I often get asked why taxidermy and how does it work. Well the answer to why I picked it up all lies within my love nature. It all started with a fox. I absolutely love red foxes and one day I realized the closest I could get to owning one was to have one as a piece of taxidermy. (I know, kind of a morbid way of thinking, right?) But if you’ve ever seen the way my room is decorated you’d swear you were in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. So it’s not a far stretch from my taste in decor. As an artist I’m very picky about buying any handmade item. Every piece of taxidermy that fit my standard was well over a thousand dollars. That’s when my curiosity got the best of me. I had to know how the trade was done. I did my research and watched videos and realized that my artistic capabilities would allow me to be able to do this. All I needed was a tanned animal skin and some supplies. I started with a raccoon because I thought they were small enough and I wouldn’t feel as bad if it came out bad. When I received the raccoon I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. The tag read “XXL raccoon”. I swear this thing was bigger then a gray fox and that made me nervous. What if I couldn’t actually do it? I decided I just needed to go for it. When I was finished I realized that there might be something there. It looked pretty decent for a first attempt so I’ve kept on going ever since.
Once I started I realized that this new art form just brought my love for the outdoors and my love for the arts together. Taxidermy isn’t just throwing a skin on a sculpted form and calling it a day. It’s also a science. To make something that looks realistic you have to take time to study every inch of the animal. You have to know its anatomy, from the fur patterns and marking, all the way down to the muscle mass and bone structure. I literally have animal anatomy books stacked up on my desk and a huge skull collection at my house to help me with this. You also have to know how the animal moves in nature. As someone that’s always backpacking and rock climbing I feel very comfortable going out alone and just watching animals out doors and studying how they move. And if I cant come across anything I’ll take my search to Youtube. I need to know how I am going to pose this animal in the most natural way. I also like to make reference booklets (since I don’t feel like spending the money on buying one). I basically search for images off of Google and create a booklet in Indesign and print it for myself. Here are some example of images I’ve used for reference on my most recent project and why I chose them. (You can click on the images to enlarge them)
This one I chose because it shows a really good open and relaxed mouth.
This one also shows an open mouth but it’s in an aggressive pose. Take a look at the muscle detail on the face. I can mimic this by building up clay on the face to get this appearance.
This one I chose for the legs and ears. Take a look at the front leg. You can see where the bone hollows out towards the back of the forearm. That’s called the Ulna. For a more realistic piece of work you need to show this. The back legs also have similar detail.
This photo I chose for the nose. I like how you can see up close and how the fur blends in and turns into the nose.
This photo I found is a great example of what the form looks like before the fur is put on. You can see clay is used to sculpt all of the facial details in the face. The more detail you make the more realistic your piece will look once the skin is stretched over the clay and form work.
I can keep going on but I won’t. You can always email if you are interested in more information. As you can see there is a lot more to taxidermy then one would think. And this hardly scratches the surface. I can even go on even longer about eyes and facial detail but I’ll save that for a later post.