Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Monarch Butterfly Migration

This was a commission for a doctor who lives on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Monarch butterflies gather at the coast each fall and migrate across the Gulf of Mexico for the winter. Read more about monarch butterfly migration here.

Painted on a peacock wing feather from Foley, AL
Length: 12"

Paper Cranes

I've folded many paper cranes. I have a small metal box with a slide-lid that I keep tiny cranes in that I folded out of tiny squares of tissue paper with a pair of tweezers. 

Dyed turkey feathers. About 3" long each.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sock Monkey Explosion

I dig the big '80s style cell phones that sock moneys like to use. 

Dyed turkey feathers.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cardinal Roosting on a Magnolia

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

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 quill.

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.

14. Always be sure to use only feathers that are legal to posses and sell in your art. As a general rule, don't use anything you find in the wild. You can read more about federal and state feather laws at my website. 

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!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Whooooo Dat Trio

Who dat! Who dat! Who dat! 

On wild turkey tail feathers. 
Length: about 12"