Which comes first, the image or the story?

Priscilla and the Blue Feather

Curious to know who had left a deep blue feather lodged in the notch between two twigs, Priscilla gazed up through the tree branches.

She hoped it was a gift meant just for her.


After posting Priscilla and her story on social media, I received many notes from people who shared touching stories about feathers that they had found and how their discoveries brought a special message, comfort or memories of loved ones. 

I also received the question, “Which came first, the image or the story?”.

While many artists decide on their message and intent before they pick up a brush, I frequently enjoy allowing my painting and story to evolve. I choose to begin with a simple plan, then arrange colours and shapes with the goal of creating an interesting design, then modify and adjust as my intuition leads me. Things can change in a moment.

The feather in this painting appeared from a lovely bit of blue in the upper background. It was so pretty that I couldn’t bear to paint over it, so I took advantage of the colour and textures and used negative painting techniques to carve around the feather shape. So not only did Priscilla find this blue feather; I did too.

Only when I'm pleased with the design and shapes of my birds and animals do I paint the eyes. It's then that the personality is revealed and I say, “Oh, there you are! Now what sort of mischief have you been up to?”.

If you struggle to know how your piece is going to look before you begin or if you find it difficult to get started, here's the challenge for you: focus on just the design, colour concept or shapes and let the story build in its own time. Patience is essential, but it is a delightful way to approach your art and storytelling.


Happy painting,