Monday, October 19, 2009

Berry: Observation and Memory

Alaskan Field Sketches
William Berry (1926-1978) was an animal artist who did few finished paintings, but many masterful field sketches.For three summers, from 1954-1956, he worked in Camp Denali in Alaska, recording his observations of bear, lynx, moose, voles, and porcupines.

In the margins of his sketches, he noted whether the sketches were from observation on the spot, or from memory later when he returned to his cabin——or sometimes a combination of both.

I devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to simply recording the facts of animal life—hundreds of hours and thousands of drawings in the zoo or in the forests, on mountains, in deserts, or plains. A caribou, for example, is never going to hold still for you, and a photograph of him, though useful for many reasons, is never going to show him doing exactly what you want him to be doing for a particular illustration. You have to learn the beast inside-out and upside-down, so that you can put him together on the page from scratch.

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His book of Alaskan Field Sketches
 is a treasure for anyone interested in animal drawing or animal behavior.

Thanks, Carl R. and thanks to this site for the images.

13 comments:

Christian Supiot said...

Have you anything with Amazon? ;)

Thanks for the info. Nice draws

James Gurney said...

Christian, I usually just offer the Amazon link because I'm lazy; I don't mean to overlook the many other used book dealers. But I did a check on Bookfinder on this one, and there are copies on Half.com and Powell's and a few others, but Amazon comes up cheapest.

For helpful tips on finding used books on the web, check out Armand Cabrera's blog post:
http://artandinfluence.blogspot.com/2009/09/finding-art-books.html

ivo.de.wispelaere said...

I have been teaching myself how to draw horses (horses are the mother of all difficult things to draw). I think that, when drawing animals, you have to be familiar with their anatomy. And so I've been studying their bone structure, muscles, and comparing that to all I knew about the human body (because we're all mammals after all).
My goal was (and still is) to be able to draw a horse from any view by hart.

Knowing the link between human and horse anatomy and studying them from books first, it was much easier later on to draw a horse in real life, just because I knew where to look at, and to invent what I couldn't see...

Steve said...

Many (in fact so far, almost all) of the older books mentioned in Gurney Journey are available using the public library's inter-library loan system. The reach of this system varies with locality, but it's where I always look first before seeking to buy. Berry's book of Alaskan sketches will be traveling to me via my local library within the next week. I'm really looking forward to it!

JenniferGOliver said...

Wow! Very inspirational. I've heard it rumored that there's a fox den in graveyard at the end of my street. This makes me want to pack up my sketchbook and find it!

Thanks for telling us about him! I've never heard of him before and I will order the book. (I ordered yours just yesterday ;-).

Christian Supiot said...

Sorry James, it was only a woke... not a serius comment... Sorry if i "sounds" bad.

Including links it's usefull anyway... And i can not click on it if i dont want.

minkee said...

Those bears. It really puts me to shame. I draw bears out my head all the time but I have absolutely no clue what a real one looks like. At least I have the excuse of being in a completely bearless country, I suppose.

Those bears!

Anderhowl said...

Wow. This book is going on my birthday list. I'm so glad to have found your blog, James!

Michael Bech said...

Is it the same Bill Berry mentioned here (scroll down to the fourth image from the bottom) by Gregory S. Paul?

http://gspauldino.com/part1.html

Paul seems to be very fond of his dinosaur paintings.

James Gurney said...

Michael, yes, I believe it's the same Bill Berry. He did several murals, including one called "An Alaskan Fairy Tale", which he was working on at the time of his death. It was done for the Fairbanks public library for what is now the Berry Room and was finished by Trina Hyman. (Thanks to Carl Ramm for this).

Michael Bech said...

Thanks! His dinosaurs seem to have been very much ahead of his time.

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John Muir Laws said...

Bill Berry is a treasure. I have never seen any artist capture the energy and anatomy of mammals as clearly with a pencil. I had the opportunity to meet his wife and students on a visit to Alaska. You can see more of his work in the book Mammals of the San Francisco Bay area and the coloring book Animal Friends of Yosemite. If anyone has not yet done so, get Gurney's Color and Light. It is an amazing resource and brilliant book.