The intricacy and attention to detail displayed in Chris Maynard’s feather art is testament to an artist that has been using the unusual medium since he was 12 years old. With eye surgery scissors, forceps and magnifying glasses, Maynard produces some truly incredible scenes using only the feathers of birds. The images the Olympia, Washington-based artist creates usually depict the source of his medium – flocks of swans, displaying peacocks and a raffle of turkeys – from feathers donated by aviaries and zoos.
Maynard carefully cuts and positions the feathers to make shadow boxes of unique, intricate beauty and impressive precision. The artist sees feathers as the pinnacle of nature’s achievement, making flight possible while providing insulation and displaying wonderful colours and patterns.
‘What has kept me focused is having a mission statement at the outset,’ says Maynard, ‘everything revolves around that.’ The artist, who has a strong background in biology set his mission ‘For people to stop in their busy lives and be present to a bit of wonder of the natural world; to honour the natural world’ and attributes this to a focus which has helped him become successful in the art world with some of his pieces fetching up to £1,200.
In terms of promotion, Maynard sees himself existing in a very different environment as the world his mother, also an artist, lived in during her successful career: ‘She relied on her main gallery for many sales and promotions. She also taught art classes and was active in several artist societies which helped her with contacts and direct sales. She submitted to jury shows and was a juror herself. That’s about it,’ says Maynard. ‘The world is so different for me. I am represented by a well-known, and respected old gallery for a few sales. But this is mostly to stay connected to that part of the art world and have the respect of being in a gallery like that. However, by far, the bulk of my sales are online and worldwide.’
Maynard’s advice to up-and-coming artists is to build up confidence in clearly putting across the ideas behind works: ‘Learn to communicate effectively about what you do and why you do it – both in writing and in voice. Gather a support group of friends, other artists, join a toastmasters group. Start with short one minute and five minute talks about your art and expand on that.’
When it comes to gaining success and financial stability from art as a business, Maynard also has some pertinent advice: ‘Learn at least a rudimentary understanding of all aspects of your art as a business; book keeping and taxes, marketing, production, tracking inventory and supplies, shipping, printing, etc. Also find several ways for income, not just originals. I get income from a book, speaking engagements (where I sell art and books), prints, licensing images for books, magazines, logos, fabric, and such; as well as selling original art.’
Maynard’s book Feathers, Form and Function presents his art alongside a scientific and cultural exploration of feathers and what they mean. Maynard is clearly someone who cares very much about what he is doing and is passionate about getting across his ideas.