Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Unfeathered Bird

When drawing or painting birds, it’s easy to get preoccupied with the feathers. But the skeletal structure beneath the feathers is equally amazing, and not as commonly studied. (Below: Jackass Penguin.)


Artist Katrina van Grouw has written and illustrated a new book called The Unfeathered Bird, which takes a meticulous look at the hidden architecture inside the bodies of birds.

Formerly the curator of ornithology for London’s Natural History Museum, van Grouw produced the drawings based on actual mounted specimens. She also wrote the fascinating and readable text, which explains the function behind the structure. The book has 385 of her pencil drawings, all in natural life postures, illustrating all the major groupings of birds, from hummingbirds to penguins to songbirds to ostriches. There are both skeletal and muscular studies.

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The title page of the Poly-Olbion, an epic topographical poem…

The title page of the Poly-Olbion, an epic topographical poem written by Michael Drayton and published in 1612.

Written in iambic hexameter, the thirty songs in Drayton’s book describe all of the counties of 17th Century England and Wales. Although he intended to add a third volume to the work, Drayton never did get around to covering Scotland.

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Cthulhu Labyrinth

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Something I was working on last August when I was putting together new pictures for the Cthulhu calendar, I’d actually forgotten about this until this week. The idea was to do something that was more of an abstract design than the rest of the art; having got this far I was undecided whether I wanted to try and incorporate the labyrinth shape into a larger picture. With time running out and nothing resolved I ended up using the Keep Calm Cthulhu design which, looking back, I feel this alone could easily have replaced. (They both share the same Cthulhu glyph.) As it is I may make this one available as another CafePress design since it’s more suited to T-shirts and things. If it needs a justification then consider the story of The Call of Cthulhu as a labyrinthine investigation which reveals Cthulhu dreaming at its centre.

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The labyrinth of Versailles

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I ought to have mentioned this last week since a plan of the lost labyrinth of Versailles appears in the William Henry Matthews book. The labyrinth was completed for Louis XIV in 1677, and is unusual for being a series of paths without a central focus, and also a very ornamental affair containing thirty-nine fountains with accompanying statuary which depicted the animals from Aesop’s fables. The latter were a suggestion of Charles Perrault from whose Labyrinte de Versailles (1677) these illustrations are taken. The etchings are by Sébastian Le Clerc whose map shows the route that visitors would have taken in order to visit each fountain in turn. The book may be browsed here or downloaded here.

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