July 29th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 30
Crowsnest artist wins ‘Red Ribbon First’ at Calgary Stampede
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Crowsnest artist Yvonne Martinez has won the ‘Red Ribbon First’ at the Calgary Stampede art competition for her piece “A Raven Lunatic.”
Pass Herald Reporter
Have I ever told you that I love birds?
Some sing beautifully,
Some talk words,
There are hundreds and hundreds of glorious birds,
I think I’m one of those bird watch nerds.
- Yvonne Martinez
Yvonne Martinez is sometimes asked why she likes painting birds.
“If somebody painted flowers, would they be asked why they paint flowers?” she rhetorically asked over coffee at the Stone’s Throw Cafe. “It goes without saying that flowers are beautiful, they’re beautiful creations but birds are just as awesome and beautiful as flowers but they can sing.”

You wouldn’t be going out on a limb if you said Martinez likes birds.
The Crowsnest artist has been painting birds and botanicals for over 30 years and recently won first prize in the feather themed for artwork category at the Calgary stampede, she drives a bird themed car and she does a mean loon call.

The Peace River native and self-professed tree hugger is inspired by nature and not just the bird kind.

“I met a chipmunk the other day and I gave it some walnuts,” she said.
She didn't know if the chipmunk was male or female but was charmed to find out when it came around later to show off 'her' baby triplets.
“I’m fascinated and I’m quiet with nature and it comes out to me,” she said.

Martinez is much more than a one-dimensional figure who paints birds, the multimedia Renaissance woman is a writer, poet, naturalist and a saleswoman but Martinez admits that it’s her bird art that pays the bills. If you’ve seen a bird painting in any local establishment, chances are it’s a Martinez.
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Her piece that took the red ribbon at the Calgary Stampede is called “A Raven Lunatic,” which is a charming play on words of a title for a painting of an older ragged raven cawing up at a full moon.

“Raven's intelligence is a well know fact, but also of real note is this 'corvid' families social networking system. Much research has been done on how they seem to be able to teach, problem solve, display humour and show emotion,” wrote Martinez of her work.

“In the particular instance of my watercolour that I title - 'A Raven Lunatic' - this older Raven has an abundance of ragged ruffled neck feathers and seems to be quite disturbed, concerned, possibly even in a state of grief or anger. The black feather caught on the tree limb seems to trigger a memory for him.”

“Unresolved grief or worry can turn even the strongest human's mind to a certain edge of 'madness'. I can speak for myself that lack of sleep from personal worry, sadness or even indecision can keep me up late into the night (and maybe even by a full moon!) So it seems that I may be taking on the reverse of anthropomorphism.”

Martinez specializes in painting members of the corvidae family, which include some of the most intelligent birds in the world including ravens, crows and magpies. Another of her pieces called “The Mensa Meeting,” features three ravens while another piece called “The Crowsline,” features crows on the pitch of a local barn roof. Many of Martinez’s works are thusly titled as she feels the name of the piece can sometimes be just as important as how it appears to the eye.

This is not to say she doesn’t also love all sorts of other birds, like budgies.

“I once saw a budgie that could recite Baa Baa Black Sheep,” she said. “Budgies can do more rote memorization than those big enormous parrots that cost a fortune.”
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She and many other vendors will be setting up shop at the Crowsnest Country Market in Flummerfelt Park over the Doors Open and Heritage weekend. She’s booked two-and-a-half spots for what she calls an “outdoor river gallery.”

If you can’t make the country market, keep a lookout for her 2004 Chevrolet Aveo, which she’s dubbed the Crowsline Gallery On The Go. It’ll be hard to miss as it has crows and life sized ravens on the top of the vehicle and will serve as a mobile gallery containing a portfolio of her work and pieces ready to sell.

“It’s cute as a button, it’s got low mileage and it’s going to be my mobile advertising car,” she said.

Martinez is as much an artist as a businesswoman and will even sometimes incorporate her impressive list of birdcalls into her sales pitch. Still, she said it’s been hard making a living as a professional artist.

“It’s been super difficult trying to make a living as an artist down here,” she said. “It wouldn’t be that much easier in Fernie and the greatest amount of my clientele are the weekenders and newcomers.”

She does most of her business on periodic visits to Millarville near Calgary, which allows her to visit her young grandchildren, but said she couldn’t live in that city again.

“That’s where I do my business but I couldn’t live there,” she said. “I’m so inspired by this place, I’m inspired by nature in a huge way.”
July 29th ~ Vol. 85 No. 30
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