Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A bit of Wildlife Holiday Silliness

I wasn't going to post this here, but I have to remind myself not to take myself too seriously, and accept some silliness in even my professional venues...!

Background: This is the first Christmas at my first house, and all such lovely things. We trekked up the hill a mere 400 or 500 feet from the house and cut our first tree.

Now, not one to be traditional in nearly any aspect, I had to craft a handmade topper for my tree. I knew I wanted a bird, and at the suggestion of fellow bird-nerd (this is meant as an affectionate term) who goes by Kynekh online, I decided to craft a Shrike. I went with a Northern Shrike, as they are native to this area in their winter range.

For those unfamiliar with Northern Shrikes (or, shrikes in general) they are fascinating predatory songbirds. When they catch their prey items (things such as smaller songbirds, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and large invertebrates) they will often dispatch the unlucky critter with their curious bill which has a hooked notch, or tomial tooth, much like true raptors. Then the fun begins, as shrikes will often impale their catch upon a sharp branch, thorn, bit of barbed wire... or any sharp pointy implement. They do this to more easily tear off bits to consume, but also to store the meat until a time when they will return and eat it.

Thus we have the Christmas Shrike; a Northern Shrike I quickly crafted from cardboard, scraps of various things and some mache. There is a lack of attention to detail and it was created quite hastily to put up on the tree in time; I'll win no awards for sculpting this bird! Nonetheless it was fun and created in the spirit of being silly. It's not intended as a serious piece.

Complete with impale-ees....

A close up of the imapled cardboard cutout critters. They took perhaps 20 minutes to make, in total.

And in the spirit of this just for fun project, I took photos in progress of how this was made to share with friends. It was suggested that I share them with all, and so here they are! Creativity can come in many forms...
Stage1, drawing
Stage 2, raiding the recycling bin
Stage 3, lots of tape and more trash
Stage 4, even more trash and tape
Stage 5, making a mess with mache
Stage 6, a beak
Stage 7, some paper feathers
Stage 8, ready to paint

I hope this was as fun to look at as it was to craft. Happy Holidays, everyone!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not a Bird

Not a bird at all!

Unicorn Portrait, Acrylic on 1.75" wide Canada Goose feather.

A unicorn based on a scruffy looking pony I saw recently. I loved the wild look to him. This was done as a Christmas gift to someone; equines are not my expertise by a long shot but I still had fun painting this one. :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pluggin' along

This blog is mostly for talking about my painting but the last week I've been working hard on getting some new jewelry made. I started crafting handmade jewelry some years ago as a solution to some of my favorite gemstones that I collected just sitting and gathering dust. Since then it has been a good creative outlet when I need a break from painting (or, when I need to pay bills!).

This tends to go hand in hand with getting website updates done, which sadly can take all day or longer! So, finally, I have my new artworks, paintings, painted feathers, etc... are all up for sale.

Now I can take a deep breath and focus on painting. Well, soon anyhow. Next up the house gets some badly needed maintenance. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bald Eagle Portrait Feather

Bald Eagle Portrait, Acrylic on 2" x 8.5" Eastern Wild Turkey tail covert feather

I have had this lovely turkey feather for some time, but struggled a bit with subject matter. The lovely barring and dark color meant that a dark or brown colored subject would not contrast well with the feather. In the end I decided to paint a bald eagle. These birds have an immense fierce pride to them, but at the same time I also know how goofy looking fish eagles can be. I hope I captured a bit of both in this painting!

Friday, November 27, 2009

American Kestrel Feather

American Kestrel (Male American Kestrel), Acrylic on 1.75" x 9" chicken wing feather

This charming fellow was painted from photos and life studies I did on a falconer's tiercel American Kestrel. He was a calm bird and allowed me to study him (hands off!) for quite some time. I have always loved these little falcons and I hope to revisit this fellow with a full painting someday!
I was excited to find a good subject to paint on this chicken feather. Chickens are often overlooked but they are quite beautiful in their own right. I have another chicken feather and I think I may just paint a chicken on it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Another Macaw

What can I say? There is a novelty to the idea of using a bird's feather as the canvas to paint his or her own portrait on that hasn't worn off just yet....

Blue and Gold Profile (Blue and Gold Macaw), Acrylic on 1.5" x 10" Blue and Gold Macaw tail feather

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wood and Magic

There is nothing quite like seeing your work framed! That final finishing aspect is a nervous type of relief.
 I have had to be selective about what I frame due to the poor financial year it's been (for us all no doubt).

Still, it is a joy when I finish up the frame and get everything together. Here are three recent pieces, framed. I'll have them for sale on my website soon, once I gather the time to update it. November is harvest season and I think I've been outside for more hours than I spend in, lately!

