DESPITE THE ADVANCES in photography, it can’t compete in revealing the detail and character that the skilled zoological illustrator is able to achieve.”
So writes Bill Naylor in his celebration of the bird artist William (Bill) Cooper on page nine. Would you agree? Photography of birds, whether captive or not, is now open to anyone who can afford the kit, and the skills involved in getting good results are (let’s face it) far less challenging than they once were. And we see “detail and character” marvellously captured in the winning entries of all those wildlife photography competitions.
However, what the lens is brilliant at is capturing momentary character: the splatter and bristle of a bathing starling, say. As exhibition breeders, we’re more interested in enduring visual character, as defined in our exhibition standards, which are most perfectly illustrated by a diagram.
For example, any number of photos of exemplary Yorkshire canaries will not convey as much as a painted wooden carving of the Golding Model. So birdkeepers, I’d argue, have an advantage when it comes to appreciating bird illustrators: we look for and value renditions of a bird’s enduring character. And that, as we know, is very difficult to capture; in fact the illustrators in all too many of the bird books on my shelves don’t even try.
They aim to capture the plumage patterns accurately, but most of them use one or two standard postures so that the birds appear wooden. Which is no surprise, since most of the illustrations are drawn, not from nature, but from museum specimens or (ironically) from photographs!
An illustrator such as William Cooper, by contrast, worked wherever possible from sketches of the birds he’d made in life, so that with a group such as the Australian psittacines he would have been distilling his own first-hand knowledge of the species. That’s why his fellow countrymen rated his work so highly – because they knew his birds looked right.
Quality tends to come to the surface, and Cooper’s reputation will endure. Mind you, personally, I still wouldn’t put his work quite on a level with Audubon’s best.
Have a great week.
In the December 2, 2015 issue of Cage & Aviary Birds, Geoff Corser has been breeding and showing winners for decades, but a success like best young bird at the Club Show can still put a big grin on his face! Fred Wright reports
In news, the law commission has confirmed that the reverse burden of proof should continue to apply to native species in captivity – but has opened the door to “ringing, marking or registration” constituting adequate evidence of captive breeding.
For many years, Rosemary Low has been an internationally respected authority on parrots, but she honed her writing skills back in the 1960s. Here she gives a flavour of the articles of that time
Both techniques are used sparingly by top breeders, but they must be fully understood before you embark on them. It’s a matter of keeping your aim in mind, says Dave Brown
This past summer was made special for Bob Baggs when he took on an unexpected responsibility – a task that called for all his hard-won expertise in raising softbills to independence
Plus lots more, including Aviaries, Alderton's Observations, Canary health and well-being and Diet.