Don’t get me wrong: I love living birds, too. It’s just that living birds are harder to draw and paint. So when I have a chance to study and sketch specimens, I seize it! Bird “study skins”—as these un-posed, stuffed birds are called—provide a close-up view of anatomy, feather groups, and coloration that is often hard to decipher when birds are alive and moving. By sketching bird skins, I’m better prepared to capture the right placement and shape of a bird’s wings, feet, and bill when sketching birds that are alive and fleeting.
These specimens are part of the collection at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine, where I recently spent a week teaching “Arts and Birding”…and encouraging participants to take a closer look at both living and dead birds.