Framed artworks are very hard for me to photograph. Please forgive the glare!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Preening Macaw

Preening Macaw, (Blue and Gold Macaw) Acrylic on 1.75" x 13.25" blue and gold macaw wing feather

I knew what this feather was destined for the moment I got it and cleaned it. I love the dreamy look parrots (and most birds) get when they are preening their feathers and tried to convey it on this feather. One of my larger feathers for sure, despite being less than 2" wide where I painted it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two Feathers

I started painting feathers as an experiment some 14 or so years ago, as a way to use some of the wild turkey feathers I had acquired over the years. At the time I really had no idea that other people painted on feathers, indeed it is an artform in of itself. I was just experimenting (at the time I was painting on everything... rocks, wood, slate, feathers..).

I have since dabbled in it several times a year. A feather is a fascinating and frustrating canvas; care must be used not to split the rachis of the feather (and if you do, once there is paint on it it will never mend again). Correcting mistakes is often hard to impossible if you get paint in an area where you don't want it (one cannot lift the paint back off, nor scrub it, and over-painting ruins the appearance of the feather). Further, the size is tiny, the texture is great, and the surface is flexible. They are quite a challenge for me!

Barn Owl Profile, acrylic on 8" x 2" cockatoo tail feather, and Blue and Gold Macaw, acrylic on  7.5" x 1.5" Blue and Gold Macaw secondary wing feather, respectively.

These feathers were naturally molted (or shed) by healthy parrots in a bird rescue in Florida. The first is intended as a gift, while the macaw will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going to Two Feathers Wildlife Center Inc., which is where the parrots these feathers came from reside. I will be posting more information on the auction once I have more details.

Monday, November 16, 2009


At last, we are up to date with my current painting.

As I continue to work with my new acrylics I am trying different techniques and experimenting a lot. I have always loved birds of prey and peregrines are one of my favorites. This autumn I had the great chance to study, photograph and draw a life falcon that is now an educational bird as he had a wing amputated after a car strike. A beautiful mature tiercel, he was very dignified, wily and still strong spirited. I tried to do him justice in my painting.

Peregrine Portrait, 9" x 7" acrylic on illustration board

This painting found me struggling for some weeks despite its small size. I had a bit of trouble with a medium used to 'lock' the background becoming milky and there were a few points in time where I was about ready to toss it all out the window. I think many paintings by many artists have that stage! A story that always keeps my heart in things is remembering Bob Kuhn speak in one of my art books about his painting, "A Flap of Vultures" (which I don't think exists online anywhere, else I'd link it). He told how the painting was one that he was very unhappy with for several years and it had even been to some shows, before he finally reworked part and it ended up being one of his best.

Several stages of this painting in progress:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Green like a Lichen

At the end of October, my acrylic set arrived! I was very excited and got to work right away.

I felt that I would be more open-minded with the new paints and less prone to frustration if I painted a subject that I was very familiar with and could study in person at length. I felt that this approach lends itself better to my learning of these new paints.

So, since he is someone I am very familiar with, I painted one of our beloved parrots, a Maximillian Pionus named Gorbash (who was indeed named after the dragon for those nerdy enough to get the reference). He is partially blind and usually has a very slow and calm manner and so was great to draw and paint from life. He sits on top of his cage most of the day and I liked the angle this presented.

Gorbash, 5.5" x 6.5" Acrylic on Illustration Board

Friday, November 13, 2009

Waiting with Watercolors

In my last post, I talked about getting some good artist's tube acrylics. So I sat down, opened up DickBlick.com, and several days of research later (and a crying wallet), I had ordered a basic set of Atelier Interactive acrylics. It was either those or Golden Opens... I like the Ateliers better for pigment load and buttery-ness.

While waiting for my woefully out of stock order to come in, I sat down and dedicated two weeks to some watercolor paintings. These are more 'studies' than full out finished works. I could yammer about them at great length, but I'll spare you that and just put a few notes about them!

These first few I painted exclusively with a water-holding sketching brush that I got. Painting an entire piece with a single brush was very interesting.

 Mallard Pair,  5" x 10" on 14lb rough

     Greater Scaup, 5.5" x 10" on 140lb rough

Alert Ruffed Grouse, 9" x 10" on 140lb rough

 Green Heron, 6" x 11" on 140lb cold press         American White Pelican, 6" x 11" on 140lb cold press 

 Finally, I switched to using some different brush sizes. I found that while I really love the little travel brush, it was probably not the best to use it on everyday painting, for me.
The following are where I started using my sable brushes.

Redhead Duck, 6" x 11" on 140lb cold press

Mute Swan- Repose, 6" x 11" on 140lb cold press         Tree Swallow, 5.5" x 10" on 300lb rough

Canada Goose, 7" x 10.5" on 300lb rough

We're very nearly up to date now, and these posts will get much shorter thereafter! I also suppose I should mention, for any interested parties, that these are all very much for sale on the Featherdust Studios site.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Starting, but not at the beginning

So I've been puzzling over where to start with my posts. I've been doing art (not good art.. but art) for years, but to start this blog with years-old-art seems a bit silly. I should start fresh... or, if not entirely fresh, I should start with the beginnings of my current pursuits. Right? Sure, we'll say that it sounds good.

