In this photo taken March 6, 2009, artist Suzanna Fairley describes the types of feathers she uses as her ‘canvasses’ in the studio at her rural Lerna, Ill., home. One of the most interesting elements in her work is that Fairley doesn’t create on canvas. Instead, she appreciates the challenge of painting on wild turkey feathers.
Making art out of feathers
DECATUR HERALD & REVIEW
LERNA (AP) — Although she has no formal training in art, Suzanna Fairley of Lerna obviously has a gift for detailed painting.
Some of the most intricate details flow from her paintbrushes in colorful displays of patriotism and wildlife, including birds, insects, flowers and barns. She also paints domestic animals and vehicles with great detail.
She mostly uses oil-based paints. Animals and people appear to come to life through her skills.
One of the most interesting elements in her work is that Fairley doesn’t create on canvas. Instead, she appreciates the challenge of painting on wild turkey feathers. “I like painting on different things,” Fairley said.
And no two feathers are alike. Each offers a different shape, size, color scheme and texture.
She’s completed about 30 of these projects, having used the turkey feathers for shortly more than a year.
“It just depends on the picture I intend to paint, as to which feather I choose,” she explains.
Also interested in photography, Fairley often takes photos and copies those images via the paintbrush onto various surfaces, most recently, feathers.
Fairley, 48, has been interested in art since she was a young girl, and has managed to use art in as many ways as possible during the years. An art teacher at Kansas High School helped her develop artistic abilities. She took one basic art class in college.
“The feather painting just fascinated me,” she said. “Within a couple of days (of learning about it) I began researching it. I ordered 50 feathers at first. There is a process involved in painting on feathers, and at first I wasn’t sure just how to tackle it.”
Now, the process comes naturally. Depending on the project, one could take 30 minutes to paint, while others may take several hours.
Fairley said her love of barns has led her to want to frame each painted feather in wood to match. Each finished product is completed with matting and glass.
Since she’s taken on feather painting, she also has created an art studio inside an outbuilding on her rural property. She has a matting machine and a frame-making area that allow her to put the finishing touches on each project.
“The barn wood brings out the painting and the colors. I like to use plenty of detail in each painting,” Fairley said.
The turkey feather painting involves a process that includes applying a finish to the back of the feather and a primer to the front; planning and sometimes sketching, painting and drying.
The completed painted turkey feather or group of feathers is framed, matted and topped with glass. Prices range from about $75 to $300.
In the past, she also used her artistic skills on cowboy hats, slate, wood and saw blades. She’s also painted murals on walls.
“I worked in food service for a while, and in that you can use art in presentation, too. Now I’m able to work in my studio, do my own matting and make my own frames.
“I like to include as much fine detail as I can, so I use the smaller brushes for most of these,” Fairley said.
When she’s not painting, Fairley is a full-time sales consultant for Tim Mooney Ford in Tuscola. She enjoys her art hobby on free evenings after work, and on days off.