Friday, September 3, 2010

Road Trip/Sketchbook Journal: RTP Redux

 (from carving by Ralph Sandquist)

Anytime I'm anywhere near the area, one of the must-see places not to miss is the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in J-town, New York. While I've written previously about this wonderful repository for a regional giant in the world of art and ornithology, it's well worth a quick mention here again for a few new items on display - and as with any gallery, repeat trips will never fail to re-inspire and reveal many unanticipated pleasures and discoveries. Something that I hadn't yet seen was a rash of more originals by Peterson himself, including the poignant "Flycatcher" plate (left), which was left unfinished the morning of July 28th, 1996 in preparation for the fifth edition revised of "Field Guide to Eastern Birds" - Peterson died peacefully in his sleep later that same day. Also on display were pages and pages of journals and letters written by Peterson, which really helped establish an intimate connection with the artist and put the artwork within a more real, immediate and personal context. (More after the jump)
The sketch posted up top above was from an amazing wood sculpture/carving created by Jamestown carver Ralph Sandquist. I can never pass up an opportunity to study from a master, especially such a craftsman who can render a flicker in 3D: that species in particular plays a vital role in an upcoming work of historical fiction I'm developing about Peterson, as a pivotal scene depicts an experience he had cradling a Northern Flicker in his hands. Seeing first-hand the intricacy with which another artist depicts the form with such meticulous detail and faithful accuracy (a hallmark of, and homage to, Peterson's own artwork - too bad it's fallen into the hands of a cartoonist). As I teach in Beginning Drawing, there are always invaluable lessons to be learned in sketching the works of accomplished artists: despite bringing up the obvious comparative weakness in one's own work it can only serve to motivate further study and better work. 
Two other artists were exhibiting their work in the gallery: “Seeing the Trees” by Warren, PA artist Thomas Paquette was a series of intimate portrayals of landscapes, many taken from scenes around the grounds of the Institute and painted with gouache and oil. The other show was “Nature From Steel” showcased fascinating sculptures by Mary Taylor with an astonishing technique in welding bronze and steel rods that in many cases seem as alive in postured energy as the subjects themselves. We also got to attend an annual "Art in the Woods" event at the Jamestown Audubon Center & Sanctuary where many regional artisans and craftspeople were displaying their wares and doing demonstrations.

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