I hear the wind up in the Arctic isn’t the friendliest wind. I haven’t experienced this first hand, but I believe it. I’ve also heard that back when the world was new and the Arctic was covered in darkness, the wind was a bit haughty. The wind ruled the land, and wasn’t fond of a small crow disrupting the way things had always been. So when Crow left to fetch daylight, it wasn’t an easy flight. It was a cold, dark and windy battle.
Painting a battle in which the foe is invisible is a rather wonderful challenge, one I can only recommend. Representing the invisible in a visible medium is a little like magic, so I like to think that this illustration is a little bit magical. It’s a bit haughty of me, but right now I’m the wind ruling my studio space and no crow has come to knock me down a peg. (At least not yet.)
Creating a cold, dark and windy background.
Every so often I accidentally cut a shape out backwards, and have to cut it out again the right way.
All the layers are glued down, but a bit hard to make out at this point.
If you look closely you can see the shifts in color and the beautiful texture of the tissue paper.
A little bit of white paint brings out the shapes.
More details and a few splatters to stand in for the invisible wind.
Adding final highlights
And it’s finished!
This is the fourth illustration that I’ve completed for Crow Brings the Daylight, you can see the rest of them here.
In the first illustration I finished for Crow Brings the Daylight, Crow spots daylight after flying until his wings were sore and he was almost ready to give up. (See the process of that illustration here.) Seeing that speck of daylight gave him enough strength to continue on, to find a place to land in the land of sunbeams and light. I wanted these two moments to play off of one another visually. The earth covered in darkness and the earth covered in light. The moment of darkness breaking, and the moment of turning towards the warm earth, turning towards the light.
In some ways these images mirror each other, in other ways they are quite different. I like the way they play off one another, leaning apart but not able to completely separate. It captures the feeling of creating the second illustration. Trying to create an image that can stand on it’s own and dance with a partner is easy and challenging, fun and frustrating.
So here are a few process photos, full of fun and frustration. Enjoy!
The pieces before they are put together. Background, earth and crow.
Crow, carefully cut out and ready to be glued down.
This is the first time I’ve ever painted a layer before gluing all of them down. I painted the earth before adding crow in this illustration. It was an interesting change of pace.
Clouds and land painted in, Crow collaged on top.
Starting to add shape and details to Crow.
Once Crow was glued down, it was clear that the painting needed even more detail. More clouds were added…
…Along with hundreds of tiny dots. Dark dots to give the illusion of forests, red and yellow dots to spread subtle color through the earth.
Crow needed more color too. Blue dots, red highlights and a few green stripes helped to tie him to the rest of the painting.
You might not notice all the details in the finished piece, but if they weren’t there I promise you’d notice something was missing.
Today’s blog post is a short story written by my very talented brother, Forrest Davidson. This is the first time it’s been published, and I’m so excited to share it with you guys! If you’d like to see more short stories here, please leave a comment and let us know. If you’re interested in a print of this illustration, you can find it here. Now, without further ado, I present to you The Bear and The Light by Forrest Davidson.
The Bear lived alone. He didn’t have anyone to give him a name so he just called himself ‘me’ or ‘I’ and other animals called him The Bear. The Bear was a good neighbor to the nearby animals. He rarely ate any of them, and when he did, the other animals understood, for that is the way of the world. Mostly The Bear kept to himself and made his rounds of the woods eating bugs and fish and fruit when he could find it. The woods were in balance.
But despite his peaceful and easy life The Bear was not satisfied. The Bear wanted something more. The Bear wanted to meet the Light that he saw every night in the sky. The Light was not the moon, though The Bear did love to see the moon. The Light was not a star, for it was too bright and moved too quickly across the night. Every night the Light came and The Bear watched and was both happy to see the Light and sad that he could not talk to the light.
One day The Bear decided to ask the other animals about the light. He thought perhaps they might know the answer of where to find the light. And so The Bear walked on until he came to the rabbit’s warren and called down the hole.
