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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pointillism In Glass

I unintentionally confused some folk on Facebook when I called it this... to me it made sense because it's producing an image in dots. And those dots are little tiny size 11 glass beads.  But when you throw a thought out there it conjures up *many* different ideas and interpretations.  I'd love to see the physical form of some of those ideas. :-)

Now going way back  to junior high and high school in Ketchikan Alaska - this is when and where I first became acquainted with applique beading on felt and woolen cloth.  The ones I learned from were marvelous... Doug Hudson in junior high and then the legendary Esther Shea.  I learned so much, especially Tlingit flat design translated to beads and cloth.

But kids being what kids are, I learned, but did not continue.  It wasn't until just a few years ago that I picked it up again... and I surprised myself at how much I'd remembered!  It's kind of like riding a bike, when you do pick it up again you slide right back into it.

The method I learned was pick up 4, and go back through 2. This is all well and fine, til I began doing tiny crazy detail work.  Detail, that's something I just can't stray far from.  A couple of years ago I was working on some of this beading at the Puyallup Fair while exhibiting at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center, and a very kind Yakima Indian lady came by, who was quite skilled at beading. "Oh no!" She admonished. "That will be too loose for you. Pick up two beads and go back through one!" That small bit of advice kindly given made a very big difference!  It's the only way I'll do applique beading now.

When I picked up the beading again it was by way of being overwhelmingly inspired by a form of beautiful Alaskan regalia known as an Octopus Bag.  This intriguing bag began with the Metis in Canada, and its popularity grew with those who came in contact with it.  The bag was adopted from tribe to tribe, all the way to the east and west coasts. Mid-continent knew it as the Fire Bag, and because of its two set of four legs, amongst the Tlingit it was called Octopus Bag and amongst the Iroquois it was a Spider Bag.  With the Tlingit it was traditionally worn only by a Chief or prestigious speaker, but now it's worn by dancers, men and women.

Alaskan Wildflowers bag. My very first, and the only one fully completed so far.

The thing about them though, is it's very hard to find anyone who makes them.  Also, you just don't see them outside Alaska. I learned how to make them by examining museum photos online, and also guesstimating their size by those worn by dancers in other photos.  Since I began showing them at Native shows, I have since learned my interpretation is pretty darned close to those worn and used by tribal members back in Alaska.
Raven-Steals-The-Sun bag. The bright colors and contrast were great fun.

The first one I made was given to a dear Native friend upon her retirement.  I have since built two others in a contemporary Native style, both still need their shoulder straps.  The fourth one recently completed (also still needing its shoulder strap) was a PNW/Celtic blend... the bag design is unmistakenly PNW, but the beaded decoration is very Scots-Celtic.  I really need to get better at knotwork, but I'm happy with the way the large and detailed thistle came out.
Hummingbird bag. You can see I'm getting more detailed!

Since playing with Octopus Bags, and also doing bead work on a hand-sewn Button Blanket (also traditional PNW Native regalia), I've ventured off into other hand-sewn items.  But I'll go further into that in a later post. ;-)

Celtic bag in progress. I ended up using nearly a whole hank of dark green beads for this thistle.
Working in the knots.  Beads really do have a mind of their own!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saying good bye to 2010 with an eye on 2011

Fusions Gallery, Ocean Shores WA
Last Saturday found me painting demos at Fusions Gallery during the final Art Walk of the year for Ocean Shores.  I love coming to this gallery, especially to do demos - the owner is wonderful and so is the staff.  The gallery displays are always cheery and forever rearranging, inviting the visitor to have a wander and see what's new.  I'm already making plans for the next visit. 

Fusions is now home to my two 'murals', 16x20 canvas paintings in acrylics of Northwestern Scotland; 'Eilean Donan Castle' and 'the Auld Man and his Flock' (Old man of Storr with Hebridean sheep). Yes, 16x20 is a mural for me! Each took me months to do.  The feathers are not forgotten, though - in January I will be bringing in new feather paintings that are currently underway.  One of those is an experimental project, fusing two feathers together for an extra wide canvas.  Working with such a thing is proving to be much trickier than I anticipated! It's such fun to work with galleries that enthusiastically try on new things from their artists.

Eilean Donan Castle, 16x20 acrylics on canvas, (c) Julie Thompson 2010
With the canvases comes the added benefit of prints.  I've only had one photographed for prints so far, and that's Eilean Donan.  The Auld man and His Flock will come soon.  I'm offering Eilean Donan as a signed open-run print, single-matted for an 11x14 frame at $25 each.  There will be plans for canvas prints in the future.

