Artist Interview with Chris Maynard
Professional artist Chris Maynard shares his story of becoming a full-time artist in this interview.
Chris Maynard Bio
In his youth, three wonderful but sometimes bothersome siblings encouraged Chris to take refuge in the woods around his home where he would lie looking at birds in the tall trees. Since feathers represent flight, transformation, and a bridge between our present lives and our dreams, he is grateful that his work has hit a soft-spot in people’s hearts. His work is in museums and private collections in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. Mr. Maynard’s book, Feathers Form and Function highlights his art while telling stories about what feathers are, what they do for the birds, and why we find them alluring.
Chris carves feathers into intricate art. He combines the essence of the bird inherent in each feather with scientific understanding and design expertise into a new art form. He sets the feathers apart from their backgrounds so their curves and shapes are enhanced and cast shadows according to the intensity, quality and direction of light.
Please tell us about your art?
I carve shed feathers into intricate fine art. Unlike a painter’s palette, the choice of colors in feathers is quite limited. Nevertheless, I keep the natural colors and patterns of each feather. Feathers are often perceived as endearingly delicate, but they are actually quite tough, having to keep a bird clothed, sheltered, and in flight for a year until they are shed. In the same vein, his feather shadowboxes are meant to appear delicate but maintain their integrity for many years. All feathers used are legal to have and sell.
Are you a full-time professional artist?
Yes, my art is pretty much my main source of income. I do well. Four fifths of my income is sale of original art—half direct sales- mostly online -and half through galleries. The other fifth is mostly licensing and my book.
Where did the feather focus come from?
Birds and feathers have a lot of meaning for us: flight, transformation, hope, escape from our circumstances. I want to impart a sence of understanding and appreciation in the natural world. Any artist’s goal is trying to capture an essence of life. A shed feather keeps something of the essence of the bird it came from. Since I am portraying birds, it makes sense to use feathers as my medium because, just with my materials, feathers, I am already half way to achieving my goal. Plus feathers are a wonder of structural form and beauty.
Has focusing on the theme of feathers helped your art career?
Yes. Having a focus gives me a recognizable cohesive body of work. Also focusing on one medium and technique allows me to develop a unique expertise after thousands of hours planning, designing, getting to know my materials.
With a website URL of FeatherFolio.com, it sounds like you have your long-term artistic direction planned out?
I plan to work with feathers as my medium the rest of my life. It is a fact of life that making choices to do one thing over another is another way of placing limits. Limits on all the millions of other possibilities that I could do with my life. It is kind of sad that I won’t be sculpting in bronze or making jewelry or painting watercolors. But with many foci, development of my skills can become diluted, which might not be a bad way to live, sampling everything, but it is not often an effective way to develop expertise, a business, or a reputation as an artist. Also, by just working with one thing, a lot of opportunities open up so in many ways, my world becomes bigger.
What is your art background?
My background all leads up to what I do today. From the beginning, my mother was an artist; I went to school in the sciences and loved biology although I worked for years as a hydrologist. I learned through experience, not often taking formal classes but reading books and always questioning other artists—both about art and about the business of art.
Do you have any advice for aspiring professional artists?
Key for me, my guide throughout has been my mission statement which is much broader than making art: Foster understanding and appreciation of the natural world. So I would suggest anyone, especially an artist developing an art business or looking for work in the field to dive deep and figure out what is most important to share with the world. Let the mission statement guide in what to share with the world.