Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Frosty Feathered Friends

I recently completed several mixed media pieces on board, just using watercolor as a background and popping out the subject matter in soft pastel.. I'm finding this technique to allow rich layers and varied textures in the pieces, and I seem to quickly get the best of all the worlds.

Over the past few weeks I completed a series of "wintery" birds. This started with a simple feather as a gift. Symbolically, this little eagle feather was almost autobiographical. I'm learning a lot about the philosophies inherent in Native American culture, which tie the animal world, and really all of the natural world together with humankind. The feather connects the owner to the bird. In this piece I just took a piece of watercolor board I had laying in the studio, painted a background in watercolor and then made the little feather with soft pastel. It went really quick and it turned out to be a perfect Thanksgiving gift for a special person in my life.

After the feather, I made a cardinal in memory of my dad, just for myself, but after I made it I decided that the technique was so fluid and gave such good results, and also, that I was really enjoying focusing on the birds. I thought I should keep going and make several, to share with the people at Faith Arts Village Orlando for their holiday show. Here are a few that I made-


"Bluebird in snow"

"Cardinal in Snow"

"Snowy Owl"

They all were created in similar fashion as the little eagle feather- watercolor and soft pastel. I did use some colored watercolor pencil, and in some cases chalk pencil, on the eyes and beaks, to get more detail in. Each piece happened slightly differently as I tried to get the best effect. For instance,  I sketched the scene lightly in pencil, then painted in the watercolor background, rendered in the eyes beak and feet with either watercolor pencil, chalk pastel or both. It was really thrilling how quickly each piece seemed to come out of my hand. I really just had FUN.

After applying water to perfect the feet, eye and beak, the body of the bird was rendered with soft pastel. For the snowy owl above, I started with all the white, added in the grey shadows and blended, and then applied workable fixative. When that dried I went back in on top with more white highlights, and also the black feathers in the back. More fixative, then a final work of the white and final matte finish. For the cardinal above, I painted in the grey background and the grey shadows in the snow, went for the reds of the bird with soft pastel, drew the tree needles with watercolor pencil, sprayed fixative, and finished up with the white snow (the falling snow I made by rubbing pastel on rough sand paper and also drawing dots) and also covering up some of the tree needles and around snow with final coat of white pastel. Every piece was finished with a coat of matte fixative.

In the middle of pouring my heart into these works, some things presented themselves that reminded me of the fragility of life, and how are we are so connected to the animal world. And this shook me to my core. It even made me re-evaluate my entire lifestyle, in order to live a more honest life. It's funny how each foray into an avenue of art seems to make me understand who I am, despite myself. It can be a really scary and frustrating experience, but I know that is how it is supposed to go for an artist, and I've committed myself to that journey. And so be it.

I decided to donate a portion of my profits to the National Audubon Society. My dad used to love birds, and used to call me his "Little Chickadee". I saw that with a donation there I could symbolically "adopt" a bird, and they sent me an "adoption certificate" along with a plush black-capped chickadee that sings its call when squeezed. It came on my birthday. And I know that my late father helped me to paint each one of these pieces.

It was so surprising to me how many people resonate with the feathered friends, and also, how many people seem to have feathers follow them! I made so many new friends at the show. Many of the birds flew to new homes, and my soul was nourished into its next artistic adventure!

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