Lars Jonsson: Sketching and Painting Birds

August 4, 2009


Above: Adelie Penguins at Brown Bluff
Antarctic Peninsula 21.1.2009, Watercolor 32 x 50 cm,
©Lars Jonsson. Click on the artist's name to go to the sketchbook section of his website to see this and other examples of his field work.

In my June 29 post on a documentary film on wildlife artists sketching in South America I mentioned the bird artist Lars Jonsson. I recommend that film for people wanting glimpses of Jonsson working. However, the film reminded me that there were gaps in my library and I have since picked up two spectacular books containing Jonsson's artwork.

I have been reading through the following books this summer, savoring the gorgeous paintings and sketches. If you care about bird paintings or watercolor I recommend that you purchase both volumes to have as inspiration, constantly at hand.

Lars Jonsson: Birds and Light
This large (12 x 11 1/2 inches), thick volume seems also to be available in Swedish, but since I don't read Swedish…The book contains an introductory essay about bird art and Jonsson's place in the field and then is followed with chapters on his life and developing art. The reproductions in this book are fantastic, being both clear and crisply printed and presented in large plates often occupying the entire page. You really get to see the detail of his lines, his brush strokes, his overlaping color. The expressiveness of his art, whether it is impromptu field work or finished paintings really comes through in this book.

Lars Jonsson's Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon
This only slightly smaller volume (9 3/4 x 12 inches) is every bit as rich visually. The book is based on the exhibition catalog of Jonsson's first show in the Federal Republic of Germany in 2008. It begins with some essays on his work and is filled with large reproductions of his artwork (including early works and sketchbook art). There are also some photographs of the artist at work in his studio and in the field.

Don't ask me to recommend one of these books over the other if you are budget-conscious. We all need to be so. I made the choice to do without some "essentials" (artisan ice cream, more paper to test) so I could purchase them both. They are different and I love them both for different reasons. I made the right choice! If you have no luxuries or no "not quite essential essentials" to kick out of your budget you probably should get Near Horizon, which is still readily available, while it's available, so you don't miss both of them while you're saving up.

    • Pam perry
    • August 5, 2009


    Thanks for mentioning these books — it reminded me to order “Lars Jonsson’s Birds.” It’ll come in handy when I go to hear Jonsson speak in September, sponsored by various centers of Mass Audubon (coincidentally, this just appeared in my email this morning). Jonsson has a history with Mass Audubon as he illustrated the wonderful “Nature of Massachusetts” in 1996. The event is listed as one of his “rare public appearances.”

    While I’m here, I thought I’d mention one of my favorite bird artists, Barry Van Dusen ( He’s done a number of the Artists for Nature Foundation trips (including the one to Ecuador and Peru that you wrote about) and just got back from the latest ANF project in Israel. Plus he occasionally puts up with my questionable watercolor technique in his classes!

    Thanks for giving time to birds — I’m a passionate birder and love reading your observations on these fascinating creatures.

    Pam Perry

    • Roz
    • August 6, 2009

    Pam, you lucky duck! Seeing Jonsson talk in person! You have to let me know how it goes!

    Thanks for the link to Bary Van Duesen. I’ll go look at it right away!

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