There will be another new addition for 2011, workshops in feather-painting.  I'm looking at two venues so far, and one already has me scheduled for classes.  Patrons who would ask me to consider teaching have most often expressed interest in wolves, so that is the subject we will begin with at Lucas Art Gallery in Graham WA on March 12.  I will supply the feathers, of course. Class size for this one is limited to just ten students.  On May 13 at the same venue we will be painting songbirds.  Folks who are interested may contact the gallery after the first of the year and sign up.  From the interest so far, I expect these classes may fill quickly.  As classes for the second venue come together, I will let you know dates, location, and subject. 

2011 is shaping up to be a busy year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

That One-Word Theme for the Year

If you've followed my blog for while, you know I've become a big fan of the One-Word Theme - thanks in large part to Christine Kane.  Let's face it - 'traditional' style New Year's resolutions rarely survive past the first week.  It's easy to see why - a traditional New Year's resolution is little more than a wish.  Wishes are too vague to prompt any kind of action.  A wish that has been honed with specificity is no longer a wish, it's now a goal.  Goals beg for action.

The One-Word theme helps you paint a picture of what you want your coming year to look like.  You look around you and decide what needs to be changed. What are your goals for the coming year? Can they be brought together with a single word?

For 2009 I set my theme with 'Commit'. It was a strong action word that helped me realize a set of goals that felt impossible at the time.  What, fly to Scotland for a 3-week solo adventure, travel around the country just me and my backpack, and make it happen with my painted feathers? And pull that together in 7 months' time??  Something like that required commitment.  Purchasing my plane ticket early in the year was definitely a commitment to that goal.

2010 was a bit of a wash. My goals lacked the specificity and time deadlines that 2009 had.  My word was weak and fuzzy too. 'Grow'.  Not good enough to really make things develop.  If there's anything I've learned about this one-word theming of a year, it requires planning and dedication.  The more committed you are (there's that word again), the more effective it will be for you.

After a bit of study, heavy thinking and contemplation, running about the internet making parallels and comparisons on some of my thoughts and ideas, I've finally settled on a word... but because of the level of effort I put into it this time, it feels more like the word chose me:

I won't go further into that now, but promise to explain it a bit further - a bit later when I've pulled the information together.  This one is using a little more than a set of goals and a one-word theme, and has had a lot of thought put into it.

Do you have a theme for your 2011?

"Raven Steals The Sun" painted rawhide drum.  (C) Julie Thompson

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A slow recovery

It's been a tragic long time since I've updated here, and artwork has suffered too.  Since the Puyallup Fair in September I have been very ill, which has devastated so many plans that I had hoped to accomplish by now.  Three solid months of sickness will take a lot out of you!  Once I've got my strength and vitality back, I won't be taking good health for granted again!

Health is coming back quickly though, so watch for new things from me in the near future.  I've other art projects underway, a new print available, and will be teaching some feather-painting workshops in the Spring.

Onward and upward, and more soon!

Portion of a new canvas painting underway - 
Title - 'Long Ago When Raven Was White'

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I Prefer New Media Over Old

I recently got into a conversation with my stepmother who teaches art.  She is an avid subscriber to a couple of art magazines.  This is something I used to do but not any longer.  She pointed to the current issue of one in particular that she considered very worthwhile and very valuable (of which I have no doubt). "This issue has a lot of great stuff. They have plenty of useful articles this time."

I was left thinking "Yes, this time. Did you find less value in the previous issues?"  I explained that I tend to look at the websites of particular magazines, and when I see an issue that has lots of value for my purpose, one that I am confident I would go back to time and again, then I go out and purchase that issue.  Then, it is money well invested - at least to me.

But for me, New media goes much deeper than that.  A magazine is very narrow and very linear -- you only see the articles that the publisher deems worthwhile, and only so much can be included within an issue.  Not all the articles may suit your needs and interests, but you've paid for them nonetheless.  With New Media, you may build your reading list specifically tailored to suit you.  So many worthwhile articles are written, by authors and by artists and by arts promoters and more, that never become print on a magazine page.

If you have a particular query, dilemma, or need, you may use a search engine to find articles that fill that need.  Some may argue that you don't received well-rounded reading this way, that you shortchange yourself and miss some great information in other areas that you did not search for. I disagree - for in reading ... say, a blog, I follow the links in that blog, I visit the blogs and websites of artists who have commented on that blog (I've become acquainted with some great friends this way), something mentioned within that blog might intrigue me to go search out more information on that particular thing (have I ever mentioned that I'm a research nut?) - so in the end, you are perfectly capable of ending up with lots of reading material and lots of learning opportunities.  Some blog articles you encounter are so well written that you become a subscriber and a regular reader.  With that, you now receive articles of a wide variety, and not just the information you were initially seeking. I would even argue that one has more access to a larger variety of reading by utilizing New Media, where a magazine offers less.

