So now we're up to the letter O, and for that letter, I remembered my friend Edward Lear who inspired these books:
Apparently, this book has come to life in Japan!
Here's my little poem about the owl with his oboe.
O is for Oscar who just could not sleep. He'd practice his oboe rather than counting sheep.
O! An owl who ought to observe his bedtime!
There are too many wonderful owl species to choose from, so I went more cartoonish with our friend Oscar, giving him rainbow chest feathers and ears. Here's a detail shot when I was painting the feathers in:
At this juncture, I've made all of the figures for the book and just need to paint them in the next few weeks. I'm still on schedule for my late November release, and for you Kickstarter backers reading this who pledged for sculpture rewards, I will contact you in September once the book is sent off to the printer to get going on your projects. Here's a studio shot of most of the elements I'll be painting in the coming weeks:
So now I will fly off into the sunset, but not without leaving another owl video for your amusement.
We're coming down the homestretch with the last eight birds underway! Today's post will reveal our Q bird--which wasn't that hard, but finding an instrument that started with a Q.......? Well, I'm happy with my choice for this one.
Q is for Quincy world renowned disco queen, she strummed funky pop hits on a rhinestone qinqin!
So.....for those of you unfamiliar with ancient Chinese instruments......a qinqin is a three (or four) stringed guitar-type instrument, as exemplified by the YouTube master playing for a captive audience:
I found a nice image online of a beautifully designed qinqin as such:
and based mine on that design as such:
Apparently, birds are no stranger to roller skates:
(xoxoxoxo Carol Spinney!)
Growing up in the 70's, I really loved to roller skate. I wasn't into fancy tricks or anything, but really loved the free feeling it embodied. Here's a few videos I found to show you what I mean.
I'm back to present what may be my favorite rhyme in the whole book. My sketchbook page may be a little misleading....I spent a bit of the early decision making trying to make the Naqara drum work, but later decided that I simply must honor the more ridiculous N instrument: the humble nose flute.
N is for Norah
whose cute neti pot
kept her purple nose flute
from filling with snot.
Anyone disgusted with this rhyme might want to refresh their memory of my W rhyme from Arfabet:
Sadly, I didn't take any process shots of the making of this piece. Here's the finished Nuthatch on a neti pot playing the nose flute. Well, almost finished--you'll see that I forgot that the nose flute was supposed to be purple! That's an easy change to make, so it will be purple in the book.
Looking for a nose flute video on YouTube turned out to be waaaaaay too much fun. As you will see, there's the more traditional shape of nose flute, which I used for the sculpture, and then there's a plastic version that is shaped differently. Still, this just goes to show that humans can't ever get enough amusement from things that involve our bodily orifices. I'll start with a few serious ones so you understand the instrument, and then end with some of the goofy stuff. Enjoy!
I have completed our bird and instrument for the letter M!
M is for Molly, whose mbira technique was to pluck with her toe instead of her beak!
When I was a kid, we had a little mbira. I'm not sure how we got it, but for whatever reason, I really loved playing around with it. Flash forward a decade or so, and mbiras came back into my life, when an artist friend would collect street sweeper brush blades that would break off, a routine event in their line of duty, and land near the curbs in the streets of Eugene. He would use them for various projects, including little mbiras for his kids. I started looking for street sweeper blades after that, and have amassed quite a collection of them, although I rarely have used them until now. I'm including a photo of what these blades look like so you can start looking for them. Anyhow, our mbira was hollow, so I assumed that my sculpture for the book wouldn't play, but to my surprise......
Fortunately, my version of the Happy Birthday song isn't close enough to be sued by the estate of Mildred and Patty Hill!
Here's my mbira playing Magpie!
This bird has iridescent green and blue feathers, which was really the big challenge of the project.
Magpies are one of the more intelligent not just birds, but animals on the planet, as it turns out. They are the only non-mammal species that can recognize itself in a mirror. And they mimic the stuff around them, as many YouTube videos will confirm. I'll leave you with my favorite: a British magpie named after soccer/football player Wayne Rooney who can properly introduce himself as such!
I'm going to start this post out with the video accompaniment, because I think it's perfect music for viewing this week's entry.
Okay, now that you have that playing in your head, here we go. I have been trying to post this latest bird for a few days, but am finally here to share one of the stalwart avians in my life, the Junco. There are a few variations of this species, but I had to choose the Oregon Junco because....well, you know.
J is for Jethro,
who led a jug band.
He ______________ (pooted a toot?)
all over the land.
J! A Junco who jams on a jug!
As you can see, I'm not quite done with the rhyme yet, but I'll get there.
I'm tempted to make a few more band members to accompany him for the book--we need a washtub bass, right?
One last note before I go, if you're going to be in the Portland, OR area this summer and want to see four of the Alphabirds, they will be hanging out at the State of Oregon Craft show at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, which opens to the public this Friday, June 5th. (I'll be there for the members' preview on the 11th, and the curatorial walkthrough on the 13th.)
Take care and thanks for all the sweet messages about Alphabird! It really helps me keep moving along.
Here we are again with another update from Alphabird! Coming down the homestretch at bird number 16, this piece brings us only ten pieces away from having all our characters for the book.
