Taking the Christmas Out of the Cardinal Motif

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My title sounds very humbuggy doesn’t it?  Well it wasn’t really my intention.

It all started with a dream.  I was dreaming about designing fabric.  Thanks to Spoonflower I can actually do that without spending another ten years in school!  In my dream I wanted a cardinal fabric, but I wanted a cardinal fabric for all year round, not just a holiday fabric.  What I mean by this is if you look at notecards, fabrics and wrapping paper they generally only use cardinals in the winter or Christmas season.  Cardinals are usually depicted in a blue background with snowy trees, or with red ribbons, pines and berries –you know Christmassy. In my dream I made a fabric that showed my love of these birds during the other seasons of the year.

I particularly love to watch the cardinals in spring.  This is when the parents take their babies hunting for food and show them all different survival techniques.  I can get lost in my back yard for hours.  I almost always see the cardinals in pairs, always looking out for each other and I thought this was important to depict, even if the brown female isn’t as “picture worthy” as its male iconic counterpart.  They are all beautiful.

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So I woke up and got busy.

I did a little homework to figure out what cardinals like best (besides my bird feeder and fencepost!)

I made a list of cardinal favorites and tried to find ways to incorporate them into my design.  Here were some of the items:  wild grapes, mulberry, sumac, hack berries, dogwood, Hawthorne, native cherries, elder berries and Spiraea.

Instantly the dogwood flower stood out visually.  I knew I wanted branches.  The reason the birds like the trees mentioned above is because they are dense and twiggy allowing the birds some wonderful hiding places.  I also know that cardinal eggs are a pale green with brown specks.  I wanted them and I also added wild grapes, a Hawthorne leaf, a dogwood leaf and a nest.

It took me a day or two to map it out.  I chose gouache paint for its opacity.

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I spent a bit of time thinking about the color scheme…I’m still debating the color scheme though…

Cardinal Fabric

and now I’ve started painting… I totally understand how using a computer to create fabric makes WAY MORE SENSE, but I thoroughly enjoy the process and the painting…so I’m gonna do my own thing regardless…

Plus I get a beautiful painted panel when I’m done.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

I’m getting pulled every which way with my kiddos and the holidays.  I try to block out the multitude of people who ask me what I’ve created this year and why this year isn’t as prolific as last year.  I know the answer.  It’s because being prolific came at a price.  For each thing I was not doing in order to “Be Creative“, someone near and dear to me was doing.  Everyone around me rallied with pitching in with all the daily chores and special events in our lives.  That was an amazing gift from my friends and family, but it wasn’t something that could be sustained.  I went on a “Creative Trip” which had a beginning and an end.  Now I’m back from my trip and have to make time for all things, not just art.

Boo Hoo.

But actually I’ve made my peace with it.  I still devote a big chunk of my week to art and being creative.  It’s just not as flashy and easily visible.  Thanks to my blog I can see my path. It’s slow and steady and I’m still learning something new every single day, along with being a mother, wife, teacher and 40-year-old woman whose metabolism has disappeared and forced her to have to actually get out an exercise a few days a week (<— that’s been the worst thing this year. I can no longer get away without exercising!)

It’s all good actually.  Really good!

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