I’ve lived on Gabriola, a small island off the west coast of Canada since 2000. It’s been dubbed ‘The Isle Of The Arts’ as, reportedly, we have one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country. The latest stats show we’ve grown by 11% over the last five years to just over 4500 full-time residents. That may not seem like much, but it does when you live here. I’m not sure how many of the newcomers are artists, but I have noticed that lots of them are getting chickens. Maybe that’s a result of moving to a more rural location or a Covid 19 project – in either case it’s great to see the positive influence chickens are having on folks.
This post is about when art meets chickens.
I put a call out to local artists who were inspired to create chicken-related works to submit some samples here and they haven’t disappointed.
Danna Lewis, a 4th generation Gabriola Islander invites her friends and family that visit over the summer to do a painting of a chicken. The following were done by her grandchildren Cameron and Ben Lewis, aunt Rue and cousins Sienna Gale and Jorja Armstrong.
My husband Roger and I moved here in 1974. I took a short stained glass course at Malaspina College back in the late 1970s, and then plugged away making gifts for my family and helping to start up the first artisan co-op here. I managed to continue learning different glass techniques while working in Nanaimo for twenty years as a bookkeeper. I’ve been on the annual Studio Tour since it started as well as having a booth for 14 years at the Farmers Market. Now that I am retired from commissions and the weekly market I can take more time to experiment on new things. Like most people that enjoy their craft, I never want to stop playing. The really big jobs are very draining physically so I now enjoy designing modest pieces.
We kept chickens for about forty years. Our original coop has two stained glass windows. We gave up keeping birds several years ago but are still enthralled with all things feathered. I love playing with glass and I love chickens so it’s a good combination. Roosters always have a lot of character and are prone to showing off like these guys.
I have been a professional artist for 40 years: I paint, sculpt, draw and assemble. I am also a naturalist with a passion for birds and botany and love to represent the beauty and design found in the natural world in what I create.
I started my craft at a young age drawing with pencil in a realistic style and then painted florals and landscapes in watercolour. I spent a few years as an animal portrait painter and later branched out into acrylics and later hand sculpted native birds in polymer clay.
As a child I loved horses and ponies and there were bantam chickens at the farm where I rode. I remember taking an egg home and trying to hatch it under a light bulb. Of course it wasn’t a fertile egg, but I didn’t know that at the time. I’m inspired by their plumage and attitude.
Caroline James (www.carolinejames.com)
I am a fine art painter having received a BFA from the University of Victoria and an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan. I work in both mixed media abstraction as well as painting highly realistic birds in oil.
My gift line Sanctuary Peace Work grew out of the symbolism in my abstract painting and through a desire to create smaller, meaningful and more affordable artwork that would be accessible to anyone. This work began with the peace symbol and has evolved to use many different symbols that express our love for all that is around us that brings us moments of peace and joy.
I recently finished building the chicken coop that was started for me as a birthday present from my wife Deb. I am very excited to soon hear the soft cluck clucking of hens in the back yard.
I’ve only relatively recently returned to art after many years. Most of what I do these days would be anatomy and fundamentals practice, which aren’t so exciting to view, but I’m hoping to do more ‘real’ art in the months ahead.
The biggest way chickens have inspired me has been changing the way I view food. After visiting and interacting with some chickens I was shocked to see strong individual personalities among them, and that they are actually rather intelligent (unlike how people often view them). They have their own likes and dislikes, habits, goofy behaviors, are affectionate and social, and are surprisingly adept at communicating their wants and preferences to us – a whole different species.
After witnessing all this, I decided to remove chickens and other animals from my diet, having developed an all new respect for these birds. I’ve since made friends with a few chickens, and watching their silly run as they trot over to say hello always makes me smile. I wish more people could find opportunities to interact with chickens so they could learn just how inaccurate the general opinions are towards these animals. I think they’d be surprised at what they are really like.
Jacqueline (and Chris) Windess
I painted the first two pictures years ago, as an adult remembering my childhood chickens. My dad came home one day and said we are moving to a farm, which was every kid’s dream. We got bantam chickens: Henry was shy and didn’t want to be handled, but Henrietta loved it when we visited her and nestled contentedly into our hands. One day my dad decided to “get rid of our little chickens.” We were quite distraught and begged him not to kill Henrietta! My father promised they wouldn’t. When we got home the next day there were dead chickens hanging upside down from the clothesline. My dad said don’t be upset we didn’t kill Henrietta. We ran to the barn only to find Henry walking around quite upset.
Now that I am all grown and finally have a place that has room enough for chickens we got some bantams. These little sweet friendly birds have brought me much joy over the past ten years. When I am feeling down I just sit with them and feel comfort. Only a chicken lover will understand what I am saying: thank God for chickens.
When Jacqueline and Chris were first together they were in a long distance relationship – her in Canada and him in England – he crocheted her a sweater. He now makes funky hats; so far he’s found patterns for all kinds of animals, including a turkey, but, sadly, not a chicken.
Melinda Wilde (www.melindawilde.com Instagram: @melindawilde)
What an amazing part of Canada we live in! Everywhere I turn I am constantly inspired by God’s grace and beauty.
