Listening to Feathers (and printing them)

Having been reminded of the joys of monoprinting whilst on the creative retreat in August, I’ve been printing with feathers and oil-based printing ink. Here are photos of few of my favourites, which I’ve mounted up and will be taking into Skyeworks Gallery to replenish the stash of “originals on paper”.

1. “Echoes”: Printing the feathers without any embellishment, for the beauty of the shapes. I overprinted darker feathers (more ink on them) onto a light printing (minimal ink left after doing another print). To me it creates a sense of movement, an echo of where the feathers  had recently been, the way a feather so easily blows around in the wind, shifting from one spot to another in the time it takes to reach down to pick it up.

Feather Monoprints: Echoes
Feather Monoprints: Echoes

2. “Shadows”: Are they shadows or are they other feathers’?

Feather Monoprints: Shadows
Feather Monoprints: Shadows

3. “Listening to Three Feathers”: The fourth in a sequence where I experimented with layers and positioning of the three feathers, and with water drops into the ink to create white dots, which could be interpreted as rain, or perhaps moonlight sparkles in a puddle.

Feather Monoprints: Listening to Feathers #4
Feather Monoprints: Listening to Feathers #4

4. “Noctural Flutterings”: Printed from some scraggly, weather-beaten feathers. For me there’s quite a different feeling to the pristine feathers, as if these have more of a story to tell (“inner beauty” rather than “surface beauty”).

Feather Monoprints: Nocturnal
Feather Monoprints: Nocturnal

5. “Here Be Seagulls”: This watercolour happened to be lying on a shelf, on top of the “am I finished yet?” pile,  and generated a “what if I…?” impulse. I find the result intriguing, a duality of techniques and stories (including the thought of the feather being used as a quill to draw the rocks of the foreground). The title is a nod to “Here Be Dragons” on old maps.

Feather Monoprints: Here Be Seagulls
Feather Monoprints: Here Be Seagulls

6. “Leave Some Things Unsaid”: This is one I expect many people will find tricky. It’s abstracted, with a soft tether to reality rather than a strong anchor. I like it because of the strong shapes, the way once you see the coloured shapes as feathers you’re led to read the white spaces as feathers too. If you’re unconvinced, don’t worry, it’s never going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Feather Monoprints: Leave Some Things Unsaid
Feather Monoprints: Leave Some Things Unsaid

The Ink: I’m using Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink, which gives the long working time of an oil-based colour but cleans up easily with water and soap or babywipes, making life simple. The ink is intensely pigmented, so I mixed the black with some extender (which is transparent), though I’m still getting a feel for proportions.

Final Note: It’s relief ink is as opposed to etching ink, not relief as in the emotion you feel when things print as you planned.

3 Replies to “Listening to Feathers (and printing them)”

  1. What a great use of feathers. We have a parrot sanctuary with several dozen birds and ever so often they loose one or two feathers, which we save as the macaw feathers have great colours in them. Now you have found another level of beauty in the feathers, I will have to try out some of this as well.

    1. Do! But be warned, it’s addictive! One leads to another to another, and less successful ones can become a background or lower level by changing colour.

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