As I was prepping for one of my drawing workshops I wondered why I am so fascinated by feathers.
I suppose, for me, feathers represent duality. To me that are symbols of fragility and strength; the frailty of existence and yet the wonder of creation.
Hold a feather in your hand and it feels so light, almost weightless and soft. It’s so delicate that my instinct is to treat a feather with reverence and gentleness. However just look at even the tiniest of feathers’ structure and you see so much good structural design there. And strength, so much strength.
The process of observation and examination is fundamental to my art and illustration practice. The purpose of a feather – warmth, flight, waterproofing, camouflage, display etc – is so evident once you examine one close up. For me this one object symbolises so many of the things we need in life to survive both physically and emotionally; resilience, protection, comfort.
As a species I feel we treat animal life so cheaply. We treat birds terribly. I also want the feathers to be a symbol of this. While they represent so much life, in reality they also are symbols of death.
I like to represent them in my work as celebrations of life, proud and at times even totemic. But as objects they are solitary, plucked, indeed, plucked or removed from a body. A stark reminder of the elemental, fragile line we walk between life and death.
I must admit I’m conflicted when I have to source my feathers to draw. I’ve gathered a lot of them from the muddy floor of near-by woodland. I have been known to buy them from vintage markets (like when I use to buy leather jackets, I had to know the cow would have been long dead before I could benefit from it – a strange logic I know). But mostly I get given them by friends who find them on their travels.
Most of my feather pieces are created with watercolour and pigment ink pen. I teach this technique at my workshop and I went through it in a step by step for uni-ball. You can read it here…
I’m also playing around with pen and loose Indian ink as you can see.
Take a closer look at my feather prints on my Folksy shop.