Mark of the Thunderbird

I always thought that artists were supposed to be disciplined; meticulous in the planning, drawing, and drafting before ever putting canvas to easel. When I toured museums in Europe, I saw rooms filled with studies for final pieces.  Man, that’s tough for me. I try, and sometimes – like with Bunny for William, I do get some studies done first, but as a rule once I’m inspired to make thoughts visual, I just begin.

But knowing what you want to say and then saying it with paint are two very different animals indeed.

It started with an idea. Indigenous legends tell us about the Mark of the Thunderbird. When I’m out in the bush, those marks are everywhere, they taunt almost, I see them but I don’t really see them unless I look.

Then it got tricky – when you don’t have meticulously worked out plans, drawings, palettes, yada yada, you have to rely on your intuition. The final piece was dancing around in my head and I had to trust myself to get it out there.

The colours I was inspired to use don’t really jive with my idea of the legend. Laying down the first colours, I was worried that I was going in the wrong direction. The legend seems pretty dark and these colours, in contrast, are vivid and fresh.

The really fun part happened when movement came into play through linear mark making. There’s also a depth that comes through abstraction. The pushing and pulling of trees that are there – or aren’t there – adds a kind of mystery while giving the eye a place to rest.


And then I grabbed the knife.

When I was in art school a hundred years ago, I loved painting with a knife. The textures and highlights that knife work offers seem appropriate juxtaposed against the calm watercolour-like background.


Fast Forward to the finished piece.  Mark of the Thunderbird?  Everywhere.  But while I was guiding this piece I knew that I wasn’t yet finished with the whole idea. Stay tuned!


Mark of the Thunderbird

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