sapsuckers - my muse for a winter mandala

The Muse

One of my favorite things about winter is the Yellow bellied sapsucker - a woodpecker that breeds in the far north and spends its winters in the deep south. What led me to discover them in the first place was my curiosity about the neat rows of holes perfectly drilled into tree and vine species. I've learned that they drill holes in living trees to create sap pools for attracting insects which they scarf up. Now that I know who they are and what they do they are an unmistakable presence in the winter woods. Their bright red cap and mustache if it's a male is easy to spot. Then there's the white and black striping on their face and back. They are bold and boisterous...and so fun to watch!

 

eye candy...the texture of old hole scars!

eye candy...the texture of old hole scars!

Sketch

Thinking about sapsuckers and sap holes sparked some ideas to experiment with in the studio. I have a vision to create mandalas inspired by the biodiversity of specific places. In recent years I have played around with this idea using watercolor and earthcolor, most recently while on a residency at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. So...I started with a sketch.

First Layer - Chickweed and Henbit

My goal for this mandala was to use only earth colors from the wild. I gathered the only green I could find near my studio - chickweed and henbit - and went to town. What I like about the mandala is the simplicity of the circle. It makes getting started fun and easy. I had NO CLUE where I was gonna go from here but it got me going.

 

second step - custom stencil

I love using stencils in design. It makes composition so much fun. After putting a layer of charred grass on the chickweed, the stencils went down and I committed to the design with some earth a friend brought me from "God's Window" in South Africa. It was my first time to try it out and I was more than pleased with the strong reddish brown.

Finally!

After several layers of colors and textures, including red clay hill dirt (winston couny, MS, lavander clay (Laurel, MS), black walnut ink (Leflore County, MS), burned meadow grass (Grenada, MS) and brown earth (South Africa).

sapsucker holes in a supplejack vine

sapsucker holes in a supplejack vine

drawing with chickweed  

drawing with chickweed