Artists select their medium, but feathers choose Pat Morris.
Pat is a gifted wildlife artist that not only uses birds as her inspiration, but she transforms feathers into delicate works of art.
Feathers are Works of Art
Feathers are the most amazing structures in the natural world.
Each quill captures the color and character of birds in a small plume time capsule cast in keratin.
And Pat uses them as her canvas.
We met Pat at her home in Willington, Connecticut, and from the very moment we met, we felt Pat’s energy.
As we made our way up to Pat’s apartment, you can’t help but notice that the hallways filled with pieces of her artwork serving as the welcome mat to her home.
American Goldfinch on a feather. Canadian Geese painting. Cooper’s Hawk oil painting. Bald Eagle painting. And the list goes on.
She is getting ready for a big art show and shows us several of the pieces she painted that soon will have new caretakers.
Pat lets us take a peek into her bedroom to see the latest works in progress and reminds us, “This is not a bedroom. It’s a studio I sleep in.”
Pat paints on found natural objects as her canvases.
Birch tree bark, mushrooms, slate, and feathers.
Pat enjoys repurposing nature.
She began her career as an artist 12 years ago painting pet portraits. But as her client’s demands changed, she changed her medium, and now her focus is painting on duck, turkey, and pheasant feathers.
Pat has been painting art her whole life and says that when he was a child, she always had a sketchpad.
“I didn’t do well with art in school. I flunked out of art. In freshmen year, my teacher wanted me to do abstract, and I struggled with that.”
It wasn’t until she turned 50 that she decided to make a living painting.
“I realized my time was getting shorter and I made a plan and stopped working for other people and decided to paint every day even if I had to live in a cardboard box. Luckily, I’ve never had to live in a cardboard box.”
Pat’s mantra is simple.
Doing what you love to do is terrific, and it’s the kind of happiness you can’t get from anything else.
“It’s the fulfillment of yourself. The artwork is my way of communicating, and it’s better than talking. When I feel something, I paint. That’s why I use birds and animals because in their expressions they speak to me,” she says.
Birds in Her Soul
“It’s like birds are in my soul. I need birds. I sit at the table where I do most of my creating with pastels in the perfect light,” she says. “While I’m working, they come up to me. I need to be around birds.”
Pat gains much of inspiration from two local birds of prey wildlife rehabilitators in Connecticut. Horizon Wings in Ashford, and Christine’s Critters in Weston.
Both wildlife rehabilitators offer Pat a plethora of subjects to paint.
Pat shows us new paintings she just started of two education ambassador birds, Sprite, from Horizon Wings and Mr. Higgins from Christine’s Critters.
Both owls are the same bird species, a Northern Saw-whet owl, with completely differed looks painted on feathers.
She was getting ready for her yearly pilgrimage to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, with her travel companion, Pepper (Pat’s cat) to sell her work at a local gallery.
The moment Pat mentions Cape Breton Island, her eyes light up, and she becomes a tour guide and tells us about all the best places to see birds.
“French Lake on French Mountain is a national park that’s phenomenal. And you see a moose here. A whale down here. And eagles are everywhere.
Magnet for Nature
When Pat is at Cape Breton Island, she enjoys painting nature scapes on canvas onsite and then finishes them at home.
“It’s very inspiring there, and the birds are incredible,” she says. “As I was painting, I saw two immature Bald Eagles in the middle of the road and one on top of a telephone pole.”
To say Pat is in her element is an understatement.
Pat says all birds are her favorite, but if she had to pick one bird, the one that melts her heart is the Canada Goose.
Pat recently spent two years with the geese in Connecticut and now she is writing a book about it.
“I’ve been here when the geese were making their nest. I was there the day the eggs hatched. And I was there watching the goslings leaving to fly with a little lift and then they were gone,” she says.
Canada Geese Inspire a Book
She says she spent hours watching them and wanted to fly.
“I almost took up hang gliding to fly like a bird,” she says with a smile.
Now she’s writing a book is called ‘Lessons from the Geese’ and Pat is illustrating it too.
She shows us one example of her drawing called “Daddy Goose” that depicts a goose eating from her hand.
It makes your heart melt.
Birds of a Feather
Pat is quick to point out that many people hate crows, but she adores them.
Where she stays in Cape Breton, there are five resident crows, and she goes equipped with corn, peanuts, and hard-boiled eggs.
“Every morning I put food out for the crows, and they come by and let me get pretty close. I love them.”
She says people complain about the noise that birds like crows and hawks make.
“Give me that noise any day over traffic,” she adds.
Getting Started with Raptors
Pat says volunteering at Horizon Wings helped get her started with artwork featuring raptors like owls and hawks.
“There just something about raptors. To me, they’re like the world. There’s something more expressive about them.”
One of the first birds of prey she held was Archer, a magnificent adult Cooper’s Hawk and education ambassador for Christine’s Critters.
Archer has become one of Pat’s favorite subjects to paint on feathers, along with many species of hawks.
Painting on Feathers
Pats says it’s magic what happens when she sits down to paint a feather. And she doesn’t know what’s going to happen and it’s exciting.
“Everything I do with art is magic! To take a piece of paper and make it 3D and looking at you, it’s just amazing. But the feather, they’re a labor of love.”
She sees something in a feather.
She picks the birds she’s going to paint first and then she looks for the feather to serve as her canvas.
Pat says that feathers are the best sellers of all her artwork.
“They’re unique and one of a kind. Other people paint feathers, but they do it differently.”
She paints feathers in acrylic and works in both oil and pastels on textured paper and canvas.
Pat’s Favorite Paintings
When you ask Pat to name her favorite painting, her eyes light up and without thinking says, “It’s of the Cape Breton Shore.”
The painting is of the seascape of the Cape Breton beach depicting the cliffs with the red sea and ocean.
“When I look at this painting, it brings me there. That’s my favorite place.”
Pat’s second favorite painting is of a rehabilitation Bald Eagle suffering from lead poisoning and under care at Christine’s Critters.
“I’m so emotional about this bird. This painting is a prayer that this eagle will go free again.”
Get the Lead Out
Since hearing about a Bald Eagle seeing firsthand its suffering from lead poisoning, Pat started a Facebook group called ‘Get the Lead Out,’ to bring national awareness to the fact that the Bald Eagle and other birds of prey are dying from lead poisoning at alarming rates.
The ‘Get the Lead Out’ Facebook group is committed to advocating for the eradication of lead in the environment.
IntoBirds is proud to support the group and advocate for this important cause.
Mentoring Future Artists
Pat exhibits at numerous art shows throughout the year, including The Artist’s Studio Gallery at Patriot Place in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the Spring Fair at Barnes Nature Center in Bristol, Connecticut, the Colouratura Fine Art Gallery in Cape Breton Island, and annual craft fairs throughout Connecticut and surrounding areas.
Check the show schedule on her website to stop by and say hello at one of her shows.
When attending shows, Pat enjoys offering demonstrations of painting on feathers.
“People ask how do you do that? So, I demonstrate and make time for kids interested in doing the same.”
She says she will take out a feather, brush, and paint and ask kids to try it. Or she’ll give them a feather to take home and practice.
“I tell them to think of me when you’re painting. Once I’m gone, I want other people to be painting on feathers.”
Pat embodies her artwork. And is paying her craft forward.
She’s like a feather, strong with purpose but light at heart.
Follow Pat on Facebook, her blog or Instagram, and you’ll be treated to watching her artwork progress from stages of sketches to the final artwork. Or you might just enjoy seeing her daily adventures with wildlife.