Fantail Folklore

During my visit to New Zealand, I was immediately and irrevocably taken with a sweet little bird I came to know as the New Zealand Fantail. They all seem to have such a pronounced personality, they are known to be cheeky and brazen little things with no qualms about swooping dangerously close to your head.  

I enjoyed them so much, in fact, that I decided to paint one upon my return to the states. I was feeling really down after the passing of my grandfather and I decided it would be a good idea to distract myself with a little artistic healing, thoughts of the little fantail flitting around in my brain. My grandfather was a mischievous man, the type of prankster that would throw little bits of napkins at you while out to dinner, or spray you with the hose if you fell asleep in the sun. In many ways, his personality was a lot like the fantail. Silly and feisty, but also loving and brave, my grandfather was a mystery to most people. The only way to get myself out of my own head was to start drawing.

So I drew. The more I drew the better I felt. I could feel myself really understanding the shapes and my mind and hand were working perfectly in sync. I started the underpainting and felt like I was really nailing this painting.

The sketch and reference

Soon after my fantail started taking shape, I learned that in Maori culture, the fantail is a bad omen used to represent death. Often considered the grim reaper of New Zealand, the folklore tells us that if a fantail gets into your house, death will soon follow. I felt a little numb, at first. I continued painting with a renewed sense of heaviness in my heart, which slowly evolved into a sense of peace. This painting turned into my own therapeutic way of letting go of the sadness and letting it evolve into a calm happiness, to know that my grandfather finally could have serenity and no more pain.

And so, I finished my painting and will forever remember my beloved grandfather who loved me back.

In loving memory of Jerry Pahl, a man who will live in our hearts forever.

In loving memory of Jerry Pahl, a man who will live in our hearts forever.








Supplies used: Palomino Blackwing: Pearl, Liquitex soft body: various colors, Tombow colored pencils, Copic sketch markers, Copic multiliner pens.