“Hello Rabbit Neighbors, come and sit with me, I will not eat you for I have already eaten enough today.”
The Rabbits were shy, but The Bear was not a liar and some rabbits are rather curious. A few of the bolder rabbits came from their burrow and snuffled greetings to The Bear.
“Tell me Rabbits, have you seen the Light that crosses the sky at night? I wish to find it and meet it. Do you know where it goes?.”
“No, Neighbor Bear we have seen it but we do not know where it goes. The night is too dangerous for us to go out. We are happy the way things are. We do not want to know about the lights in the sky. Perhaps Neighbor Owl would know. The lights in the sky help her see to hunt at night.”
“Thank you, Neighbors.” And so The Bear walked on to go find The Owl. When he came to her tree he called for her but she did not wake. He called again and shook her tree.
“What?” She screeched down at him, for no animal likes to be woken before they are rested.
“Neighbor Owl, tell me of the Light that travels the night sky. Have you met the Light when you fly? I wish to meet the Light.”
“What light? I do not look at the sky, I look at the ground to hunt. I do not wish to meet any light. I only want to hunt and eat well and become fat. Go ask the Coyote. She studies the sky.”
And so The Bear walked on in search of the Coyote, and the Owl returned to her dreams of prey. Upon finding The Coyote, The Bear called in peace and greeting to her.
“Hello Mother Coyote. I wish to speak with you. I do not want to eat your cubs for I have already eaten enough today.” The Coyote came to see The Bear. She left her cubs hidden in a bush, for though she believed The Bear, she was a cautious animal.
“What shall we speak of Brother Bear?” The Coyote was polite but she sat herself just far enough from The Bear so that he could not reach her, for she was a cautious animal.
“Have you seen the Light in the sky at night that travels faster than the stars? I wish to meet it but I do not know how to find it.”
“I have seen this Light, Brother Bear. I too wish to meet it but I cannot go and seek it, I am too busy with my cubs, and I do not know the way, and it would probably be too far of a journey.” This saddened The Bear.
“How will I ever meet the Light if no one can tell me the way?”
“Perhaps sing to the Light, Brother Bear. Maybe the Light will tell you.” With that The Coyote left to return to her cubs, for she was a cautious animal and did not like to be away for too long. And so The Bear went on to his home to think about what The Coyote had said.
That night The Bear did sing to the light. He sang a lovely sad song because he was sad to think that he would never meet the Light. When he sang the Light slowed to hear his song and so The Bear sang more and the light slowed until it stopped almost directly above him in the night sky. When The Bear finished his song the Light twinkled for a moment before continuing on its nightly path and The Bear was overjoyed.
The Bear continued to sing to the Light for many nights after that, and each time the Light would slow to listen to the song of The Bear. Until, one night, the Light did not come.
The Bear sang to the empty sky and was sad.
The next day The Bear set off in the direction he had last seen the Light headed. The Rabbits did not understand why he would leave his home when his life was so easy. The Bear agreed that it was hard to leave his comfortable home, but he explained that meeting the Light was important to him and he must go and find it.
The Owl mocked him for his foolish pursuit, but The Bear ignored The Owl because she had never looked up at the Light and so could not understand.
“It will be a long and difficult journey” warned The Coyote. “What if you cannot find the Light?”
“Then at least I tried” replied The Bear.
And so The Bear walked on in search of the Light. It was a long and difficult journey, but The Bear sang to himself and to the sky and his journey went easier. He walked and sang, and walked and sang.
“Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability to form new images and sensations in the mind that are not perceived through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses. A basic training for imagination is listening to storytelling, in which the exactness of the chosen words is the fundamental factor to ‘evoke worlds.'” – Wikipedia
This is a little painting of someone’s story telling. It’s a personal story, almost an inside joke, and this is my visual interpretation of their imaginings. I like to think that you can create your own story from my visualization, and together we make the imaginings so much larger than they were before.
