I am amassing a stable of very talented volunteers to help make this diorama.  Jenny Briggs, our coordinator of museum volunteers, has kept me going in normal times with at least one or two volunteers who come in on a weekly basis to help me do such things as cutout magazine photos for my photo file, skin birds for study skins, and make molds and casts.  But now is not a normal time.  I have a lot of work to do creating the foreground for the diorama and I will also be in the exhibit for eight weeks from February 27th to April 25th.   I plan to work Tuesdays to Saturdays during this time, so minimally, I’d like to have a trained volunteer working in the exhibit on Sundays.  At best, I’d rather not work alone so I can get away for a moment or two if need be.

Dorie Petrochko is a natural science illustrator/painter who I met almost a year ago when she brought me a frozen quail for taxidermy purposes.  It turns out I will use this very quail in the diorama (if, when mounted, it looks respectable!).  Dorie is interested in pursuing the idea of using carved birds as possible inclusions into the Pt Pelee diorama.  I carved three warblers for another one of our dioramas 7 or 8 years ago (two of the carvings are in the bog diorama on the third floor).  I made rubber molds of the carvings at that time and made lightweight polyurethane casts that were then painted, outfitted with tiny legs and glass eyes.  I have never been terribly happy with the results.  The bog foreground is shallow and the birds are close enough to see that they are casts.  So, Dorie and I want to see if we can make a carved bird pass on close inspection since the Pt Pelee foreground is even shallower than the bog’s.

Dorie Petrochko with birds

Dorie is working away right now to paint the cast bird as close to the color of the real plummage as possible.  She is working on a black-throated blue warbler and using a skin and a taxidermy mount as reference for her painting.  She is experimenting with some new vinyl paints that dry very matte, layering them to get the rich colors of the actual bird.  When the painting is finished, we’ll take feathers from the skin (which is too beat up to mount anyway) and glue them on to the painted cast.  We will start with just a few and assess what it looks like and use more if necessary.  I know all you purists are tut-tutting, but if it works, as I learned from James Perry Wilson, we will use it!

Dorie holding an underpainted cast and a taxidermy mount side-by-side

By the way, if you live near New Haven and can get a chance to visit the Environmental Science Center abutting the Peabody Museum, Dorie has several nice paintings and drawings of owls in the first floor hallway in a group exhibit of natural science illustrators.

Explore posts in the same categories: Preparing the Foreground

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