Mistake / by Chris Maynard

Quails-in-process mistake.

Quails-in-process mistake.

It’s funny, but when cutting detailed bird shapes out of feathers, I make very few cutting blunders.

When something has my full attention, mistakes become unlikely. When I make one, it is either a result of inattention to detail, skipping a step in the process, or because I am exploring the “cutting” edge of learning.

I cut the wrong side of one of these feathers when I skipped the step of checking my preliminary sketch to see where to make each cut. An artist, using oils or acrylics, can just paint over mistakes; or even paint over an entire piece. With a feather, an error means starting over. I am looking for a similar feather to replace this one that I ruined.

Blunders like this put me in mind of the process of evolution. A fault in a creature’s body usually makes life harder. The creature dies or doesn’t reproduce more of its kind because the mistake gets in the way. However, once in a great while, one of these errors makes life easier, more effective, better. I haven’t experienced a cutting-feathers-mistake contributing to better art…yet; though every once in a while, I seem to try.

These are guinea hen wing feathers. The piece, once I find a replacement feather, will be 30 by 20 inches, picturing California quails flying up into the circle of feathers.