New Media has so many platforms, where magazines do not. New media can be interactive, where you may ask the author some questions you may have that were not covered in the article. A magazine subscription cannot do that.  The magazine subscription may have cost you $20 to $50 for 4 to 12 issues, and New Media is mostly free.  Magazines are a one-way ticket, you receive and you read. New Media has the ability to benefit you by bringing people to your own blog, your own website, Live Journal, Facebook, Twitter page,  Etsy store, etc. A magazine cannot do that, not unless you're willing to pay for an ad within its pages and run it for at least three months.

Just over the last few days I've been able to visit the studios of many artists to get ideas for my own studio space. I'm participating in the East Pierce County Open Studio Tour and I want to make some changes and a good impression.  I visited the studios of artists all across the continent by way of their Youtube videos and came away with wonderful inspiration, as well as new blogs to follow and new Facebook pages to read.  This morning I had coffee while I educated myself on the building and benefits of a Facebook Fan Page for artists, and I watched a wonderful interview with Manhattan artist Chuck Close on being an artist during times of crises.  Look up Chuck Close on Youtube, there are many great videos with him.  Thanks to Youtube I've seen some videos for Open Studio Tours that I think would be a wonderful marketing idea for our own Studio Tour.  Below is one I found this morning that I think we as an organization can create, it appears to have been made with a program similar to the free one I used for my feathers.  Something like this can be utilized by every participating artist to help enhance his or her marketing strategy as we get ready for November's Open Studio Tour.

So in the end, yes magazines are a pleasure to hold and to thumb through, but for the now I won't subscribe. I'm finding so much value and education right here online, and you can't beat the price!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Expanding with New Items

Well, I've fallen behind with the blog again!  Back to it, 'get back on that horse and ride' as they say.

 I love to experiment and try some new things.  Inspiration was first sparked by seeing a book listed with North Light, detailing how to paint on tiles.  Those flames were further fanned when I posted some attempts to Facebook and friends expanded on ideas.

The thing I like about these is the functionality.  I've done art for the walls for a long time, but had not tried anything that can be used.  So this is fun!  The tiles are 6 inches by 6 inches and have felt pads beneath, so they make dandy trivets for the kitchen.  Each has been sealed to protect the painting.

I've been getting more and more involved with Highland Games and with our own Clan Tent, and have been inspired to try some work in Celtic-style design:

This creative play has brought on encouragement from a friend to try combining Celtic with Pacific Northwestern Coastal work, which is something I was experimenting with years ago but have been wanting to try again.  This one below is from a design I tried with Herons years ago, and was eager to give it another go.  It's not easy squeezing PNW design elements into a Celtic shape!

These have proven to be quite popular, as no two are exactly alike and they are an affordable $20 each plus shipping.  All of these except for the PNW Elk have already sold, with several requests for more.  I've been asked to try other color schemes with the herons, and for other Celtic and PNW style animals, as well as more of the thistle.  If one of these 6" x 6" hand-painted tiles is something you would like to have, leave a comment or drop me a note at

Here's a different one, again inspired by activity with Highland Games.  It's a 4" square tile with thick felt pads beneath to protect your furniture, for use as a drink coaster.  This one is painted with my clan crest, MacLeod of Harris.  I can do any family crest requested, these are $10 each or $30 for a set of 4.

Experimenting with new things does inspire creativity - the more you play, the more you want to try more new things!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

May Goals

Many thanks to Candied Fabrics' posts about monthly goal setting, she has inspired me to do the same.  Putting it out here for all to see keeps me to it.  I already know this works from doing this with annual goals and setting a one-word theme for the year.

Here is May's task list, not necessarily in order:
01. Blog at least twice per week.
02. Order business cards (That's a big must-do, quit printing them myself!)
03. Update website. get all the new art on there.
04. Build my presentation about Facebook for Artists, for the East Pierce County Open Studio group. (mtg. at end of month).
05. Develop feather-painting class for the kids signed on to June's American Indian Daycamp at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center
06. Complete the eight current commissions. (2/8 done!)
07. Paint studio floor (preps for Open Studio Tour)
08. Adjust background on the canvas painting. "The Auld Man and His Flock".
09. Finish "Eilean Donan Castle" canvas painting.
10. Research local printing costs.
11. Vision Board (80% done!)
12. Daily Affirmations (80% done!)
13. Return to the habit of writing daily gratitudes (so far, so good!)
14. Lose ten pounds in May
15. Add 'About' page to blog
16. Pull body of work together for June's 2-person show, "Feathers and Flutes".

