Illuminated ‘Akepa

Illuminated ‘Akepa
5 x 7 inches
Copper/Zinc Leafing and Acrylic on Panel

Recently I returned to an ongoing series of illuminated endemic Hawaiian birds using metal leaf and inspiration from old manuscript art. Illuminated manuscripts, intricately illustrated books, were very painstaking work hundreds of years ago. With no automation, you can imagine now expensive and difficult it would be to procure pigments and metal leaf. Even the parchments and the glues that supported the work was something that must be made by hand with hours of time. This type of decoration was reserved for only the most important books.

Alternate view showing how the metal leaf changes color depending on the light.

I am using elements of old illumination in conjunction with these small birds as a signal that these native birds, such as the tiny ‘Akepa, are treasures. They are worth celebrating and depicting with care and time, and I hope to make them familiar to you so that if you ever see one, you will know what an amazing gift it was to see one in person. I chose celtic birds as part of the old manuscript motif in the ‘akepa painting, because I love the idea of showing birds in ancient pattern and in modern representational painting style in the same piece.  Adorably enough, these two ‘akepa are painted exactly life size, and both the male and female bird fit on a tiny 5 by 7 inch canvas! The birds are only 4 inches long (10 cm)!  The Maui ‘akepa may already be extinct, and the tiny Hawai’i ‘akepa birds need to be protected so that they will not disappear as well. I would love to inspire support for conservation of their rare habitat in the upper elevations of Hawai’i island.  Wild ohia forests are rare and beautiful and well- worth protecting. The vivid ‘akepa are a spectacular part of our native upper elevation forest, and as a bonus, the males are said to possess the most orange plumage of any bird type in the world.