Capturing island beauty in vivid, creative fine works on paper, canvas and found objects, I’ve produced: the electrical box at the ferry terminal, a hydro pole, the mural inside the Agricultural Hall and a mural at Gabriola Elementary School library.
Other artistic ventures include private murals, volunteering for school art programs, community workshops, professional development seminars and B.C. Ferries Artist and Speaker program. I have been painting and teaching watercolours for over 30 years and my work is in private collections around the world.
Jade Zaworski (instagram @zaworskiartandhomestead)
Who am I? A wife, mum, adventurer, animal activist, foodie, and artist.
My homestead inspires a lot of my art. Being with the backyard flock is my ‘me’ time. They are a bunch of ladies chock full of attitudes and personalities.
When it comes to my artwork, I capture every single personality in each hen and rooster piece. I spend time lying in the dirt, taking pictures of them, doing chicken things and learning everything they do. It might seem odd, but not to chicken mums and definitely not to a chicken mum and artist. You often hear my kids saying “mummy is lying in the poop again” like it’s a very normal thing for me. I love my homestead and all my birds. I love turning them into art for others to enjoy. It’s a very satisfying thing to have my two passions lend to each other.
Life is just better with art and animals in it.
The Orange Chicken Studio (Kimm, Joké and Gwen)
Kimm Nightingale & Joké Mensink
This couple combine the magical art of Kimm’s mixed Pa-ta-ti (paper/tape/tissue sculpture) and the playful style of Joké’s paintbrush and fingers (acrylic medium). Together, they have too much fun.
It’s both challenging and full of surprises working in partnership creating our pieces. “Of course, we both have opinions about each other’s work.” Mostly, they are helpful suggestions and appreciation of the other’s talents!
They have been creating creatures, wall art and mirrors for more than a decade.
Gwen Spinks (www.gwenspinks.com)
I have been collecting and selling art, and working with artists most of my adult life. It wasn’t until November of 2011 that I discovered acrylics – I’d tried other mediums but acrylics stole my heart. I love everything about them. I love using palette knives to create rich textures; rags to create moods & contrast; brushes to … well, to do the rest! I’ve been in several shows and organize and curate “Squared/Stretched – the Art Show”.
Chickens: ordinary and extraordinary – stunning and mundane – one bird that impacts us in so many ways and in so many different cultures. They are pets and they are livestock. I am very grateful to the chicken.
Sue Hutchen (www.suehutchenlay.com)
As an artist and author living and working on Gabriola Island I am often inspired, and often amused, by the eccentricities we count as normal. Once, while walking our dogs on one of the many forest trails, we came across a mass of black and white feathers. A few paces on and suddenly our Bully plunged into the bush and came nose to beak with a chicken who, oddly, seemed somewhat nonplussed by the encounter. Chickens are not terribly good at living alone in the wild so we knew we couldn’t leave it to fend for itself. I took the dogs back to the car while my partner stumbled through deep bush and bracken chasing the chicken that danced gracefully through the forest tantalizingly out of reach. I lost track of him for a time, but finally he came limping back on to the trail. His backside was swollen and inflamed by a bee sting and his ankle wrenched from catching in dense underbrush and deadfall, but triumphantly holding a now perfectly docile chicken tucked into his shirt. A Silver Laced Wyandotte to be precise and very lovely she was, except for the fact that she no longer had a tail, thus the abundance of loose feathers.
Some folks might consider this a free lunch but I am vegan so Layla (as we named her immediately because, why not) had to find a home that was not ours. Fortunately for her, we happen to live next door to a crazy chicken lady and, fortunately for us, Claire was home and willing to take on the care and feeding of this runaway poultry princess. The entire tale (pardon the pun) was not only a source of amusement but the inspiration for a series of light hearted wax prints I called, “Subversive Vegan Propaganda”.
Having had an aptitude for both science and art I had to decide which would serve me best as a career and which as a hobby. Art became my hobby.
Over the years, I restarted my artistic endeavours many times, only to give up in frustration because of conflicting priorities. I have taken numerous classes and workshops over the years that expanded my technical skills in various media. I am fortunate to have been able to retire early to focus my search for that elusive inner artist. I joined the Palette People art group when we moved to Gabriola shortly after retiring, and found them to be an unending source of inspiration, encouragement and artistic camaraderie.
I am most inspired to create artwork involving living creatures, be they of the two or four-legged varieties. While all have their unique challenges, the two-legged varieties seem to challenge me the most. I participate in the Gabriola life drawing group, enjoying the challenge of capturing the human form. I also find birds inspiring because of their colourful and often complex plumage yet find challenge in creating a sense of depth in the artwork.
Having acquired, recently, a few laying chickens, I was missing reference subjects when I decided to try my hand at painting chickens a few years ago. I took advantage of the Tour D’Coop and was inspired to paint a few of these images as a result.
We have a resident population of turkeys in our neighbourhood and they have also been a source of entertainment and inspiration along with other resident avian species. The more I observe our chickens the more I come to see how interesting and creative subjects they truly are.
Many thanks to the folks that shared their work and their love of chickens.
If you’re a Gabriola artist and would like to have your work included in this post drop me a line by using the ‘contact’ button on my homepage.