Friday, December 12, 2014

Stretching Your Creative Mind

Some projects serve many purposes!  
I have never painted on this type of surface before--sleek, round, three-dimensional--nor used acrylic paints enough to know much about their qualities.  The surface of my gourd art is the only experience I could relate to this project, and that wasn't very helpful because of the difference in the surface.  As I began, it was one of those times I asked myself, "what were you thinking?!"

The request to decorate this ornament came from one of the park rangers at Seven Islands State Birding Park and the ornament now hangs on the center-peice Christmas tree at the governor's mansion among 56 ornaments contributed by our state parks representing Tennesseee's "landscapes and creativity" during this holiday season. Quite an honor.
The pull for me to say 'yes' and venture into this unknown territory--I love the park and spend many early morning hours there with the bird banding team.  Seven Islands became a state park in 2014 and Tennessee's first state park to be designated a birding park. By "unknown", I mean, I didn't know what the ornament was made of or its shape or texture until weeks after saying yes when I received it in the mail.
Since every artist goes through moments of doubt and mistakes when trying something new, I thought I would share a note I wrote in my journal while working on the ornament.

6:08 a.m. "I have so much resistance to starting when there is a deadline and someone else to please--otherwise, I can discard what I don't like.  It's the "have to get this done and it has to be good" pressure that keeps me frozen.  (12:30 p.m. the same day.)  Well, it's happening as I feared--it is a total mess.  I just stuck the ornament under the faucet and scrubbed off all the paint and then watched an acrylic blending video online and also read some more info about using acrylics.  I awoke too early and I'm tired.  I'm stuck but I need to finish this.  This ornament is making writing my book feel easy by comparison!  Now, what I really need to do is focus--one decision at a time--choose one background color, sketch the bird, use my watercolor pencil to divide it into sections, mark the horizon line.  I'm determined to do this horizon thing..."
Something else important happened along with the scrubbing off paint.  My tension softened, and by taking a break to journal, I gained some important emotional distance that helped me sort through what I needed to do next.

Launching into a project with a deadline and with very little experience to guide the way can be stressful.  I made my big blunder right in the beginning. The ornament wasn't ruined and even though the first application of paint did not come off completely, I was back to a smooth surface and could start again with a new approach.  Art is like that sometimes.  Our efforts begin in chaos, but as the mind integrates mistakes and turns them into useful information, order rises up and moves us forward.
Though I use reference images to help with details, my many hours of observing birds always comes in handy while painting.  I looked at the bird after roughing-in some detail and kept thinking, something isn't quite right. I pulled out my field guides and compared the features.  Individual sparrows have variations in color and markings, but there are field marks that will be fairly consistent between individuals of a species.
As a fun exercise, see how many differences you can find between the initial sparrow image on the left and the final result.  While I was looking for specific details in the crown stripe, I noticed other details as I examined the field guides. Observations are recorded through our eyes and stored as wholistic images in our memory.  Sometimes we remember detail.  Other times, we just know something isn't right.
I selected the White-crowned Sparrow because it is one of the wintering sparrows that seeks out the shrubby, grassland habitat at Seven Islands State Birding Park.  You can see this bird in my post on bird banding at Vickie Henderson Art:  A Day of Beautiful Sparrows
I was introduced to this sparrow and several others in 2009 when I began to visit the banding station at the refuge.  The inspiration for the scene on the ornament comes from those early morning sunrises at Seven Islands when the birds start chirping and stirring around.
A sketch of a Field Sparrow on dried wingstem that I created in 2009 gave me my guide for the stems and seed pods.
The ornament was finished with an acrylic coating that gave it an iridescent sparkle and a soft glow. Happy ending to a creative adventure!

Golden Artist Acrylic tube paints
Liquitex Professional Iridescent Medium

Bird Banding at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge--now Seven Islands State Birding Park
Seven Islands becomes Tennessee first State Birding Park and the Painting
Mark Armstrong-Master Bander
Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society on Facebook
Seven Islands State Birding Park on Facebook

2 comments:

  1. It turned out beautifully. If someone asked me to do an ornament and I had to use acrylics I would faint. ha...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's how I felt when I realized what I had gotten myself into! Thank you!

      Delete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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