Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Love Affair With Mini Birdhouses

Raw wood and a copper
roof transformed into a
hanging decoration
When I started painting birdhouses, I started small, with what I call a mini-birdhouse. I didn't have the confidence to have enough "to say," I felt, with a larger one. It didn't take me long, after trying a larger birdhouse to, as they say, "Find my voice," and for awhile I didn't bother with small ones again.
When starting with a plain birdhouse,
its not what it is but what you can do
with it!
   However, as I did more and more, I found a wide variety of designs making it easier to work experimentally on small birdhouses that cost $1 than one costing from $5  to $10. Believe me, there were many mistakes made. 
   Hours spent checking out the competition made me realize that you could do so much more, with any size, than just putting a color on the sides and roof, adding a flea bitten painted flower and calling it quits. It was their small size that encouraged me ... and I am finding that it is again, here in the desert! One of the prime movers is that I found a whole bunch of unpainted mini-birdhouses and it is so hot you don't even want to think about going outdoors.

   Though, they are quite plain, with out much or any design, the challenge is what you can do with them! And, I love an artistic challenge.

  Take the birdhouse at above. I bought several and was intrigued with some abstract modern art I had recently seen and was convinced that I could do the same thing, the abstract part, as an artist on a birdhouse as I saw done with a canvas. While birdhouses or anything 3-dimensional is a challenge, I felt up to the task. What I came up with captured the spirit of the canvases I had seen yet also created a kind of 21st Century birdhouse.
   As you can see, they are all the same wooden birdhouses transformed by the addition of feet and some pretty wild colors. They remain mini-birdhouses but in the right setting, could make a true accent and color statement.
Here is the basic sketch I did of four birdhouses
painted with the same pattern but with colors
that matched their season ... hence my
Four Seasons Birdhouses
Here is the finished product, THE FOUR SEASONS

  As a college Journalism and Advertising major, our director insisted that we make mini sketches. He would have us draw small boxes on plain paper (the boxes similar in shape to the ad or paper feature) and then with a simplified palette sketch in the major photo, headlines, captions and body copy. He told us that it would help us create a flow, something that would guide the viewer through the article or ad. Once we hit upon a design we felt would do that, we would then, back in the 60's, begin the long laborious task of drawing an ad by hand that almost looked like it had been printed. We labored hours each week, trust me.
Have some fun. The mini, copper roofed
 birdhouse begged for something different.
It sold so I guess someone else thought
so too!
   I continue this even today. It is soooo much easier to make designs and their corrections on a piece of paper, usually scraps from chopping up scrap printer paper, pages from my Dilbert Calendar, anything that allows me to sketch out designs and get the placement right. If you notice from the sketches I do the front, back and side(s) leaving nothing to chance. The design is then sketched by hand onto the birdhouse after a decision is made to leave the wood alone and stain later or if there is to be a base color. A word of caution. DON'T be too heavy handed with the pencil. There are always some marks left behind that will need to be erased before you either varnish it or, as I do, antique it. Once there is a coat of anything on top, that mark will never, ever go away.
This is also the time to be experimental.
While I no longer have this birdhouse
it remains the most viewed item on my
Etsy store. That led me to try another
version ... this time round!
   Since a mini birdhouse will be much cheaper, even, cheaper after certain holidays), the only true real expense is your time. Your wooden "canvas" is cheap and it will require little paint. The true downside is because they are small they take as much time to create as a larger birdhouse. It was this that led me to do several at a time. Once a coat of paint in on, there isn't the time or space for it to dry. Do two sides, let dry and have another ready to work on.
The original design had a grid going all
around with small hearts and flowers at
the intersections. A slip started a 
Rosemaling "S" and I went with it.

   I also discovered using the same design but different color ways, that in the process of hand marking and hand painting each birdhouse will be subtley different. On the glance they appear to look alike, it is only on closer inspection that you will notice the differences.
   For me, the changes usually are for the better. At that point you have to design to go back and change the others or to leave well enough alone.
Not fond of green, I felt that I should give
it a try. Here I used brown and green
just like a tree.
   I can't begin to tell you how in the process of either drawing or painting a birdhouse one day you might slip and find that you like that "mistake" better. I think if happens for me, about every time. Really. It is at that moment you have to make a decision.
 Using color is another big advantage, especially with acrylics. You can play with them here on a small surface and either paint over it or throw the mess away if you don't like it. You don't feel you are out much. Never ever think of a reject as a loss either. It taught you a lesson that you would never have learned if you hadn't tried it. We have have projects that we feel are, ugh, bad, awful, there I said it,  can be loved by someone else. I sure many great artists have had the same experiences. So try it out then see the reaction!
   However, if you sell your items you might give your "reject" a try out before sending it to file 13. One of the things that has surprised me more than anything else is how colors and designs I end up not liking can oftentimes be liked by someone else. I guess, when you look all around, if we all liked the same things, our world would be pretty boring.
Choose from a variety of shapes
   That is what drives me to not only to be creative with the design and paint, it is the little things that you can add to the surface, somewhere that makes each one unique in its own right.
   One of the things I like is the inventiveness of mini-birdhouse makers. They seem to offer an endless variety of things to paint giving us even more reason to try them out.
   Finally, I know that painters look down their noses at crafters ... all you have to do is look into their eyes when you say you paint, birdhouses, and you will know what I mean. But, as I pointed out visiting the La Quinta Art Festival this year, more and more canvas art is becoming 3-dimensional. Artists use several painted canvases joined together, looking for depth. We are seeing more collages that are becoming more acceptable as I watched more than a few patrons lugging their find out to the car. There was one that I really really liked and will probably remember as the one "that got away." It seems that people want their canvas world to be like more like their real world, 3D. Witness the sudden growth of 3D glasses, and artists are understanding these new requirements and are stepping up to fill the void. Will you?

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

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