A Swan Rediscovered

So, this trip through my book cases is yielding no end of distractions. Today, I rediscovered a commission that was never brought to fruition. Not by my hand, this time. This was long before I had denied myself permission to make art.

It began with a call out of the blue by an architect looking to fill a custom home with specially-made artwork designed for specific spaces. He wanted two full sized, flying trumpeter swans. I still had my confidence back then, and we discussed a price, and drew up a contract for payment milestones. This was huge, and I remember thinking this could be the project that would allow me to make art full time.As soon as I got the down payment, I could tell my then business clients that I was taking a year Sabbatical. We continued to talk and iron out the specifics, and I started the process of gathering every bit of reference I could. This included actual specimens, if possible. The deadline was a year, and at the pace I work, I would need every single day. Plus, sourcing large pieces of tupelo wood would take some time.

A phone call to the local Fish & Wildlife Service office for permission to possess a swan carcass was extremely well-timed. An officer just brought in two fairly fresh specimens – a juvenile that died of unknown causes, and an adult that some dumbass mistook for a snow goose.

(See any black on that bird other than the beak and feet? No? WHOA – then it’s gotta be an albino mega-snow goose! Shewt it!)

That evening I had a permit and two big freakin’ birds in my possession. I had three days to measure and photograph these beasts.

And I didn’t have a freezer big enough to store them.

What I DID have was sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and a big-assed 50 gallon cooler. Problem solved.

Long story short – I spent three days measuring, sketching and photographing every last inch of those swans – and the architect went incommunicado (and no signed contract returned). The upside was I still had my “day job”, no wood was ordered (I’m not that gullible), and I have over 500 detailed, 4000 ppi (pixels per inch) images of two magnificent birds. I was out a little money getting the film developed (it was before I went digital), but I don’t consider that money wasted. I borrowed a friend’s negative scanner, and set the resolution to the max, scanned and put them on DVDs. At that resolution, they can be printed huge.

So, here’s a little slideshow of some of the images (WARNING: Dead things). There may come a day when the swan gets made.

But it will be a day of my choosing. And on my terms.

  • Head measurements were done first thing, before the soft tissue began shrinking. Same with the feet.
    I have all the sketchbooks in the world, and I sketch in a notebook.
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