It's a pretty good list, but I can do this... even along with prodding my boy to keep his grades up and make Star rank in Scouts.  I'll revisit these goals at the start of June and post how much I knocked out, along with the posting of goals for June.  Some of this inevitably won't get completed, as it is a lot and I accept that.  I will at least show the percentage completed on those tasks unfinished at the end of the month.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Challenging Myself

Although the bulk of my work still lies in painted feathers (and probably always will), lately I've been pushing myself to play more with canvas.  Many friends at shows over the last several years have been encouraging me to do so, but I resisted... until last Autumn.

I started with that 16x20 of The Auld Man and His Flock (sheep on the Trotternish in Scotland) and learned SO much from that one.  For the past 20 years feathers have been my canvas and I know how acrylic paints behave on such a support.  They glide on and blend easily for me... I've learned how to handle the brush so the barbs of the feather won't split.  But canvas?  That's a whole different animal!  Feeling still too intimidated with oils, as for an acrylic painter it's rather like learning a new language, I kept to acrylics in painting The Auld Man.  And I learned how thirsty canvas is in comparison to feathers... and that one really should use Gesso before painting on canvas!  Lessons learned!  Obviously I don't Gesso a feather!

I'm about 2/3 through my second experiment on canvas, and I'm finding this time it's going a bit easier.  Along with using Gesso (what a difference!) I'm also using underpainting more as well as a lot more glazing to achieve the desired effects.  Acrylics dry so quickly, so glazing in layers and details over this much larger surface is immensely helpful.  I'm applying some of the things I've learned from Robert Walton and LeRoy Jesfield in the two classes I've taken with them.  Bob's class was in oils, but LeRoy's class was in acrylics and because of him I learned you can apply the same glazing techniques as you do in oils.  I think it's made a big difference in my painting.

Eilean Donan Castle. Progress photo. 16x20 acrylics on canvas

I still have a fair amount of work to do on this one, but it's coming along.  The bridge will have as much detail worked into it as the castle does.  The midground, foreground, and left side of the castle still need work as of the taking of this photo, but since then the castle has been completely finished and just the mid and foreground are yet to be completed.

This is being painted from my own photo.  I was very fortunate to have been camped nearby in Glenshiel where I could come and visit the castle first thing in the morning.  I was also blessed with a stunning sunny morning too - with the early morning sun at my back, I got several great reference photos from which to work.

I'll be coming back to this castle.  I hope to return to Scotland in 2012, this time with my teenaged son in tow.  We plan to climb the Cuillin Mountains next time.  Exploring this beautiful country will be such a fantastic experience for my son, and I am very much looking forward to returning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blogging for Artists - introduction, and some benefits

I am back up and running on a new computer.  Unfortunately I do not have certain programs installed on this new machine yet, like Photoshop.  Rather than wait to update any longer because I haven't yet got the ability to make that hiking post about the Trotternish like I said (it would be image heavy), I hope you don't mind my providing something else.

I was asked to do a presentation to a local artist group about social marketing, so I'm starting off with blogging for artists.

recent commissioned painting of wolves, acrylics on peacock feather

An online presence of some form is essential for success in today's art market.  An online location such as a website becomes your storefront.  Unlike your studio or your representing gallery, your website is available for perusal 24/7.  And unlike those physical venues, there are almost no geographic restrictions.  you really can bring your art to the world.

Website:  Your website is your anchor.  it is the fulcrum from which all your online marketing extends.  The website has long since become the accepted business standard, but it does have its drawbacks.
-Cost.  Hiring a professional can be expensive, as can purchasing some of the website building programs that are available.
-Time.  if you build it yourself, it is very time-costly - especially if it involves coding.  There is also the matter of a professional's time, as your site is likely not the only site he has to keep updated. Those updates may not come as quickly as you would prefer.
-Updates. When your website is updated, who's going to know?  You have an email list, and you may notify your friends and patrons this way, but that too takes time.  there is no automatic notification that I am aware of for websites.

A website tends to be static and seldom changes.  It best serves you as your base online portfolio in which you showcase your best work and provide your essential information such as artist bio, contact information, and calendar of shows and events.  Do update it, quarterly at the very least.

