Space Birbs! Symbolism in my new painting ‘Love in Space and Time Part 1’ and new creative ventures

They say in life you should keep reaching upwards until you touch the stars. Well, I know its a total cliche, but I think in any craft its important to keep learning and growing, so that’s what I aimed to do in my new painting, ‘Love in Space and Time Part 1’ (or Space Birbs as I fondly like to refer it on a more casual basis). I wanted to challenge myself by taking a familiar subject to paint and place it in unfamiliar territory, using materials I’ve never used before to put together an abstract interpretation of space in all its colourful, galactic glory. I also wanted to expand my comfort zone as an artist by trying something new and this is the finished result:

‘Love in Space and Time Part 1’ mixed media on cotton canvas, approx 9″x12″

So why birds in space?

On a simple level, I wanted something striking and to make an impact. Something on one level which is pretty light-hearted and fun in concept. Space birds sounds pretty cool right? On a deeper level, in terms of the inspiration and thoughts behind the painting, it is about connection and interconnection. How we are all droplets in the universe and splatters of amazing creation, not built to last but yet how our emotions, such as love, are things we all share to some degree or another that could be seen as things transcendent of space and time. We love people even when they are no longer with us. I wanted to juxtopose a creature that I strongly adore (the bird) with a space-like background, which I created with mixed-media techniques, in order to bring to the foreground the connection between space and such an amazing animal. A connection which doesn’t exist in our immediate reality and which we don’t commonly make on a daily basis (the closest thing I can think to birds in space is Angry Birds which unsurprisingly was’t where the inspiration came from…). I chose a pair of birds to represent love, and placed them on a branch which, if you look closely, is entwined into the infinity symbol. What better symbol to coincide to both the literal vastness of space and an emotion like love. Grey tits and blue tits probably aren’t a natural pairing or anything we would normally associate with love – I guess I could have chosen actual lovebirds if I really wanted to pump up the symbolism. However, I don’t think it especially matters which birds are chosen, as the gaze of the birds and overall feeling of the painting for me is enough. Love can and always will come in all shapes and forms after all, and not just exist in established imagery.

Technique and Process

At first, I wasn’t really sure how to approach the painting in terms of order. Should I paint the birds first and then paint the background around them? I thought I’d just try the pouring technique with the Pebeo paint first and see how that turned out and just go from there. I firstly painted my canvas with two coats of black acrylic paint using Windsor and Newton Galeria in Mars Black (no intended pun). When this was dry and I began the pouring process in a well ventilated room. Pebeo Discovery set paints are unfortunately solvent-based so they require a bit of airing out. If you’ve never used or heard of them before, they basically produce different paint effects as they dry and interact with each other. I used Pebeo Prisme in Buttercup and Caribbean blue which produce a kind of honeycomb effect, combined with Pebeo Moon Turquois which is the one which really interacts and blurs with the paint. I added a few drops of Vitrail in Limon and Crimson which I think people tend to use more for ceramics but they had a nice transparent effect which added a bit of depth and contrast. You can see these in the more red and deep pink areas of the painting. I left the messy abstraction to dry overnight to ensure it was completely dry before I started painting over the top and here is the result:

The Pebeo had dried a smooth glossy coating and I wasn’t sure the acrylic paint over the top would take, but I started mapping it out anyway using a but of mixing white to roughly map out where I wanted the birds to sit. I decided looking for and utilising shapes in the dried Pebeo might work best so I selected a big blob of yellow ‘planet’ for the blue tit to sit on. It worked pretty well.

I built the acrylic paint up in layers and it was useful that when the paint first went on the canvas it easily wiped off the Pebeo if I wasn’t happy with its placement but then dried securely. At first I nearly just left the background as it was, as I quite liked that the birds almost looked like they were melding and becoming a part of the universal background, as you can see below:

However, I agreed with comments that it would be a shame for the birds not to stand out, so in addition to adding flecks of titanium white acrylic to represent stars and galaxies, I also added pops of pink behind the birds to make them really stand out. The pink dried more red in places but I quite like how that matches the Vitrail Crismson used elsewhere in the painting. Here you can see the mix of red and pink in the background and I also include a few close-up images of how the acrylic has mixed in with the Pebeo (just be careful to clean your brushes afterwards with a solvent remover as I found they had absorbed some of the solvent).

Overall, I’m very happy with how the painting has turned out considering it partly started as an experiment. It now just needs a coating to finish it, either a varnish or an epoxy resin. I’d be really interested to know your thoughts and comments on the painting, and if there is anything you thought or felt about the painting initially or if anything has surprised you after having read this post.

What wildlife in space would you like to see me paint next? Comment below 🙂


Artist Statement and Welcome to my Blog

‘Gratitude’ A4 watercolour with copper gilding flakes embellishment

Hi and welcome to my blog! My name is Gemma and I am an aspiring portrait and wildlife artist from Lincolnshire, UK. I am currently creating wildlife art using watercolours, coloured pencil, acrylic paints and sometimes mixed media. I am creating both pencil and paint portraiture. I am continuously inspired by nature and the human relationship to it, especially its capacity to make us feel better and this is something I try to encaspsulate in my art. Recognising the benefit of nature and wildlife to us as humans helps us to recognise its value and gives us another reason why it is important to protect it, nurture it and to be grateful for its presence and impact on our lives. In 2019, my goal is to explore the relationships between humans and nature in my work, bringing my portraiture and wildlife art together and to explore how as an artist I can be more eco-friendly and reduce my ‘artist’ footprint on the natural environment. This blog is here to document things I am learning and developing on this journey.