Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Elephant No. 100: Painting with Feathers

For today's elephant, I thought I'd try painting with a feather, rather than with a paintbrush or other conventional tool. My friend Lori often incorporates feathers in her paintings, but I'm not sure if she's ever used feathers in lieu of brushes. 

According to my research, painting with feathers is an activity suitable for toddlers. An online search for various iterations of "painting with feathers" turns up one of three things: daycare centre art painted with feathers; conventional art created by coating a feather with paint and imprinting it on paper or canvas; and paintings depicting feathers in some form or other. 

I'll be going the toddler route—although probably with less immediate success than an actual toddler, if my previous history with kid-friendly activities is anything to go by.

A young artist creating interesting effects with a feather.
Source: http://www.thediscoverystation.com/parentsstation.aspx?id=186

I couldn't find anything that suggested an illustrious history to using feathers as paintbrushes, so I guess it's just the technique, toddlers and me.

The rules I set myself for today's elephant were simple: I could use any colours of acrylic paint I wanted, watered down or not, and I could use any part of the feather except the quill.

I chose an inexpensive feather for this activity. I have a few of these, just in case feathers get "polluted" by paint and can't be used for more than one or two colours. For my painting surface, I used an inexpensive stretched canvas measuring 23 x 30 cm (9 x 12 inches).

I liked the colours in the toddler painting above, so I squeezed out a bit of blue, purple and green acrylic paint into an aluminum pie plate. I mushed the feather about in the colours, then drew my first line. Not having ever painted with a feather before, I wasn't sure what to expect, so I was a bit tentative.

Figuring I could always start over if this turned into a total disaster, I got a little more bold. Using full-strength acrylic paint from a bottle works well to create thick areas of paint and also the dry, sketchy areas. Watering down the paint a bit also works, but gives you less control—not that you have a whole lot of control to start with.

This was done pretty much in one go. For some reason, the feather lends itself to a sort of gestural drawing, so it goes quite quickly. 

I got to the point where I was about to overwork the painting, so I left it as it was in the final below. Although the feather is not nearly as easy to control as a paintbrush, it creates some very interesting lines with a strong sense of movement. 

This took me about ten minutes—which actually shocked me so much that I was sorely tempted to fiddle with it, thinking it couldn't possibly be done already. I had to force myself to put the feather down and just walk away. You can see my indecision in the wrinkle lines in the elephant's trunk. This is where I decided I'd better stop before I wrecked it.

If you decide to try this, just go for it. The technique creates some interesting lines, and blending colours adds even more life. Given how easy this is, I can't believe I couldn't find a whole corpus of fine art devoted to painting with feathers. I was actually nervous about trying this technique, but I'll definitely be using it again sometime. 

Elephant Lore of the Day
Sometimes elephants can be a little too iconic for their own good. In advance of an upcoming election in India, all of the elephants in a public park are being put under wraps. The reason? The elephant is a symbol of one of the parties up for election. 

As reported in The Hindu, some 50 elephant statues of all sizes were hastily wrapped in pink plastic because of a recent Election Commission directive, which ordered the concealment of any statues of the Chief Minister, along with any statues of elephants. Pink plastic was chosen because pink is not the official colour of any particular party.

As hundreds of workers struggled to get the elephants wrapped up before the January 11, 2012 deadline, curious onlookers watched in amusement. Vehicles slowed to a crawl outside the park, and media crews reported on the strange goings-on. 

Many observers were not quite sure why the wrappings were necessary, given that the park is not yet open to the public.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund

World Society for the Protection of Animals

Elephant sanctuaries
(this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society


Bring the Elephant Home

African Wildlife Foundation

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