I decided to go with the beautiful Indigo Bunting for the letter I. Here's my rhyme:
I is for Isaac who pecked out a beat on a Hawaiian ipu beneath his small feet.
Here's some of my progress shots:
And the finished bird from two angles:
The Ipu is a traditional Hawaiian gourd instrument. I found some interesting videos online about the making of these, as well as the local controversy about whether it should take its rightful place as the official state instrument. What do you think? I say Ipu!
I'm back with another character on this crisp Sunday morning, but first things first--I am excited to finally announce the venue for showing the original artwork and officially launch Alphabird to the world! The Portland (Oregon) Audubon Society has a wonderful event called the Wild Arts Festival on November 21 and 22. I'll be holding court there that weekend in conjunction with my alma mater Oregon College of Art and Craft. Click here for more details on the 2015 Wild Arts Festival.
Now on to our next bird--the Goose!
G is for Gabby who announced fall migration by banging her gong with ecstatic elation
G! A Goose who's Gotta Get Going!
I really wanted to pick the Canadian Goose for this one, but was too attached to the idea of the aviator hat and felt that the simple white goose was more appropriate.
And here's our finished gong-playing goose:
This detail shows the stitching pattern I painted on that aviators cap. There's also a subtle white wing pattern painted on the bird, a feature that will pop when I have these professionally photographed.
So, as always, I found a video to accompany this update. It's still breakfast/brunch hour as I write this, so be warned that if you're eating while reading this, especially eggs, you might want to hold off until your meal is done. That said, this footage of a goose laying an egg is pretty interesting to this (mostly) city girl.
If you're already a backer and reading this missive, you surely already got the message that Alphabird hit its fundraising goal this morning. Yahoo! Thank you so much to everyone who helped me make this book happen. I've had a blast this month working on the first half of the characters and look forward to the next few months when I see it to fruition. I couldn't have done it without you, so please pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you still want to pledge, you have until 10:30AM tomorrow PST. Click here to be a part of Alphabird!
Are you ready for our lucky 13th bird? Oh boy oh boy.....here we go!
S is for Seymour whose beak was two spoons, which only encouraged his love of show tunes.
I really had to push to get this one done for you today, but it happened! Here's an early studio shot of our friend Seymour:
Soon after taking this photo, it dawned on me that I needed to reverse those spoons so they would resemble the awesomely simple musical instrument and not a dumb set of salad tongs. Fortunately, it wasn't too difficult a task.
I had a great time figuring out how to interpret the gorgeous plumage of the real bird on my piece--above is a detail shot from this morning, and below is the back of the finished piece:
I have another update on our friend Kevin the Kingfisher. When I posted this on Facebook, a conversation ensued about how the kettle drum looked like a glass of beer. I do appreciate feedback about my work, as well as a fine pint of beer. However, I've gotta be convinced it's a valid argument before going back in on a finished piece. I think the addition of some minor hardware to this sculpture is a good one, though, so thank you. It still kinda looks like a glass of beer, but that's okay by me because I believe that all good kids books should also appeal to adults. I love your comments and feedback and encouragement.
Of course, it also gave me an opportunity to hang out at my favorite art supply store, more commonly known as a hardware store. I found some sweet little keys that look like tuning keys for my kettle drum. Here's a closer look at them:
I almost hate to do this, but in case there are any of you out there who are still thinking about grabbing one of the five remaining spots at the $350 pledge level to pick first from the original birds, I'll let you in on my present plans for the remaining 13 birds to make: F - a Flamingo with a fiddle G - a Goose with a gong I - an Indigo Bunting with an ipu J - a Junco with a jug M - a Magpie with a marimba N - a Nuthatch with a nose flute O - an Owl with an oboe Q - a Quail with a qin-qin T - a Tanager with a tambourine V - a Vireo with a viola X - a Xenops with a xylophone Y- a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker with a yu Z-a Zebra Finch with a zither
It's a little risky announcing this now, so please contact me before the Kickstarter ends if you have your sights set on one of these projections because I might change my mind in the next month!
I'm back again with bird number 12. But first, an update on the progress of Alphabird. As I write this, we're a mere one hundred and fifteen smackers from reaching our goal with less than 48 hours to go. Woohoo! I think we're gonna make it!
So on with the program......there weren't a lot of birds or instruments that start with the letter U, but fortunately, there was an exceptionally clear set of choices here-- the Umbrellabird with a ukelele. As a native Oregonian, I'm frequently told I'm not supposed to own one, but I proudly sport my Barbara Kruger bumbershoot every year. And who could resist a bird who's naturally coiffed like Elvis? I also couldn't resist choosing a ukelele because it's one of the sweetest sounds around. So.....U is Unanimously for Umbrellabird!
U is for Ullie who tuned his strings daily while trying to master slack-key ukelele.
Both males and females have a long, inflatable (!!!) wattle on their neck, which serves to amplify their loud, booming calls. The males extend their wattles to attract the females. Some birds have red wattles, but I chose to stick with an all black-bird again.
I painted the feathers on the wattle of my bird, but I'm honestly tempted to go back in and figure out a way I can do some dimensional layering like the illustration. I'm still pretty pleased with my cowboy-booted Umbrellabird.
So......I promise you one more bird before the Kickstarter ends. And it's gonna be a good one.