“Nature never stops being amazing,” says Rosemary Mosco, master of humorous nature art. “Did you know that there’s a real frog called the Paradoxical Frog? It starts out as an enormous tadpole and grows into a small frog.”
Rosemary’s new book, Birding Is My Favorite Video Game, combines fascinating facts like this with charming illustrations, and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh. In fact, the learning and laughing are both equally important to Rosemary, who wants people to enjoy her comics as a bright spot in their day. She researches heavily to find facts she wants to highlight about a creature’s behavior or ecology, and then adds her own special brand of humor.
“I grew up reading comics like Calvin & Hobbes, For Better Or For Worse, and Bloom County,” she explains. “These comics are funny, but they explore deeper themes, too. The humor helps make the messages more relatable. When I attach a joke to a fact, people share it around because everyone loves to laugh. The fact spreads to new places and reaches more people.”
The Gift of Birds
Rosemary has loved both science and nature art from a young age. She grew up in Ottawa, Canada, which she notes is a beautiful city surrounded by hills, rivers, and wetlands. (“There are canals running through the town that freeze over in the winter, and you can skate to school!”) She’d go hiking with her mom and then come home to draw what she saw. She’s especially fascinated by birds.
“There’s so much to love about birds,” notes Rosemary. “I adore that they’re real-life, modern dinosaurs! As an artist, I’m captivated by their color variations. Once you get into birds, the interest snowballs. You can find them almost everywhere. You start to notice subtle behaviors and plumage patterns. You’re never bored again. Teaching a kid to watch birds is a huge gift.”
Birds make regular appearances in Rosemary’s nature art comics. She created charts illustrating the songs and calls of common eastern and western birds. One of her most popular pieces is a flow chart helping you to decide whether or not to help a baby bird fallen from a nest. And her own personal favorite cartoon is about pygmy owls, shown below. “It’s meant to be both motivational and mildly disturbing,” Rosemary reveals. “One reader asked me if we had any evidence that these owls can kill and eat a moose. My response was, not yet…”
Asked about her favorite bird, Rosemary immediately singles out the Laysan Albatross. “It has dark shaded eyes, as if it were wearing mascara. It does a squawking dance to reinforce its bond with its mate. It’s equal parts glamorous and goofy. Albatross are in serious trouble from pollution and other threats, so they’re important symbols of conservation, too.”
Birds are just one of the organisms Rosemary explores in her comics. She loves ferns and salamanders, and is especially proud of a poster she drew showing every snake in the US and Canada. It took six months and the help of six different herpetologists to complete. Rosemary also has a real soft spot for butterflies.
“Their behaviors can be surprisingly complex,” she points out. “They defend territories with aerial dogfights. Some of them are carnivorous (as caterpillars). They have intricate relationships with toxic plants in what amounts to an evolutionary arms race. Some of them eat poop and drink tears. Oh, and it helps that they pose nicely for photos.”
Mostly self-taught, Rosemary has taken a few art courses, even studying video game art for a bit. Birding Is My Favorite Video Game includes many of the comics she’s posted on her website, birdandmoon.com, where you can also buy prints and t-shirts. During her career, she’s created many educational charts, and has been working on some children’s science books. She also has an upcoming graphic novel about the solar system.
“I’m excited to share more stories about the natural world,” Rosemary says about the future of her nature art comics. “Humor gives science wings!”
Birding is My Favorite Video Game, by Rosemary Mosco is available now on Amazon in paperback and ebook.