I like the combination of the bird with the magnolia so much, that I plan on continuing to experiment with it. Magnolias are a challenge to paint well, but they are worth the effort here in the Magnolia State.
On parrot feather from Clinton, MS
Length: about 6"
Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Storing Feathers for Crafts and Painting:
Freezer, Boric Acid,
Soap and Water, Hair Dryer
1. Place feathers in a large envelope, paper bag, or plastic
bag (I use large ziplock bags)
2. Sprinkle enough boric acid inside the bag to surround all
feathers when laid flat (note: Boric acid and Borax are not the same thing. Read a good comparison here).
3. Seal the envelope or bag and shake until all the feathers
are coated (30 seconds).
4. Hold the envelope or bag horizontally and gently shake
one last time.
5. Lay the envelope or bag horizontally on a shelf (or even
better, in the freezer) and let it sit for at least three days. The boric acid
will dry out any mites or bugs present on the feathers, and deter future pests.
(All feathers that come into my house are immediately sealed in a ziplock bag
or plastic bin and treated with boric acid and/or put into the freezer to be
sure that there is no potential contamination with the stock in my studio.)
6. Store the feathers in an airtight container out of the
sun until you're ready to use them.
7. When ready to use a feather, shake off boric acid and preen
it with a wide artist paintbrush. Lay the feather flat on a piece of paper and
brush from the quill out to the edges. This will remove any excess powder and
will allow the individual fibers to adhere neatly once again.
8. I will sometimes also hand wash the feather with warm
water and soap and gentle preening motions. Your feather may look like a wet,
matted mess at this point, but have no fear. Pat the wet feather dry with paper
towel and then use a hair dryer to dry it completely. Washing and blow-drying
will leave you with lovely, shiny feathers with full-depth of color. Even when a feather does not need a full wash, I
will often run it quickly under warm water and blow-dry to bring out
the full luster.
9. For extra-large feathers (turkey and peacock tail
feathers) I will also sometimes use a q-tip and rubbing alcohol to clean the back of the
10. When I am done painting each feather, I seal it with an
archival varnish. This provides a protective finish that reduces exposure to
oxygen, moisture, dirt, and UV light (things that can deteriorate the feather over time). The feather is still flexible, appearing unaltered, after
spraying. I use Golden Archival Varnish: Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol
w/ UVLS Matte (Golden #7741-X). I use Matte rather than Gloss
or Semi-gloss finish with my painted feathers. It does not detract at all
from the natural shine and luster of the feather, while retaining the intended
look of the acrylic paint (gloss finish makes the paint stand out in a way that makes it look like a sticker).
11. I used to store feathers with mothballs, but stopped
because the chemicals in mothballs are carcinogenic and because they have such
a strong odor.
12. Boric acid is odorless, inexpensive, from natural
sources, and is safer for humans and pets. It has a wide variety of uses from
antiseptic treatment for minor cuts and burns to the production of the glass
for LCD flat panel computer screens. Boric acid combined with silicone oil
makes Silly Putty.
13. Rather than freezing feathers, some artists microwave feathers to kill potential mites. I have not tried this method,
as freezing seems more gentle to the feathers that I want to preserve.
15. As a feather painter, my technique continues to develop.
My process will undoubtably keep changing, so check back in the
future to see what refinements I’ve made in cleaning and preservation of my
feathers. My new favorite thing is Artists Tape. It’s acid free, easy to write
on, easy to remove without leaving residue, has a better hold than painters tape (like you
get at the hardware store), and it’s white rather than blue. I love this stuff!
When I'm doodling music symbols, spirals, stars and trees are the themes that come out of me most often. Painting takes more attention than mindless doodling, but with this simple effort to use up the remainder of my paint from the day, music emerged yet again.