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A Parting Look at My Lion’s Cover Journal

February 19, 2010

Finishing my Lion’s cover journal with puffins.
100124Puffins Left: A spread in my journal made with Lion's Cover paper from Barcham Green (a defunct paper). Atlantic Puffins. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache.

A blog reader wrote in last month, when I was posting my sketches of puffins at the Como Zoo, with questions about which type of puffin they were. I haven't looked that up yet. (The trouble with indexed journals is that while I can find every sketch I've made at Como my index doesn't tell me on which page I noted down the puffin species! When I sketch things repeatedly I have a tendency to not make complete notes each time I sketch.) With luck I'll be able to get over to Como again in the next few days and solve this mystery.

In the meantime imagine my surprise when one day I was eating my lunch and channel flipping and found a bunch of Atlantic puffins marching along a rock outcrop on a travel show! They are lovely birds and much more colorful than the ones we have at Como. I couldn't resist grabbing my journal and shuffling them up. That allowed me to leave out bits I couldn't see in a mass of birds, while still getting practice with a variety of expressions. A happy way to start the afternoon: lunch and sketching birds without even leaving home!

  1. Reply

    Roz, the thing I like most about your sketches is the attitude that you capture from the bird. They are so animated! Love the composition here and the gouache application.

    • karen
    • February 19, 2010
    Reply

    They are remarkable birds. They spend most of their time at sea and really only visit land for nesting. I’m grateful for the birds that have altered their lives to live in our zoo.

    • Roz
    • February 19, 2010
    Reply

    Thanks Donna, I do love the looks of birds. I wonder sometimes if they all don’t still think they are dinosaurs and are saying to themselves, “Hmmm. I could take that!”

    • Roz
    • February 19, 2010
    Reply

    Karen, I know what you mean. I love those zoo birds. They make me happy. I could visit them every day, I never tire of watching them, with their buoyant bodies.

    • Christina Trevino.
    • February 19, 2010
    Reply

    “I’m grateful for the birds that have altered their lives to live in our zoo.”
    “Karen, I know what you mean. I love those zoo birds. They make me happy.”
    Roz, I admire your intelligence and your art, but I am sorry to tell you that no matter what a wonderful cage these birds have in a zoo, it is a cage!!! It is not a great life in their own freedom.
    Those birds have not “altered their lives” willingly, somebody thought it would be great for humans to have animals in cages, so they can go and be happy looking at them!!!
    I know you are not going to accept this comment, but man! I feel so bad sometimes being part of this…humanity.

    • Roz
    • February 20, 2010
    Reply

    Christina, you and I have a different view of zoos. (I’ll let Karen speak for herself, though she had I have talked some about this.)

    I think zoos are necessary in our society. I’m not naive—I know the birds live in a cage. But I also know that zoo animals get care (medical, nutritional) that they don’t get in the wild. There’s a precarious balance between how their lives are extended with those aids and curtailed with the lack of freedom.

    And I also know that it’s human hubris to collect animals.

    But for me the bottom line is that many people in this world never see an animal, never SMELL an animal, never hear its breath.

    Zoos put people in closer contact with animals so that they can observe them. Their whole previous relationship to animals is based on “wild kingdom type” shows.

    While many such shows are educational and have raised people’s awareness about animals and their habitat many are also sentimental and unscientific.

    NOTHING converts a child to a naturalist more quickly than standing at the glass in the Polar Bear pool and going eye to eye with that polar bear as he turns, pushes off that glass, expels hot air that steams the glass (startling the ears)—smelling that bear as he smells the child.

    I see this every trip I take to the zoo, when children are allowed to reach their wonder towards the animals, unfettered or edited by adult limitations and mutters (“God it smells in here” instead of comments about herbivores and their diet).

    These are the children who grow up wanting to help animals and their habitats. These are the children who are going to grow up to save the world. The smell of life and the sight of sharp crisp texture and fluid eye will haunt them until they do so.

    Zoos, well-run (and granted not all are, so it is important to support standards and improvements) are places where man can come face to face with his own hubris and do something about it. Learn about his own impact and interaction on the planet with all species. Most importantly—learn about the consequences of his choices (on the use of the planet and its habitat and resources), and then leave and DO SOMETHING about it.

    Zoos hold hope. It’s not an ideal situation, but they do contain a path to a better situation.

    Sketching those birds has given me thousands of opportunities to talk to kids about the birds, about their habitat, about nature, about sketching. You can see when the seeds take. You can see even when a nonsupportive parent simply smiles, that the child knows there is something different in life, a different way to be, a different way to earn a living, a different way to think. So zoos are also subversive in the best of ways.

    These birds make me happy because birds are such a great gift in the world and I can get close enough to really see them. (We live in the age of dinosaurs, they are all around us.) When I see these Puffins and sketch them, each time I have a renewed sense of the miraculous about ALL birds. I can tell you that it influences where I donate money and it influences other choices I make in life. That happiness breeds wonder and humility which leads to civic responsibility. I don’t think that’s a bad deal for the world.

    And imperfect equation. Yes. Individuals on both sides are caught in it. But there are a lot of hopeful outcomes.

    At any rate, I’m sorry you feel badly about being part of humanity because of the zoos. There are lots of things to cause my hopes to dwindle, but for me zoos offer that moment of contact these city kids need to help them to grow up and make responsible choices. All the lecturing in the world isn’t going to sway them, but one flash of feather, inches away, that wing-beat’s breath of air on the cheek (in the walk through aviary at the Minnesota Zoo for instance) will have them for life.

    I know. I’m one of those children.

    • Christina Trevino.
    • February 20, 2010
    Reply

    Roz, yes, we are opposites in the caged animals issue, and pets.
    And, I don’t feel bad being a part of humanity because of the zoos, that’s just a little part of it. I hope next time I’ll be a bird, but not in a zoo!
    I hope you are right about all those children that are going to be naturalists and that will save the world because they had a zoo to watch the animals.
    I think positive people like you are the best bet.

    • Roz
    • February 20, 2010
    Reply

    Christina, I would be pleased if only one or two such children became naturalists. But I know that the experience can make people more responsible—and that’s what we need. Responsible people regardless of their occupations.

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