Simon and Sibley look like they’re quite enjoying their modeling career, as long as they get duck or mice meat as their pay.
The 2-year-old great horned owl and the 16-year-old peregrine falcon posed patiently for hours on Saturday for an unusual art class at the Missoula Art Museum.
Kate Davis of Raptors of the Rockies brought the birds to Missoula from her home in the Bitterroot Valley where they’re spending nights indoors during the extremely cold weather. Davis has teamed up with local artist Bev Beck Glueckert to offer a “Raptors and Art for Adults," a drawing and monoprint-making day at the museum.
It’s a new angle for Glueckert and Davis, who have been hosting live raptor-modeled life-sized paper mache classes for elementary kids for over a decade.
“Kate and I have been doing the Raptors and Art program for kids for 15 years or something, and then we started having a lot of adults really wanting to do it,” Glueckert explained. “With the kids we have an entire week because it’s a long process."
"With the grownups we do like a three-hour thing so we can do educational stuff in addition to giving them plenty of time to draw and make prints, whatever they want to do, watercolor, pastels.”
The artists all have access to bird books and Davis’ photography books. They also interact with full raptor mounts along with skin, feather and claw samples so they can get the right textures and look.
“For all the people in here they all have a different aesthetic and they all approach art from whatever their own technique or background is so hopefully everything they learn today, they can take and work it into their own discipline,” Glueckert added.
Davis got Sibley from a breeder in Bozeman at 2 weeks old.
“She likes to hunt ducks,” Davis said. “She’s done 600 classes with me.”
Sibley, named after the famous Sibley Field Guide to Birds, is featured in a video at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. A photographer got slow-motion video of Sibley’s flying motion as she flew upwards through a tunnel, with Davis calling her from the top.
Simon, the great horned owl, was being raised as a pet in eastern Montana, but Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials confiscated him because they’re not allowed as pets in Montana. Davis has a whole host of other raptors at her home, where she has specialized facilities to care for birds. The birds are trained to calmly sit in front of groups of rowdy kids, so modeling for a class of adults was no problem on Saturday. Davis enthralled the crowd with raptor facts during the course of the morning.
“Owls basically mostly swallow their prey whole,” she told the class. “And most owls, they’re feathered all the way down to the talon. So they can hear the prey but prey can’t hear them coming.”
It was Shan Guisinger’s first time attending the class. She stared at Simon, carefully etching out both of the facial discs that collect even the tiniest sounds, like a rodent scratching a leaf.
“I love birds but I can’t draw, so I thought it would help me see them better and draw them better,” she said. “It’s fantastic.”
For more information visit missoulaartmuseum.org.