In the beginning there were 3 paper cut outs and a painted background.
Then there was an elephant.
Slowly, a hedgehog emerged.
And the green blob started to look more like a turtle.
The turtle was given an eye, and he liked the way things were looking.
A little cadmium red was just enough to add a little “pop!”
And the critters were almost ready to begin their adventure.
And when they were complete, they headed down the dusty path, breathing the warm air and swaying in the breeze.
Dangers we cannot see become even more dangerous. A crack in the ice is only a crack, but if one stumbles upon it unawares a crack can transform into a death trap.
Do you remember that feeling you had as a child after you woke up from a particularly frightening nightmare and you had to walk through the dark to the bathroom? That feeling that there were monsters or robbers or aliens waiting in the inky gloom to jump out and grab you? That’s the feeling I imagine one would have during a hunt in the darkness of the Arctic winter. Only instead of imaginary monsters, there’s a very real, very large polar bear out there…just waiting.
That’s the story of this illustration. It’s a story of darkness and danger and a longing for daylight.
There aren’t as many photos as normal in this post, because for this illustration I spent my time videoing the process instead of photographing it. It’s the first video of my work that I’ve done, and it’s coming soon! Until then, I’ll leave you with these pictures.
Videoing the beginning of the collage stage.
Starting to add layers and details.
This is the second completed illustration for my upcoming children’s book, Crow Brings The Daylight. See the very beginning of the story here and check back to follow along as the paintings develop.
Marriage – the final sacrament in this series and, at least for now, my favorite.
I think that’s because, out of all the sacraments, I know what this one looks like in my every day life. I rarely baptize anyone and too often I forget to stand by my sick and hurting friends. But every single day I wake up married.
But maybe it’s also because this sacrament seems to hold all of the others within itself. My husband and I eat together each day (communion), and every day we welcome the other a little deeper into our hearts (confirmation). We encourage each other to step out (holy orders), support one another through joy and pain (anointing of the sick), and spill the secrets of our hearts (confession). As for baptism? Maybe that’s the very beginning. The moment when you leave the old life behind for the new.
Or maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe it’s just my favorite because I like being married. In Searching for Sunday Rachel Held Evans writes that if God’s only grace to her in this life is marrying her husband, it will be enough. I can say the same about my husband.
Whatever the reason may be, I’ve illustrated my favorite sacrament with my favorite feathered symbol of marriage – the albatross.
Albatrosses are the most faithful of all birds. They choose their partner carefully, and they return to that partner over and over again for the rest of their lives. I love that image. To me marriage is a choice to return, over and over again, every day.
And maybe that is what the sacraments are. A choice to return, over and over. A choice to remember when we share a meal, a choice to stand by a hurting friend, a choice to welcome strangers with open arms.
A choice to practice faithfulness over and over again, every day.
It’s a tricky sacrament to illustrate with birds. I’m not sure I know what a sick bird looks like. I’ve scooped up a few birds and nursed them in shoe boxes over the years, but they don’t look much different from their cousins chirping in the trees (aside from, you know, being in a shoebox). Somewhere along the way I realized that I don’t need to know what a sick bird looks like, because it’s not the sickness I want to illustrate.
It’s the anointing. It’s the healing.
“There is a difference between curing and healing, and
I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of
healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint
it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”
– Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
Maybe anointing the sick isn’t a one time event. Instead it’s a journey where we come alongside our family and friends and even strangers and weather the storm. With that perspective in mind, I knew exactly what I needed to illustrate this sacrament.
You saw March of the Penguins, right? Remember how all those emperor penguins gathered together to protect the vulnerable? They huddle in great masses, protecting one another and keeping out the storm (and there were some serious storms). If any bird sums up anointing of the sick, I think it must be emperor penguins.
So I painted these penguins in their huddle. The huddle that brings shelter from the storm. The huddle of gentle love and slow healing.
