According to Wikipedia, John James Audubon (1785-1851) developed his own methods for drawing birds. First he killed them using fine shot. He then used wires to prop them into a natural position. His paintings of birds were set true-to-life in their natural habitats. He often portrayed them as if caught in motion, especially feeding or hunting. This was in stark contrast to the stiff representations of birds by his contemporaries. All species were drawn to life size which accounts for the contorted poses of the larger birds (such as the Great Blue Heron, pictured above) as Audubon strived to fit them within the maximum page sizes his publishers dictated. Larger birds were often placed in their ground habitats or perching on stumps. I always used to feel the contorted poses looked somewhat contrived and painful, but now appreciate them fully for their overall mastery and beauty. These days when I look at some of the photos I have taken of birds, such as the Great Blue Heron (pictured below) in Cozumel, I realize that the birds themselves often contort their shapes and positions into remarkable and bizarre poses.
Photo by BarrytheBirder
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