Wednesday 23 November 2016

a little bird told me

Way back in April, before we left for Europe, I had an art date with my friend Anna and we painted birds from a beautiful old calendar.

Anna went realistic and painted the majestic Fish Eagle, I painted tiny birds in a far more comic style.

Cape Batis

Cape Robin Chat 

While we were travelling in Europe, I could not get these out of my mind. I made a some notes over the months we were away, jotting down ideas for a series of these. I knew this series would be all New Zealand birds.

As soon as I got back to my studio I got out some lovely, smooth watercolour paper, visited the library for books on NZ birds and put out bread and fruit on a bird feeder in my garden. There's plenty of inspiration in my backyard :-)

I started the series with the humble House Sparrow, a happy soul never far away. Sparrows seem so wonderfully content wherever they are.

House Sparrow

Next was the California Quail, because we have these in our garden this year. We've only seen males so far, so I'm hoping that means mommies on eggs somewhere. We have a rather untamed, bushy garden - so plenty of spots for nesting.

Quails are so wonderful, with their lovely colouring and patterning. And the funny little top knot and their way of running away at full tilt because flying is such a last resort.

I start with a series of pencil sketches to try and capture the essence of the bird.

California Quail

Then a friend in Nelson asked for a Sacred Kingfisher. Perfect! Those colours are just magic. Who doesn't love a kingfisher?

Sacred Kingfisher

I followed this with the iconic New Zealand Bellbird. We have so many in our garden and they're our alarm clock and constant companion. Their incredible, beautiful call is so loud and clear, it's hard to imagine how such a small body can make it. When they start singing in the morning (they seem to rise about half an hour later than the dawn chorus) all the other birds stop. It's like they also just want to listen to the master.

New Zealand Bellbird

Then, another Kingfisher request. I wanted this one in flight and I can tell you it took me forever to get the wings just right.

Checking the wings for a good fit before cutting them out of collage papers

Sacred Kingfisher in flight

I have a long list of ideas and I can picture much bigger, more detailed birds. At the moment, though, I'm happy to be recording what's close to home.

Guess which one is next?

You can find the 2 South African birds at the top in my Etsy shop.
Of the New Zealand birds, only the Bellbird is still available. Please enquire.
Commissions are welcome.

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