Although I’m posting this illustration later in the series, it was actually the first one I finished painting. That’s because I knew exactly what I was going to paint as soon as I read this line:
“The church welcomes us (confirmation).”
– Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
I immediately pictured rows of little birds sitting on their telephone lines, scooting over to make room for the newcomer. Because there is always room. We can scoot over forever, those lines will never be so full that we can’t make room to welcome one more.
Growing up in the church, I never felt comfortable with communion. Even now the thought of it settles like the small weight of stale cracker in the pit of my stomach.
Communion was always about rules. Everyone was supposed to wait and take the bread when the preacher told them to, or they were supposed to take it when it was handed to them, or we were all supposed to ponder all of our sins and confess every single one to God because if you missed one and took communion anyways something very bad would happen. I’m not sure what it was exactly, but it felt on-par with going to hell.
Besides the discomfort of never knowing what I was supposed to be doing, I’m not a juice person. And grape juice is the worst of the worst. (I would always save a piece of cracker to eat after the juice to get the juice taste out of my mouth, even though I was pretty sure that was against the rules.)
Then a couple months ago I was given an advanced copy of Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching For Sunday, and reading it gave me a whole new perspective on communion. Here’s a little glimpse into what she had to say about communion in the early church:
“At the beginning of each week they gathered—rich and poor, slaves and free, Jews and Gentiles, women and men—to celebrate the day the whole world changed, to toast to resurrection. While each community worshiped a bit differently, it appears most practiced communion by enjoying a full meal together, with special prayers of thanksgiving, or eucharisteo, for the bread and wine. They remembered Jesus with food, stories, laughter, tears, debate, discussion, and cleanup.”
When I read that, I understood communion in a whole new light. Communion isn’t about rules, and it won’t to send you to hell if you eat the cracker at the wrong time. It’s a celebration, a remembrance, a community gathering. And so I illustrated communion with hummingbirds.
I picked hummingbirds because they are (it seems to me) one of the few birds who can stop fighting over food and come together to eat. But mostly I chose hummingbirds because of what they eat.
They don’t eat bread crumbs, or old seeds, or insects with shockingly long legs. They drink the sweet offerings of beautiful flowers, and that imagery was perfect for my new understanding of communion. So I gave these hummingbirds a luscious, red flower. I can take a sip from those petals. I’m pretty sure there’s no grape juice in there.
This post is the fourth in my series on the Sacraments. You can find the previous posts here, here, and here. Each of these illustrations was inspired by Searching for Sunday, which is available today!
If you’d like to purchase a print of this painting, you can find it here.
Have you ever seen an image of St. Francis? He is often portrayed with a bird in his hand, and maybe a few on his shoulders and surrounding his feet. These birds are not included in images of the saint because they are beautiful, and Francis is not the patron saint of birds. The imagery is there because those birds represent people.
Back when reading was a privilege reserved for the elite, commoners learned to read imagery in place of words. Different types of birds represented different people groups, and viewers would have recognized their own people among the flocks of birds.
This tradition is why I used birds to illustrate my sacrament series. My hope is that in these birds you may recognize your people, and maybe even yourself.
Although this sacrament series contains many types of birds, this painting – the sacrament of Holy Orders – contains the widest variety in one illustration. In this painting I intentionally included very different types of birds. Each is a different color and different size. Each makes it’s home in a different type of environment. Each calls to mind different personalities and unique symbolism. They stand in for us – for you and me and for our next door neighbor and our fellow humans across the globe.
These birds come together to commission one of their own. To send out one of their fellows with joy and support in the great adventure of spreading one’s wings and heading into the world. The birds don’t shed their differences when they come together. They maintain their unique colors and songs.
But they come together.
And I think that’s really what the sacraments are all about.
This post is the third in a series on the seven sacraments of the Catholic church. Read part one here, and part two here. Check out the book that inspired this series here.
If you’re interested in prints from this series, you can find them here.