In early 1946, when he was 17, John won the RSPB’s Junior Bird Recorders’ Club annual drawing competition. He told me once it was with a picture of a sparrow dust-bathing, so I was particularly delighted to come across this (much later) picture recently.
John delighted in observing and drawing bird behaviours. His book Looking at Birds develops this with suggestions to collect ‘shapes of blackbirds’ We have another dust bathing sparrow which was an illustration in that book.
In the Junior Bird Recorders’ Club Quarterly Report for January 1946, it says that the competition was judged by the artist Rowland Green who “delighted the audience with a lecture on ‘Bird Observers as Bird Artists’ illustrated by lightning sketches of birds.”
In commenting on the competition he said, “Many of the Sparrow drawings are good, but are obviously copied from illustrations. This is quite good practice and will help to fix details in the mind, but you must watch and study the living bird and not rely on copying. The Judges can always tell whether a drawing is from life or copied.”
1st Prize: J Busby (Yorks)
Sadly as the meeting was in London, John was not able to attend, but we do still have his prize – a copy of Birds of Wayside and Woodland – well thumbed indeed. This was published by Frederick Warne &Co being a handy pocket-sized version of parts of The Birds of the British Isles by T.A.Coward. Interestingly it was edited and enhanced by one Enid Blyton…