Springtime soars in with ‘Taking Flight – the Birds of Spencer and Wood’

Posted in Member News, Visual Art

May 7, 2014

Soar over to Greenbank Farm for some beautiful springtime birds.

Sculptor Sharon Spencer and watercolorist Frances Wood are two Whidbey Island artists who are very much inspired by birds. Both artists have an intimate knowledge  and deep respect for these creatures, which brings out special and lovingly rendered works of art.

The birds of Spencer and Wood will be featured at Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm through May with “Taking Flight,” an exhibition devoted to each artist’s love and respect for these feathered friends. The show runs through Monday, June 2.

RSGallery-WLM Spencer- Dreaming - bronze sculpture by Sharon Spencer

Sharon Spencer’s bronze “Dreaming” is just one of the beautiful birds featured in “Taking Flight” at Rob Schouten Gallery. (Michael Stadler photo)

Longtime island sculptor Spencer started carving birds early in her career, molding them into her now unmistakable bronze and stone beauties dressed in exotic patinas of marbled turquoise, reds and grays. In “Taking Flight,” Spencer said she is pushing boundaries, as she always has, trying a new material to carve her most recent flock with a self-hardening clay that is waterproof and can’t break once it’s hardened.

“It’s something new,” Spencer said, but the muse is an old friend.

“I have a closeness to birds,” Spencer said. “They are extremely intelligent creatures and I used to keep them as pets and let them fly around my studio. Even outside, I could let them loose and they would fly back to me and land on the dog,” Spencer said, laughing as she remembered the scene.

She no longer keeps birds, but her respect for animals is continually apparent in her work. Carving creatures for her bronze, clay and stone renditions is satisfying, she said; there’s a closeness to them that makes it relaxing and fun. This camaraderie comes through in her ability to capture the easy grace of birds and their special kind of sleek beauty, while also conveying her sheer love for the animals. 

Wood’s work also shows her love for birds, with her delicate and accurate watercolors reflecting her pure Audubon heart. 

“I watch birds because they pull me out into nature, and they transport me to a deeper appreciation of the beauty around us,” Wood said.

Wood is well-known on the island as a bird enthusiast, having written a homage to birds with her book “Brushed by Feathers: A Year of Birdwatching in the West,” which she also illustrated. She is also a script writer for NPR’s “BirdNote,” a daily two-minute radio program on the intriguing ways of birds, and writes a birding column for the South Whidbey Record. This close attention to the study of birds informs her work in paint.

“Feather light, glowing with color, often in constant movement, the essence of birds is hard to pin down, let alone depict in paint and canvas,” Wood writes.  

“For four decades I’ve tried. Using watercolor and ink and allowing the white of the paper to be part of the image, I’ve attempted to show the lightness and flightiness of these ethereal creatures.”

Indeed, Wood’s portraits of birds are endearing in the delicacy of her touch, as if she is brushing paint on a bird itself rather than on paper or canvas. Currently, she is in the midst of painting 150 portraits of common Western birds, some of which will be featured in “Taking Flight.” 

“I paint birds because I hope the art may help others find their own pathway into nature and the beauty it holds,” she said. “My dream is that birds may inspire us all to preserve natural habitat both for those feathered friends and for ourselves.” 

Savanna Sparrow Frances Wood for WLM  copy

Frances Wood’s watercolors of the birds of the West includes this little guy “Savanna Sparrow. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Wood will host a birdwatching event at Whidbey’s Greenbank Farm, among other bird art events happening around “Taking Flight” including:

  • “Whidbey’s Favorite Birds,” an illustrated talk with Frances Wood at the Langley Library from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 10
  • Frances Wood talks bird art at the “Saturday Salon” at Ryan and Friends Fine Art in Coupeville from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17
  • “Taking Flight,” a short talk on art and process with Sharon Spencer and Frances Wood from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 25 at Rob Schouten Gallery; light refreshments served

 The “Taking Flight” exhibit runs through Monday, June 2.

Rob Schouten Gallery, a premier showcase for Whidbey Island and Northwest artists, is located at 765 Wonn Road, #C-103 at the historic Greenbank Farm. May Gallery Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  For further information, call 360.222.3070 or email info@robschoutengallery.com.

(Pictured at top: Sharon Spencer bronze, “Solitude.” / Michael Stadler photo)

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