Sunday, November 7, 2010

Painting a Peacock: A Labor of Love

One of my dear friends just got married this past Halloween.  It was a refreshingly unconventional wedding.  Not only did it fall on what some call a holiday, everyone wore costumes (adults and kids), and she wore a black dress.  A corset to be exact. If that wasn't enough, she came up with a unique peacock theme that went nicely with the blue and green jeweled pumpkin table decorations.

Months ago when she showed me the guest book she had chosen, I was really inspired by it.  I don't know where it came from, but something inside me said, "I can recreate this on a larger scale as a wedding decoration." Later I asked myself, "what the hell was I thinking?"  Initially, I thought I could use some of the assemblage skills picked up from my collage class, but then I wondered things like:

  • how would the cottony clouds, sticks and berries I glue on stay?
  • how would I afford all of those peacock feathers?  I could collage them, but I couldn't find any peacock paper in craft stores.  I found a stamper and some ink, but that wouldn't represent scale.
  • how was I going to pull this off?  I don't draw or paint, in fact both of those things make me uncomfortable.

I got out the 16x24 canvas and a pencil, staring at the photo above.  I gave myself permission to mess up.  I had not only an eraser, but another canvas, so if I blew this, I had a back-up.  I started with the tree branches, just guiding my pencil as my eyes followed the lines.  Time for the berries.  Circles.  I could do that.  Clouds, I drew those as a kid. It was looking pretty good. But the branch where the damn peacock was supposed to go was daunting, and empty.  It glared at me.

I got out the acrylic paints.  You know, the starter kit you buy in Michael's when you are feeling crafty, then you take them home, paint a little, decide you suck and you put them up in your closet? I got some of my kids' paintbrushes and began to paint the yellow background, then the white clouds, the brown twigs, and the red berries.  It looked good, but yet there remained a gaping hole.

Peacock, why do you have so many effing feathers? Like painting one isn't going to be hard enough. Yet determination and my word persevered.  I just kept giving myself permission to accidently ruin it.  I even told the upcoming bride, that I may not be able to pull it off.  She gave me permission to give it up, too.  So, there it was.  I could quit, or keep at it.  My pencil began sketching that skinny ass bird, leaving lots of room for his boastful feathers. He actually started looking like a bird.  I'll be damned.

I knew painting each individual feather wasn't possible, so I covered the feather area in a coat of green paint.  I then dug up so old gold calligraphy ink (another creative trip to Michael's in hopes of a hobby) and painted the outlines of oval feathers.  I went in and dotted the feathers with blue paint, and then went back to add whispery feather details.

I wanted it to be a keepsake, so I put their names and wedding date on it.  But, I wasn't going to push my luck.  I dug up some old scrapbooking letters (another abandoned hobby) and applied their names in the top left corner and the awesome date at the bottom right. I think it's a decent representation of the original, I gave it all I had, and it wasn't so bad.  Proof that abandoned hobbies can be a blessing if you stop fearing failure.


  1. very very beautiful! reading along, i thought to myself what i say to my kids, "i knew you could do it;-)!"

  2. This is the most precious wedding gift a girl could ask for <3

    Thank you, my lovely friend!


  3. Oh wow, this is really beautiful, Thanks for the inspiration!!