Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Passion for Birds

Kim L. Middleton will be teaching a Painting Birds of Prey workshop at Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio (WIFAS) in October. Kim’s passion for birds is strong. In addition to creating avian art, she trains birds for public education and rehabilitates orphaned, sick, and injured birds for release to the wild.

Read our recent interview with Kim to get a feel for who she is as an artist.

Q: When did your interest in art begin and how long have you been an artist?
A: My first job at age fifteen was interpreting the art collection at a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in my home town of Sitka, Alaska. Being around such before art sparked an interest in art and although I pursued the sciences in college I took a year of art history and continued to work at the church. I studied art on my own and  I worked my way through Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, while I was in a remote village in Africa for the US Peace Corps. When I returned to the states in the early 90’s, I focused on learning to paint in watercolor. Six years ago I took classes from a retired Cornish professor and started working in oils.

Q: What do you seek to communicate through your art or your art instruction?
 A: I am an avian artist and paint only birds. I have worked in avian conservation and research most of my life as a biologist. I prefer to paint bird portraits or at least have the bird dominate my paintings. I wish to reveal the extraordinary world of birds in my art in the hope to increase awareness and appreciation for birds and to increase our desire to conserve birds and their habitats.

Q: What drives you as an artist?
A: My passion for birds is strong and life-long. Most of my life I have worked with birds and my enthusiasm continues to grow. I wish to share my knowledge and love of birds and enjoy talking to people about the birds in my art.

Q: What is a recent piece of art you created and what inspired you to paint it?
A: Often I have heard people comment that vultures are ugly. I personally like vultures and wanted to paint an attractive vulture. I cropped the Turkey Vulture in close and chose a pose that highlighted its plumage instead of its bald head. I took liberties with the colors reflecting off the feathers and added a warm background to make the piece appealing to the viewer.  Here’s Looking at You is a beautiful representation of a vulture.

Q: Do you have a favorite brand of paints, brushes, or canvas that you use?
A: I mainly use transparent oil paint and find that Winsor Newton produces a wide range of clear, strongly pigmented transparent paints.  With my limited palette of Ultramarine blue, Alizarin crimson and Indian yellow, I am able to mix most of the standard palette hues, raw umber, burnt sienna and sap green. Painting on stretched canvas or linen allows my thin glazed layers to dry quicker than board and I prefer the subtle texture of the cloth. I like the soft, delicate look when I apply a glaze with sable and a filbert brush works well in defining feathers.

Q: What advice do you have for artists seeking to improve their work?
A: Learning as much about their subject as possible helps an artist to recognize when they are doing things right or wrong. Being familiar with the subject also allows the artist to interpret their subject on more creative levels. For instance, when painting a scene of two Peregrine Falcons at the nest, the larger bird is the female and she feeds the young chicks.  As mammals, we may assume that the male bird is larger, but this is not true with most birds of prey. This example is subtle, but for those who know this raptors characteristic they may be taken aback if the artist stereotypes the female by making her smaller.

What do you think is unique about Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio’s workshops?
A: Having a location away from the distractions of the city and home allows the artist to relax and concentrate on the information and activities of the workshop. WIFAS’s diversity of artists and their styles and subjects gives the student a good variety of classes. As a workshop instructor I appreciate the attention to details that WIFAS offers.