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Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by Rick Carter, Jun 16, 2017.
I give up.
(CNN)Ferry van Tongeren believes that there are two types of people in the world: those who like dead animals, and those who don't.
Being a professional fine-art taxidermist, it's obvious what category he places himself.
"I know it's hard to believe, but the presence of death has nothing to do with it for me," says the Dutch artist.
"It's about shapes, color and construction, not death. But if you think it's gross, I can't even start to explain the beauty to you."
Then, after a moment of reflection, he adds: "I'm not weird."
As part of the Darwin-Sinke-van-Tongeren collective -- which makes the unusual move of including Charles Darwin as a member -- van Tongeren and his artistic partner, Jaap Sinke, create extraordinary taxidermy artworks that have been and acclaimed all over the world.
The pieces are inspired by the paintings of 17th Century painters like Jan Weenix, Melchior d'Hondecoeter and Adriaen van Olen, and have been called "flamboyant 17th century luxury"
The blend of retro-cool and exquisite workmanship led one reviewer to say that it "elevates taxidermy to a higher plane".
There is no doubt: van Tongeren and Sinke -- who sport wild hair and beards and wear matching leather aprons -- are the hottest thing to happen to taxidermy in decades.
Demand is growing for their work, with pieces selling for between £2,000 and £25,000. n 25 November, their latest exhibition will be coming to the Shapero Rare Book store in London.
READ: Equine taxidermy
"As an artist, it's a big advantage to start with something beautiful in itself"
Ferry van Tongeren, taxidermist
Given these achievements, many find it hard to believe that van Tongeren has only been in the game for three years.
"I was 47 years old, and was running my own advertising agency," he recalls.
"We were on a family holiday in New Zealand, and over dinner I just said to my wife, 'I know what I want to do. I want to be a taxidermist'.
"It had never occurred to me before that day, and it changed my life overnight."
His wife "has accepted it", and his two children, he says, "love it".
His 15-year-old son helps with the stuffing, and his six-year-old daughter likes it too -- though "she gets a bit worried when I start stroking the cat." (Van Tongeren has a cat and a dog, which he has no intention of stuffing. For now.)
Part of the secret to the duo's success is the quality that is evident from their work.
In some quarters taxidermy has become quite trendy over recent years, but it's rare to find stuffed animals that can genuinely be mistaken for living creatures.
"We use the old-fashioned, Victorian methods," he explains. "In those days, labor was not so expensive so they took their time over everything. But now mass production has taken over, so speed has taken over.
"Most modern taxidermists buy a ready-made mannequin and stretch the skin over the top.
"But we take months over each animal. We do it as it should be done, and the results speak for themselves. It takes months rather than hours."
READ: Crappy taxidermy
"I'm not weird"
Ferry van Tongeren, taxiermist
The beauty of death
Among the works of art van Tangeren and Sinke have produced are a beautiful flamingo with raised wings; a parrot with its feathers spread into an artistic action pose; a monkey with its tail raised in a flamboyant circle; and a red-billed, blue magpie, wings and tail stretched back as if in some magical flight.
"I love birds," says van Tangeren. "We have a network of breeders and zoos who give us a call when a rare animal dies.
"As an artist, it's a big advantage to start with something beautiful in itself. You can't use paint to make colors like some birds have. The intensity of the colors and the layers of their feathers is breathtaking."
In retrospect, van Tangeren's sudden epiphany three years ago was not such a surprise. Since he was a child, he says, he was fascinated by dead animals, and has been collecting skulls all his life. (The centerpiece of his collection is the skull of a duck-billed platypus.)
"In a way, it's about owning something beautiful," he says. "As a child you don't really own anything, but when you find a skull, you have a feeling that this is something worth a lot.
"That is the feeling that has stayed with me. I know it's hard to believe, but it's about capturing and holding beauty, not death."
Aww !!! Come on Rick !!!
I think competition taxidermy is definately an art. However there will always be a market for the crapidermy some turn out. Some say they work 2 years on a comp piece, on and off, in their spare time. For somepeople the price is just too high.
A friend of ours was born with incredible artistic talent. She did take some art classes to learn about colors and blending.
I f she ever took up taxidermy she would be awesome. Here is some of her paintings of three sisters
Nice portraiture! Too me, that's art. The artist started with a blank canvas, some brushes and oils from a tube and ended with a fine portrait. Taxidermy is more like "paint by numbers".
For some, yes. Taxidermy can also be viewed as art using the animal as its medium.
Get over yourselves you are all hacks. LMAO.
Just kidding fellas. Most people on this post compete at world level and some are world champions. When you are at that level I don't think you should be questioning your talent or artistic ability. Their is only ONE true Artist and he created everything. We just do our best to try and get as close as possible.
So if there was a competition based on artistic values with a nice prize for 1,2, but it was to run as long as 60 days who would be in?
But the artist's medium resembles nothing of the subject being painted. It's merely a palette of colors that have to be mixed, blended and applied in such a manner to achieve a likeness. Same for sculpting. The clay is only a raw block of medium that has to be shaped and molded to achieve the representation. With taxidermy, the skin of the animal, the hair, the colors and patterns are all already there. The manikin with it's nostrils, eye sockets and other features are for the most part already there. We have the eyes with all the inner detail and veining put together for us. Too me, there is nothing creative about taxidermy as opposed to painting or sculpting.
