When I last posted, I was following the feathers. They led me to the peacocks, and then, as always happens in the creative process,  I ended up somewhere I had not even imagined!

I was recently inspired to create some art for an exhibition hosted by the Orlando Museum of Art called "Animals!". It was funny that this exhibit came up, because I had put off creating my peacock painting in alcohol ink for a long time, the whole process seeming overwhelming. If you followed my last post, you'd see how I had struggled, but really wanted to move forward with this new medium, and well, how I was so enthralled by the peacocks.  The next logical step was just to DO IT, and the exhibit provided the perfect motivation.

Here's the photo from the last post of the incredible creature that I chose to render.

Unlike the earlier alcohol ink works that I had done, I decided that with this one, I'd use a couple of different little tricks to help me start. First, I used some watercolor to sketch in the image of the bird. This way, I could always pull it up with some water if I wanted to make changes before starting on the alcohol ink. Then I did something else new- I used some masking fluid to outline the bird, thus letting me be a little more free with creating the background. I was surprised at how much it looked like an angel!

The next step was dropping in some different greens, and brown, and blotting them with paper towel to get a first layer that was homogeneous. I knew I wanted the top level of the bird to have a different treatment, so I focused on creating sort of a horizon line. Then I just had some fun dropping in some other colors to create shading within the greens.

This next photo shows what happened when I also dropped some rubbing alcohol to mix everything up.

I went at the colors as they mixed with a little brushing with dry brushes, and some blotting with paper towel, to create this look.

At this point I decided that the background needed to have a little more definition of darkness under the wings, to help the bird stand out from the background. I played a little with that. Also in this picture you can see how I started to put in the upper part of the background. My thought was to make it appear more like "sky" while the bottom looked more like "earth", and the bird itself and the activity of its flight was the transition. The technique I used for the sky was to drip some colors on the left edge of the paper, and lift the paper to let it run to the other side. You can see how things started to get a little messy over the peacock's head, but I knew I was covering that with bold and dark colors, so that was ok. I played with the sky until I liked the look.

Here's how it looked when I removed the masking fluid. Still a lot of work to do.

This was the tough spot for me- to just get bold and start dripping color for the bird. However, Once I told myself to loosen up and do whatever needed to be done for the whole piece, including working more on the background, so be it. I started light to dark. I decided to use even more layering of color and drops of alcohol ink to make the "earth" part of the background interesting.

Next came a critical point in the piece for many reasons: I worked in the very dark feathers behind the orange ones, and started to do the detail of the "eyes" on the peacock feathers. I started to get really frustrated and went back and forth washing over and erasing things and redoing them several times. Once during that day I was reading and happened upon this quote by Robert Henri: "Paint the flying spirit of the bird rather than its feathers." Reading that gave me permission to really let my hand knew it was supposed to do all along.

Here is the piece as finished- I ended it with more work on the wings, tail, and doing some free splattering of fun. and I think he was finally flying!

I was so honored that this work, plus two others were selected for the show at the Museum, which turned out to be an amazing show, and so thankful that they were received wonderfully. Now, I'm inspired to create more!

Please comment if you have any questions!!!

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