Common grackle skull, side view, drawn 2.5x size.
There's so much to absorb. If only I had a time machine! Then I could have all the years I wanted to improve, and explore history to learn even more. Packing my time-traveler bag with plague-resistant antibiotics and a few cases of deodorant, I could study under a Renaissance master...or attend an academic atelier in 19th century France...or even enroll at the Rhode Island School of Design before a BFA cost $260,000...
But seeing that I don't have a time machine (yet), I've attached myself to painter Jay Moore, instead.
I'm already seven weeks into his six month mentorship course, and am very impressed with what I've learned so far. Jay's methodology is to teach not so much technique, per se, but principles that often get overlooked when forming a painting -- or an art career. His motto is: "Go slow to go fast", meaning if you are careful to build up solid foundational skills, the mastery that you seek will quickly fall into place as a result.
Common grackle skull, top and bottom view, drawn 2.5x size.
It's a TON of work, about 30-40+ hours of assignments a week(!) so I'm holding off most commissions and illustration jobs until July. That being said, I'll be accepting a few small projects for the second half of the year in addition to working on another book, so please contact me in advance if you have something in mind and I can see what we can put together.
While drawing and painting like a madwoman, I've been schooling myself even further on birds. Once again: so much to learn. In addition to reading library books from CSU, there are quite a few really good ornithology talks and lectures to be found on YouTube. However the audio quality of these recorded talks is usually horrible, so I find myself threading them through a free trial of SoundSoap, which I highly recommend if you want an easy-to-use application to clean up bad sound on a podcast or video that you desperately want to watch, but just can't due to the buzzing, humming, or other background hubbub drowning out the info you want to hear.
Regarding the grackle skull: I found it in our backyard after all the snow melted. It was really amazing to draw from life, and I think I have a much better feeling for how that part of a grackle is put together. As I held it, I was impressed by how delicate and yet strong it was at the same time. Most grackle skull photos I've come across are missing the lower jaw bones, and nothing beats having the actual object right in front of you so you can explore its features from any angle you want. I wish the Denver Museum of Natural History* was close by, so I could draw things like this on a more regular basis. If you know of any good bird collections in Fort Collins that are accessible to the public, please let me know! Even if it's not as extensive as the one in Denver, it'd be a great help. Thanks!
*They changed the name to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science fifteen years ago for marketing reasons. I grew up with it being the Denver Museum of Natural History and am resistant to change.