Meeting of the Models

For those of you who have been following my Birds & Teacups series, you must know my process by now:

antique teacup ✔

matching bouquet  ✔

combine above and wait for a bird (or two) to fly in and pose while I shoot with dramatic lighting  ✘

combine above and shoot with dramatic lighting  ✔

take pictures of local birds  ✔

add birds (in a naturalistic way) into the still life using photoshop  ✔

paint the heck out it   ✔  ✔  ✔

But yesterday was something new…a scrub jay was busy caching acorns about my yard and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get a shot of the bird with the actual teacup I had planned on pairing it with. Usually I try to scale the bird to the teacup with the measurements listed on birding sites but this was going to give me a real life comparison, if only I could get them in the same shot! I filled the teacup with birdseed and acorns and retreated to my studio stoop with my telephoto lens on my camera. I had only a few minutes to wait before there was some interest…

Scrub Jay and Teacup 5 - photo Marie Cameoron 2015

Scrub Jay and Teacup 9 - photo Marie Cameoron 2015

Scrub Jay and Teacup 7 - photo Marie Cameoron 2015

Scrub Jay and Teacup 4 - photo Marie Cameoron 2015

Scrub Jay and Teacup 1 - photo Marie Cameoron 2015

Squirrel with teacup - photo Marie Cameron 2015

…of course the jay wasn’t the only one who likes a tea party !

Widow Among the Butterflies and Roses

I just want to preface this post by letting you know that my gorgeous model has been safely released into the woods far away and no one was in danger of being bitten or hurt during this process.

Having said that, I can now go on about how thrilling and captivating it was to shoot this elegant, deadly spider with my delicate antique china and petals from my favorite rose. The scent was intoxicating, the beauty engulfing and there’s nothing quite like the creepy crawl of a spider to keep you on your toes!

I love the wild and dangerous darkness of the spider along with all of her creative, powerful and cunning associations contrasted with the domestic refinement of delicate petals and porcelain – I could drink it in for days!

Widow and Butterflies 1 - Marie Cameron - 2015

Widow in a Teacup - Marie Cameron 2015

Widow Crawl - Marie Cameron 2015

Widow and Petals I - Marie Cameron 2015

Hourglass and Rose - Marie Cameron 2015

Widow Saucer - Marie Cameron 2015

Innocent Celibacy?

In a Victorian world where bachelors buttons signify male celibacy and daisies refer to innocence, a bouquet of both would leave you with innocent male celibacy. That’s quite a bundle for a little teacup yet here it is with this “Elizabethan” teacup from England – 1940s or 50s I’m guessing:

Bachelor Button, DaisyTea Reference 1 - photo Marie Cameron 2015


Bachelor Button, DaisyTea Reference 2 - photo Marie Cameron 2015


Bachelor Button, DaisyTea Reference 3 - photo Marie Cameron 2015


Bachelor Button, DaisyTea Reference 4 - photo Marie Cameron 2015


Bachelor’s Buttons Blues

My Bachelor’s Buttons have just come into bloom – and I’m too impatient to wait for a whole bouquet – so I snipped the ones that were available and popped them into this vintage Japanese teacup, pulling a dress from my closet to use as a backdrop.

Bacherlors Buttons Blues Tea Reference

Bachelor’s buttons are also known as cornflowers but the Victorian meanings for each are very different. Bachelor’s Buttons indicate single blessedness and celibacy while the cornflower suggests refinement and delicacy. I wonder which symbolism to explore?

Bacherlors Buttons Blues Tea Reference

I do know that I’d like to pair this teacup with the Scrub Jay which is that same lovely shade of blue- nothing refined or delicate about this bird though they are tough raucus and smart!

Scrub Jay on Green

Here are a few shots of the jay I took near my house.

Scrub Jay on Green

Check out that sashay on this bird as it stakes out it’s feeding grounds!

Scrub Jay on Gray

And that rakish profile!

Brewing Mushroom Tea

Barn Owl W.E.R.C. Brewing up some mushroom magic in the studio!

It started with that gorgeous barn owl, “Owlivia” from  the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center.  I knew I wanted to include her in my birds & teacups series so I took lots of pictures when I had the chance. Then I had to scout out a perfect teacup. I thought should be a in a woodland theme, maybe ferns or branches but when I saw the mushroom teacup by Aynsley of England (circa 1939 -) I knew I had found the perfect whimsical compliment to the owl. At first I arranged pink oyster mushrooms in the cup and while I love the color, I wanted to see what a stronger form would look like. In the end, I prefer the king oyster mushrooms which will help to make a more interesting composition.


Pink Mushroom Tea


Mushroom Teacup - Marie Cameron in studio


Mushroom Tea Reference


Mushroom Teacup Reference


Mushrooms showing some wear


Mushrooms turn out to be pretty fragile to  work with ….I ‘d better eat them up quickly!

Brewing Narcissus Tea

I can’t decide whether the stylized flower on this English Deco teacup by Royal Grafton is meant to be a narcissus or a daffodil but I think there is some wiggle room. I will shoot it both ways.  My favorite flower shop, Bunches, had nosegays of narcissus on two for one so that was the perfect place to start. Even as I write this post I am surrounded by the heady scent of spring!

Narcissus Tea Reference 1 Marie Cameron 2015


Narcissus Tea Reference 2 Marie Cameron 2015


Narcissus Tea Reference 4 Marie Cameron 2015


Narcissus Tea Reference 3 Marie Cameron 2015

Narcissus sends the Victorian message of formality, or “Stay as sweet as you are” conflicting  concepts I think! Let me know what you think – do you prefer the drama of the black background or the quaintness of the quilt?

