Monday, 4 March 2013

My Discombobulated Obsession with Turkey Vultures

Visit my site,, to see other animals that I've obsessively painted!

As an artist, I inevitably develop particular visuals and recurring images in my work. This is referred to as a "visual language", and many creative people have it. For visual artists, this can be certain subjects that pop up time and time again, and particular brush marks and line styles. 

I got really into the visuals of turkey vultures (aka Cathartes Aura). These creatures are just so weird. They have scraggly skin, weird bumps, holes through their heads (ie nostrils) and freaky pointed beaks. They are bald and look like death. I was told by a friend that they can even projectile-vomit at other creatures. How cool is that! For me, this of course meant I got to focus on all the fun, intricate lines when drawing. 

For this particular painting, I worked on a cool horizontal composition. The canvas is 2' x 4', a size orientation I hadn't worked with before. There were some compositional questions to be ironed out before any painting started, so I worked with some thumbnail sketches and played around with paper cut outs to establish the look I wanted. Since I worked from several source images, I found this to be quite necessary so that nothing looked amis.

This image became somewhat of a travelling icon of my work for a little bit after I made this painting. First, the actual canvas itself has been featured in two shows. One at last years State of the Art show in Whistler, and most recently in a group exhibition at my old haunt, the Gam Gallery, in Vancouver. This picture below is right when I arrived in Whistler to set up my work in my space. What you can see just to the right is my snowboard. As soon as these works were hung I was on the slopes :)

Once I realized I loved the image of the vultures, I used it for other displays. I was invited to participate in a group print show in Vancouver called Design 24. We each created a single image that was hand screened into limited editions. 

I created a black and white profile sketch with just ink pens, scanned it, and vectorized it in Illustrator so that it could be used at any size. The original drawing was actually the same size as the final printed one..although tracing the image meant that all the lines would be 100% black. This is the final design once digitized:

Upon finishing this print, I decided to try putting the design on a t-shirt. I have a friend named Trevor (he runs a great biz called Evon Aves Apparel) who is a talented artist and printer himself, who helped me do my first run of shirts. I sold a number of them, still have a few left on my shop ( but ultimately decided to limit their creation out of effort and needing to order large up-front stocks. I still really like what happened with their design though, and I keep one around for myself to sport from time to time (goes great with a blazer jacket :)

In the end this "Travelling of the Vulture Heads" seems to represent how I can obsessively dig into something that I find so cool and work with it in different ways to explore the look. Guess thats what us artists need to do to be satisfied! haha.


  1. If I can't have the painting (yet!!) I must have a shirt. How do I get a shirt?

    1. Hey Donna - Thanks for the kind words about the work! I love that piece :)

      I have one green shirt left and several grey ones. They are in my shop on my site:

      You can order one through there (it uses paypal) and Ill ship it directly to you!

      If you dont have paypal, email me at and I can arrange an e-transfer with you!