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Artist Associated with Mass Audubon to Receive Prestigious Bird Art Medal Award

Barry Van Dusen named 2014 Master Wildlife Artist.

Barry Van Dusen painting at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Photo Credit: Roy Dockery.
Barry Van Dusen painting at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Photo Credit: Roy Dockery.

The Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin recently announced Barry Van Dusen as its 2014 Master Wildlife Artist. A resident of Princeton, Massachusetts, Van Dusen has a longstanding professional association with Mass Audubon, illustrating many publications by the organization over a span of 27 years.

Van Dusen will receive the prestigious medal in September at the opening of the Woodson Art Museum’s annual Birds in Art exhibition.

“Barry Van Dusen’s paintings are among the most original works being created today, because they originate with sketches drawn in the field from live birds,” said 2011 medal recipient James Coe in a press release Monday. “Every perfect gesture; each lively glint in a bird’s eye is there because Barry observed that in nature.”

“Field sketching is at the core of my work as an artist. It’s an ongoing process of exploration and discovery that keeps me intimately connected to the natural world,” said Van Dusen.

He calls his sketchbooks his “science and art laboratories,” adding that since 1983, he has filled more than eighty sketchbooks with thousands of drawings of birds, other animals, insects, plants, and landscapes.

Van Dusen began his ongoing professional association with Mass Audubon in 1987, illustrating a wide variety of publications, including books, magazines and pocket guides.

In 2006, Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art in Canton,

Massachusetts hosted Van Dusen’s first solo museum exhibition.

“Mass Audubon has been a big part of my career as an artist,” Van Dusen said. “At Mass Audubon I’ve been privileged to work with some of the best scientists, naturalists and authors, and their examples have inspired me to strive for integrity and excellence in my own work. Through projects ranging from birds to butterflies and mushrooms to mosses, my work with Mass Audubon has made me a more knowledgeable naturalist, and a better artist and illustrator.”  

Van Dusen was born in 1954 and spent his childhood in the Sebago Lake area of Maine, where he first developed an interest in the natural world. Barry’s father, a designer and skilled draftsman, encouraged Barry and his brothers to learn to draw at an early age. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in 1977, Barry worked as a commercial designer and illustrator, and since 1985 he has specialized exclusively in natural history art and illustration.

Beyond his work for Mass Audubon, Barry’s bird illustrations have appeared in books published by the American Birding Association, HarperCollins, and both Princeton and Cornell University Presses. His articles and paintings have been featured in Bird Watcher’s Digest, Birding, and Yankee magazines.

Barry’s published illustrations represent only one side of his artistic career. From the beginning, he has worked to develop skill as a painter, especially in watercolor. In the mid-1980s, Barry experienced an artistic turning point when he discovered the work of European wildlife artists who emphasized direct observation and field sketching. His skill as a field artist enabled him to participate in projects abroad sponsored by the Netherlands-based Artists for Nature Foundation. With this organization he has traveled to India, Peru, England, Ireland, Spain and Israel and worked with some of the world’s leading field artists to raise funds for conservation of threatened habitats.

“I’m an artist first and a naturalist second,” Van Dusen said. “Birds continue to fill me with awe and wonder, and I hope I can open other people’s eyes to their beauty and why they need our protection.”

On Saturday, March 22 at 4 p.m., Van Dusen will present “Home and Away — Wanderings of a Nature Artist,” an illustrated lecture at the Museum of American Bird Art, where he will share original field sketches and stories of his travels. The talk will be preceded by a tea with the artist. Registration information and full program details can be found at massaudubon.org/maba.

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