"Taking Flight" All together now..

Orchard Oriole (c) 2013 Kit Lang

My first series is done!  Not that I'll never make another bird  - I'm sure I will (they're kind of addictive, actually); but this particular six by six, ten piece challenge I set myself is done. Yay!

Originally, I hadn't made a decision "I'm going to do a series"; but the show I was making them for had requested ten pieces in the six by six size.  I thought it would be fun to make them all "match" rather than have them be disparate subjects.

Continued after the jump...

European Goldfinch (c) 2013 Kit Lang

At first I thought I'd do something like the "Lake of Dreams" pieces I did for "Paperwork", but I thought "Okay, after having done spring, summer, winter, fall - what do I do for the next six pieces?"  And then I came across that red bellied woodpecker, thought I'd like to make him, realized I'd have to "work up" to him, so started with an "easy" bird.

By the time I did the third one, I realized "Hey.... I'm working in a series".  And each one I did, I consciously tried to improve upon the last one.  For instance, I liked the little hand stitched veins in the leaves of "Orchard Oriole" so I decided to add a bit more hand stitching to the Goldfinch.

Pectoral Sandpiper(c) 2013 Kit Lang

And I liked using the roving for the branch in the Goldfinch, but thought it was a bit heavy for the subject matter so decided to try it again, which is why the ground in "Pectoral Sandpiper" is made from roving as well.  Ultimately, I didn't think it was successful  - I wasn't able to achieve the appropriate "weight" with the roving in these small pieces, so moved on from using it.

European Goldfinch (c) 2013 Kit Lang

When I made, the male European goldfinch, I painted the details, but realized afterwards, that I could have improved upon them by hand stitching them rather than painting them...

Cardinal In Winter (c) 2013 Kit Lang

...and so the next piece "Cardinal In Winter" had hand stitched pine needles, rather than greens bits on the white bits.

Golden-Headed Blackbird (c) 2013 Kit Lang

I  got really excited about the possibilities of hand work after that, and chose "Golden Headed Blackbird" deliberately for the opportunity to add it. 

Ultimately, it wasn't as successful as the others - I thought I would do so much stitching that the branch wouldn't show, but once I was mid-way, I realized if I did that, the individual stitching wouldn't show, so the piece needs a branch that it's now too late to add.

Fairy Wren (c) 2013 Kit Lang

In Fairy Wren, I thought the best way to achieve the look of lilac blossoms would be to use french knots. 

It turned out only "okay" - the bird itself looked flat in comparison, despite my attempts to build it up with extra layers of feathers.

And *that* was because the birds themselves had sort of lost focus as the point of the series as I moved forward. I had become so enamoured with branches and details, I forgot to concentrate on the birds! Sounds silly - but I had led myself astray - to my detriment.

Silver-Eared Mesia (c) 2013 Kit Lang

In making "Silver-Eared Mesia", my focus was on achieving the most realistic looking evergreen branch I could, as well as keeping in mind that a strong background and an even stronger bird were *also* necessary.

Although, as always, I can see where it can be improved, I was really pleased with the result of branch, needles, background and bird - feeling that a really good balance between all was achieved.  The background is detailed and interesting, but the bird still *pops* from the piece.

Red Bellied Woodpecker (c) 2013 Kit Lang

Which brings me to the one that began it all - "Red Bellied Woodpecker".

I think the use of french knots and beads to acheive the look of snow worked very well in this piece, and I'm pleased with the bird itself; but the combination of the two is not successful in my opinion.

Although I tried to build up the bird by a: adding more layers of feathers and b: mounting it on a layer of mouflon; it still doesn't quite stand up to the heavily textured "snow".  It does *pop* from the piece, but in an odd way - it looks like it's sitting on top of the piece rather than being a part of it as in the silver-eared mesia.

In addition, though the background is very reflective of the pinky-grey blur in the source photo; it does nothing for the snow/bird combo. 

In future, I need to think less about accurately reflecting the source photo and more about what will work artistically in textile. What works in a photo may not necessarily work in this medium.

