Collecting on Paper

I’m like a kid in a candy store when I step into the Pember Museum of Natural History in Granville, New York. Thirteen cherry and glass cases house more than 1,200 specimens of birds, 500 mounted mammals, and row upon row of insects, bird eggs, and nests.  The collection is life’s work of a single man: entrepreneur and naturalist Franklin Pember (1841-1924). I love capturing pieces of this collection in my journal—but where to begin is always a challenge.

Pember Museum 2015

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As I wander from case to case, I look for things that strike my interest and add objects to the page throughout the day. Everything is so incredible that it’s hard for me to choose. I started this page with the ruff chick in the lower right, and then added the moths, followed by the eggs, and dragonflies. Except for the ruff, I sketched directly in pen to eliminate fussing and added a layer of watercolor in the museum, before running out of time. Later at home, I finished painting and added the catalogue from 1883 from a photo. It was easier to do the lettering at my desk than standing over a glass case.

In the end, the page is a tribute to a fabulous day spent with one of my favorite collections.

6 Comments on “Collecting on Paper

  1. Lovely collection you have here. Nicely drawn and composed, even though you chose your subjects at random you still placed them on the page as if it were all planned out. Great work. I’ve not thought of working in a museum. I generally take photos which I then transfer to paper (or not) as the mood strikes. Taking your materials with you ensures that you draw otherwise you only have memories to work from and that can be a sticky wicket.

    • Carole- I almost never work from photos, except for additional color reference. I find that working live or from specimens gives me much more information to inform my painting. Museum sketching is great because things don’t move!

  2. this is beautiful Jean. thanks for the idea – going in with your paints to view a favorite collection.

    • Some museums and nature centers are easier to work in than others– this one happens to be great. Going at a quiet time can help too.

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