Through the Diorama Glass: We Go West

The 63 ft long canoe that hangs in the Grand Gallery of the AMNH is a sight to behold. Every time I pass by it I get an inevitable urge to climb in and launch an expedition.

And so did these buffalos. As migratory animals they traveled great distances (sometimes up to 400 miles) and roamed the plains of the West in search of warmer climates. They lived in proximity to many Native American tribes whose survival largely depended on them. So naturally these buffs would be curious about these peoples' cultural artifacts. (A lot of them made, ironically and literally, at the cost of their hides.)

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I'd sketched these guys at a number of after hours Animal Drawing sessions. I used my sketches from the past and referenced photos I took to create this scene. Drawing buffalo fur was one of the most fun color exercises. It's amazing how many different hues can go into simulating "one" color. (In this case 40+!)

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Through the Diorama Glass: Inception

My mind often wanders (and wonders) when wrapped in the surreal silence of an after hours museum. One of my favorite things about the AMNH drawing sessions was being part of this “secret” world and Pat’s many anecdotes about our friends in the many dioramas. I started seeing them step out from behind the glass to live out their second lives in different nooks and crannies of this beautiful museum. I decided it might be fun to document their revelry as a series of drawings. Around that time, Pat approached me about possibly having a show at the NYPL that her husband Maceo (another amazing artist) manages. This was how the “Through the Diorama Glass” series came to be formalized. I'll post some process sketches and thoughts behind each piece in the coming week.

True blue

True blue

The dioramas at the AMNH are truly magical. You can feel the passion, talent and attention that's required to create these windows into nature. Some of my favorite animals, though, reside in side passages and smaller group display cases. I came upon this lovely great blue heron when wandering the halls...

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Blended buff

Blended buff

The Hall of African Mammals reigns supreme at AMNH (imo). There's a majestic herd of elephants (one of the few open animal displays at the museum), beautifully bizarre okapi and even a full-sized giraffe! While it's tough to pick whom to draw from such a rich variety, I usually go with my gut reaction. I make eye-contact with the subject to see if we have a connection...

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Wiley

Wiley

The first drawing I fully rendered in color was of the howling coyote in the North American Mammals hall. This Canis Latrans diorama features Yosemite National Park viewed from a bank next to a stream. The painted background is breathtaking and melds seamlessly with the gravel in the foreground, making you feel like you're actually outside. The artwork inside the dioramas at AMNH are true gems and masterpieces in and of themselves...

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