Peering out from the pages of vintage atlases, textbooks, and field guides, Launceston, Tasmania-based artist Craig Williams assembles a menagerie of vibrant avians inspired by Australia’s vastly diverse wildlife and ecosystems. Spurred by an interest in the natural world, his past work in a wildlife park and as an illustrator with a regional museum specializing in spiders and insects amplified his interest in drawing and painting the natural world. The accuracy of scientific illustrations translated into a flourishing interest in birds, which he began to pair with diagrams, text, and sheet music to draw connections between geography, wildlife, and science.
Williams carefully chooses the pages for their connection to each specimen, such as a map of Tasmania that provides the background for a green rosella, a species endemic to the island. “There will always be a relationship between the bird and the page,” Williams tells Colossal. “[It is] sometimes direct, like the use of the field guides, but even these pay homage to the work of the artists and researchers who create these guides both presently and in the past.” In another piece, a peregrine glides in the foreground of a dictionary’s architectural illustrations, recognizing how the falcon has adapted to urban environments by using tall buildings as nesting places instead of cliffs.
In addition to historical connotations, Williams explores the physics of sound and light. Music pages reference passerines, the order of perching birds to which songbirds belong, emphasizing “the use of song by the birds for breeding, socialisation, territory control, etc., but also bringing our relationship with music and song to these recognisable birds that frequent our gardens,” he says. “Other examples include using old physics textbook pages on light, relating to the color in birds as well as light wavelengths in terms of iridescence, or sound wavelengths in terms of song.”
In collaboration with the podcast “The Science of Birds,” Williams paints a species mentioned in each episode, which are available for sale on the podcast’s shop with half of the proceeds donated to BirdLife International’s conservation efforts. You can find more of the artist’s work on his website and on Instagram.
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