For my bird whisperer pieces, I've been working to pair each bird with a cultural/ spiritual/ religious theme. So for this one, I began by researching the bird and where it calls home. Having recently had several pieces from Africa, it seemed synchronicitous that this one would originate there as well. So I started researching African art. I absolutely fell in love with adire and its symbolism. But it's a West African tradition...and the bird is East African. It would be like pairing a California Quail with Appalachian crafts. So I started researching the countries listed as part of the bird's habitat and the cultures that share the space.
I found myself reading Kamba/ Akamba legends and fables. (Here's a brief selection of some of what I read.) I read creation stories and about Engai/Ngai/Mulungu/Muungu/Mlungu, but it didn't quite fit. For three days, I researched without feeling the 'spark'.
On the fourth, I came across Aimu/Aiimu. A brief introductory summary for context is this: Engai/Ngai/Mulungu/Muungu/Mlungu is a monotheistic God who created the world and lives in the sky (or sometimes a mountain), but is impersonal and not typically addressed directly, nor prone to direct interference in the world of man. Aimu/Aiimu are the spirits of ancestors who have passed, and they are a living person's intermediary in the world after, and sometimes bring the living dreams. Being a vivid dreamer myself, this resonated with me, and I started researching Akamba/Kamba art. I realized that a lot of the art we find in America labeled "African art" is actually of Akamba origin. I really liked the Kamba stools and calabash. The lines, dots and fine detail are in line with a lot of the art I already like to create, and so I knew I'd found my inspiration and went to bed.
That night, I dreamed of how I wanted to draw it out-- I saw the bird reversed and surrounded by patterns and woke with my fingers itching to create it. But first, I needed a black surface to capture the dark of the dream and the brightness of the colors standing out against it. I could have painted it-- but I wanted something already dark to begin, and stopped at my local craft store, where I found coal black drawing paper of the exact size I wanted, on sale. I snatched it up, brought it home and started drawing, excited to get started on the piece and to see how close the finished piece would be to what I dreamed.
So here are the progress pictures:
|Close up of some of the drawn line work|
|I like the way the light was shining off the graphite. It suited my idea of using metallics for this piece.|
|Adding the hornbill. I used silver and copper ready made acrylics and mixed my own metallic blue.|
|At this moment, I was a little worried that what I had in my head was too ambitious for what I had in my hands.|
|Eye detail-- all painted with an 18/0 brush.|
|This is how I envisioned the hornbill!|
|Normally, I realign my pictures for 'up', but that's not actually how I paint. I'm constantly turning my paper.|
|Starting to add the finer dots.|
|Close up on detail.|
|Finishing up the dots.|
|One of my favorite details!|
|Working on the outside details.|
|My little paintbrush has a LOT of work ahead of it! This is also where my husband suggested that my hornbill looked like a raven seperate from the horn portion of it's bill-- so I decided to unify it's beak better.|
|I used Atelier acrylics, my favorite paint. This piece is actually that paintbrush's audition-- Grumbacher doesn't make my favorite brush anymore, so I'm looking for something to replace it with it.|
|Close up detail of the copper pattern paired with the yellow and blue.|
|SO MANY PATTERNS!|
|After I got the solid blue bars in, with the red stripe and four red dots, I had to step away from the piece for the night and come back to it the next day after dreaming it over (I've mentioned before that I tend to use sleeping to think, yes?)|
|And woke up with what I wanted to do in mind!|
The entire piece was painted on drawing paper, in acrylic, with both an 18/0 and 5/0 paint brush. The pen is where I signed my name so that I could paint over it (because I can't freehand sign my name in paint-- that's just not a skill that I've developed).
And so I present my May BirdWhisperer piece:
"Aimu Dream" by Janin Wise
12" x 9"
Acrylic on coal black drawing paper
|Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store|