I have some art pieces that I only bring out at certain times of the year, and this is one of my favorites for spring, “Spring Beauties.” The title refers to the small wildflowers – white with pink stripes down the center of each petal – which I remember from my childhood in Ohio. Now that was a long time ago, but I can still see them carpeting the floor of the forest near our house.
Of course the title could, and does, also refer to the young robins. They’re not unusual birds, but they’re one of my favorites. I like their coloring and their song and the way they hop across the lawn listening for something yummy moving around under the ground. And of course, who can resist the color of those eggs? They have a color named after them: robin’s egg blue.
This piece is on an 11” x 14” cradled board. These boards are great for collage because the don't warp no matter how much water-based adhesive you use. I began by collaging text snippets all over the board to give texture to the background. From there, I painted and blended blobs of springtime colors in transparent or semi-transparent paints which allowed the text to show through in varying degrees, depending on how transparent the paint covering it is.
While I was waiting for things to dry, I drew my bird sketches at the size I wanted them, traced them on tracing paper, then transferred them to the board once the background was dry. From there, I filled the shapes with a few coats of gesso to “white out” the background, then painted the birds.
The flowers were simpler. I just drew them on the background with a pencil, filled the shapes with gesso, then painted them.
Frames aren’t necessary for cradled boards, but I often like to have a framed look. To achieve that here, I just darkened the edges with a large, flat, side-loaded brush. For those of you who don’t know, here’s how to side-load and what it does:
Dip only one side of the brush into a puddle of paint. Stroke it back and forth on the palette, always having the loaded side pointed in the same direction. This will gradually soften the transition of paint from one side of the brush hairs partway to the other. Then stroke it over your surface, keeping the loaded side where you want the color darker. The color will fade from dark to light across the width of the stroke.
I’m a sucker for dots, so also added a row of gold dots around the edge.
To finish the piece, I added three coats of brush-on satin water-based varnish.
One of the things I like most about this picture is an effect I haven’t been able to photograph and which you can only see by looking at the piece closely, in the light, and from the side. (So why tell you about it if you can’t see it? Because you may want to try it yourself!) It’s the texture of the thin layers of all the little text snippets in the background. It looks really cool!
I haven’t done this exact technique for quite a while, but reviewing it here makes me want to revisit it.