Blog:  Your blog, unlike your website which changes very little, is organic and constantly growing.  Your website is a showcase of your best art, but your blog may show the working process of new pieces.  it may also be a place for your readers to come and get to know you a little bit better.  A blog also encourages community and interactivity, it is more social.

Consider your favorite blogs - what attracted you to them?  What keeps you coming back?  A good blog that attracts frequent visitors is one that has good content, good imagery, and is updated regularly.  A successful blog provides value - whether it informs, inspires, or simply entertains, that blog provides something useful and of value for the reader to take away.  readers come to fulfill a need.

Benefits of Blogging:  Blogs have many benefits over websites.  Community, ease of use, cost-friendly (most are free!), and instant publishing are a few.

-RSS.  Blogs may also be subscribed to by RSS, or Real Simple Syndication.  This allows the readers to see immediately what new articles you've written without actually going to the blog.  They are immediately notified of updates without any email notifications or other work on your part.

-Community.  You may allow comments to your blog, which lends a level of interactivity that your website just doesn't have.  In some blog platforms, such as Blogger, you may 'follow' other blogs within that platform. You may also add a list of your favorite blogs in a 'blogroll' and others will add you to theirs.  through these activities you may build a network. You may ask questions on other blogs and answer questions and comments on your own.  you're building a connection with people.  As your community grows, so do friendships.  You'll begin to see people frequenting blogs not only for the content, but also for the conversation.  this is the 'social' in social networking and it is a very powerful tool.

-Search Engines.  It is a fact that search engines love blogs.  Search engines search for words, and blogs are just full of them.  Search engines also like freshly-updated URL's and blogs definitely provide that, much more so than websites do.  Keeping that in mind, when you make a blog post, whenever possible (and without being obnoxious about it) include key words that people would use in searching for you or your work.  You may have noticed I use the words 'painted feathers' in many of my blog posts, and that is to help people find me.  Keep in mind the words people might search in finding you or work similar to what you do, and employ them when you can.

Cost.  I have already touched on this one, but it's worth saying again.  Most blogs are free.  Websites can often be costly, both monetarily and in time, and a blog is thrifty in both.

Ease of use.  You can literally set up your brand new blog in a matter of minutes.  You don't need to know codes, you simply choose a style you like, write your article, add your images (which is also very easy), Title it, add some tags if you choose, click 'publish', and voila, your article has been published to the internet and within minutes it's already available to your subscribers' RSS feeds. What could be easier?

How often should you update?  It needs to be at whatever rate you are comfortable with.  If just once a week is all you can handle, that is fine - but an effective blog needs to be updated at least once a week and preferably more frequently than that if you can manage it.  If you can't do that right away, work up to it.  I made a goal this year to get much better at blogging, and just when I had a good rhythm going my computers melt down.  Stuff happens!  Recover your footing, and drive on when you can.

What should you write about?  Write about anything you like, anything you have a passion for.  Be personable, and above all be genuine.  If you're not comfortable or knowledgeable in the subject you're writing about, it will show!  Your readers will see it.  It won't feel natural to you and it won't come off as authentic to those reading.  Just be yourself.  As an artist, you have a plethora of blogworthy material.  What is your latest project?  Show us, tell us about it, blog about some of your process.  did you go some place special to gain the experiences and reference material?  We'd love to hear about it.  Have you got some big goals, upcoming shows?  how about hobbies that you love that don't even involve art?  it's all good.  Consider those blogs you like to read... they probably involve a lot of your own interests, right?  That's who you're writing for, yourself and for those people who share your interests as well as those people who follow your art.  You could even gain new followers of your art simply by writing about your interests.

If you don't have a website, a blog is a very good alternative.  If you do have a website, however, a blog should not replace it, it should simply compliment it.  Link to your blog on all your major website pages. Show your latest artworks on your blog. Announce website revisions on your blog.  Your blog has great potential to drive traffic to your website, and vise-versa.  Use them both, update your blog regularly and see how much your website visits climb.

~Happy blogging!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Absent, But Not Given Up

So sorry, I realize it's been a few weeks since my last post.  Regretfully, I've experienced another computer crash.  This puts me back on the dinosaur again, which feels more crippled and lethargic than ever.  I do have a new laptop on the way, though, so after this coming weekend I will be able to resume posting.  I cannot even do photos under current conditions, but by April 19 the posts shall resume.  Look for a hiking post on the Trotternish then, with several photos.

