Don Carter (Edgar Allan Slothman)

Don Carter (Edgar Allan Slothman)

In 1830, with watercolors, pastels, pen & ink, and gouache, John James Audubon set out to paint every bird in America. Eighteen years later, his monumental effort resulted in the massive tome, Birds of America consisting of 435 life-size, hand-colored prints. In 2010, an original 4-volume edition of Birds of America fetched $11.5 million at Sotheby’s, the record for the most expensive printed book sold at auction.

In 2012, illustrator, Edgar Allan Slothman set out with an Apple computer to reinterpret Audubon’s Birds of America in his own simplified, graphic style.

“For each print, I look for ways to break it down in a unique way. Often it is with geometric simplification or repeat patterns. For some, I create an entirely new color palette pushing beyond the original as far as I can. But in all, I stay very close to Audubon’s original composition — the core of these amazing ornithological visual stories.”

Audubon’s great body of work was a natural portrait of a young nation. He sold his prints by subscription traveling across the country and the Atlantic. His sketches and watercolor studies were painstaking reproduced by engravers on copper plates and then the pulled prints were hand-colored by an assembly line of talented colorists. A name synonymous with protecting the environment, Audubon ironically killed thousands of birds in the process of collecting specimens to wire down onto apertures and be drawn “from life.”

“My objective is to reinterpret this rich history for the digital age. Each and every bird form has it’s own set of intricate and unique bezier curves—coming together in a multitude of ways to create an almost infinite number of unique species. Add to that the broadest color palette in the animal kingdom and the design possibilities are multiplied thousand fold. Few people know that an early system to describe the diversity of bird coloration led to the widely used Pantone system today. And that system is used in the Adobe Illustrator program used to create my prints. There are so many connections to art and science in this concept, it was just a natural progression for me as an artist who has been drawing birds for as long as I could hold a pencil…to my career as a graphic designer utilizing the latest in digital design tools.’’