Sunday, 16 February 2014

#505 In the studio: field guides

Start this series with post # 503, Feb. 5, 2014

Most bird artists are not ornithologists, but knowing how science has organized and classified birds in a 
field guide is an enormous help to the artist while researching an individual species.  
The importance can be summed up in one word . . . research.

Below, the publication of field guides such as Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to Birds 
in the United States in 1934, has greatly facilitated the identification of different species of birds.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was a proliferation of bird guides for North America, Europe, 
Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa, and a multitude of additional regions.
There are currently over 30 different field guide for North American birds . . . 
including :  Peterson's, Audubon, Golden, Reader's Digest, 
National Geographic, Kaufman, Stokes, Sibley, and many, many more. 

Below, are a few of the many field guide publications available to the artist . . . I use them all.

Some field guides, such as Audubon feature photographs, others such as Sibley present accurate illustrations that highlight species patterns.  Almost all,  begin with the most primitive species such as the flightless birds and work their way through the orders listed in the previous blogpost . . . ending with the highest evolved order - the passerines.

The artist will find that the field guide is an essential, well-tested, and practical system for learning 
species description, shapes, size, silhouette, and proportion.  In the studio, it is my starting place  
when a new clay block-in of an individual species is on the sculpture stand.   

Below, a field guide provides proportions -  length from tip of the beak to tip of the tail and wingspan - 
of a Northern Goshawk.  Shown, is a block-in demo at a recent Scottsdale Artists' School bird sculpture workshop. 
Note the L and WS  (length and wingspan) marked on the armature base are 50% life-sized . . . 
proportions and measurements are critical when starting a sculpture.

 In the year 2000, bird enthusiasts were introduced to the much-anticipated publication of 
Sibley's Guide to Birds.  Although I own and routinely use many field guides by different publishers, 
Sibley's is the one I teach with and use most in the studio.  Below, is a spread from Sibley's.  

 Since birds in flight don't pose for the artist . . .  when I start a block-in of a bird in motion or in flight, 
I accumulate everything that can serve as reference: various field guides, field sketches, 
photos, notes, videos, books, and my clip files and tear sheets from old magazines, etc.  
Most important for finishing a sculpture is "in the field" encounters with the specific subject.

Below, one of the primary ways to identify birds in the field is the realization of shape and silhouette 
of the individual species. . . a field guide is a"must" for the bird artist when in the field.   The overall silhouette 
of the subject must be perceived by the viewer at once . . . both in the field and in the completed sculpture.

Below,  is a sculpture entitled, Falcon Heart Humming.  Each bird has a distinct shape and silhouette and the most important characteristic of the subject must be grabbed and perceived by the viewer at once.    

Falcon Heart Humming
20"H 20"W 16"D

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Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith

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