I like to use found objects and natural materials in my artwork. I go for long hikes either through the city or the forests and mountains of my home. In my travels, I always have my eyes open for strange materials or unusual objects to use in my projects.
I have used feathers for a variety of effects. I will share with you the methods I used to achieve these effects, but first we need to learn to identify the various types of feathers. This is essential knowledge since you cannot substitute one type of feather for another. There are three types of feathers, each with its own unique properties.
The Down Feather
One type of feather is the down feather. This feather comes from the body of the bird where it insulates against the cold. A down feather is relatively small with a curved shaft to match the shape of the bird’s body. The down feather is also split into two parts: a fluffy part near the base and a feathery part near the tip. These two parts have different uses which makes the down feather the most useful type of feather.
The Aerodynamic Feather
The second type of feather is the aerodynamic or flight feather. These feathers come from the wing or tail of the bird. Wing feathers have thick rigid shafts, are non-asymmetrical, and have limited uses. Tail feathers have rigid tapering shafts, are symmetrical, and tend to be much more useful than wing feathers. The defining characteristic of all aerodynamic feathers is dense plumage that sticks to itself.
The Cosmetic Feather
The third type of feather is the specialty or cosmetic feather. These are feathers that the bird uses only for display. Not every bird has them and their properties vary wildly between species. This picture shows is the one type of specialty feather I have actually used on miniatures. It comes from the tail of a chicken. Notice how it differs from the other feathers we have studied.
Now you are armed with the knowledge of how to identify feathers and you’re ready to learn some uses for them. Presented here are three projects each exploring a different application for feathers.
Project 1: A Feather in the Hat
The subject of this first piece is a steam punk themed freedom fighter. She is a deadly sniper who takes trophies from the greedy noblemen and corrupt politicians she slays.
To make the feathered hat, we will use the small structures from a down feather.
The micro-feathers are attached using a pair of locking tweezers. One at a time, dip the base of each tiny micro-feather in a pool of CA glue and arrange them carefully on the model. Glue accelerant is helpful for this delicate task. Take your time and have extra feathers to allow for mistakes.
Part 2: The Master Fletcher
Sometimes I have a crazy idea that I just need to try just to see if it is possible. For this miniature from Studio Mcvey I wanted to try replacing the arrow fletching on the model with real feathers!
First, trim the tip off an aerodynamic feather. I recommend using a fresh blade for your knife as this procedure is very delicate.
The next step is to trim all the micro-feathersscructures off one side. Then trim away the micro- feathers from the other side so that only a few millimeters are left.
I was happy with the result but in the future I think I will only use this method on larger scale miniatures. The reason is not that it doesn’t work on small figures it is that no one notices! I have to point it out when I show the model so perhaps it works too well?
Part 3: Jungle Drums
The last model I want to share is my version of a bust you’re all familiar with Tribe Chief Morrow from Forged Monkey. The rhythm of the jungle was really flowing through me on this project!
I have to warn the readers though… when I started putting this part of the tutorial together I realized that I had only taken photos near the beginning of the process! Then I remembered the mad state I was in rushing to get my entries ready for the Crystal Brush painting competition. I was painting at work then working long into the nights for weeks and the lack of photos suddenly made sense. So instead of a normal step by step I’ve deconstructed the model a bit to give an idea of the design and I’ll talk about some of the thoughts I had while working on this project. I hope you will still enjoy it.
The idea for the headdress came to me while I was taking one of my many walks. I was waiting to cross the street when I looked down and at my feet were a clump of strange feathers. They came from the neck of a pigeon and change color in the light from green to purple. How cool! I needed to use them!
After studying reference photos and considering the challenges involved I came up with some design guidelines that would help me construct the headdress. It needed to have multiple layers of feathers to give it volume and realism. The layers near the front needed to be added first and then I’d work towards the back of the model.
I’ve really enjoyed sharing my little adventures with you and I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself as well. Maybe you will feel inspired to try using feathers as well or perhaps you’ll notice some other tiny piece of nature to use in a creative way on your own projects. It’ is surprising what you may find if you just have the eyes to see that there’ is treasure everywhere!