The Legendary Bishop birds - Richard E. Bishop Glass and Barware
Bishop's career as an artist began, largely by accident, in 1920. He was in charge of a plant that fabricated copper products. Discarded copper printing plates were often brought in, to be melted down and "recycled." This struck Bishop as a waste, so one day he rescued a plate, covered it with wax, and etched a portrait---human, not avian---using a phonograph needle as his stylus. Four years later, his "Canada Geese" won the Charles M. Lea prize awarded by the Philadelphia Print Club.
Although Bishop learned the basics of printmaking from the eminent graphic artist Ernest Roth of the Connecticut School, in most respects he was self-taught. He appropriated the techniques and nuances of the intaglio media---etching, drypoint, and aquatint---through trial and error, relying on his critical, engineer's eye to guide his hand. He built his own printing press for his limited editions, keeping the entire printmaking process in his own hands.
In 1936, J. N. "Ding" Darling, then Chief of the U. S. Biological Survey, asked Bishop if his elegant drypoint of Canada Geese, "Coming In," could be the basis for the third Federal Duck Stamp. Bishop agreed, with the stipulation that he be granted complete control over the final design. It marked the first and last time such control was extended. The Bishop stamp was unique in that the image itself was free from lettering; the printing appeared outside the borders. It was also the first stamp to be made into a print. Bishop was an astute businessman, as Malcolm Rowe puts it, "He was never one to miss a profit center.