Monday, November 14, 2011

National seal

I did a little digging around since last we spoke about turkeys and all. It turns out Benjamin Franklin was not necessarily advocating for the turkey as our national emblem. He was in fact dissenting, balking at the choice of an eagle.

Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter:

”For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.”

He goes on to comment on the rough drawing of the proposed national seal as realized by the secretary of the Continental congress, Charles Thomson -- a Latin scholar capable of producing a good conceptual design, but unable to make it aesthetically accurate.

"I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

Bald eagle and turkey: a comparison

As a novice ornithologist I am here to tell you that there is visually very little in common with an eagle (a black and white bird that glides on air currents, on long wings that stick straight out) and a turkey (a brownish, mottle-colored bird that runs, short wings stuck out at angles, as though he were late for a meeting). So to make a drawing where one might mistake one for another is a pretty interesting feat. You must always use references when drawing from life, kids. You don't need to copy the realism, but you do need to make sure we can tell what it is you are drawing.