Montague Center Library
I am delighted to have my collection of bird paintings on display at the Montague Center Library. These paintings have never been viewed all together. Some were painted while I was working full-time as a dance educator while others were created more recently after retiring from my career and turning to full-time art. These paintings are in watercolor or pastel and were done in my home studio, The Milk Barn Studio, in Montague. Some of the original paintings have sold, others are in private collections, and a few are still available for purchase. Cards and prints are available.
I adore them. Whether on a walk or being driven in a car, my eyes constantly survey the landscape for birds. I often joke with locals that this part of Montague is like an unofficial Audubon site. The variety of birds who migrate here or stay for the entire year is impressive. I love walking “the loop” from our house on South Ferry in the spring, watching and listening for the return of feathered friends.
The birds in my paintings are either visitors to or residents of our neighborhood. They include Bobolink, Tree Swallow, Nuthatch, Wood Thrush, Gold Finch, Robin, Owl, Chickadee, and Marsh Wren. I also love visiting coastal areas where I can study and paint birds such as the Oyster Catcher, Tern, and Plover.
My Painting Process
Whether I'm working in pastel or watercolor, I study my subject and plan my piece in detail before paint meets page. I joyfully spend hours observing the bird and taking notes including studies in graphite, charcoal, and ink. Over several days, I work on a composition that will highlight the character, habitat, and beauty of the bird. Once I feel prepared, I choose my color palette by mixing paint or choosing pastel sticks. I work in series, never painting one version of any subject and this also applies to birds. This practice affords me the opportunity to gain new insights as I go.
Watercolor is a medium of immediacy and one that I love. Its strength is not in building up layers as with oil and pastel, but rather in how it encourages confident mark making and innovative thinking in the face of surprises. With moistened paper, the pigment will travel where the artist wants it to go but it will also bloom in unexpected ways. The fact that such a fluid medium can create 3-dimensional objects is pure magic to me!
Pastel painting is the opposite of watercolors for me, and I love the process. If done correctly, pastel painting allows the painter to build up many, many layers of pigment. This provides a certain richness, depth, and luminosity. Pastels are pure pigment with a tiny bit of binder and come in sticks. Artists use the broad side of the stick to create swaths of color and the edges or tips to create detail such as feathers, grass, or ripples on water.
Pastel paper has “tooth” and is specifically engineered to hold multiple layers. I begin a piece with laying down an underpainting in hard pastels. I then add isopropyl alcohol with a brush, turning the pastel into liquid. After this first layer dries, subsequent layers are added. It’s important to step back and look at the painting from a distance to see how the layers of colors are interacting. This can help with knowing when a painting is finished.
Why I paint
As with these bird paintings, I cherish the opportunity to get to know a subject I love more intimately through art. And because I’m painting things I love; it encourages me to be the best painter I can be. This entails countless hours of study, trial and error, successes, and failures, and seeing the merit in all of it. And I love occasions, such as in the Montague Center Library, in which I can share my art with the public and hear their response. It's a great way to start my year. Come check it out!