In this, Michael’s sixth book, he has brought together the material collected during years of travelling to all 50 American States. The earliest trips at the beginning of the 1970’s were to research work for an exhibition at the Carl Battaglia Gallery in New York but the majority of trips through the 1980’s and early 1990’s were to gather material for projects initiated by Jim Helzer for the National Audubon Society and Unicover Corporation.
Some of the locations and birds shown in the book are well known but there are some specialist birds and less visited locations. The book conveys the varied habitats and landscapes and richness of both plant and birdlife to be found on this amazing continent. Michael has been able to combine the enthusiasm of the dedicated birdwatcher with the unique talent of an artist able to portray the atmosphere and often intricate environment in which the birds exist and to convey the varied tapestry of American birdlife.
"Maybe it is just me, but sometimes when I pick up a book, I just know that I am going to enjoy it. I appreciate that it is partly clever design and marketing of the dust jacket by the publisher, and the cover image of a blue jay Cyanocitta cristata is certainly a stunner. Nevertheless, the feeling was there telling me that this is my kind of book, and within lay the joys of handling something real, with pages and its own smell, as opposed to a piece of plastic with words on it. Put simply, American Birding Sketchbook is an avian celebration, and turning every page revealed a spread bursting with colour and vibrancy. My instincts were confirmed – this is a happy book!
The premise of the book evolved from sketches and notes amassed by Mike Warren during the 1980s and 1990s, when various projects involved visits to all 50 states in the USA! For years the notebooks lay largely dormant, but not forgotten. It is apparent that the author had been itching to work on this task and when the opportunity arose he pulled out all the stops. The majority of the states are given a double-page spread, packed to the rafters with birds, foliage and scenery, providing a sense of place and atmosphere. Where there has been more to describe, a few birds have flitted over onto extra pages. With a cast of thousands, it is difficult to pick out any one favourite and with each reread new birds seem to have arrived on the pages, but I now know that I really want to see the acorn woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus.
I freely admit that I admire Mike's work and I love painting American birds. So I shouldn't be surprised at my own reaction to this book. But in my view, it shows some of his most relaxed work to date; he obviously took delight in the process of putting this folio together. It might be a cliché, but if you relish top-quality wildlife art, this large-format tome will make the perfect Christmas indulgence. It will definitely be joining the others on my shelf marked 'comfort reading'; don't be caught asleep at the back..."
- Dan Powell, www.britishbirds.co.uk, 14-11-2012
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