FP Tony Bennett
As rare as it is to be able to reproduce avifauna in a hyper-realistic way with paint or pencils, imagine trying to capture that “nature” in a fraction of a moment – in the few seconds before the bird takes flight. But that’s exactly what naturalist and artist FP Tony Bennett has been doing for the last five decades, focusing an unblinking attention to detail on a wide range of the world’s most beautiful, rare, and beloved creatures. With a special affection and talent for capturing rare birds (he’s painted an estimated 70% of all known hummingbird species), Tony’s work has appeared in many prestigious art venues, scholastic works, conservationist events, magazine covers and U.S. wildlife stamps.
“My life has been lived at the center of art, science and adventure. I just see myself as a reporter of what I have seen and experienced,” explains Bennett. In order to truly experience his “subjects” and their habitats, he has taken numerous extended trips to a variety of tropical rain forests, including multi-month expeditions to live in the forests of Peru and Costa Rica with the LSU Museum of Zoology. His expeditions have included a seven-week expedition living in the jungles of Ecuador with its hummingbirds and other fauna.
Originally attempting to capture the essence of his subjects with his camera, Tony soon abandoned that approach in favor spending every fleeting second observing the bird in its natural state, mentally capturing and sketching every minute detail to later translate it to paper. He even spent 2 ½ years actually raising and caring for a group of Peruvian “hummers.”
“You only have a few seconds when you finally see your bird,” says Bennett. “I prefer to concentrate on using that time to focus all my attention on getting to know the bird rather than adjusting the focus of my camera lens.”
The results are amazingly accurate and detailed representations of nature, scientific enough to be featured in scholastic works and beautiful enough to hang in the halls of the World’s Fair. In addition to many other shows, his works have appeared at the Leigh Yawky Woodson Art Museum “Birds in Art” exhibit, the 1979 American Ornithologists’ Union Convention, the Cincinnati Museum of Natural Science, and the Louisiana World’s Fair. His art was also recognized when he won the First of State Fish stamp for Kentucky contest.”His work is also included in many private and corporate collections including the famous King Ranch in South Texas.
During his sophomore and junior years of college, Tony illustrated Irby Davis’ Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Central America, comprised of 48 color plates, plus the cover. Other works have included the revision of the Handbook of Birds of India and Pakistan by S. Dillon Ripley, the Distributional Checklist of North American Birds, and the Hummingbird Family sections of both All the Birds of North America (by The American Bird Conservancy) and Birds of Peru (Published by Princeton University Press).
Bennett’s paintings are exceptional not only for their brilliant portrayals of neo-tropical birds but also for the richly detailed plant life that fills the background. He also takes exceptional care in showing various shades of lighting in his work, featuring settings of early sunlight and dusk, and how these hues affect the wildlife in his subject matter. His library of work ranges from works created in pencil to large-scale oils and watercolors.
Originally from Marfa, Texas and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, Tony experienced the avifauna and migration paths of the area from an early age, providing him the perfect opportunity to observe and record all sorts of wildlife. By the time he was 14 years old, Tony had already become “obsessed” with depicting the tropical avifauna – another subject for his art that still motivates him. He began his formal art education in secondary school and college, which culminated with a B.S. in Commercial Art from Southwest Texas State University in 1972. As a result of the hours he spent documenting the wildlife of Texas and Northern Mexico, Bennett is known for his expertise in the field and has led many groups in Texas and Mexico for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and The University of Texas Elder Hostel Program.
As a natural outgrowth of his efforts, Bennett has cultivated a deep concern for the neotropical forest’s rapid disappearance. “I believe realistic paintings showing habitat and an aspect of the life history of a bird or animal will go a long way toward helping prevent their destruction,” he says. “I hope my work can contribute to the cause of conservation through education.”
Bennett lives in the Rio Grande Valley and continues to focus the majority of his time on bird species, although he has also completed an impressive collection of realistic artwork in topics ranging from historic ships, airplanes, jungle cats, and butterflies, all featuring the same level of exceptional detail and accuracy.
See more of FP Tony Bennett on his Facebook Page