White Crowned Sparrow - Marie Cameron 2014

I think I’ll pair up this teacup with this sweet White Crowned Sparrow. I have lots of photos of this little guy and his flock mates from the grounds of a local church and his markings seem to match perfectly! The bird says sweet, definitely not formal.

Tulip Tea Tryouts

The sun broke through just long enough to shoot tulips in a teacup today.

Tulip Tea Reference - Marie Cameron 2015


Tulip Tea Reference 6 - Marie Cameron 2015


Tulip Tea Reference 5 - Marie Cameron 2015


Tulip Tea Reference 3 - Marie Cameron 2015


Tulip Tea Reference 7 - Marie Cameron 2015


Tulip Tea Reference 4 - Marie Cameron 2015

I love these little teacups made in Occupied Japan, they’re hand painted with such vibrant colors and the flowers are so playfully stylized. Look for more coming up (when their flowers are finally in season).

Now what kind of bird?  Here are some from my archives, though I don’t know…

4 birds - Marie Cameron

Does it help to know that the tulip symbolizes “perfect lover” and “fame”? Perhaps not, I’ll have to think on it.


Good Luck Bamboo (& Teacup)

Found a perfect bundle for the little bamboo demitasse I had waiting in my studio (like so many other vintage teacups I have, just waiting for their flower to come into bloom so I can take their picture in some dramatic light and pair them up with a matching bird – all so I can paint a picture).

Good Luck Bamboo Teacup

This three stemmed lucky bamboo symbolizes happiness, long life and wealth.

Bamboo isn’t the typical Victorian flower I like choose for these teacups but I’m feeling freshly inspired my recent visit to the National Botanical Gardens in Kauai with their gorgeous bamboo groves.


I think I’ll pair this teacup with the lovely little Japanese White Eye birds I spotted there. Can you see it hanging on to the bottom of the bougainvillea? It’s a lovely shade of chartreuse which should be a vibrant counterpoint to the cerise teacup, its endearing white ring around it’s eye echoes the rim of the teacup too!

Japanese White Eye

Painting Pansy Tea

Now that I have my reference material all composed, I am able to precede with my Pansy Tea painting.

Pansy Tea WIP 1 - Marie Cameron 2014

I like to sketch out my outlines with thinned oils on a white ground. I feel it helps me to maintain a clarity and vibrancy of color.

Pansy Tea WIP 2 - Marie Cameron 2014

I begin to block in a bit of color as I feel more confident about the way the drawing is going.

Pansy Tea WIP 3 - Marie Cameron 2014

Since the bird is the primary subject, I wanted to concentrate on it first.

Pansy Tea WIP 4 - Marie Cameron 2014

The next goal I had was to work the entire canvas (all twelve inches of it).

Pansy Tea WIP 5 - Marie Cameron 2014

Here I’ve built up highlights, shadows and details.

Pansy Tea WIP 6 - Marie Cameron 2014

I will continue along this path, adding glazes to tone down areas until I feel it has enough depth and presence.  Speaking of presence,  I see my little finch is looking more like a chubby chick!  Taking pictures as you go along is a great way of seeing your work in a new way. Let’s see what I can do about that tomorrow!



Lately I’ve gone from painting dead birds to live ones!

My teacup birds, while quite whimsical in concept, are a really about putting some life into the still life genre.  I love the layers of artifice that go into these pieces, There’s the teacup artist’s interpretation of a flower and then my re-interpretation of that as well as my careful observation of the real flowers in their corresponding teacup that I’ve arranged in the low afternoon sun that comes streaming in my studio windows.

Then I coax a bird to land on my vignette while I snap a picture. Yes, I wish. I must rely on my growing collection of photos that I take myself as well as some other photo references which I combine with my own work and obscure beyond any point of possible copyright infringement.  I need to invest in some more feeders – but I’m not beyond stalking the neighbor’s feeders. I find mornings are best! Although I’ve paused while writing this to take shots of junkos with my telephoto out here on the patio with my feet up on the fire pit and my laptop on my lap! Now if that humming bird will just come back for my pommegranate blossoms – no such luck!

Here are some of my better birding moments, not all teacup appropriate, but you never know…

Spotted Towhee (male) - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Spotted Towhee – Los Gatos

Purple House Finch (male and female) - photo Marie Cameron 2013

Purple House Finch – Carpinteria

Oregon Junko (male) - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Oregon Junko – Los Gatos

Lesser Goldfinch (male) - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Lesser Goldfinch (male) – Los Gatos

Lesser Goldfinch (female) - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Lesser Goldfinch (female) – Los Gatos

Anna's Hummingbird  - photo Marie Cameron 2013

Anna’s Hummingbird – Los Gatos

Stellar's Jay - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Steller’s Jay – Los Gatos

Starling and Cherry Blossoms - photo Marie Cameron 2013

Starling- Santa Cruz

Gulls by the Bay Bridge - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Seagulls – San Francisco

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo - photo Marie Cameron 2013

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo – Santa Barbara

Black Swan - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Black Swan – Santa Barbara

Peacock - photo Marie Cameron 2012

Peacock – Cupertino

Albino Peacock - photo Marie Cameron 2014

Albino Peacock – Ayelsford

Flamingo - photo Marie Cameron

Flamingo – Oakland