Early in my taxidermy career I became well aware of the value of reference photos. Any experienced taxidermist will tell you one of the most important requirements to improve your work is simple: reference, reference, reference. As so, in the days before cell phones with 512 GBS of storage, I began collecting binders full of photos of every fish and mammal that seemed useful. I amassed an impressive collection, and while my work improved steadily, I never felt like I was getting a huge benefit from my reference collection, that is, until a critique from my good friend and mentor, Rick Krane, at the Michigan Taxidermy Association competition in 2016. During that critique, Rick taught me that it’s much easier to recreate something if you know what its purpose is. In other words, once you know what something is supposed to do, it’s easier to understand why that something is shaped the way it is and with that knowledge in hand, it’s much easier to make sure you’re reproducing it accurately. It is through this lens that I will approach this series of articles.
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