In Pursuit of Birds

a Foray with Field Glasses and Sketchbook


cover- Front and back

Innercover- Front and back -

the same etched image placed in a beehive and covered in honey-comb. 


Northern Flicker


In Pursuit of Birds

A Foray with Field Glasses and Sketchbook

by Ladislav R. Hanka

One hundred ninety drawings and etchings by Ladislav Hanka – accompanied by essays throughout.

In relaxed, wide-ranging discourse, Ladislav Hanka touches on natural history, art, printmaking, birds and birding
– and then often slips off into storytelling.  Auspicious sightings of rare birds morph into forays to exotic places and lead the reader into a broader vision of man, not apart from nature.

Innovative uses of etching and exceptional drawing abound in this generous volume. Even bees enter Hanka’s artwork as he places etchings into living beehives where they chew holes in his artwork, building up structures of honeycomb in remarkable interspecies collaborations of unusual beauty.

In this volume you’ll find the familiar birds of woods and field, a beautiful variety of wood warblers, waterfowl, rap- tors and upland game birds.

This is a comprehensive document of the artist returning, over a span of 35 years, to explore subject matter that is close to his heart. It is also a tribute to what can be accomplished using the traditional graphic arts.

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The last chapter takes us to Hanka’s newfound love of bee keeping and reminds us that our interactions with honeybees are ancient – first depicted in a Spanish cave painting 15,000 years ago. Hanka inserts etchings into living hives, and bees respond by constructing accretions of honeycomb on the print. By ceding control, he’s allowed a compelling interspecies collaboration to evolve.

Hanka is from a lineage of artists who see no separation between man and nature. Polish sculptress and fiber artist, Magdalena Abakanowicz, is also quoted, pausing in mid-lecture, to gaze upon her audience and very deliber- ately asking; “are we here to be decorators or shamans?”

In Hanka ‘s closing comments, he acknowledges the cyclic nature of life and history with an exhortation to go ahead and borrow from his work. “Take it another turn of the cycle. It’s common patrimony, borrowed from the source for just a while, much like the flesh hanging on our bones. Godspeed to you my friend.”

Hanka’s attention to every detail of his book was not lost on me. Former book publisher that I am, I’d say that the book itself is a work of art. What else would you expect from an artist who loves, as I do, paper, ink, image ... and nature.

Ladislav Hanka, “Eurasian Bee Eater,” printed on Somerset satin white, Image: 6” x 5”

Ladislav Hanka,“Black Throat-Green Warbler,” printed on Somerset printed on Somerset satin white, Image: 4.5” x 4” satin white

Review appearing in Journal of The Print World 2015

In Pursuit of Birds

A Foray with Field Glasses and Sketchbook

by Rebecca Ronstadt

This handsome book of drawings and etchings is the fruit of several decades of work by an exceptional printmaker, naturalist and favorite artist of mine, Ladislav Hanka. His credentials and scientific knowledge are evident, as well as his impeccable draftsmanship. The result is a generous, welcoming volume.

Hanka invites us along on his travels into forbidden zones deep within the Danube Delta of Romania, teeming with rare birdlife. Elsewhere, he takes us to see the world’s rarest warblers, co-existing with incendiary weapons and the detonations of a National Guard gunnery range. His stories of his voyage bring us along, like travelers who meet on a pilgrimage. And with each step along the way, we enter and share in his visions of nature.

Once in his world, we find ourselves wondering what goes on behind the unblinking stare of an owl – realizing that there is something spooky, even reptilian about a bird. They aren’t just tweetie-birds at the feeder, but also efficient predators and pitiless scavengers, as Hanka portrays. Even the vultures are elegantly compelling.

This volume is about birds, which are undeniably pretty. But it’s also a dry- eyed look, dedicated to beauty in its deeper sense – without the softening buffer of sentimentality. Hanka speaks throughout the book of art and not just birds, but of symbol, myth, and metaphor . . . and why make art? We must each answer that question for ourselves.

This volume contains nearly 200 drawings and etchings – common birds as well as rare – a spectrum traversing 35 years of printmaking. We see his field sketches and how they are transformed into etchings. His use of polychromatic inks,* varnishes and delicate wiping convincingly evokes the softness of birds – yet there are also skeletal and muscular structures beneath those surfaces. That’s the draftsman at work, approaching the polished copper with a sure, practiced hand – the ten thousand drawings that preceded coming into play.

I’ve been lucky enough to view three or four of Ladislav Hanka’s portfolios. His birds. Fish. Trees. Mushrooms. Tibetan Monks. His portfolio is one of those where, page after page, you find yourself saying, “Oh my God, this work is beautiful.” If you love etching, in its simplest and purest form, you’ll love Ladislav Hanka’s work. And thankfully, the book is beautifully printed, with attention to detail. The beauty of the images is not lost for lack of attention to the paper quality, the layout, the whole presentation of the book. In fact, former publisher that I am, I’d say that the book itself is a triumph. What else would you expect from an artist who loves, as I do, paper, ink and image.

Ladislav Hanka,“Black Throat-Blue Warbler,” printed on Somerset printed on Somerset satin white, Image: 4.5” x 4” satin white