Green-Headed Tanager (c) 2013 Kit Lang

So, when I began the re-make of the Green-Headed Tanager, I put together all of my learnings.  I took the bird from one source photo, researched their environments; and then found a separate, accurate source photo that had no bird in it at all to use as its background.

Getting the right shades of background green by knocking it back with the scorching was also key.

The finished product really brought home why working in a series is important to artistic development, for both buyers and artists. For a potential consumer, it's important to track the growth of the artist and, for the artist - it's important to *see* the development of your work - what you've learned and how to apply it to future work.

Ultimately, I think this final Green Headed Tanager, the Silver Eared Mesia and the Orchard Oriole are the most successful* pieces in the series.

So that's it.  The series is done.  

This particular series was for a show that, as it turns out, I decided not to enter.  The hitch was that each piece had to be available for sale, and each piece had to be sold for a maximum of $20.  I didn't see that fine print and I won't sell these for $20. Some of them have 30 - 40 hours work in them! 

Nevertheless, I am so very glad I did the series and I will continue to work in series from now on.  

It's not that I won`t make one-offs - of course I will, because not everything is suited to a series and sometimes (often?) I won't have much more to say about a subject. But it's very clear that series grow my work and abilities so much that it's silly *not* to do so whenever I have an appropriate subject.

And as an added bonus - the first green-headed tanager, made in November of 2012 and the last one, made in April of 2013. 

On to new work on Wednesday!
Kit 120

*A note on what "successful" means to me.

When I say something is successful or unsuccessful, I'm not seeking praise or affirmation; I'm merely stating what, is to my mind, a fact. 

When I envision a piece before making it, I see it a certain way in my mind. If I achieve that vision, I deem it "successful".  

However, that is not the *only* criteria.  Sometimes, I do achieve that vision (as with most of this series); but the vision itself is flawed (i.e. too simplistic, imbalanced, and so on); and so, the piece is still UNsuccessful in my mind, even if I did in fact, achieve the original vision.

But an unsuccessful piece is not a  failure.

My entire impetus since I began working with textile has been always, quite simply, to get better. 

My subject matter will change, my goals in terms of what area of art I want to focus on may change, even how I make art may change; but always, my goal will be to improve.

Of course, the master said it best:

"I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart."

Vincent Van Gogh

Kit Lang


  1. Well, what can I say.

    The birds are all delightful and I think would look stunning hanging side by side.

    And the two tanagers above really demonstrate this particular journey.

    It is interesting how you self critique, and I suspect some of the features of each piece demonstrate them selves better in the flesh than in a flat photograph - your comments on the woodpecker are difficult to fully see from the photograph for instance.

    But a great little series - and all those feathers!

  2. Chapeau. I love them all - and to see them one by one really shows your development. And hey, if you don't sell them, you could hang them all in your living room ! And enjoy them every single day ;-))

  3. I think everyone of these is great but do agree that the tan anger and mesea stand out. It was interesting to read through all your self criticism to see how you progressed. I think you have valid points but still each one is truly lovely! I always love the addition of hand work for textures too.
    They would be lovely exhibited together sometime. I wish I could see them for real!

  4. I became a follower of yours just recently--in time to see the second tanager. Today, seeing all the birds in the collection, I am just amazed. You have such talent and artistry. Clearly you also have the drive it takes to make your vision a reality. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog. You are an inspiration.

  5. Fascinating to see, not only the progression but your evaluation of the pieces. They certainly would be wonderful exhibited together. I can see why you would not be prepared to sell any one of them for $20, you would struggle to get matt board over here for that price. It is a pity that an exhibition would impose that as it only serves to devalue the art that it is showing.

  6. What a fabulous virtual show, Kit! Thank you for taking the time to write these all up and share them with us in this manner. *Love* the first/last tanager together. And there is NO WAY I would let any of these go for $20!! That would be a crime, really.

  7. They are, indeed, a wondrous group, Kit. And no...$20 is unreasonable for anything that size and with that amount of work in it -- even unframed and/or not matted!! Don't know what the show organizers were thinking, eh?

    And on 'success'...thank you for your thoughts, especially re: one's vision, and achieving it (or not)...and whether or not the vision itself is 'flawed'. We are always learning, aren't we? :-) Here's to your next series!

