BBC Radio 4 Today Programme – missed boat!

Posted by Tina on August 16, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Received this lovely email from the BBC, but was not at home to take advantage of [another] few minutes of fame, although I did send a reply with my thoughts after the event (see below) – it is always a wonderful feeling to be asked!

I discovered that Ian Griffiths was the eventual speaker on the programme, after he was contacted via the David Shepherd Foundation. The interview was 8.30am. This is a link to  Ian’s Facebook Page

From: Joshua Kelly, Date: 12 August 2016 14:31:23 BST, To: “‘'”. Subject: BBC R4 TODAY / Birds

Hi Tina,
I hope you are well. I’m a producer with the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. We are currently trying to set up a discussion for our programme on Monday about birdwatching books. In particular, we want to talk about the relative merits of photography and illustration/painting. Which is better? Why are illustrations usually preferred over pictures in bird books? What does an artist try to do when they are depicting a bird? This is pegged to a new book coming out next week which makes a point of using photography rather than illustrations, so we thought this was a nice time to have this discussion! We would have somebody from the book singing the praises of photography, and then we would need somebody to come on and sell the idea of painting / illustrations. I see that you are a wildlife illustrator, so I thought that this might be something that you would be interested in taking part in? Have you illustrated any bird books in the past? If so, perhaps we could have a chat and with a view to possibly setting something up! Do let me know what you think.
All the best, Josh, Joshua Kelly, BBC Radio 4, Today Programme

My reply:

From: Tina Bone <>
Date: 15 August 2016 13:27:50 BST
To: Joshua Kelly <>
Subject: Re: BBC R4 TODAY / Birds

Dear Josh (if I may)

Many thanks for your email regarding the Today programme; I am most flattered at your kind invitation. However, I have been away since last Thursday and have only just seen your email but unfortunately there is not enough time for me to gather my thoughts to help you today. All I can offer you is a short prose (in haste) about my feelings on the matter which may or may not be of help, but you are most welcome to use any information if applicable:
Photographs versus artwork – in my humble opinion there is a place for both. Photographs capture a moment in time – you have to be in the right place at the right time to capture a scene. Artwork, on the other hand, allows the capture of several scenes which can be amalgamated to portray a believable composition. Capturing the perfect, natural, photograph only happens once in many, many times, but every artwork produced can be a perfect composition depicting a bird and its habits. For example, I have produced an artwork entitled “Canoodling in the Loquats” which portrays golden orioles amongst loquat fruits which I saw in Spain whilst on holiday. I took lots of photographs but none of these compares with the image I had in my head accrued from true observation of these birds chasing each other and having a good time amongst the fruits and leaves. Not one of my photographs showed with the same clarity as my final artwork what the birds were up to. Photographs of birds can be spectacular but there is a lot of luck involved in capturing beautiful pictures which are presented in 2D and only show one half of the story. Many artists, including myself, use photographs to help with illustrating birds, but no photograph, no matter how detailed, can take the place of being in the field, observing birds at close hand, and making quick sketches of all the parts and characteristics of a bird in different poses (I do have a powerful bird-scope and binoculars). I also have a special “resource” freezer containing a variety of specimens accrued from road kills and friends, who know I collect them and give me a call if they find a good deceased specimen, which provide me with a 360 degree view of the birds and are so useful when illustrating them. If some specimens start to decay quickly, I usually take photographs of the bits I am interested in – but, again, I cannot turn a photograph over and look at the other side! This is where illustration moves slightly ahead in my opinion. The photograph only captures a moment; a painting can capture everything about the subject. If the author has managed to capture photographs of fledglings, juveniles and adult birds per species, then I take my hat off to him/her. I am sure it would have taken many field hours to capture all these, so any book showing such details, by photograph, would, I am sure, be worth buying. However, there is still a slight edge regarding illustration, as an artist can accentuate the parts which make identification easier, and if these particular elements do not show up well in the photograph, then I personally would go with the illustrations – but that is probably because I am biassed!
I have produced a hard back coffee table book of my own bird and mammal illustrations entitled “Feather and Fur” A Book of Pictures and Poems. I attach a pdf file for your information. I decided to publish a couple of books of my artwork to sell at exhibitions and shows. I deliberately designed the book to be whole-page picture wildlife plates and made up some poems and explanatory text to go with each picture. (The other title is “Petalacious” [a word I made up] A Book of Pictures and Poems, and is all about botanical art and is another story. But the same is true for illustrating plants as it is for illustrating birds: you can show the bits that photographs cannot reach. Most of my “exhibition” artwork is composed to portray wildlife and plants in natural poses and settings so that people who cannot/do not venture out in to the wild can appreciate what goes on in the countryside and hopefully identify wildlife (including plants) if they do happen to take the adventure.
Thank you again for being in touch, and I hope this has helped, or indeed that you have managed to be in touch with someone else who can! May I wish the author of the new bird book much success. I am sure there are as many people out there who are appreciative of a book full of photographs as there are those who favour illustration. Probably the best idea would be to have a book containing beautiful photographs as well as detailed illustrations – thus presenting the best of both worlds.
All best wishes, Tina



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