Des McCaffrey on the art of taxidermy

Nowadays, anyone with the will, a good work ethic and quality materials can produce taxidermy with satisfactory results. With a wealth of instructional products on the market, head forms and mannequins by world class sculptors, glass eyes and other components that have reached a new zenith in accuracy and realism, 95% of the art in taxidermy is already done before your trophy is actually mounted. In my view, much like the final layer of paint in an oil painting, it is that 5-10% of the process that makes all the difference and ultimately elevates taxidermy from a craft to an art form.

Like painting and drawing, capturing the desired character of an individual animal often requires making tiny incremental adjustments to certain anatomical areas such as the eyes, ears or body posture sometimes in 1/100th of an inch increments. The ability to see color and recreate it skillfully and accurately in smooth gradations and layers must also be within the skill set of the modern taxidermist. A sensibility to these subtleties during the mounting process is what creates realism in the piece and conveys that convincingly to the viewer. Finally, fusing everything together with an intuitive feel for the entire composition is critical, therefore a successful taxidermist must possess many of the skills of the master artist.

In the 1980’s as a fulltime taxidermist, the foundation was laid for my career as a painter of wildlife for the next 25 years. In these years as a professional artist going through the disciplines of a detail painter and subjecting my works to the open market, I have learned through much trial and tribulation what it takes to create true art and how I can now apply the same principles to my taxidermy works. With a newly constructed shop and studio, I find myself once again fully immersed in the field of taxidermy with a renewed sense of excitement and commitment for this art form. I am eager to deploy with confidence all the artistic knowledge acquired from the last quarter century as a professional wildlife painter and to direct these hard earned skills to your mounted trophies thus transforming them into works of art.

What you can expect when entrusting your taxidermy needs to my studio will be the result of a culmination of years of artistic knowledge coupled with a lifelong observation of animals and a personal dedication to producing quality works. Just like my oil paintings, all of the preservation and conservation practices applied to contemporary and traditional art will be applied to the mount, so you can rest assured the precious memories of your hunt will last a lifetime. If you are a discriminating hunter who reveres artistic value and wants nothing but the best, give our studio a try for your next trophy animal, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

DESMOND McCAFFREY artist

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