Bird [Painter] Watching

Written by Monica McCafferty

Some things can only be observed or created with an unhurried mind and a process that matches the composure of its subject. Zia Daughtery embodies this as she moves through life and her artistic process. “My process is not necessarily slow. I just don't attack my art as vigorously as some people - I tend to take a long time to finish things, but I’m okay with that,” says Zia.

A trade passed down from her grandfather, Zia has been painting for most of her life. Her process involves doing the bulk of creative work before getting oil on canvas, “it's very methodical”, says Zia. After creating a detailed plan for her piece, “Then I can move on to the fun part, painting”. Although this may be true and she has been referred to as ‘the master’ among peers when it comes to her brush skills, Zia’s creative vision is also notable.

In 2019 Zia completed a series of three paintings featuring colorful birds and a veiled theme of environmental protection. Inspired by a personal ethos and early 19th-century graphic of ‘options’ for which to don extravagant hats, her opening piece depicts the use of feathers during this era, a practice which led to the killing of millions of birds1 in the name of fashion. The utilization of foreground to display the beauty of these birds in full form is balanced with a shadow of human vanity; protesting any possessive view of animals’ place in our world. However, the viewer may not initially deduce this theme due to the overall ionic beauty of the
The use of birds in her work was preceded by developing a hobby of bird watching, almost a decade ago in her parent’s backyard. “One day I just decided to start writing down every bird I saw and realized how many different kinds there were," says Zia. Her admiration and reverence for fellow earthlings inspire both Zia’s life and art. “I definitely feel strongly about human ecology, our impact, and trying to find a way to show that without doom and gloom; because not all of it is beautiful."

Balancing the awareness of beauty and its destruction is something we all grapple with on some level. Although Zia’s debut series depicts an issue of the past, it still illustrates modern parallels and serves as a reminder that our collective actions do make a difference. Many bird species were saved from extinction due to anti-poaching laws imposed in response to the feathered hat craze, and this hopeful translation is a noteworthy component of Zia’s style.

You can find Zia @ziadaugherty on Instagram, creating beautiful art and living a thoughtful life.