I Can’t Do That!

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“I Can’t Do That Kind of Art”

A very dear and close friend of mine asked me if I would be able to create a fabric painting for her.

She would make copies and give prints as Thank You’s.  She is a Fulbright scholar who has been working in Nepal and Ethiopia for the past 4 years working with local professionals and students regarding hypertension.

Barb asked if I would create a Sand Hill Crane.  Of course, I said, “Well, I can try. I am not guaranteeing anything because I am not an animal painter of any kind!”  In fact, I would categorize my interest in doing animals, birds, insects with a big fat ZERO! I am not an animal hater, at all, they just don’t interest me other than saying hello, if around them.  After last month’s blog about being stuck, I decided to try the crane!

Researching cranes and looking at images of them, I do have to admit, they are a beautiful strange bird.

I was not sure how I would approach this topic.  I mean there are a million feathers on this huge body, and how was I going to make it look natural and give it dimension?

The first thing I did was get the background in. When working in fabric, (and sometimes, other mediums too), the usual route to take is to paint in the background, because the point of interest is what will be laid on top of it.  I know there are millions who would disagree with me on this, and that is ok.  This is my blog, so I say it works.

I cut out a general shape of the bird’s body and glued it where I wanted it.  I started looking for fabric that had interesting designs on it.  I used gauze, silk, sheers, cotton, and some wild polyester print I got from my niece.

I kept making layer upon layer until I was happy.  I had to apply the head twice because the first head was way too small.  It was actually fun to experiment with shredding fabric, pulling at it with needles, trying to make it look like feathers.  I did need to study the crane’s eyes up close because it kept coming out like a cartoon.

The canvas I worked on was 12 x 16, which is pretty small for my tastes, but that was the size needed.

Overall, it went fairly quickly. To be honest, I am dumbfounded that I was able to accomplish this challenge!  I am very pleased with the results as a matter of fact.

We all need to challenge ourselves from time to time.  If we don’t, we don’t stretch and grow. I am a fan of exploration in most areas of life, however, in my own art practice, I really have to push myself hard to do things I am unsure of.  It’s that old “what if I fail” thing that always pops into my head.

As I so often tell students, “ This isn’t brain surgery, and we won’t kill anyone doing this.” There are a million and one quotes I’m sure about doing, exploring, growing, and expanding our horizons. I will add one more.  I will say simply this:

If we want to improve our abilities and talents, we just have to do some of the things that scare us!  So take that, Sand Hill Crane!  Bam!


Go make art!