Upon the Threshold

 |  August 11, 2015

I had decided to take July and August easy in terms of studio time as my kids are on summer break, my littlest about to enter Kindergarten. Savoring these last weeks with her home as much as possible. But to be honest, I also felt a bit burnt out from all the creating I did in the first six months of the year for all the shows and then culminating in my solo show in July. When I would go in the studio I kind of would wander around, feeling a bit ungrounded. I had had 6 straight months of deadlines and a plan for each week of what I needed to get done. And so in the recent weeks I’d wander around in a circle and go, huh, what now?

So actually it was nice to have those assemblage collaborations to work on as it is not my norm. I needed a break from the norm. But still, now what?

On Saturday I worked on several panels, laying down my layers, reworking old paintings. But I got to the point of, ok, now what? At the end of a show I usually totally shift gears. For instance, after doing a series of my mixed media encaustic paintings using my photos as collage or transfers, I then completely switched over to doing more abstracted landscape paintings. Some of them in oils on canvas. Then after that, I went back to my mixed media encaustic. Then I worked a bit on book art pieces. So here I am now and I am thinking and strumming my fingers on my chin and going, hmmmmmmm.


I was looking through my photos and I decided to create some transfers just for the heck of it. And I created this one of the red-winged blackbird on an old vintage piece of paper from France that a dear friend gifted me. Almost all the birds that appear in my paintings are Red Winged Blackbirds. I have a story about why in a post buried somewhere on this blog. But that bird has played such a significant role in my life that ever since my son could draw, his birds have always been black with a yellow and red wing. I first noticed that in his kindergarten drawings. And he still draws them that way to this day. Fitting as the my significant moment with this bird occurred with him in a stroller, me a brand new mother. The other day, my 5 year old daughter brought me a similar drawing and said to me, “Mama, every time I see a bird I think of you because you love them so much.”

There was a time when I created a lot of paintings with crows and red-winged blackbirds. But then I stopped because of the proliferation of birds on everything! I mean, even Portlandia made a hilarious skit about it. I was dying with laughter when I saw that. So I took a break from the birds. Not just for that reason, I needed to do more exploring with my other symbols and metaphors. And the break was a good thing. But when my daughter said that to me, it melted something in me. Sometimes it’s the innocence of children’s words that are just truth.

She had said those words to me just a few days ago and it was on my mind on Sunday morning in the studio as I created the transfer above. I decided that I would find a way to bring this very important bird into one of the pieces that I had worked on the day before. Yes, dammit, I was going to put on a bird on it!

Upon the Threshold
Upon the Threshold
encaustic mixed media
12 x 12 inches

A week earlier I had been talking to a friend of mine who is a massage therapist and intuitive healer and we were talking about birds and I told her about why I love the Red-winged Blackbird so much. She shared with me what the Red-winged Blackbird meant to her- that it is a bird that is always on the edge of open spaces, on the threshold. I thought about that, and realized that yes, that’s where I’ve always seen them. I loved that.

My crow paintings have a totally different meaning though than my Red-Winged Blackbirds. The significance of the crow to me is buried somewhere else on this blog.

The moral of my story I guess, is that yes, one can make the argument that birds are overplayed. But perhaps there is a reason why people love birds so much. They are our daily companions wherever we may find ourselves- urban, suburban or country life. How can we not be drawn to them? Flight, freedom, song, creativity. And yes, people may use them as just a filler, but I think that you can tell when a symbol really has personal meaning.

I had such a great time working on this painting. At a certain point, I stopped thinking. It’s that back and forth conversation between my hands, my eyes and the surface. Taking my time, not rushing. Allowing for mistakes. Joy.

“Let me listen to me and not to them.” ~Gertrude Stein


  1. by Ann Isik on August 12, 2015  5:53 am Reply

    It looks like your children are going to grow up insightful, even fey. Thank you for your contribution to 'Encausic Revelation', which I've just used and will, again and again. :)

    • by Bridgette Guerzon Mills on August 23, 2015  2:00 pm Reply

      Hi Ann, So glad you found my contribution useful! I would love to see what you have created!

  2. by bethbillups@yahoo.com on August 12, 2015  8:18 am Reply

    this is really gorgeous and bursting with light....

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