Exhibit A, from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin:
“[Not being urged to practice dissection] has been an irremediable evil, as well as my incapacity to draw.”
It was actually Darwin’s shipmate on the HMS Beagle, Conrad Martens, who made the sketches best known from that expedition. And, it wasn’t until well after Darwin’s famous voyage to the Galapagos that a publisher sent an artist back to that region with the express responsibility to illustrate Darwin’s observations.
Most publications from Darwin’s era were similarly professionally illustrated, with many of the illustrations based on specimens he collected. However, these illustrations were not Darwin’s own work.
Mind you, Darwin did occasionally sketch, as can be seen in his diagrams of “trees” roughly indicating how organisms were related. And, there are a handful of rough sketches of plant cross sections and geologic formations scattered through his myriad notebooks. But, these few sketches pale alongside the copious volumes of written notes and manuscripts he made.
I recently filled out an artist database profile, and one of the questions was both great and thought-provoking. It was also deceptively simple:
“What kind of work do you want?”
After mulling that over for a while, this is what I came up with:
I’m looking for projects that combine fascination with the natural world and a deep appreciation for visual communication.
I’m particularly excited about illustration for adults and children that doesn’t obscure how ecosystems work; editorial projects that connect readers’ everyday lives to the natural world; and collaborating with researchers interested in incorporating drawing into their research, teaching, and public communication efforts.
The database form also requested links to samples of previous projects, the kind I’d like to do more of. A set of illustrations from early this spring immediately sprang to mind.
I made the following drawings to accompany a 300-word nugget about the history of science – how an Italian priest made an important breakthrough in our understanding of animal reproduction. That might not sound terribly exciting, but the nuances of that not-so-priestly experiment are.
Frog in Pants details how a Renaissance-age priest dressed frogs in taffeta pants, and in so doing, (partially) demystified sex.
” Just wanted to say thank you again for the great piece. Among many other things, you made it onto Boing Boing and iO9, and tens of thousands of people visited the site, thanks to your excellent talents.
Sure, it’s nice to have people look at my work. But is that what makes Frog in Pants an exemplary project?
Nope. The real reason is that it’s a fantastic example of what is possible when custom illustrations are melded with the right science story. In this case, we checked all the boxes in a simple SciComm equation:
Compelling illustrations tailored to the project
+ Science story about something (nearly) everyone can relate to
= Dynamite SciComm
10s of thousands of people viewed and interacted with Frog in Pants. They learned something about themselves, in the context of how science works (building on centuries of exploration, experimentation, and discovery).
That’s why I point to some seemingly simple line drawings as an example of what I want to keep doing.
Bouma Post Yards (BPY) started by accident, sixty years ago. Founders Harold and Johanna Bouma needed some posts for their property, and had to drive several hours to buy them. The area where they live in Montana has plenty of trees – wind-warped pines and water-logged cottonwoods – but not many that make good fence poles.
Réjean Trottier is pur laineQuébeçois, whose family has lived on the chemin du roy (the King’s Highway) between Quebec City and Montreal for generations. Several years ago, on a bit of a whim, Trottier and his uncle hand built two stone wood-fired ovens on the edge of the property adjacent to the highway. Continue reading “Verger Trottier/Trottier's Orchard”