Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sketching skeletons and skins...

Matty and I spent a couple of hours Friday afternoon sketching bird skeletons, skins, and mounted specimens at the Geier Collections and Research Center in downtown Cincinnati. The Geier Center is the research arm of the Cincinnati Natural History Museum. It's a state-of-the-art facility that houses all of the collections not on display at the Museum Center. It also includes laboratories for the paleontology, archaeology and zoology collections. I contacted Dr. Herman Mays, the curator of zoology, to see if Matty and I could sketch a few of the specimens in the collection, and he said yes! Dr. Mays was wonderfully accommodating and incredibly nice. He set us up in the room holding the massive zoology collection and let us know we could sketch and photograph anything we wanted to. My head is still spinning from everything we saw. I got to work right away and sketched non-stop. Matty studied a lot of the collection and sketched a few birds with me as well. It will take several posts to cover our adventure...

Sketch of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) skull from the Geier Collections 
and Research Center (the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History)
I'm writing a book for the field sketching class I'm teaching at the Biggest Week in American Birding warbler festival and wanted to see and sketch close-up views of bills, wings, and skeletons for a few of the illustrations. Everything I needed was at the Geier Center. I'm so glad Dr Mays let us visit the center!

...the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) skull I sketched. 
I loved seeing all the bird skeletons, bones, and skulls. 
An American Coot (Fulica americana) skull from the Geier Collections and Research Center
I chose this mounted Pipit as my first bird to sketch...and what a sweetie! I drew him quickly, pretending I was sketching the bird in the wild (a very cooperative bird who sat very close...).

Matty sketched a Baltimore Oriole. He took his time and did a great job! 
(He's an artist, he just doesn't know it yet!)

...this American Pipit mounted bird looks real. You wouldn't be able to tell it's a taxidermied bird if you didn't know!
Cute little Pipit!
Sketching mounted birds is a great way to practice drawing birds from "life." Translating a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional image on paper takes a little practice.

Lots of racks of mounted specimens...

...lots of drawers of bird skins. The collection is amazing with between 20-30,000 bird specimens.

The ornithology collection has new and old specimens dating back to the mid 1880s.

A Wooly Mammoth family grazes in the front lawn of the Geier Collections and Research Center. I remember these gargantuan bonded bronze sculptures when they stood in front of the Eden Park/Mt. Adam's location of the Natural History Museum. As a kid I loved seeing them because they set the stage for what was to come! I was glad to see them again.
(The artist who created these beautiful sculptures is Norman Neal Deaton, click here for info on him.)

Sketching in the!
If you love to paint and draw birds, head to your local natural history museum and take advantage of the wonderful collections available to you. Being able to hold these specimens and view them up close gives you a greater understanding of a bird's structure. You can count the primaries and secondaries on the wing...see the underwing coverts...see all the bones and joints in the the unique S curve in a bird's neck or the bone structure in the wing and legs, or anything else you can think of. The knowledge you take home will help you draw birds better, and your appreciation of their amazing adaptations and abilities will grow.

If you're in Cincinnati, the Geier Collections and Research Center is located at 760 West Fifth Street. 
Click here to read more about it. 

Sketching on the boardwalk!
Another way to get up close with an extraordinary variety and number of birds is to visit the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (near Toledo, OH) in May where you can witness the amazing phenomena of spring migration. The trees along the boardwalk literally drip with neotropical migrants as they rest and fuel up for the last leg of their journey across Lake Erie to their nesting grounds up north. Head up to the Biggest Week in American Birding, May 6 - 15 where you can walk the boardwalk and meet lots of other birders too.

Click here for the Biggest Week in American Birding workshop information. 
Click here for festival registration information. 


Roy Norris said...

If only they would always sit as quietly as that Kelly. Lovely sketches.

Janice K said...

I never dreamed there was such a place...Wow!

Frank said...

Wow Kelly ... what a fabulous resource. I guess you were in 7th heaven with such a diverse selection to choose from.

Montanagirl said...

Wonderful place! Great sketches, and what a collection! Thank you for sharing.

Charlotte Wilson said...

Kelly, I am so impressed with your abilities. What a fun thing to do!

Lois Evensen said...

Goodness, this is some place! You are so very talented.

The Equestrian Vagabond said...

wow, nice sketches!
the trays of birds brings to mind those expeditions from the 1800's where the explorers bought back hundreds of specimens from their treks.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Elaine said...

What an wonderful opportunity for you and Matty! Excellent sketches, both yours and Matty's.

Laure Ferlita said...

Color me green with envy!! How fun that would be to sit and sketch those specimens. Great work from both you and Matty.

Banjo52 said...

It never occurred to me that a natural history museum would be so useful to artists, though it seems obvious now that you've pointed it out. Very interesting, as usual!