Bird Portraits 7

My art education was very traditional- lots of life drawing, oil painting, and art history. When I graduated with a BA in Fine Arts, reality hit very quickly as I scrambled to find a job and make my way as an adult. For many years, art was something I did occasionally if at all. By my late thirties, that pull to create was so strong, but my art training didn’t offer avenues that appealed to me anymore. I eventually discovered mixed media and collage and found my artistic home.

I still grabble with how to reconcile my ability to draw and paint with my forays into abstraction and collage. These tiny bird portraits are a bridge to connect that traditional training with a more modern aesthetic. I love nature and often gravitate towards plants, flowers and natural objects in my work. I’m an avid backyard birder and although these birds will never show up in my NC garden, their exotic colors and forms were hard to resist. Using leftover watercolor paper scraps, I painted all of these birds in one day. The small format- all under 3″- made them quick to paint and the right size as a focal point for a collage. It was such a happy day in my studio to just sit down and paint! This little collection became my starting point in an experiment to marry representational images with abstract collage.

Bird Portrait Collage

These are some of the original paintings. For each bird, I perused my handprinted and gel plate printed collage papers and made a stack of coordinating colors. Then, I included patterns and solids and different textures in each mix. Since I love to work in a series, I decided this bird series would include the bird watercolor, a cruciform composition layout, and a strip of “calligraphy” created with black ink and a dip pen on tracing paper. This addition of the bold black marks really helped me pull each piece together. It was a small touch that added contrast and a layer of complication in this stark layout.

In the final pieces, the edges were torn on the bird portraits, then colored with a marker for a tiny contrasting line. I made myself leave a lot white negative space to serve the cruciform composition and lead the viewer’s eye right to the bird paintings. Some of these collages are more successful than others, but they all showcase a traditional painting supported by an abstract background. I feel like this series is sending my artistic explorations in a new and exciting direction.

Bird Portraits 1
Bird Portraits 9
Bird Portraits 8
Bird Portraits 4
Bird Portraits 6
Bird Portraits 2
Bird Portraits 4
Bird Portraits 5