Painter Sabra Crockett shares a delightful collection of songbird portraits set against decorative backgrounds. Visit her website to view more of her work.
In my hometown of Webster, New York, at the age of five, I made up my mind that I wanted to be an artist.
I hadn’t figured out what kind of artist, but I was determined to become one. I wasn’t even remotely the best artist in my class, but I was passionate about it and I was tenacious. After graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA major in painting, I immediately received an opportunity to work in theater as a scenic artist.
After working at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery, Alabama, and Actors Theater in Louisville, Kentucky for roughly twenty years, I decided to refocus on my fine art painting career.
While I was working in theater, I learned a lot about decorative painting. When I was not working in theater, I was painting custom historic and contemporary murals, antique furniture and commissioned pieces for people’s homes and businesses.
In 2017, I joined a prestigious group of international decorative painters. Joining that group continued my education of the decorative arts. It also gave me an opportunity to exhibit in such places as New York City and the Netherlands.
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In 2015, I moved into an artist studio that was run by a non-profit arts organization called Art Sanctuary. The following year I managed the gallery that was located on the first floor of the building. This helped me build great relationships with other local artists. Hanging and curating other artists’ work also prepared me to exhibit my own work.
My paintings focus on wildlife—particularly the birds of North America. Since I was little, I have always been fascinated by songbirds. Perhaps they seemed free to me, and their different songs intrigued me. Preserving and connecting to nature is very important to me. I believe it’s a gateway to becoming a more complete human being.
Living in Kentucky, I am lucky to see so many migratory birds come through here every spring and fall. My most recent aviary series focuses on songbirds seen in Kentucky.
I chose acrylics because they allow me to work quickly and efficiently, as I did while working in theater. Sometimes it’s a struggle getting it right, but I have found a slow-drying fluid acrylic. I can build up thin layers rather quickly, but still have time to blend like an oil paint. This works for me because I work on multiple pieces at a time. I let each one rest and dry before moving on to the next step.
Sometimes I apply a plaster mix that I developed myself—it’s part scenic art recipe, and part experimentation. When I use metal leaf in my paintings, I find the texture on the canvas highlights the metal leaf and captures the light in exciting ways. I veered away from a lot of texture and applying leaf in this new series, though. I was more interested in painting straight on canvas, and playing with color.
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