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Monday, June 27, 2011

bird artists

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The Bird Artist


The relationship between Fabian Vas, his artwork, and the people who helped him become an artist, is a big part of the novel. Fabian Vas is a bird artist, he found his skill for bird artwork at a very young age. Fabian lives in Witless Bay , Newfoundland, where there is numerous amounts of bird species he is able to draw.


Fabian’s mother, Alaric, found out about Fabian’s talent for artwork when he was very young. She was very proud of Fabian having such a talent and one mourning during breakfast she tore out one of Fabian’s sketches he drew during school and she nailed it to the kitchen door. The town librarian, Mrs. Paulette Bath, was a very inspirational person in Fabian’s life and helped him out tremendously with his bird artwork. In the library Fabian found a few books with technical drawing such as, “First Book of Zoology,” but the one that changed his life was called “Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, 171-1748” (pg 5). Fabian found this book in Mrs. Bath’s personal collection, it was a gift from her Aunt Mina. It had 0 engravings of Northern American flowers, weeds, and wild animals (pg 5). What Fabian loved most of all were the 10 birds. The Bird artist was Mark Catesby, the first real bird artist Fabian knew of.


Once Fabian found this book, he could never put it down. He was in Mrs. Bath’s library every afternoon for about years looking over this book and drawing what he saw. Mrs. Bath saw a lot of talent in Fabian and she told him that one day when she said, “Mr. Catesby, dead for so long, yet his birds are so alive in these pages” (pg 5). When Fabian was eleven he made his own book, sewed it together and donated it to the library. This book was made up of Fabian’s own drawings of the Coastal species he saw where he lived. Fabian was seventeen when Mrs. Bath died. Before she died she would help Fabian out with supplies such as pens, pencils, inks, and special paper that all came from her own money. She told Fabian something once that he always remembered and that was, “just draw, it’s a god given gift” (pg 7). Mrs. Bath ordered the Journal “Bird Lore” specially for Fabian. In her will, Mrs. Bath left Fabian all the back orders of the journal.


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This journal is where Fabian got to know the bird artist Isaac Sprague. Sprague lived in Halifax, Fabian had taken one of Sprague’s paintings out of the journal and pinned it up above his desk. The picture was of a red-throated loon, which was an inspiration to Fabian every time he sat down to work. Fabian would send five drawings or watercolors to Halifax so Isaac Sprague could look at them and comment on them. It would take about a month for Fabian to get a reply, and when he did he would send Sprague two dollars. Isaac Sprague’s replies were very detailed and impersonal (pg 15). He would talk in great detail about shapes, shadows, and color accents. He would offer strong opinions in each letter about Fabians work and just general bird art. Sprague was a perfectionist, Fabian could draw the most amazing picture of a bird and everything could be perfect except the foot, or one feather and Sprague would criticize it, but this is what made Fabian a better bird artist.


Fabian drew all of his art work with great detail and he wanted it to be as life like as possible, that’s why he drew almost all of his birds in nature when he saw them, such as the time he drew the picture for his fianc�e Cora Holly for there wedding present. Fabian drew a garganey, a very rare bird in Newfoundland. Many people went there whole life without seeing a garganey. Fabian drew the bird as it was sleeping, its head tucked in his wing. He drew the bird with great detail as he did the scenery. He drew the high cliff cove it was in, the white-capped waves coming in, and the sun glistening on the sea. Fabians greatest piece of artwork came when Reverend Sillet asked him to paint a mural in the church. He would pay him fifty cents a day until he finished. This was a huge mural that the whole town would eventually see. Fabian drew Witless Bay and the birds that are in it. He drew the wharf, the lighthouse, cliffs, jetty, and the various birds of Witless Bay. He drew Botho August in the lighthouse with black wings coming from his back and three blood spots on his shirt and he drew Helen Twombly as a mermaid in Caroline Cove. He drew everyone in witless bay in this mural but the most shocking thing was that he drew himself face down in the mud below the lighthouse. Sillet wanted him to show redemption for the murder and if he did he would leave Fabians family and Margaret out of the church sermons. This is how Fabian showed his redemption , all he wanted was to keep his family and Margaret out of the trouble he caused everyone.


One day Fabian went to go see if he got any mail from the “Aunt Ivy Barnacle” which was the mail boat. Romeo told him that Enoch brought him a visitor from Halifax. It was Isaac Sprague. Sprague came down because he was dieing and he wanted to spend his remaining days visiting some of his students he thought had a lot of potential. He didn’t visit the hopeless students because they were hopeless and it didn’t matter if he helped them. He didn’t visit his one or two geniuses because they didn’t need him, all he wanted to do was visit the few students he knew had the most potential and that would benefit the most from his appearance. Sprague critiqued him just as he did in his letters. Sprague and Fabian went to the church to see Fabians latest art work, the mural. Sprague told Fabian he has shown much improvement, but with some species ,such as the cormorant ,is to much for him to draw. Sprague strongly emphasized that shorebirds and ducks are Fabians strength. Sprague had died the following spring of tuberculosis.


Clearly the strongest relationship in the story was that of Fabian Vas, his artwork, and the people that made him become the artist he always wanted to be. Fabians mother, Alaric, saw the potential in Fabian at a very young age and was always proud of him and his talent. Mrs. Bath took great pride in helping Fabian with his artwork because she saw the real talent he had, and even though the contributions she made to Fabian were relatively small, they definitely had the strongest impact on the way he improved through out the years. Isaac Sprague was non-the-less Fabians mentor. He looked over all of Fabians artwork and told him every little detail he had to improve on through out the years. Sprague saw great potential in Fabian, that’s why he kept helping him and eventually came to see him before he died. Fabian owes much of what he learned to Isaac Sprague.


Fabian’s love for birds and artwork were obviously the closest relationship in the novel. He put so much detail and emphasis in his artwork throughout the years and that just shows the kind of dedication and passion he had for being a bird artist. Fabian always had a god given talent to able to draw birds the way that he could, but he would have never gotten to wear he was at the end of the novel if it wasn’t for the people who believed in him and his artistic abilities. Fabian doesn’t really show his appreciation towards these people but you can tell he will never forget them and what they did.








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