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Getting To Know Ewe

Before my trip last summer, I had absolutely no clue how to paint a sheep, and certainly not the sort that a friend had asked for.  But last summer I learned how valuable it can be to visit the animals in their own natural surroundings... and not even necessarily sketch them, but just sit quietly... and observe.

The Trotternish Peninsula at the northern end of the Isle of Skye was a wonderful place for doing just that.  That's another nice thing about renting a car and leaving your schedule wide open... you do have time to stop, sit quietly, and just take it all in.

You can look at other peoples' photos without ever having personally seen the animal yourself, but you miss so much that way.  You don't see how they move, how they behave, how they interact.  You'll get their structure and conformation, but you'll not see their spirit.

 I don't think there are any sheep as spirited as those roaming freely in this still largely wild land.  In climbing up into high country I was constantly amazed at all the crazy places those sheep would climb to.  Browsing a steep incline at a high altitude was no big deal to them.

The closest I got was with flock of Hebridean black-face below Duntulm castle ruins on the west side of the Trotternish.  I simply sat in the grass with my camera, and it wasn't long before they'd moved in on me and completely surrounded me.  I managed to get a lot of great reference photos, as well as plenty of time to simply watch them.

The quill of this feather was painted with the colors of the Isle of Skye Tartan... seen here on the Isle of Skye Pipe Band.


I spent a few days roaming the Isle of Skye, especially the north end.  It's a hiker's paradise, and while I did wander to many places there are still so many that I did not see.  It was mandatory though that I visit the Old Man of Storr.  I'll make a more detailed post about that one soon, with many more photos from that hike and also the north end of the Trotternish.  I mainly wanted to show you the photo I used for reference in painting a big 16x20 canvas.... and yes, 16x20 is HUGE, that's like a mural to a feather-painter!

The nice thing about painting is you can move some elements from one location and put them in with another.  Such is what I did with the sheep.  The Hebridean black-face sheep in the painting below were actually on the west side of the Trotternish Peninsula,  While the Old Man of course is on the east side.  I did receive some ribbing on Facebook on that while working on this one, in that I'd better make sure I put the sheep back again before the shepherd misses them!

Yes, it's insanely detailed.  I normally work at about 2 inches by 4 or 5 inches, so it is difficult to cut back the detail while working in a much larger scale.  But even more so, I stood on that hillside, smelled the breezes and felt the early morning sunshine.  The lighting that morning was incredible... as the low rays of the sun pierced through the moist air, everything was bathed in a peach glow and the shadows cast by heavy sea clouds were nearly purple. It was a spectacular morning, and I wanted to bring the viewers there to experience it for themselves... to feel the cool breezes, to enjoy the warm sunlight, to watch the grasses gently sway.

Titling this one has been tough, but I think I've finally decided.  "The Auld Man and His Flock".  Where is the Old Man, you might ask?  That's him, to the right in the background... that magnificent stone spire standing sentinel all alone.  You can actually hike up to him, but I'll take you there in a later post.

...Happy weekend!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Giving Back

How do you respond when you've just returned from the adventure of a lifetime?  It might sound like an exaggeration, but last Summer's travel to Scotland, funded entirely by artwork and hard work, truly felt like that - an adventure of a lifetime.

The view I had  of Edinburgh city and castle from atop Arthur's Seat

 It took a while to get back on track once I was home again, but the memories, sights and smells, and the visions in my head of paintings to come were constantly with me.  The journey was more than the trip itself, it was the months of work in getting there, and the memories, friendships, and inspiration of a new body of work since I've been home again.  

The style of my artwork underwent a significant change since my travels.  It's grown considerably.  I find myself pushing the level of quality much harder than I ever have before, and I do attribute much of this to the massive inspiration from that adventure in Scotland.

One such push was to do better portraiture.

The Homecoming in Edinburgh was phenomenal, and was a signature event for 2009's year-long celebration of Robert Burns' 250th birthday.  So as I sat in my booth at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage Center during the Puyallup Fair here in Washington last September, I tasked myself with a portraiture piece of A Robert Burns actor I'd met in Edinburgh, Christopher Tait... in character, of course. 

Now, given the size of my "canvas", this time the tail feather of a peahen, creating a likeness was no easy task.  I'd spent 18 hours working through this one, pushing the detail, form, and light and shadow ever further.  It took four tries to get the face close enough to acceptable.  In the painting the distance from forehead to chin is only three-quarters of an inch, so again - no easy task.  When it was finally done, I knew this that one could not simply go to a gallery or hang in my booth.  This one was capable of doing more.  I contacted Mr. Tait and discussed what might be done and what I hoped to do.

