Web Extra: World Dominated By Birds

It may be said that Thomas Schultz lives in a world dominated by birds, for if he isn’t painting them, he is probably watching, identifying, counting or reading about them. Although he grew up with an early awareness and appreciation of the natural world, participating in Scouting and other outdoor activities, birds didn’t become a full-fledged passion until Schultz was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. During his college years, he began to combine his avian interests with a latent artistic ability, and a bird artist began to emerge.

Schultz graduated in 1976 with a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology, and continued to develop his skills at painting birds in natural habitat settings. That summer he participated in a bird-painting seminar in Trinidad with well-known avian artist, Don Eckelberry. His artistry continued to mature, and his work began to attract a large following of enthusiastic collectors. Numerous commissioned paintings, both corporate and private, have been completed over the years.

In 1981 he had a painting juried into the prestigious Leigh Yawkey Woodson "Birds in Art" exhibition in Wausau, Wisconsin. This annual exhibit attracts submissions of bird art from around the world, and has become the premier show of its kind. Six additional paintings have been shown there in subsequent years, and in 1993 Schultz had a painting placed into the museum’s permanent collection.

An outgrowth of that 1981 exhibition was a commission from the National Geographic Society to illustrate a portion of their popular new book, "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" (published in 1983). He has also been contracted to illustrate additional figures for the third, fourth, and fifth editions of this popular field guide, and in 2006 he did some illustrations for National Geographic’s "Complete Birds of North America." In 2008 he completed some additional work for their new Eastern and Western bird field guides. He was honored in 1988 by being selected to be "Wisconsin Wildlife Artist of the Year" by Wisconsin Sportsman magazine with a painting titled "Pheasant Crossing."

The artist has had his work reproduced in a number of magazines and other publications, and most recently has worked on illustrations for several books. One is "A Field Guide to Warblers," published in 1997 by Houghton Mifflin as a part of the Peterson Field Guide Series. He also provided illustrations for a Smithsonian Institution field guide that was published in 2005 titled, "The Birds of South Asia – The Ripley Guide."

Schultz has become an expert in the identification of North American birds, and is active in the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, where he serves as vice president and as co-chair of the field trip committee. From 1994 to 2000 he served as a member of the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project, and was also a Regional Coordinator. In addition, he was the photo editor for the resulting book, and authored a number of species accounts.

The artist currently resides in the rural Green Lake, WI area with his wife, Wendy, and two sons. He maintains a studio in his home, where he is surrounded by the forests, fields, and marshes that provide unlimited inspirations for future paintings.

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