Dear Artist,

Up here in Alaska at the American Bald Eagle Festival, one of my fellow presenters is Glen Browning. Glen’s giving a course in digital wildlife photography, as well as demonstrating — from start to finish — his methodology for mounting an immature female Goshawk. I asked Glen how he came to be one of the world’s most respected — and busy — bird taxidermists. When it comes to turning a passion into success, it’s the sort of story I’ve heard before.

Goshawk Watercolour on paper by James Fenwick Lansdowne (1937-2008)

Watercolour on paper
by James Fenwick Lansdowne (1937-2008)

Glen had always been stuffing birds, but a 1991 motorcycle accident had left him injured, angry, and reassessing the direction of his life. One day he made a phone call to the greatly admired, prize winning taxidermist Patrick Rummans. Glen invited Patrick to come several thousand miles and teach him all he could in two weeks. Patrick, looking for an exchange of good northern wildlife photography, took him up on it. “There’s more to it than meets the eye,” Glen says. “I learned from Patrick about the details and the finish. Feet — I always fill them out and mount the feet — otherwise they shrivel up — and the eyes — particularly around the eyes, you have to get that right.” Then there’s the knowledge needed for lifelike positioning. This takes an understanding of anatomy, weight distribution and habits that can only come from watching and study in the field. In Glen’s case he was able to add literally thousands of hours flying near and along with birds in his ultra-light aircraft. In Glen’s flying-mounts you can feel the wind.

In so many conversations with creative masters I’ve found myself hearing a lot of stuff about the details. In these details — no matter how much trouble they take or how much one is to be paid for them — there comes the resolve to excel and to do the job better. I see this kind of resolve as a “glow” in people, a one-tracked sense of personal pride that results in focus and purpose. Purpose-driven folks tend to develop an advanced proficiency that makes them stand out. Purpose-driven folks — while they may be laden with humility — are often also loaded up with a sense of righteousness about their work. Simply put, they believe in it. And purpose-driven folks have often taken a circuitous route to get that way. In Glen’s case it took a lot of jobs, banging around — commercial fishing, sheet metal working, and a bone-breaking experience to come to this resolve.

Peregrine Falcon Watercolour on paper by James Fenwick Lansdowne

Peregrine Falcon
Watercolour on paper
by James Fenwick Lansdowne

Best regards,


PS: “You’ve got to really take your time to scrape back the skins until they’re very thin — paper thin — and very very clean. That makes them supple — then and only then you can do what you want with them.” (Glen Browning)

Esoterica: Here in Haines, Alaska, down by the Chilkat River, the place is up close and personal with Bald Eagles. About four thousand right now. The long-lens birdwatchers attending this convention have been going nuts. Where I am there’s a foot of fresh snow. More coming. It’s silent except for the distant eagle’s calls, the soft thud of snow falling from the pines and my woolly-gloved fingers talking to you on this laptop. Amazing world. Bit different than Manhattan.

Osprey Watercolour on paper by James Fenwick Lansdowne

Watercolour on paper
by James Fenwick Lansdowne

This letter was originally published as “Resolve” on November 11, 2005.

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“The honouring of specificity is no small job indeed.” (James Fenwick Lansdowne)







  1. I love these words – resolve, purpose-driven folks, laden with humility, proficiency and so on… There is a an observed seriousness in these words making me want to straighten and pull my shoulders back a little. What Robert is describing is the result of a mix of character and circumstance that we recognize and, though we may crave the outcome of this kind of ability in an area or domain of work, we can just as quickly start seek shortcuts, easy fixes and falsehoods for overnight success. Robert is clear enough in his letter that the path of resolve and purpose-driven work is an inside job that has been moulded, shaped and strengthened by outside experiences, sometimes difficult experiences that have been overcome (or at least experiences one has come to terms with). This I can relate to… and now it is time get to work.

  2. Beautiful letter – fills me with energy as do all statements of deeper truth. ‘ Purpose-driven folks tend to develop an advanced proficiency that makes them stand out.’ Strikes to the heart. Thanks for this.

Leave A Reply

Featured Workshop

Figure and Portrait Drawing in charcoal with Henry Yan at Casa Buena Art Retreat, Mexico
February 26, 2020 to March 4, 2020


Learn from the Master! The way to do accurate drawing with painterly approach. Join us for this 7 day retreat with 4 day workshop in magical settings of Mexican back country with one of the best instructors of drawing the human figure. From short pose gesture and anatomy studies, to long pose painterly approaches, students will learn step by step the drawing methods, human proportions, anatomy and much more. Live model with small class size will insure lots of personal attention.

Henry Yan has been teaching at Academy of Art University in San Francisco for more than twenty years. His book, “Henry Yan’s Figure Drawing – Techniques and Tips” published in 2006, has been widely used by art students and professional artists in the US and internationally.

Casa Buena Art Retreat is a calm and beautiful place to relax and explore your creative energy. Non painting partners welcome.

For more info check
or contact Jane at In The Road
24x30 acrylic

Featured Artist

My art represents an artistic journey that has been on-going for more than thirty-five years with help and guidance from many wonderful artists. Now, with years of plein-air painting experience, study and solo exhibitions, I believe that my current work has reached its highest level, reflecting the depth of my absorption in the wonder and beauty of the world around me.  I have learned that, as an artist, I will never stop looking for better ways to express my feelings in art and that struggling to more fully understand myself is integral to my painting; a philosophy that was part of every workshop I taught. Still is.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.