Birds of a Feather

How might you memorialize tagging your first turkey or a gobbler that holds a special place in your memory? For those who have discovered the work of Deb Brosen, they have their prize painted on a turkey tail feather, perhaps from the fan of the very bird they harvested.

 “When I was a young parent, I worked at a local sports shop, and the owner, knowing of my artistic talent, asked me to paint some items he could sell in the store,” Brosen recalled. “At that time every artist seemed to be painting on saw blades and slate, and the shop owner encouraged me to find my own niche.”

The two of them looked around the shop and picked out an antler, a box call, a piece of tanned leather and a turkey tail feather, and soon she had painted on each one.

“I became fascinated with the feather,” she said, “and began painting on turkey feathers as if I were on a mission.”

She found it a challenge

If you aren’t careful, you will split the feather while working on it. The texture and appearance of every feather is different.”

The uniqueness of each feather continues to fascinate Brosen.

“When I look at a particular feather, I can imagine the image I wish to paint on it,” she said. “After more than 25 years of completing thousands of paintings on feathers to sell at sportsman’s shows and as auction items at National Wild Turkey Federation and other organizations’ fundraising banquets, I find painting on feathers as fascinating as when I first started and, in some ways, even more so.”

During that time, Brosen’s work has evolved. For example, she says that when she started, her paintings looked more like watercolors because the paint was too light and too much of the feather showed through the paint. After honing her skill, she believes she’s found the perfect balance of how much paint to use.

Also, when Brosen began painting on feathers, she used only turkey feathers.

“Today, though turkey feathers are my mainstay, I’ve also painted on grouse and pheasant plumage. I save just about every feather I find. In fact, that’s earned me my nickname: ‘Feathers.’”

Another aspect of her progression as an artist is her range of images. In her early years, turkeys were exclusively the subject. Now, she paints a variety of birds and animals.

“I’ve done a lot of horses, deer and elk, and I even did a tiger,” Brosen explained. “I paint scenes. I’ve done vehicles. The majority of my work is commissioned, so I paint what my client wishes. One of my favorites was of a young boy and his uncle, with a deer the youngster had tagged. The boy had cancer, and the painted feather really meant a lot to the family.”

Her advice to artists who would like to try painting on feathers is simple: “Find your own style. Have a plan when you start the project, and don’t cut corners, even when it comes to the frame you might choose for the artwork.”

Her dad instilled her love of nature and the outdoor sports, and today Brosen and her husband, John, hunt in the woods of her native Hudson Valley of New York. They account for some of the turkey feathers she uses, and friends’ donations supplement her supply.

“I am always looking for feathers, especially the subspecies other than the Eastern, and if you’d like to send me feathers or learn more about my work, please contact me,” she said.

To learn more, visit featherartstudio.com, or email Brosen at featherartstudio@yahoo.com and put “Feather Art” in the subject line.

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