My earlier work
Here are some images – scans from the pages of a 35-year-old magazine – of paintings that were published in Adirondack Life. These were presented as “The Birds of Steven Jay Sanford” in the June 1978 issue – the same time I started my career as a Wildlife Ecologist with NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. I had been painting steadily for the previous couple of years but then began my chosen profession on a permanent basis – finally. As it turned out, my profession was too demanding to allow for more painting at this level of effort. Although I have carved and painted throughout the years of my conservation career, my efforts have had to be somewhat less time-intensive.
These Evening Grosbeaks remain among my favorite paintings. The birds themselves have so much presence that I could not help but have one – the female – stare right at the viewer.
The Orioles and the Redstarts were paired in the magazine because of the obvious parallels in color and composition. I did not match the size of the images here because I always worked life-size – and the Oriole is, in life, markedly larger than the Redstart,
These paintings were each done in the traditional medium of bird illustrators: a very dry watercolor technique. Each piece would be completed over the course of a week – with the actual drawing and painting taking at least 20 hours at my drawing table. I spent lots of time observing birds from life, but – whenever possible – the challenge of accurately drawing any bird was much easier if I had a specimen in hand.
Portraying the plant life was as much fun as – and really quite a bit easier than – portraying the birds. I recall that my college botany professor got interested in plants the same way I did. We both started out with a passion for birds, then wanted to know more about “that tree” or “that flower” or “that shrub” it was using – and probably relied upon for some aspect of its life. My conservation career followed a similar path, first protecting the birds (or other wildlife) and then their habitats.
Timeless portraits.Classy in every way.
You are living the dream, my friend. Long into the future you efforts will speak with a clear voice of you passion and times afield.