This 3 week adventure in Scotland had a huge impact on me.  Everywhere I went, I was met with such kindness from the people, saw magnificent scenery, and was constantly surrounded with history.  I wanted to give back in some way, to find a way to say thanks.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity.

This painting, for the time being anyway, now resides in Edinburgh and will go to promote and support the  Birthplace Museum at the Robert Burns National Heritage Park in Alloway, Ayrshire Scotland.  This is a joining of efforts between Mr. Tait and myself.  he has taken charge of the painting and will be acting on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland.  The painting will travel with him throughout the UK and Europe as he tours and makes appearances, and the painting shall promote the museum and all its renovations.  With much work underway, the expansions being done at the museum will be open in Autumn 2010.  Once the painting has made the rounds, it will go to the National Trust and likely be placed for auction to support this wonderful and very important museum.

Please do visit the National Trust website for more information about the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, and also the website of actor Christopher Tait ... a talented fellow and an excellent Robert Burns!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Touring Scotland - Get Far and Away

Early August, cool and spotty showers.  A typical day in Scotland, so I'd been told.  Plenty of mud on both sides of the single-track from bouts of rain sweeping through the glen, but that didn't stop many from pulling off to the side to sling on their backpacks and trek across the fields of tall wet grass to the hills.  Glen Etive, one of the more remote Glens in this magnificent country.

I pulled my little rented Vauxhalle Astra off to the side near other vehicles, to do some walking on my own.  I wasn't going to overnight here on this day, I'd already reserved a pitch at a campsite in Kinlochleven.  Laundry facilities available there, and I was in need.  But now, I was off enjoying the breezes and cool afternoon weather, far from tours and mobs of visitors. 

This is the way to see Scotland - at your own pace, away from the crowds, into the hills - get to know the land, its wildlife, its people, its history.  Immerse yourself.  Get far and away.

Driving the single-track roads are not nearly as difficult as the first-timer might fear.  Just stay alert to any oncoming vehicles (and animals that might be in the roadway!), and make sure that you use the pullover on the LEFT when letting the other vehicle pass.  If the oncoming car is near and the pullover is on the right, stop on the left by that one and allow the other car to go through that layby and you can pass one another.  Make sure you wave to the other driver, it's the polite thing to do.  

It won't take long before you're able to judge distance and speed, and when you see an oncoming car and a passing spot between you and him, you'll be able to pace yourself to the other car and  to get to a passing spot at the same time and neither of you will have to come to a stop.  Single-tracks are a lot of fun, I really enjoyed them.

There's a large herd of red deer that reside in Glen Etive.  Red deer are similar to North American elk, but smaller.  Such regal animals!


When I saw them this day, the stags were in one group and the hinds in another.  They would pause and look up at me now and then, but I did not approach too near, not wanting to disturb them.  They calmly went about their business, not much bothered by my presence.

One of the very best things about leaving the car behind and getting out afoot over the hills and through the glens, apart from the wildlife, is coming upon old remnants of structures.  I came upon this one well down the glen.  These livestock pens don't look like they've been used in quite some time, but probably have fairly recently - judging by the tin additions to the old stone walls.  There's lots of things in these hills, the more you look the more you'll see.

The single-track road dead-ends at the bottom of the glen, at Loch Etive.  I dare say no tour bus will take you down here. 

As you wander by car and on foot, take time to notice the little things.  While monuments are grand to look at, many of the little things make the best memories.  Sometimes, the little things make the best paintings.
At the bottom of the glen  and right after a rain, I came upon this pair of geese on the road.  One paused for a drink in a puddle as its mate looked on.  I managed to pull out my camera and snap a picture before they continued on their way.

It's a little gray and moody though, isn't it?  Still, I loved the picture and the interaction of these two geese.  Once back home again, I knew it would be one I would have to paint.  I took some artistic liberty though and brought sunshine into the scene, and reduced the road to a gravel path.

I think it's a bit more cheery this way.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Painted Feathers Article in China

An email came in from the publisher the other day.  She had first contacted me last Autumn, requesting permission to publish my story and artwork, which I accepted. 

Her recent note included these images of the article from last September.  She mentioned she had meant to send them on much sooner, but business being busy, had thought she had already done it.

I'm looking forward to having a hard copy of Chinese Wild Bird Magazine here in the studio.  Don't you just love the fun layout they did with the article?


Monday, March 01, 2010

What sorts of feathers can I use?

