BCR 196: Richard Allen, Birds of Paradise & Bowerbirds

Richard Allen, Wildlife Artist and Illustrator of the recently published book, Birds Of Paradise and Bowerbirds sits down with Mardi Dickinson for the exclusive talk about this book and his illustrations within.

Richard Allen’s work has gradually drifted towards his main interest of birds and wildlife especially after winning British Birds – Bird Illustrator of the year in 1993. Moving to Essex in 1988, and more recently to Wivenhoe, the bird rich estuaries and marshes of the Essex coast have provided an endless source of inspiration and fueled a passion for field-sketching. Richard enjoys the immediacy of working directly from nature, trying to capture the life and vitality of wild birds, and the patterns of plumage, light, water and foliage.

This essential field experience has proves invaluable when working on paintings in the studio, or when illustrating bird identification guides. Publications include, “Concise Birds of the Western Palearctic”(Oxford University Press), “The Handbook of Birds of the World” (Lynx Editions), “A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia”(New Holland) and the solely illustrated “Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers”(Bloomsbury). 

Such work has led Richard on exciting trips to China, USA, Southern Asia, Senegal and many parts of Europe have filled many of his sketchbooks with observations of wildlife and landscape.

King Bird of Paradise +coccineifrons. Illustrations by ©Richard Allen Photgraphed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Are Reserved.

King Bird of Paradise + coccineifrons. Illustrations by ©Richard Allen. Photgraphed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Are Reserved.

Such work has led Richard on exciting trips to China, USA, Southern Asia, Senegal and many parts of Europe have filled many of his sketchbooks with observations of wildlife and landscape.

Vogelkop Bowerbird, Illustrations by ©Richard Allen Photgraphed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Are Reserved.

Vogelkop Bowerbird, Illustrations by ©Richard Allen Photgraphed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Are Reserved.

This grounding in field is also a considerable help when producing wildlife interpretation illustrations for nature reserves and visitor centres. A rounded knowledge of all forms of wildlife is vital when designing complete habitat compositions such as chalk streams, ancient woodland or estuary salt-marsh. 

Emperor Bird of Paradise & Blue Bird of Paradise. Illustrations by ©Richard Allen. Photgraphed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Are Reserved.

Emperor Bird of Paradise & Blue Bird of Paradise. Illustrations by ©Richard Allen. Photgraphed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Are Reserved.

“I do always though come back to my passion for studying and depicting the natural environment. After many years working in watercolours I have recently been experimenting with oils, and I’ve enjoyed using a new medium, developing a new style, and revealing in the rich colours attainable in oils paint”.

NOTE: Thanks to Richard Allen and Sally Allen for the use of the Illustrations and photographs in this post are solely used for this specific BirdCallsRadio™ & podcast Post: Courtsey of Illustrations by ©Richard Allen that were photographed by ©Sally Allen. All Rights Reserved. Illustrations and Photographs may not be used in any form without written permission. Please respect the wishes of the copyright holders.

Show Notes:

  • Drawing and painting birds for years, what or who influenced your development as an artist?
  • Other illustrated guides or significant bodies of work have you produced?
  • How the illustrations for this title came to be.
  • The ability to render in color feather details that almost seem to shine
  • Much of the research for your illustrations comes from examining specimen in museums. 
  •  Field work and the use of photos.
  • Gray areas in the systematics of these two bird families that became evident.
  • About the research that went into each illustration.
  • Photographic illustration, which add a whole other dimension to the guide.
  •  Major players through out the history of bird illustration.

Mentioned In Episode:

BCR 194: Phil Gregory, Author of Birds of Paradise & Bowerbirds

Richard Allen Wildlife Artist and Illustrator

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