Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reasons why you need Katrina Van Grouw's _The Unfeathered Bird_

It Fills a Massive, Obvious Gap in Your Animal Anatomy Library - Remember way, way back in 2009 when I reviewed Eliot Goldfinger's massive tome Animal Anatomy for Artists?  And how I was so stunned and disappointed that, for all the gorgeous and rigorously accurate studies of a wide variety of mammals, he only illustrated the internal structure of one bird?  And it was a domestic chicken?  If you were just as put off by that, The Unfeathered Bird is for you.

It Makes That One Chicken Look Embarrassing - Really embarrassing.  Van Grouw has rendered staggeringly beautiful studies of at least one species of every major clade of extant theropod you can imagine and a not-insignificant number of clades you can't, plus a couple of extinct species.  She even goes so far as to illustrate the often insane extremes of domestic ducks, chickens, and pigeons.

It's a Comparative Anatomy Book in the Truest Sense - Van Grouw has grouped different unrelated clades of birds via a long-antiquated system that rather arbitrarily bunched similar-looking birds (ie, all long-legged, long-necked birds) together regardless of actual relationships.  The arrangement of the book, I will admit, confused me at first, but it facilitates comparison between species adapted to similar lifestyles.  She does clarify, as much as she can, who is actually related to who in the body text. 

Man, You Think You Know Birds... - There are some crazy reveals in this book.  Whooping Cranes have a windpipe that loops around inside the keel of their breastbone, creating essentially a live French horn.  Screamers posses vicious, claw-like spikes on their wrists.  Toucan nostrils face backwards.  Swifts have xygodactyl feet, quite contrary to every other illustration.  And, of course, necks lie.

It's Just Gorgeous - Seriously.  I can't imagine the work involved in preparing a book of this scope.  The fact that it's a fabulous work of art is icing on the cake.


Sketch of the Day! Had some visitors earlier this month.

2.28.13 Hawks