Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

I've long wondered why many ornithologists are also artists. The natural sciences attract artists or inspire creativity more than any other discipline. Many ornithologists are as well known for their art as for their research and scientific publications.

For some ornithologists, the art came after the science. Perhaps, after a point, words were not an efficient way to describe birds. Maybe the beauty of birds inspired creativity. However, for most, art and bird study were dual interests that usually began at an early age.

Every birder has heard of John James Audubon or Roger Tory Peterson I would like acquaint you with two ornithologists who are excellent artists but maybe not as well known. They both deserve more space than this blog can provide.

George Miksch Sutton
holds a special place in my bird watcher's heart. His illustrated book
Fifty Common Birds of Oklahoma and the Southern Great Plain was one my first books about birds long ago.

George was born in Bethany, Nebraska in1898. Until his death in 1982 he was Professor Emeritus at the University of Oklahoma. He is considered the most prominent ornithologist of his time. He published 201 journal articles and 13 books.

His interest in art and birds began when he was five years old. He published his first bird drawing when he was 12. By age 16, George had published articles in The Oologist and Bird-Lore.

In 1915 he began corresponding with the great nature artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes. He later published his correspondence as To a Young Bird Artist, a book that should be read by every bird artist.

In 1918, George began work at the Carnegie Museum, in charge of the egg collection. In 1925, George left Carnegie to become State Ornithologist for Pennsylvania. While there, he defended birds of prey from hunters. in 1952 he was named Professor of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma.

Some of his many books are, Bird Student an Autobiography, At a Bend in a Mexican River, Birds Worth Watching, Birds of Pennsylvania, and Baby Birds.

Olivia Bouler is a very talented and special young lady.
At age 11 she was very saddened by the horrible oil spill along the gulf coast, a place she often visited. She knew she had to help in some way.

She wrote a letter to the National Audubon Society suggesting her fund raising idea, offering to sell her art work for donations to help the gulf oil spill recovery.. She donated 500 original paintings and has since raised
close to $200,000 to aid the cleanup.

Olivia even visited her representatives in Washington, to express her concern over the gulf and was named a Hometown Hero by Congressman Steve Israel. She was also named ASPCA Kid of The Year, Kohl's Cares National Winner, Artist Inspiring Conservation Award by the Audubon Society, and a Champion of Change by the White House.

Her bird paintings are a pure delight, full of beauty and freshness that only such a talented young woman could create. Her passion for birds is obvious. She is an inspired artist, dedicated, and a darn good saxophone player.

 You can see her and her artwork at her website at She recently published her illustrated book,
book, Olivia's Birds, Saving the Gulf,


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