Sometimes I feel a little bit crazy as an artist, the reason being I've always been fascinated by dead animals. There is a great history of artists learning from carcasses, bones and cadavers. You may feel it's morbid ,however, I feel that there is so much to be gained from studying from life.
When I create pet portraits, I use photography to capture the animal, often using less than perfect images. As a vet nurse I have had the opportunity to see animals lying still during anaesthesia , and anatomy from the inside during surgery. For me, combining the knowledge is essential to creating a portrait.
Last week I attended a drawing class at the Royal Vet College, it was in their museum. I was totally blown away! Inside the museum there were the most amazing specimens, ranging from an elephant skeleton to a baby snake emerging from an egg. Most surprisingly there were a variety skulls from different dog breeds and a full skeleton of a chihuahua,which had been donated to the museum by the dogs owner.
I chose to draw a tawny owl. As I drew it, I was amazed by the delicacy of the bones of the skull, yet the legs bones seemed a lot more substantial. I spent about 45 minutes looking and drawing and the more I looked the more I saw. It made me respect this bird much more for it's amazing structure and how it is so perfect for catching small animals. When I see a tawny owl in future I'll be more aware of the whole bird rather than just its eyes and feathers!
A while ago I visited the Childwickbury Art Fair. I met an amazing artist called Camilla Clutterbuck. What attracted me to her stall was the fact that she was drawing a real birds nest and had a collection of tiny skulls that she encouraged people to examine. Camilla practises the art of scrimshaw, which is engraving into bone, I believe the practice was first started by whalers in the 1700's, alongside her other work of exquisite natural history paintings.
She gave me some good advice about my love of natural history, bones and bodies ' Be true to yourself ' she said when I said I was concerned that people visiting my studio may be put off by any bones or taxidermy I might have on display.
I feel natural history is the most natural thing to be interested in and there has always been a link between science and art. So when it comes time for my Open Studio, don't be surprised when you see skulls next to my paint brushes!
You can find Camilla's work here http://camillaclutterbuck.co.uk/
Minnie Teckman, I'm a fine artist that loves oil painting, drawing, portraiture, animals and urban sketching.