CHAMBERLAIN’S WADERS has a very strong visual component, subscribing to the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words. The book includes more than 600 new colour paintings of superb detail, accuracy and appeal. Particularly attention has been paid to size, proportions, posture and carriage, to help transform the paintings from two-dimensional images into representatives of living, breathing creatures that might fly off the page at any moment.
Perhaps because they require so much more time and effort, I viewed the paintings as the main component, and the accompanying text only as supportive. Both are attempts at capturing birds’ lives and characters, and I hope that my excitement for waders shines through. In retrospect, I spent far too much time on the small vignette illustrations. These are based on actual birding memories, and while painting them I was transported back to those special moments. I ended up painting hundreds of objects I never thought would be in a bird book: airplanes, airports, tractors, trucks, boats, lighthouses, marinas, bricks, umbrellas, dam walls, a school, many, many landscapes, coins, bird crap, a hippo, a rhino, antelope, two different cows, frogs, lizards, several insects, assorted shells and sea-creatures…not to mention my car, my friends, my son, and myself. If anything, this is testament to the fact that birds are all around us, always. A part of life.
The colour plates form the main component of the book, and each wader is lavishly illustrated, with 5-10 images per species. I hope that my paintings reflect my passion and adoration for waders. I’ve tried to achieve a balance between creative celebration of these birds, in their natural environments, and scientific accuracy. Furthermore, I believe that the innovative design of the book and the logical plate layout allow efficient comparison between the most similar species.
Paintings are produced digitally, with a Wacom Intuos Tablet and specialised software packages. This does mean they are done with a computer, but not by a computer. Birds are posed in similar postures across the page, so as to make them easily comparable and avoid clutter. Illustration would typically take me about 3-5 hours per image, and involve a gradual build of some 30-40 layers. Colours are matched to hundreds of reference photos. I’m quite happy with the results…my favourites are probably the buttonquails, which have incredibly intricate markings that took hours and hours to paint. You can watch a demonstration in the video below of how the process works.