Reimagining the Common Loon

Building layer upon layer, mixed-media artist e bond coaxes the Common Loon from paper and ink.
An abstract illustration of a Common Loon on water, its white-flecked wings spread wide and its head, with its piercing red eye, held high.
Illustration: e bond

When pondering which species to choose for this assignment, artist e bond consulted her mom. The Common Loon decisively won the maternal vote.

The white stipples and swatches adorning the bird’s breeding plumage also appealed to bond, a California-based mixed-media artist. bond decided to reinterpret John James Audubon’s exacting original through her own aesthetic of abstract shapes and patterns. “He was trying to really record and document,” bond says, whereas she felt liberated to experiment with both composition and style. Her loon is in motion, the frothy white loops an “ode to water.” Indeed, the red-eyed diver—a common winter species along much of the U.S. coast and into Canada—plumbs aquatic habitats for food.

To build her bird, bond first handcrafted a “library” of paper layers embellished with acrylic paint or pencil. One layer, for instance, was a skeleton of lines, another a field of white daubs. To create unique textures, she painted on Gelli plates and pressed them onto paper. She scanned her layers into Photoshop, puzzling them together until they harmonized.

For artistic inspiration, bond often looks to nature, which “always gets it right.” Exploring the infinite combinations of shape, line, and color drives her, and completed art often sees new life; eventually, bond will deposit the remains of her loon into the scrap boxes she mines for future creations. “I don’t want to waste any of it,” she says.

This story originally ran in the Fall 2021 issue. To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.