I wonder if I went to Artist.net if I would see a bunch of artists trying to convince themselves they are Taxidermists .....
Your on the right track
forget the prize
forget the art promotion
forget the craft promotion
this would not be sponsored by any taxidermy assoc. or supplier
The 60 days or even 90 days great
Location, where a large number of people can vote for a peoples choice. period . they could vote and leave a comment if they like.
we could learn a lot from that. my interest is what the public thinks.
Hi Dave. My honest answer is, I just answered you guys to add an idea, not to persuade anyone. Personally, my thoughts are this...if its just a matter of putting all those parts together, why do some guys mess that up enough to even be having this debate? Lol. Also, Im not too concerned as to what anyone calls what we, or I, do as taxidermists. I just hope to get a reaction from the viewer, be it to inspire, recognize, or just love it.
You forgot Pay For It Bill. As long as the customer pays he can call it what he wants.
Two different worlds here. The Competiton floor and the Shop floor if I can talk about that. the work there is Untouchable for me and the time I have to create it at the level to compete. I Know many in this business that are successful still putting out 1970 and 1980 type work and making big money. Much more than I. I've quit competing basically because I can't do what I do and bring it the way I do it to the Competition floor anymore. The work there is way beyond what I WANT to do. My view, as worthless as it is..... I'm not a camera. I don't want to capture what a picture of my subject would look like. I want myself in the work. My perspective and my flair my touch my eye and what IT SEES , as an artists see it, thru his soul. If everyone's work looks the same and we just recreate pictures then where are you? Where is there ANY ART in the piece and I'm not talking about bases and habitat..I create a piece to bring emotion to it to put some of ME into the piece....Why isn't flat art like these three sisters critiqued against a picture of the real girl ? Ear size anatomy color lots of other things juts as you would a mount ? Overall Yes the Taxidermy Industry has way evolved to the point that I'm pretty sire monkey could be taught to do it. Snap on everything. I mount the way I see my subjects...That's my interpretation as an Artist. Don't want to just be the perfect applicator.
Rick, Someday I AM going to do what we walked about MANY years ago...if you remember......
Taxidermy IS ART and yes a CRAFT ( The Mechanics of it ), Your born with one the other you or anyone else can learn. The first you can't learn easily most never can and it will always be the struggle part of it.....That part of the brain is just more influential.
Now as bad as type and put words together and run on sentences. I prefer to sit back and look at Georges words...
great point dennis
Great reply. Every taxidermist and judge interprets things differently.. Different styles. Different flare.. And I agree that if a person is not born "artsy" then it is very hard for that person to be taught art.
Interesting point of view Dennis.
Who knows, maybe a person can be born an Artist. As you put it “wired differently”. This idea is not new. For example: Pablo Picasso (the emperor’s new clothes guy) was quoted saying “Everyone is born an Artist, the problem is how to remain one once we grow up.” Wired differently, maybe, influenced by society, absolutely.
As far as the flat Art displayed here, maybe you didn’t critique them but, I did. I looked for symmetry, light source control and Color saturation. I looked for anatomy issues and balance. If any of these thing were off the pieces wouldn’t be as beautiful as they are. A portrait Artist has some of the most demanding clients. They are not creating something from their “Artist Soul”. Their subject must look like the people they are painting, with an exacting hand. Their clientele know the subject intimately and would notice the most subtle inaccuracies. They are absolutely critiqued against a picture of the real thing.
A person can put their artist soul into their work. It does not require forgoing correct symmetry and anatomy to make it artistic. It’s just easier that way.
Bill, I agree that an Artist can use taxidermy as a medium. And as far as the medium being required to not resemble the subject, I will reference the fir lined toilet again. It is not a requirement to create the toilet or the fir from scratch to see it as Art. It does require a lot less talent though…
You picked a great topic. Here's a quote from a past master, a taxidermist/sculptor, who knew the subject of taxidermy and art, inside/out:
"As I see a mounted group it is very much in the nature of a sculpted group, with one great difference. The sculptor is perfectly within his rights when he interprets an animal's qualities. In order to demonstrate the power or fleetness or cleverness of an animal he has the artist's license to exaggerate certain characteristics or to diminish them. He is perfectly within his rights to exaggerate the muscular development of a rhino or the slenderness of a fawn. Of course, he must never carry this exaggeration to too great an extreme, else his model becomes a caricature and is no longer truthful. But provided the result carries out his ideas, and provided furthermore that his ideas are reasonable and interesting, the model is certain to be a success.
With taxidermy, however, this license is not permissible. The taxidermist must, therefore, attain his interpretation merely by proper mounting, proper grouping, and proper backgrounds. All these must be scientifically accurate, and yet they must be artistically accomplished. Science alone might readily give absolute accuracy without making the finished product interesting. Art alone might attain interest without accuracy, and in these models accuracy is paramount, though art must be a very close second if the group is to be as success as it should be."
I received this quote long ago from Professor Janelli. It's from Trails of the Hunted, by James L. Clark, bottom of page 131.
For most, hard work, conviction, and education will suffice for competency or better. Artistic talent is an ingredient that can produce exceptional performance when executed competently.
At least that's my opinion.
Anyone who can teach a chimpanzee to effectively work in the shop is talented. If the chimp does spectacular work, does that mean the teacher is an artist, or does the artistry belong to the chimp?