Cut Paper Birds Using Painted Paper

For my 100th post (after a decade of writing this blog) I can think of no better subject than birds! I love birds. Anyone that follows this blog or my Instagram feed is very aware of this fact. I have been using bird imagery in my art for almost 15 years now and I still am not tired of my little feathered muses.

When we moved to our new home I was uncertain what type of bird watching experience I would have. Our previous rental was rich with opportunities and I was quite fond of the Mourning Doves that frequented our yard.


We are now located right on the Tennessee river by a dam that attracts a unique and varied mix of water foul. I have never encountered so many different species of birds in one location. It should not have come as such a surprise seeing as we live across from one of Alabama’s birding trails. I did expect to see water birds but I was not as hopeful about the common backyard birds I had come to love.


I was delighted that our front yard – which bumps up against TVA forest and a wild and lovely 3 acre goat farm – provides a great space for all manor of familiar feathered friends.

My daughter and I were painting the other day at the dinning table. I had fed the birds earlier that morning and as we painted we watched them feeding from the kitchen window. I was inspired to make collage paper pieces of these sweet guests and began to paint a bunch of colored card stock with my kids thin acrylic paint. Doing this added a lot of visual interest to the papers and a nice texture that suggested feathers and reflected light without looking too realistic.


When dry, I made my first bird by sketching it out. When I was happy I placed another piece of thin (computer) paper on top of my drawing to make a template pattern that I could cut out and trace on the pieces of painted paper. This took some figuring out as I did not account for the need to glue the pieces together the first go-around. But, I thankfully quickly found my footing and then was off and running.

M. Levacy, Chickadee, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020

I plan to make these birds into a larger collage piece for my daughter – something to put in her room or in our studio room that we are currently working to unpack and get set up. I have yet to make her any major work of art and I felt this would be a good first piece to gift her – something she will have for years to come.

M. Levacy, Titmouse, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020

I am not sure how many more birds I will make but I do know that I will limit the species to ones that we see and identify together in our yard. I have contemplated a series of multiple works – one with small songbirds, one with the three types of woodpeckers we host in our area, and another with predatory birds like the Bald Eagles and Ospreys we see on a regular basis.

M. Levacy, Eastern Bluebird, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020

This method of creating brings me back to undergraduate studies and provides a simple space for creation that is uncluttered and uncomplicated. It has significance but that too is not something that is in any way overwhelming.

M. Levacy, House Finch and Cardinal, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020

Currently we are adjusting to our quarantined life-style where we shelter-in-place and home-school and teach online. Taking on too much at any one time is a bit impossible. But I do find that I can carve out a tiny bit of time here and there to work on a small component such as a bird, knowing that later I will be able to pull everything together and bring order and logic to bits and pieces that I collect.

M. Levacy, Wren, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020

During this time of chaos and confusion I have promised myself to practice creative self-care as much as possible. I want to push myself to be mindful that my own creativity and need for art is still important among my various new responsibilities.

M. Levacy, Phoebe, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020

As a parent it is sometimes easy to forget that this too is a lesson for my child. When my daughter sees me ask for and make the space I need, I hope that one day she will feel empowered to do the same.

I would encourage everyone to find small moments for themselves now and everyday – a time to breath, a time to kindle an inner spark.

M. Levacy, Nuthatch, cut paper and acrylic paint, 2020


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