  8. I got all excited when I scanned and saw the $20 price! I wanted to buy a few! They are worth much more than $20 so you were wise to not enter them for that show. There will be some where else for them to be displayed. They are all fabulous and I can see what you mean about working in a series helping you to grow. The first tanager was lovely but the finally one was fabulous! Great work Kit!

  9. Oh wow! So great to see these beauties all in one post! Thanks! Too bad about the fine print... hate fine print... Maybe you could try to get these into another art gallery somewhere? $20 is such a tiny price. Does the show get a cut from that too? I've all but given up selling anything handmade, sewing related. The amount of work that goes into even a small 6 by 6 piece is huge! I also agree that a successful piece is one that makes you grow!

  10. Oh wow! So great to see these beauties all in one post! Thanks! Too bad about the fine print... hate fine print... Maybe you could try to get these into another art gallery somewhere? $20 is such a tiny price. Does the show get a cut from that too? I've all but given up selling anything handmade, sewing related. The amount of work that goes into even a small 6 by 6 piece is huge! I also agree that a successful piece is one that makes you grow!

  11. Oh my! I just typed out a long comment, but may have lost it :( Just wanted to say thanks for putting these all in one post. They're beautiful!!

  12. I love your blog and especially this series and enjoyed reading all your commentaries on each piece. I have been following your blog for over a year and it has been amazing to see how you progress from one piece to the next. Hope to get to see your work in person someday.

  13. It's been very interesting following along and now to see them all together is a treat. It's too bad about the show. The organizers obviously don't appreciate how much work goes into a piece even if it is only 6 by 6. At that size probably even more work.

  14. I love them all! I think my favourite is the Mesea but I actually like the golden headed blackbird with all the fine hand stitching around it - branch or not. Each one is certainly worth far more than $20. A framed photo of each would be worth that much:) I enjoyed reading about your processes and your critique.

  15. What a wonderful post! Love all of the pieces (wether you deemed them successful or not)... in the end...if we learn from a piece (learn anything at all) , I deem that successful. :-)

    You have inspired me to try a series....what? I have not yet determined, but this has really intrigued me...the small size makes it feel quite do-able. Thank you for walking us through the journey, beginning to end....nothing better than to be able to watchan artist's process as it evolves.

    Oh....and so glad you caught that fine print.....20 bucks? Seriously? Did they get any entries?

  16. They are all just "wonderful". I don't have the words to express how beautiful these are. When I think of all the planning, hand work, painting, cutting, and executing these wonderful creatures I admire your artistic ability. I too am glad you read the small print. They should sell for so much by the inch and extra depending upon the processes used. My best to you.

  17. Hey Kit! These little birdies are all so precious...

    Silver-Eared Mesia is my fav. I really enjoyed your crit as well. If you felt you needed make some tiny improvements using Shiva Paintstix and adding a tiny bit of shading here and there can be quite beneficial. I have found great success in doing this when I just need a tiny bit more here and there, and with a very light hand, you can really do a lot. If something is too dominant, you can pull it back, and also add more definition if needed.

    I really love them all. You have certainly captured their essence and that's what it's all about right!

    Oh, and the 20 dollar thing, complete insanity. There's no logic in that whatsoever and obviously, no respect for the artists.

  18. Great post on your growth and process.... I don't think I have the attention span to work on a series of two, let alone 10!!! Maybe someday? So whats next?

  19. Kit they are wonderful. I really can't choose one favourite! It's really interesting to see the two versions of the green-headed tanager. I like elements of both. I like the large leaves in the earlier version, the background in the later version...but I do see growth in the bird itself. This has inspired me to think about doing some sort of a series myself. I just don't yet know what or when. LOL

  20. Well done, I admire your stamina in getting them all done. They are lovely :)

  21. Well done, I admire your stamina in getting them all done. They are lovely :)

  22. They are beautiful. Looks like tons of work went into them!

    1. Thank you Wen - yes, some of them were quite labour intensive!

  23. Beautiful group, they look wonderful.

  24. What a wonderful series and it was very interesting to see you learn from each piece. I hope to learn from every piece I create - and it is always interesting to look back at older work to see how far I have come in my journey.


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