The Creative Process

Birthday Pheasant  / watercolor / February 2016

Birthday Pheasant / watercolor / February 2016


What has wings, a long tail, and wears a bow?
A birthday pheasant

I LOVE this joke and thought this would make a great visual, so I decided to paint it.


When I was in high school, a pheasant lived on our farm for a few weeks. My dad called him Super Chicken because he would race our cars up and down the driveway. But because I don't trust myself to draw a pheasant straight from my memory, I pulled up a few photos and drawings on Google. Then I took what I liked about each: the pose from one, the feet positioning from another, the colouring from a third, and so on. I also looked up a picture of a bow, just to get a better idea about proportions. 


The biggest problem for me was the bow. My original idea was just your everyday pheasant with a big, red bow strapped around it's belly, but after the first sketch, the idea seemed a little too obvious and boring. So I tried to make the bow look more like pheasant wings. I didn't take a picture at this stage, as I thought the result was a pretty weak effort and began having second thoughts about even finishing it.


As soon as I started painting I began complaining to my husband about how dumb it looked. Why the hell did I decide to turn the wings into a bow? The layers of yellow and brown were looking patchy. I really wanted to throw it in the trash. The cheapskate in me said that since I already mixed up the paints I should just shut up and use them...maybe I'll learn something about blending shadows or feather textures. 

So I kept going. And I have to admit that it started getting better.


When I finished I threw it off to the side and went to bed. The next morning before work, I looked at it with fresh eyes and was surprised to find that I actually liked it. So what if he doesn't have a wing and the bow isn't instantly recognizable as using a feather pattern - it really looks like a pheasant (albeit a bit of a sarcastic one) and I'm pretty sure the joke comes across without having to explain it. 

Even though I complained during most of the process, I still enjoyed painting this guy. I learned a few techniques (like how to paint feathers with a dry brush) and got to try out a new pen (a white paint pen used for highlights) and it was a great way to unwind after a long day at work. 

Sure, there are still a few things I wish I had done better, but not only am I trying to learn how to use watercolors in the first place, I'm also trying to learn positivity. Don't get me wrong, I think negativity is an important part of my creative process - it helps push me to take risks and ignites a furious spontaneity that sometimes has an interesting result. But positivity keeps me coming back and working harder on the next piece.