I have been long into wildlife art; beyond my daydreaming of dragons and kin when I was barely able to write or count to 10, I dreamed of being a wildlife artist. At around age 8 or so I discovered that the folks that paint and draw animals were wildlife artists, and so I came home from the library with two precious Bateman books and poured over every page. My wonderful aunt got me a few 'how to draw animals' books and a set of pencils for my birthday when I turned 9 (I think it was 9). Thus began a lifelong affliction with Wildlife Art- especially birds.

This year, after floundering for so long without a real direction, I decided to really concentrate on improving my wildlife paintings. My theory is that if I can get better with real critters, I can then translate my new knowledge into fantasy to produce really believable stuff. Or you know, in theory. It works in my head. Let's see if I can actually do it!

So, I suppose the beginnings were when I painted two images for the Endangered Ark playing card decks, which is a cool deck of cards, each featuring all new artwork of endangered or otherwise at risk species (and sadly in a few cases, species thought to be extinct). This was a great project because much of the proceeds are donated to animal charity groups, and I've sent off a good bit of the proceeds to the World Parrot Trust.

And so were the Resplendent Quetzal and Northern Spotted Owl done. These two pieces are painted digitally, but in traditional paint techniques... with no use of computer rendering tools, layers, etc.

They were a great appetite whetter. I don't think whetter is a real word but we'll go with it.
I had been drawing the odd wildlife piece here and there, but mostly it was fantasy work and whatever I was being commissioned to do.

Then, in June I was preparing for a show, and I decided that I really needed to take my wildlife stuff back to traditional media. As much as I love digital paint, people need to be able to touch a tangible painting, see the brush strokes. Not to mention traditional paintings sell better than digital ones, where there is an inferred loss of value when there is no true original. All debate on that aside (because I have some strong thoughts but they are unpopular ones), I just wanted to do traditional again anyhow. And so, I did.

I still had the bitey teeth of fantasy nipping at me, so I went with a whimsical silly theme of Rockhopper Penguins eating sushi. Why not? Penguins do enjoy raw seafood after all, and I always felt that they were very expressive critters.

Sushi with the 'Hoppers

This piece was done in acrylic and measures 12" x 8" on illustration board. This group has it all... the messy eater, the sushi-tosser, the uptight chopsticks-guy... and don't you know it, there's always one in the group that thinks sushi is gross. You know how it is. 
Interestingly, this was the first time since I was 12 or 13 years old that I had attempted an acrylic painting, and I learned a lot. I use acrylics often for Windstone Editions when I paint for them, but applying color to a fantasy sculpture is considerably different than rendering a painting. Or, it is for me at least, in my inexperience.

Despite my problems and mistakes, I found I was having a really good time of it. So, within a week, I had done another painting... 

A Silence in the Hemlocks

 7" x 15" Acrylic on illustration board.

I was really inspired by all the spring runs with hemlocks growing in them in the area I live, and I've always loved pumas. I found that while I really was enjoying painting, the Golden Fluid Acrylics I had been using didn't lend themselves to big expressive brushstrokes like I was hoping for, and I was having trouble blending. I knew that my next goal would be to purchase a set of nice buttery tube acrylics....
And that is a story for another entry.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dreaded First Post

The dreaded first post; a time of awkward introduction and a nervous 'hello'- is there any real way to say it easier than 'here I am, this is who I am, read on (or not)!"?

Maybe so, but I'm not nearly so eloquent with words. I've always relied on the visual to convey my ideas, and so to an extent, that is what this blog is about. I'm a visual artist, but at heart and by trade... art is how I earn my bread and how I soothe my soul. It is wonderful, enriching, enlightening, frustrating, messy, never-quite-right. Nonetheless, here it is, and here I am!

I try to hover between two worlds; I take pride in the work I do and I think that some of it can hold its own, whatever that is supposed to mean. However I know I am still just an infant in the art world and the things I have yet to learn greatly outnumber the things I know. I am constantly seeking to improve and am stumbling along as I do. I also have a sense of humor- I never quite take myself seriously, and I get a good laugh out of the ugly, messy, goofy things I've painted (and will paint). And as such I am always open to constructive critique should anyone desire to give it. Most of the time when I post art I am ready to be done with it; so while I may not correct things that are pointed out, I am still learning from those mistakes.

So, welcome! I hope you enjoy what you see here, and I'm honored my words and art have caught your eye even if only for a moment in the vast sea of the internet. The fact that you are here is a great honor to me.