I recently made a rather lengthy post in the sorts of feathers I use in painting, which are shed flight feathers of turkeys and peacocks.  I described these flight feathers and their functions in flight, as well as how to tell a naturally-shed feather from one that is pulled.  One other item I mentioned at the end, almost as a post-script, is domestic vs. wild feathers.  I do need to touch on this in more detail.

"Puddle Geese" ... from 'To Scotland and Back' collection
Currently available through
Fusions Gallery in Ocean Shores WA
I strongly advise that if you are going to collect and use feathers, use those from domesticated birds or feathers that you have purchased from a craft supplier.  It's not a good idea to use the feathers you find in the wild, and in many cases may be illegal.  I wanted to track down some cases for this, and have found some information to share with you.

This, from a question to California Fish and Game:
I recently learned that in order to collect feathers that I would need a license. I hike mainly in the Baylands along the San Francisco Bay and every so often I see a feather that would look good in my hat. In any season I may collect five to 10 feathers total. The bulk of these might be egret or turkey vulture feathers. How should I proceed in order to remain legal?
Both of the birds you list are protected species. According to Capt. Phil Nelms (ret.), under both California and U.S. fish and wildlife laws, dead wildlife and its parts have the same protection as the animals do when alive. This protection also extends to all of the pieces and parts of animals. If it is illegal to possess the whole bird it is also illegal to possess any portion of it (e.g. feather, talon, leg, etc.)
I would recommend collecting feathers from birds which have a hunting season. Turkeys and upland game birds like pheasants and quail have beautiful feathers which you may find in your outdoor treks! You are allowed to possess game birds and though their take is regulated, you are allowed to possess their parts.

Native birds that are birds of prey or migratory are all protected.  Migratory birds protection has been in place since the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918 which not only makes it illegal to possess these birds, either living or dead, but also includes any of their feathers and parts and also their eggs.  

Would you like to learn more about the legalities of possessing feathers?  I found a great webpage that teaches you everything you need to know!

Oh, and a little-known fact... I don't know if it's nationwide or just here in Washington State, but crows are protected. They fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act!  Please, don't pick up a crow feather, it could get you into trouble.

This all is exactly why I only use the feathers of domesticated 'barnyard' birds!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pride of the Glens

"Pride of the Glens", one of my very recent pieces and part of my ever-growing new series "To Scotland and Back", has just found himself a new home.  On Monday morning this stag will be on his way to St. Andrews Scotland - which delights me to no end!
For those of you who may be unfamiliar, it's a red deer - they're similar but smaller to our North American elk and native to Great Britain.  I'd seen a rather large herd of stags at the bottom of Glen Etive during my backpacking adventure there last summer.  My sad little camera didn't have the power to zoom in on them and do them justice, but I will be posting photos of the stags, and also the gathering of hinds I saw not too far from them. 

So... just a quick little post tonight so you can see this fellow before he "goes home".   I'm a tad envious, I wish I was heading back over there too!

A Blog by any other name...

In my wanderings through artist profiles on Facebook I stumbled upon a fan page and links that begged further investigation.  I'd found two gorgeous magazines produced by Stampington & Company, well, two of several they produce - Where Women Create and Artful Blogging.  Among other goals this year, two are at the top of the list, the blog and the studio, so this was exactly the the inspiration I needed to pull out the stops and really go to it on both counts.  The more I looked at the fan page and the websites, the more I felt urged to run out to Borders Bookstore and hold these issues in my hands and really examine them.  Temptation being too much, I loaded my teenager in the car and did exactly that... and ended up buying both along with a drawing book for my budding-artist boy.

You might notice a new name for this blog this morning - the idea came to me last night.  I had been under the impression that the blog's name should mirror the studio name but after poring through pages of stories written by so many creative spirits, I realized that just isn't true.  A blog is more organic than a website and often reflects more of the nature and personality of the author.  My passion in creativity covers many areas, but most of all it lies in painted feathers and has for 20 years.  That passion and my painting style have grown and evolved so much, which has opened so many wonderful doors - not just in art business but in adventures and in life.  I do this creative work from my home studio so the name change just felt so right - The Feathered Nest  it is!

As I work to find my own creative voice within this space, you're going to begin to see more photos.  They may not always pertain to the subject at hand and they won't be limited to my paintings. They will often be glimpses of my life though, whether it's local or some distant adventure.

These snapshots are from a rare sunny winter day in La Push on Washington's Coast.  I do love living in the Pacific  Northwest, as nature provides so much inspiration everywhere you look!

.....Happy Weekend! :-)