The familiar comfort zone is left behind

"Art is a space in which freedom tests its wings." - Marty Rubin.

(First published in November, 2017 and revised in 2024).

After 9 years of painting on a regular basis, I can say that art is rarely predictable.

However, as in other areas of life, in art there are patterns that are familiar and soothing. Now and then, it's good to try something a little more challenging, or if not challenging, then totally different from the usual routine.

Take my latest series as an example. I wanted to paint flowers on a rather large wood cradle board (12x36).  I chose pastel colours and was looking for a loose kind of feeling with drips to soften the edges of the flowers.

Within a few hours, I was ready to throw in the towel, or at the very least, add a thick blanket of gesso to cover up the mess that I had painted on the panel.

I had definitely gone way beyond my comfort zone!

Gesso is the answer

There is a feeling of relief when the disaster disappears behind a layer of chalky white gesso.  No painting is too precious that it cannot be covered up and completely transformed if I am not satisfied with the progress I am making.

Dance of the Hummingbirds

"Dance of the Hummingbirds" mixed media on 12x36 wood cradle board.

I have painted birds before but never as the central figures in my painting.  Where did I get the idea of painting hummingbirds?

I might have been thinking of a conversation I had with my sister not long before I painted this scene. She was telling me about the hummingbirds that had come to her feeder during the summer. This is the only connection that I can think of that lead me to paint hummingbirds fluttering over the flowers.

I knew as soon as I was finished that it was one of the better paintings that I had ever done. It makes my heart sing each time I look at it and there is no better gauge of success than that!

Might as well stay out of the comfort zone

So now that I had left familiar territory (for me anyway), why not continue to work with this new technique.

Could I not add faces using that same methods?

How could I add more birds without being too repetitive?

These are the questions I asked myself as I stared at my hummingbirds.

After some thought, I had two sketches in my notebook that were transferred to two 9x12 wood cradles.

I had worked on a small series of four previously and I applied the same principles in these two paintings.

I made sure to use the same hair structure and background colour, the same kind of facial expressions to link both paintings together within the series.

And of course, there had to be birds if I wanted the pair to be somehow connected to the first painting, Dance of the Hummingbirds.

A Bird in Hand mixed media painting
"A Bird in Hand", mixed media on 9x12 wood cradle.  The sides are painted bright red.
A Bird Told Me So - Mixed media painting
"A Little Bird Told Me So".  Mixed media on 9x12 wood cradle.  The sides are painted bright red.

10 Responses

    • …and of course, it’s only paint, right? One can paint over anything or collage, or add texture and start over. So many possibilities. Thanks Graham.

  • Love the Dance of the Hummingbirds!! Love the new technique with the faces too! Did you only partially cover the original painting with gesso? To “find” the painting in the white gesso so to speak? Anyway I love what you’ve done with the colors and textures!

    • These were experiments in 2017 but I love this method. There is a name for it but at the moment, I can’t think of it. But in essence, I am using the background which was stencilled and stamped to find some of the shapes and paint around those shapes so it is partly intuitive. And the faces are painted on top of this background. I have returned to this technique with some of my painted flowers this year. Thank you Sue for stopping by!

  • Lovely, quirky work, Louise. I like the hummingbirds. I remember a pair regularly hovering at the feeder at my wife’s aunts house where we were staying at in Ontario years ago.

    • Thanks Graham. Nice to know that you have been this side of the pond and even in Ontario. Hummingbirds are easy to attract to the yard and are fascinating to watch. However, I don’t have them here in my yard.

    • For some reason , birds are central to this whimsical theme lately. With Mom’s skates, it was planned as my sister asked to have cardinals painted on them. But in other recent work, I just don’t know where the idea to paint birds came from. Thanks for leaving a comment Sally.

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