Writing about my parakeet drawing in last week's blog post set me thinking about other art I've created which was inspired by the birds I saw in the rainforests of Ecuador. Without a doubt, the most impressive birds I saw were red macaws. They are huge birds - extremely intelligent - and utterly beautiful. The first macaws I encountered were in the animal sanctuary I worked in. This experience could be rather upsetting. Macaws were often targeted by animal traffickers for the pet trade. The macaws which lived in the animal sanctuary were very used to people - and as a result, they could never be released, as they would be unafraid of humans, and would soon be caught and trafficked. They had a huge enclosure to live in - but of course, no enclosure could compare to the vastness of the territory they would have if they lived in the wild. They could often be very cruel as well - if there was another type of parrot living in their enclosure which was weak, the macaws would target them, and methodically strip them of all their feathers. Nonetheless, they were spectacular birds, and I made many sketches of them while I was there.
When I returned to the UK, I used my sketches from the rainforest to create some of my first ever linocuts, including this macaw. I'm so fond of this linocut - there is something quite naive about the way it looks, and there is an energy about its imperfections. I used the crumbly grey linoleum you used to get in schools, and a cheap tool. Now, I would never be able to create something like this, as my technique has moved on so much, plus I use much higher grade tools and lino.
When I went to live deeper in the rainforest, I would often see macaws flying overhead. This was always a thrilling sight. I used this as my inspiration for a pop up card. I designed a very plain cover - then when you open it, you get a colourful burst. This is similar to the experience of seeing macaws in the wild - the forest is very dark and gloomy, and macaws bring a sudden splash of bright colours - and of course, a sense of surprise and joy. You can see a film of me making this card here.