Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

John James Audubon (1785 – 1851) The Blue Jay and Other Bird Prints

The Blue Jay
John J. Audubon is a very interesting artist to study for his life and works cross many fields for he was an artist, a naturalist and a scientist of birds (ornithologist). In our studies, it even crosses with history, for I find it both interesting and helpful to look at artists in context of what else is going on at the time. We found this beautiful book, The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon an excellent biography of this artist.
He was born in France in 1785, but in 1803, his father obtained a false passport so that Audubon could go to the United States to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic Wars. Audubon set about to study American birds, determined to illustrate his findings in a more realistic manner than most artists did at the time.

It is hard then to study Audubon's bird prints without studying birds as well. We chose a bird to study first, the blue jay and I made copies from Audubon's Birds of America Coloring Book for them to paint. We also read about the bird from The Burgess Bird Book. 

All of this easily led into a nature study of the Blue Jay.  Nature for the Very Young has wonderful sketches of

the Blue Jay in the various stages of its life, so I thought I would take this opportunity to teach them that birds look different in the various stages of their life. 
Young children, too, sometimes think that the color of the egg and the color of the bird should be the same or that all eggs are white like the eggs they get from the store. The Blue jay has a cream colored egg with brown spots. 

painting a coloring page of a Blue Jay
April 2009
"John Audubon said that as soon as he began waling and talking, his father constantly pointed out objects in nature. His father would bring him birds and flowers and show him details such as the birds' elegant movement, or the softness of the feathers, or how they showed fear or pleasure, or their perfect form. He would talk about their seasonal migrations, where they lived and how they would change. It was this early influence that excited Audubon and inspired him to make birds his life's work and think about the God who created them."

We will continue our study of Audubon's prints by picking other birds out of his Birds of America book and studying both the art prints and the birds themselves.A helpful resource for studying Audubon is this booklet of six of Audubon's prints. In it are postcard sized reproductions of his prints of the whooping crane, great blue heron, roseate spoonbill, American white pelican, wild turkey, and American flamingo.


  1. I have that blue jay print hanging in my house. We love Audubon, and my Daughter has chosen him for the artist she wants to study this semester.

  2. Wonderful post! Have you read "A Nest for Celeste?" by Henry Cole ?? It's a must read ... especially if you are studying Audubon.

  3. We've watched John James Audubon: Drawn from Nature on Netflix (you might see if it is on Top Documentaries if you don't have Netflix) - several times Kira loves it. When we went to Eagle Days she went to the Audubon Society table and discussed owls with the woman manning the table.

    I found a book of Audubon prints (not large small) at Daedalus Books to give Kira for her birthday in May. Then last week I found two more Audubon books at Barnes and Noble that were reasonably priced but for volume of images the books from Daedalus which I paid 10 dollars for was definitely the best deal.

    If you watch the video with your boys, you might want to prewatch it as there is a part where they discuss his work as a portrait painter when he tried to raise money and the nude he painted at the time.

  4. He DID create such beautiful, nature pictures, didn't he? Looks like your little guy looks so INTENT on his painting! Wonderful!

  5. Their pictures were great. I love the one of the bird hatching.


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