The photos below were originally posted in Reference Photos – Great Horned Owl.
Yesterday I began this series on my creative process and apologized (a bit) for the several times I’ve begun this process and have not been able to follow it to a finished piece.
My friend, Kurt Meyer, responded:
“Maybe it’s like falling asleep or falling in love. If you try to watch yourself do it, it won’t happen.”
No question that Kurt has a point, but several of the projects that I explore do come to completion. The problem is that my thinking tends to become less formal and more intuitive as I get deeper into the process. Last night I found myself cutting out an owl blank and realized that I wasn’t following the plan that I planned to layout here. I also did not have a camera or other means to document my progress. I stopped and will have to re-start when I am properly prepared.
(Now we’re thinking about thinking about thinking about the creative process. As a teacher in a progressive school this isn’t really to unusal for me to do.)
(BTW Kurt – I bought an amazing book for you on your b’day and never got it to you. It really deals with some of these creative issues. I’ll try to get it to you asap.)
I related yesterday that this process begins with the story.
Today we begin to explore research. I research my birds in several different ways and this research and the ideas that spring from it is recorded in a series of cheap sketchbooks. If we’ve met face-to-face there’s a good chance that you’ve seen me with one of these notebooks. We’ll discuss them tomorrow.
My research, at this stage, focuses on the physical aspects of the bird. I always begin with form. My first sketches are from memory. They’re usually pretty bad. I’ll draw the bird several times at several angles, making slight modifications as I begin to get a sense of the bird in my mind. This is my anchor — my starting point.
From this point the goal of my research is to identify weaknesses and flaws in this model, make corrections and internalize them.
All of my birds are designed, carved and painted from drawing that I draw from memory. My actual carvings are not based on the references, but on my mental image or impression of the bird.
My research focuses on the following sources:
- Live birds – I make trips to the field and bird or just watch the birdfeeder.
- Dead birds – I have access to an extensive collection of mounted specimens. If my subject is in the collection I will make a visit to photograph and sketch (See accompanying photos).
- Dead birds – A few times I’ve come across freshly killed dead birds — usually window kills — that I draw and photograph.
- Field guides – Sibley and Peterson field guides have painted reference pictures. I love these as they make field marks clear. Understanding the field marks — the points and marks on a bird that make it unique — helps to develop a bird that clearly identifiable.
- Old field guides – My birds have a period look and feel. I always reference period field guides to help understand how a bird was perceived “in the day”. Amos Butler wrote Indiana’s first field guide. My copy is always at hand and an important reference. (Amos Butler’s Birds of Indiana)
- The internet – Google Image searches give my birds life. I pull up pages of thumbnails to get a sense of how a bird moves, perches, or stands. This is a new area for my work and I find it very exciting as I develop sculptural groupings of interacting birds. (Google image Search for “Great Horned Owl”)
Tomorrow I’ll share some sketches to demonstrate the development of my model bird image.