From the Magazine Magazine

Illustrated Aviary

Reimagining the American Kestrel

Visual storyteller Maude White honed her falcon with years of practice and a small, sharp knife.

In admiring John James Audubon’s trio of American Kestrels, paper-cutting artist Maude White saw drama. “It’s very visceral, and so I definitely wanted my bird to have some element of motion, too,” she says.

Instead of diving or pecking, however, her creature hovers, a behavior common to kestrels on the hunt. Pausing above its vista, the falcon evokes grace and possibility, says White, who is based in New York’s Hudson Valley.

To create this piece, White first sketched a faint design on lightweight, semi-translucent paper. The lines guided her incisions, applied with a No. 11 American Line blade.

In striving for visual balance, she stylized the wings and tail with an array of tiny slits while silhouetting the torso. A final cut liberated the bird from the page. “It’s quite a relief to see her,” she says.

White has crafted many other avian species (find more in her book Brave Birds). She enjoys birds of prey generally, but the watchful eyes of the American Kestrel especially intrigue her.

Suspended in space, her creation encourages us, White hopes, to “stay in the present moment. This is where you are. You’re not in the past, you’re not in the future. Just be.”

This story originally ran in the Summer 2018 issue of Audubon. To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.

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