Fern & Oak


Spirit Animals

I’ve recently finished a very special triptych, entitled “Spirit Animals” and I wanted to share some progress shots and my process creating the paintings. Firstly, I’m very proud of myself as I actually finished a project! I get so many ideas and dreams that often I find it very difficult to finish what I start and this was quite an intensive set of of paintings that required a lot of time, patience and bravery so three cheers for me for seeing it through!

The triptych features three girls, with their spirit animals; an owl, a fox and a rabbit. I started by painting the background first, with no set plan in mind other than to have fun! This was my first time painting on box canvases and I am more used to painting on paper, or a slightly smaller scale (A4) so I wanted to chill out and have some fun with the backgrounds. I had a little bit too much fun with one of them and ended up splattering our yellow walls with bright blue iridescent ink! Hey, I like it – not sure our landlord will though ;-)

I wanted these paintings to be a bit looser in form, so I was careful to only sketch out basic details, and enjoyed building up layers of colour for the faces. This involves some fearless bright colours like turquoise, purple and green for creating depth in the skin tones. My friend referred to this as “contouring with paint” and looking at some of the work in progress shots, I think she’s right!

With the spirit animals themselves, I didn’t pre-sketch them at all, just dove straight in with the pant and really worked hard to be free and loose with my brushstrokes – what a paradox! I find it quite difficult sometimes not “fussing” over a piece and going back in over and over to constantly refine it. After some gentle encouragement from my boyfriend, I took a deep breath and just went with the flow.

This was a great learning process for me and I really enjoyed the outcome as well as the journey! For the rabbit spirit animal, I actually felt myself resisting being loose and free on several occasions – perhaps because it was the last one I painted and I was self sabotaging my progress on finishing a project! Anyway, to tackle this; I simply put the painting away for a week or so! After a while apart, I was itching to get back to it.

I chose woodland animals as I started off with the owl and wanted to do a triptych so thought they would suit all being together. Personally, I have a lot of love for rabbits – I’m a rabbit mummy of two and have kept rabbits for years. I consider the rabbit my own personal patronus or spirit animal ☺ I did a bit of research on the symbolism of rabbits, owls and foxes, here’s a couple of key facts sourced from this amazingly detailed website – you can check out pretty much any animal’s symbolism!

  • Rabbits symbolise abundance, comfort and vulnerability
  • Owls symbolise wisdom, intelligence and mysticism
  • Foxes symbolise strategy, cunning, wisdom and in China there are lots of beliefs around the afterlife being associated with foxes

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about my process with these paintings, and enjoy the work in progress shots below!