Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Unfeathered Bird

When drawing or painting birds, it’s easy to get preoccupied with the feathers. But the skeletal structure beneath the feathers is equally amazing, and not as commonly studied. (Below: Jackass Penguin.) 

Artist Katrina van Grouw has written and illustrated a new book called The Unfeathered Bird, which takes a meticulous look at the hidden architecture inside the bodies of birds. 

Formerly the curator of ornithology for London's Natural History Museum, van Grouw produced the drawings based on actual mounted specimens. She also wrote the fascinating and readable text, which explains the function behind the structure. The book has 385 of her pencil drawings, all in natural life postures, illustrating all the major groupings of birds, from hummingbirds to penguins to songbirds to ostriches. There are both skeletal and muscular studies. 

(Above: Orange-winged Parrot) The text avoids needless technical jargon, which makes it accessible to a wide range of people. Among the readers of this blog, I would recommend it to bird painters, creature designers, dinosaur artists, science illustrators, and anyone with an interest in birds.

(Above, Great Hornbill.) Van Grouw explains interesting facts about birds on every page, such as:

• Toucans aren’t strong fliers, and often collapse from exhaustion if they have to fly across a wide river.

• On most birds, the femurs are oriented horizontally in their perching or walking position, pointing forward in order to establish the legs closer to the center of gravity.

• On songbirds, the neck has a strong S-curve inside the form which allows the head to extend or retract without disturbing the airfoil shape of the outer form.

• The extensions on the back of the tongue of a woodpecker fit into a furrow that wraps all the way around the back skull.

The hardback book is 10 by 12 inches, published by Princeton University Press 


My Pen Name said...

a little off topic reminds me of a Howard Pyle quote about painting nudes- it's like 'painting a plucked chicken' :)

Novice Naturalist said...

Just ordered a copy! Thanks for sharing the info on this book.

Rich said...

People eating chicken don't observe to that extent;-)

What an (amazingliy drawn) precision engineering hidden in those beautiful appearances - went right under my skin.

Jillian Lambert said...

Fascinating introduction to a book I will definitely have to buy at some point. Thank you for sharing it!

AnkatsArt said...

What a great book :) I will purchase it as soon as possible. Since I want to specialize in ornithology with my scientific illustrations it will be a great ressource for me :) Thank you or sharing this with us.

Pavel Pinzhin said...

Huge thanks for sharing! I will have to wait untill it's on e-bay or something, since Amazon doesn't work with my country... :)