Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Aimu Dream: May Bird Whisperer Project

The May Bird Whisperer Project bird is the Silvery-Cheeked Horbill.  Each month, participating artists use the same source photo to inspire them to create a piece of art.  One of the most amazing things about the project is that you get a glimpse into how differently artists can see the same image!

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!
Add caption

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.

Can you tell as you look through these that I hop around on the piece?  It's as the colors for a particular area unfold to me.  I started with the drawn idea from the dream, but the color choices were all organically chosen in the act of painting.  When I was in college, I discovered I'm much less disappointed with a piece if I leave room for organic discovery and change as I go.  It helps calm my inner perfectionist.


Still enjoying the shimmer of the graphite as it disappears under paint (:  Also enjoying the shimmer of the metallics.  I decided that only the silver and the pink would not leave the confines of the hornbill's space, and that none of the primary colors would enter it, save in the ring around it.

SO MANY PATTERNS!

Would you believe I saved the hardest part for last?  I know it doesn't look like it should be-- but it's the space with the least already drawn in it-- the least I remember from my dream-- the largest open for making a mistake.  And that's what made it the hardest.

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
And hope you'll check out the rest of the artist's pieces!