Pelican as Firebird

It’s no secret that I enjoy drawing animals. And drawing animals with pastels has been something I’ve always loved doing. But several years ago I got bored with it. How could I zazz it up? What could I do to spice up the animals+pastels combo? I’m sure other visual artists or illustrators or pastelators (I’m sure that’s a word, shush) might have tried a different medium, or maybe a different subject, or whatever.

Pelican as Firebird, by Ravenari / Pia Van Ravestein

I decided I might try setting my animals on fire. I’ve always had a passion for the mythologies that surround the phoenix, firebird and other variations of ‘bird on fire but strangely not dead yet.’

Rather than a typical ‘phoenix,’ I started my ‘firebirds series.’ Of which Duck, Black Swan, Pelican and Lyrebird are members (though I’d like to redo Black Swan).

Pelican as Firebird was done with pastels and carbothellos on a dark blue Mi Tientes standard sheet. This was before I’d discovered Schmincke’s, so I was using the still-wonderful Winsor & Newtons.

I often amuse myself wondering what birds I can next set on fire. On my mental list coming up, is black cockatoo, white eagle and fairy wren. Though I’m not quite sure how I’ll make the latter work. Maybe a fairy wren orgy? They are, after all, highly promiscuous birds. Even by the standards of the animal kingdom.

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Wandsuna: Dressmaking

I started the Wandsuna series over seven years ago now. It started because of recurring dream sequences that involved heavily costumed people with strange heads and no faces enacting very ritualistic activities. Sometimes there would be many, sometimes only one, but one day I woke up and decided to start drawing them. And from that day, the recurring dreams stopped.

Wandsuna: Dressmaking

Wandsuna: Dressmaking

I chose pastels (Schminke, Winsor & Newton, Carbothellos) for the series, because they had the right vividity of colour that I was looking for. Using large, tinted Mi Tientes paper, I allowed my surreal visions to spill forth awkwardly.

Dressmaking was one of the later contributions to the series, and has since been destroyed (mental illness has certainly affected the Wandsuna series), though it lives on in several .jpgs.

The recurring motifs that appear in the Wandsuna series, I feel, are the following:

1. The costumed figure with no face. Sometimes they have real hands, sometimes they don’t. The costume is rich with my own symbology (of both colour, form, shape and so on).

2. The fox, or foxes. Leashed or unleashed.

3. The charred spirit.

4. Often a dichotomy between nature and industry, though in my latest works, this hasn’t been as present. I feel the dichotomy between nature and industry is present automatically, between the costumed figure and the natural elements itself.

5. A preferred use of framing withing frames, or blocky shapes to separate different aspects of the picture.

People ask me what the Wandsuna pictures mean, and I prefer to let people come to their own conclusions. Every internal narration of an artwork adds to the patina of understanding of that piece. And I am just as happy to hear interpretations wildly different to my own, as those that come quite close.