Birds. Lots of birds. I prefer birds of prey, but all birds lend themselves to painting. They have beautiful forms and plumage, and each one is so unique. Lately, I’ve been trying my hand at macro photography, focusing on natural forms and insects.
What inspires you to create?
As cliché as it may sound, I am eternally inspired by nature. Humans haven’t even come close to creating the natural beauty that is in this world. I want to capture the emotive qualities in birds that can so easily be missed by humans. Though I’ve been interested in birds since I was a child, I’m still learning about new species. Every time I come across a new bird, I start coming up with ideas for how to paint it.
Do you have the picture already in your mind before you paint it or do you start painting and uncover it?
I tend to think about a painting to death before I start painting or even sketching it. I’m not the most diligent sketcher and it doesn’t help that I think of new ideas while driving. (NOTE: Don’t sketch & drive!) Sometimes I will modify a composition while painting it, but a lot of what I paint with doesn’t allow for much editing.
Do you have a favorite painting of yours?
I’m partial to the lammergeier, mostly because it’s such a fascinating vulture. It feeds almost exclusively on bone marrow and has developed a technique to break the larger ones it can’t swallow whole. The lammergeier will soar to almost 500 feet into the air and drop the large bones onto rocks. It’s amazing that these birds have learned to use tools like that.
Who would you consider an influence on your art?
Though my style completely differs, I am mostly inspired by neoclassical and surrealist painters. I enjoy the blending of realistic and fantastical elements that these two movements have been able to master. As for contemporary artists, Josh Keyes stands out. He paints beautifully minimal scenes that contain so much of a story.
Do you listen to music when you paint? Who?
I usually just put on a Pandora shuffle and listen to anything from old blues to Andrew Bird to Disney tunes. It’s nice to have a varied output of music because it is constantly changing the tone and mood while I’m painting. I don’t want to get stuck in a mood and have it affect what I’m painting.
Tell me something quirky about yourself.
Well, I’ve started to collect old bones in hopes to one day get into taxidermy and natural history collections. I can’t do too much in my apartment (my husband would not appreciate a masticating tub of bones in the bathroom), so it’s a bit of a slow start. Also, I really like thunderstorms and get so excited when the weather report calls for them.
What do you aim to make people feel when they view your art?
Something, anything. Respect, curiosity, intrigue. I try to leave out enough context so that the viewer can interpret the paintings with as little influence from me. If someone is interested in learning more about a bird, or simply enjoys the beautiful plumage, I’ve done my job. I simply want to share what I find beautiful with the world.
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping to eventually go to graduate school for art conservation or museum studies. For now, I’m just trying to build my portfolio.
Oh no, I’m a terrible singer. I actually just shower in silence or talk to my cat if she’s around. For some reason, she loves lying in the tub right after the shower is done. I guess the water feels good on her fur in the summer.
Courtnye and her awesome work can be found at: