For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve been concentrating on learning to sculpt in clay. I think I’ve managed to get a handle on the medium and looking back on my sculptures, I believe I’ve progressed reasonably. I’m even rather proud of a few of my pieces, and that, for those who know me, is quite a statement.
There are issues. One is that the art center I go to has become prohibitively expensive. I would buy a kiln but there is no safe place to install it in this teeny, overpacked house. So, my plans to sculpt a series of endangered, misunderstood and maligned animals has become undoable.
Before I began sculpting, my medium was oils, but here again, I have a logistical problem with space. I am working in a tiny corner of the tiny “sunroom” which is actually just an enclosed porch with a lot of drafty windows, ugly paneling and because of its shape, is more shaded than lighted. I share this space with my parrot, Milo. The fumes from turpentine and linseed oil are not so good for parrots. Also a very steeply sloped ceiling makes setting up my easel impossible. Oils are right out.
I decided that I need to develop my ideas using not-toxic materials that can be done in a small setting without spending a fortune. My solution was to learn how to use watercolors and colored pencils. I’m already quite adept with graphite — drawing with graphite is like breathing for me. I used to use charcoal all the time when I was younger, so despite being hideously rusty with charcoal, that’s in the new mix of preferred media.
The first animal I chose to research was the wood stork. By all accounts a most ungainly bird. Ungainly appeals to me. I did some preliminaries and then a graphite portait and a small watercolor. I am proud of the portrait and not too displeased with the watercolor. Here’s the portrait… what an impressive bird!
After I worked on this guy, I decided to look for other ungainly birds (I will return to the Wood Stork, I promise). As a lark, I started sketching flamingoes without giving them any serious thought. Suddenly, while trying to figure out that incredible beak, I realized that I needed to research this magnificent bird who has become not much more than a tacky lawn ornament to most in this country.
so here’s some stuff about flamingoes
- Their name means flame.
- As far as anyone can tell, they may or may not be related to grebes, storks, ibises, spoonbills, pigeons, doves.
- There are 6 species, 4 in the new world, 2 in the old.
- For the grebe-flamingo clade, the taxon Mirandornithes (miraculous birds) has been proposed.
- Their color comes from the caretenoids in their diet, they filter feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae.
as i was drawing their beaks during research, it occurred to me that their beaks reminded me of baleen whales.
- The Ancient Egyptians believed them to be the living representation of the god, Ra.
- Ancient Romans considered their tongues a delicacy.
- They were worshipped by the ancient people of Peru.
- They are the nationals bird of the Bahamas.
and in the United States, we have turned them into cheap, pink plastic lawn ornaments.
Wiki entry for flamingoes is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamingo for more info.
So, this is the work I started with the flamingo. The flamingo (who was once a god) is teaching me watercolor (slowly and painfully), colored pencil (slowly but not so painfully), and a revisit with my old friend, charcoal. I hope you enjoy the flamingoes, and I hope you notice that this magnificent bird is anything but tacky.
One other thing I learned…I’m not very good at taking photographs of art. I also like wolverines.
But more about her later.