by Lynn S. Schwebach
My funky cockatoo print currently watches over patrons at Big Al’s restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado. This same bird makes it debut this November in an Australian book titled, Cockatoo.
Published by Thames and Hudson Australia Pty Ltd, Cockatoo will contain artworks by over 80 artists from all over the world, and my quirky bird will represent Colorado within this international assemblage.
Thames and Hudson discovered this cockatoo painting, “On the Shoulder,” while searching the Internet and found it on my Etsy shop.
It’s always fun to have your work discovered, because as an artist, you apply to many contests, shows and publications and you learn to take rejection gracefully. So when someone contacts you out of the blue, it’s an honor worth savoring.
“On the Shoulder” combines abstraction with realism. The cockatoo is realistic—except for its purple color—but sits in front of an abstract background. I used purple to bring out this bird’s personality.
The inspiration for this painting came to me last summer as I accompanied my husband to Australia for a business trip. We were fortunate to spend the last four days of the visit in a breathtaking place called Hamilton Island.
Cockatoos greeted us each morning, sitting on our balcony, and returned throughout the day as we made our way back to our room. They were the largest cockatoos I have seen, and they were tame because people feed the birds—which they aren’t supposed to do.
You could almost reach out and pet them, but I refrained. Instead, I captured many of them through my camera lens. They seemed to like the attention and even would pose for me (or so I’d like to think).
Funky Art Only at Big Al’s
About 6 months ago, I was having a burger in Big Al’s with my husband, and admiring all the art on the walls. Al’s is usually packed with people, especially during lunch and dinner times, so the exposure for local artists is optimal. I noticed a poster on the wall calling for Fort Collins-based artists to submit proposals to show their work at Big Al’s.
The words “funky art” caught my attention, because funky and quirky are two words I use to describe my paintings, which are inks or mixed media on Yupo paper.
Someone asked me once how I think up the unusual ideas for my paintings, and I told her that I have a “trippy” brain. I love taking traditional or realistic images and combining them with abstraction, so I immediately saw my art hanging in this popular Fort Collins restaurant, and I applied. I didn’t hear back for so long that I almost forgot about the proposal until I got an email asking me if I were still interested. Of course!
Realism Combined with Abstraction
The other 8 paintings on display also combine abstraction and realism. According to one viewer, one painting called Ninevah looks like an X-ray of a bent knee, or a tree branch—until you get close enough to see a small woman standing within the image’s center.
“That’s me standing in Ninevah,” I said. “Like Jonah from the Old Testament, we all have places we’re called to but will do everything possible to avoid—which means we often end up in a whale’s stomach.”
But I want viewers to bring their own ideas and stories to my paintings. I hope to elicit strong emotions—especially emotions that might be difficult to identify or communicate. I want to open doors that haven’t been opened before, or at least for a long time.
My art will be at Big Al’s, 140 W. Mountain Avenue, Fort Collins until Nov. 1.