A lot of people will argue back and forth on whether taxidermy is an art. Even some taxidermists will argue over the topic believe it or not. It blows my mind when I see statements coming from other taxidermists that claim taxidermy is not an art. Really? I’m here to set the record straight for those uninformed, that without a doubt, taxidermy is an art.
First let me announce that I am a licensed practicing taxidermist. I have been practicing taxidermy for three decades. Besides all the bloody parts of the job, there is a lot of artistic skill sets that apply. Believe it or not the messy part of the job like skinning, fleshing etc is only a very small part of doing taxidermy. That is the easy part of working with taxidermy. There is so much more that goes into it. Especially if you taxidermy fish.
When I first started to practice taxidermy I had no artistic skills. I had the mechanics of it like skinning and fleshing and all the stuff that came with handling a specimen. The handling of a raw specimen while preparing and preserving it for taxidermy is the least worrisome stage. I wish that was all that was involved. I pretty much jumped into a hornets nest not having any type of education in the arts. If your in college, I highly suggest you take art as one of your broad interests if not your major. You’ll thank me later.
So let me break it down to you. If you want to be a taxidermist in today’s world here are a few skills you will need.
- Sculptor: A must have skill or your dead in the water.
- Carver: You will be carving a lot. Mostly foam but wood too for some.
- Expert In Colors: You must master the color wheel.
- Painting Artist: Mastering the artist paint brush and airbrush, puts you way ahead of the game.
- Arts & Craft: Working with clay, glue, paper mache, mediums must be second nature to you.
- Pastels & Powders: Dry paint pigments and you need to master using them.
- Habitat Builder: Rock and tree making is a prerequisite to being a taxidermist.
- Carpenter: After your first year in taxidermy, you’ll understand why you need to have carpenter skills.
These are just some of the skills one would need to being a taxidermist. I will let you now that women, no matter the age seem to be better at the art side of taxidermy, then the men. Some of the best taxidermy in the world is produced by the ladies. That is a fact.
Most taxidermists who have been at it for a while will probably have $1k invested into their art supplies. This everything from paints, pastels, powders, pencils, markers sealers, and glue to having paint brushes and airbrushes. The list goes on and on. I bet I have $100 in just tape. From painters tape to duct tape and lets not forget the electrical tape. A taxidermist uses a lot of electrical tape.
Most taxidermists will purchase some sort of mannequin (form) to mount and taxi their skin on. Whether it be for a life size mammal, deer, fish or bird. I will tell you now one size does not fit all. A skilled taxidermist will pretty much alter by cutting up, the purchased form to exact size and preferred pose. This will require the sculpting and carving skills mentioned above.
Highly skilled fish and bird taxidermists will most likely carve their own body out of a block of foam. This can be tricky and will require the highest level of sculpting and carving. I personally carve all of my fish forms and will also carve all of my small bird mannequins.
So if you still do not believe taxidermy is an art, I cant help you. What more evidence would you need? The skinning of the specimen and preserving it is only 1/5 of the job. It is the most easiest and quickest part, of doing any kind of taxidermy. This is why so many fail at attempting to practice taxidermy. Once all the bloody mess (and smell) is gone and your ready to bring it to life again, is where things get difficult. If you have no artistic talent, you will never ever pull off a convincing presentation of the specimen in question.
With that said I again announce taxidermy is an art.