This book is a little gem which will bring joy and amusement to the reader. 

If an artist has a gift, then it is surely his ability to share a personal vision and to reveal the world in a fresh way to the viewer. John Busby has been doing just that for more than 60 years through drawing, painting, writing and teaching, and his mantra of working from life is as strong now as it ever was.

The self-professed aim of this book is to encourage people to see more when they watch birds – to discover new things in the bird’s life and exchange images picked up from books for those we discover for ourselves. Busby says that our fascination with the minutiae of plumage detail can hinder our enjoyment and even understanding of the bird as a complete organism; he encourages us to look at any commonplace bird, to appreciate the variety of shape and posture. Some of the gestural studies appear simple yet are perfectly crafted observations; the preening sequences show the artist’s deep understanding of movement and balance.

Analytical dogmas regarding colour and shape regularly recycled in bird guides and identification articles are constantly challenged by Busby, who champions the standpoint that birds in the field rarely assume the postures and profiles which are presented in textbooks. He insists that light, local colour and distance from the bird all affect the way we perceive it. This book is a treat. The text is set in small chunks and forms short, punchy statements, often questioning the reader to evaluate their own position regarding watching birds. The images are full of original observation and often delightfully humorous. And, of course, they are beautifully drawn.

The book is a pleasing square format, with full colour illustrations on high-quality paper, and is the latest in the highly acclaimed wildlife art series from Langford Press. It is a little gem which will bring joy and amusement to the reader. It may even change the way you look at birds.

Tim Wootton

22 July 2013

Published in Birdwatch magazine, August 2013