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December 16, 2010

Wednesday I spent most of the day installing the birds in the diorama.  I was able to place seven warblers, two quail, one Fowler’s toad, and a hognose snake.  The quail, toad, and snake have all been extirpated from Point Pelee.  Greg Watkins Colwell, Peabody’s herpetology collections manager, suggested that pesticides wiped out the Fowler’s toad which left the hognose snake without a food source and the quail were hunted out of existence either by humans or possibly, cats.  We will create signage for the diorama that will tell this all-too-common story.  This diorama will then have an additional purpose to teach about habitat destruction and human impact on environments.  I am letting the dust settle for the day and Thursday, I will paint out repairs and we will install the glass viewing window.  Rick Prum and Kristof Zyskowski will have to critique the final installation and if there are any changes, I will make them at that time.  Dorie Petrochko wants to come back and paint a bit more on some of her birds.  here are the photos:

Installing a black-throated blue warbler model. I find that the bird carvings work better when they are not directly visible. In this case I have positioned the model behind a Solomon Seal wildflower.

Installing the prairie warbler model. I had to splice the branch on the larger branch using insect pins and epoxy putty.

Black-throated blue warbler model and taxidermied quail.

Fowler's toad by the late Dave Parsons. This model was cast in latex rubber directly from a specimen and painted with oil paint

Nashville warbler model on an aluminum wire with a grass stem glued over it.

Almost finished diorama without the glass.


Rick Prum, Ornithologist, Yale Peabody Museum

Kritof Zyskowski, Ornithology collections manager, Yale Peabody Museum

Jane Pickering, Assistant Director, Yale Peabody Museum

Walter Brenckle and John  construction shop, Yale Peabody Museum

Dorie Petrochko, painted bird carvings (Black-throated Blue Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Connecticut Warbler)

Jill Heathman, painted bird carvings (Nashville Warbler)

The late Dave Parsons, taxidermist, Yale Peabody Museum (Yellow-breasted Chat, Hognose Snake, Fowler’s Toad)

Alexis Brown, painted the juniper needles and stems

Patrick Sweeney, Collections Manager, Botany, Yale Peabody Museum helped identify and locate trees, juniper and grasses.  Patrick also helped finding the dried specimens

Michael Bobbie, help constructing the foreground

My wife and kids for help collecting sand


My New Blog

November 9, 2010

I have shifted over to a new project for the time being as we construct the case for the diorama.  Peabody is going to have a new exhibit on parasitic insects in June 2011, so I am making giant insect models of bedbugs and head lice.  Check out another kind of museum preparation at:

JPW at the Natl. Academy of Sciences

May 10, 2010

I was in Washington DC for most of last week.  I had a museum mountmaking conference at the Smithsonian on Weds and Thurs, but I took Friday to visit the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  The NAS is a Goodhue building (1924) and James Perry Wilson had a prominent role in its construction.  The museum has two artworks from 1922 by Wilson on display.  One is a watercolor rendering of the building and the other is an oil on canvas of the building by moonlight.

I couldn’t help think how Wilson studied how to paint moonlit landscapes all through his life.  This puts his study of moonlight back into the early 1920’s.  I know of two other moonlit seascapes from Monhegan painted in the 1920’s.  Conrad Schweiring writes about how Wilson at age 69 came out West in the summer of 1959 on an expedition to collect reference paintings/photographs for the Badger and the Flying Squirrel dioramas in the Small Mammal Hall at the AMNH.  The Flying Squirrel  is a nocturnal diorama and he and Wilson stayed up one night during the full moon to practice  painting by moonight.  They concluded that all the colors are present in a moonlit landscape, but they are all muted down by the gray, which puts them close together in value.  The Racoon diorama is also a nocturnal diorama and it predates the Flying Squirrel by 6 or 7 years.  I always remember the Racoon diorama because it has tiny specks of broken mirror glued to the background painting to catch light from above to simulate stars.  It is a quite convincing effect-not to mention baffling if you don’t know how it is done.  I thought they had drilled holes in the wall to let light from behind shine through!

There are also several plein air paintings JPW paintied at night.  There are a couple of houses painted in the moonlight with light shing out from the windows-very similar to the NAS painting.  There are at least three seascapes From Monhegan painted in the moonlight.

Done With the Dunes (for now)

April 24, 2010

Point Pelee Foreground at the time of the exhibit closing.

Today was my last day “on exhibit”.  It was quite eventful because I had a visit from Harry McChesney who painted dioramas at the NY State Museum in Albany.  Harry is the only diorama painter other than Sean Murtha who has ever tried out JP Wilson’s gridding ideas.  He gave me a copy of his grid drawings for the Mastodon diorama many years ago.  They are unlike anything I’ve seen of Wilson’s, but they clearly grid the background the same way.  I have been interested in these drawings because in many cases, Wilson would produce his grids on paper.  He was absolutely conversant in architectural methods using plans and elevations on an architect’s drawing table to find the measurements and bring them to the museum.

Harry told me that he started this diorama in 1973 and wanted to grid it because the background was an irregular curve.  He produced the drawings and was ready to start, but the administration thought he was taking too long, so they hired Jan Vriessen from Canada to paint the background.  Vriessen projected slides onto the background and painted what was projected.  Harry assisted Vriessen.  How many things are wrong with this picture!  I’ll ask my friend Nat Chard to submit something to the blog about why projecting slides is a bad idea.  Harry said if Wilson were there he would have walked off the job.

Close up from today April 24, 2010

On Monday, the diorama (with it’s new foreground) will be wrapped in plastic and a wall built around it right in the exhibit gallery.  It will “sleep” behind the wall while the next exhibit is running.  After that exhibit closes in three months, the construction shop will have time to build the presentation case for the diorama.  It will include a 54″X54″ window on a slant and a light box on top.  Then it will be installed permanently in the CT. Bird Hall.  During the next 3-4 months while the diorama is walled up, I will work on the taxidermy mounts and the plants to get them ready for installation-in the prep lab down in the basement of the Peabody.  It was great to be “on display” and I met a lot of interesting people and some awesome kids, but I am ready to not have to be “ON” all the time and work quietly by myself or with my volunteers in my shop.  Look for the diorama in the Bird Hall this fall.

Hello world!

November 5, 2009

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