Monday, December 14, 2015

The Most Important Thing in Wildlife Art...

Osprey in Tree. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

is getting a sense of the life and movement of the subject. A bold statement I suppose and one that many would argue with. But for me I'll quickly say that if I can't see the whole bird, animal, insect or whatever in a piece of wildlife art I'll quickly surmise that the artist is working from a photo which does not in fact show the entire subject and he's loathe to try to imagine what he can't see. It's easier to just crop everything out and hope that the flat, abstract design will be appealing enough to counter the fact that the artist has not shown how the weight of the subject is distributed, where the body is moving, where the eye is glancing, etc. It almost never is enough to counter that huge loss.

I say this mainly because I'm very familiar with it. It is the problem that stopped me cold when I first started wildlife, specifically bird, art. I was completely unsuccessful working from life, mainly because birds wouldn't sit still. And my own photos, the only ones that it seemed right to work from, almost always left part of the bird hidden. Even today it's a great treat to be able occasionally to be able to see the whole bird. I think that is one of the appeals of shorebirds. Often you can see the entire bird. As a bonus it often sits still.

In any case this lack of knowledge of the entire bird still stops me from choosing to work from over 50% of the photos I've taken. The only mitigating factor is that I now have about 7-8 years experience sketching from life and I've learned enough about birds to make a good guess as to how the bird fits together, even when I can't see everything. But the most thrilling photos I take are the ones that show the complete bird in an intriguing posture. Those pictures are irresistible and I want to try to capture some sense of the movement in them.

So when winter comes and I spend much less time outside, especially sketching outside, I often will concentrate on doing sketches from my photos which show the full subject, mainly birds, but often insects and other subjects. All of the brush sketches on this page were done in the last week or so. And in almost all instance I did them because I could see the entire subject.

For me this will always be far more exciting, whether in my work or in some one else's, than the most elaborate reconstruction of feathers. It is the life of the subjects I see that I want to understand and portray, even when I work abstractly, and I just cringe when instead I stumble upon well delineated feathers and feather tracts. The latter may be beautiful but rarely does it have any sense of life.

American Copper, American Lady and Common Buckeye. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

Osprey in Flight. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

Purple Finch Eating Crabapples. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

Red Knot. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

Red Knot and Semi-palmated Sandpiper. Brush Pen and Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Zabulon Skipper. Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

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