“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.”
― Baba Dioum
Although my father tells me I was a prodigious sketcher throughout my childhood, my specific interest in natural science illustration dates back to a zoology class I took during my senior year of high school. The class consisted of four dissections (worm, grasshopper, frog, rat) with a heavy emphasis on drawing detailed diagrams of the systems we found in each animal. This class was more than three decades ago, and yet I remember it clearly. My favorite part, of course, was the drawing, but I was also amazed at the intricate anatomy – so much function packed tightly and efficiently in to such a small space!
Had I known that a career in natural science illustration was a possibility, I would have perhaps pursued it then. Instead I went in to geographic information systems and cartography – distant cousins of science illustration with the same end goal of better understanding our world. I enjoyed my career immensely, but always felt the tug of drawing and painting the natural world. My “guilty pleasure” was looking at the websites of science illustrators and professional certificate programs like the one I eventually attended at UW. When circumstances allowed, I made the jump from high-tech, fast-paced careerist, to observant and methodical science illustrator and wildlife artist.
My curiosity about the natural world, and my deep desire for us all to wake up and change our callous treatment of it, fuels my inspiration. It is an amazing planet we live on, with tremendous species diversity, and so much yet to learn. Here on the coast of Oregon where I live, within five minutes’ walk from my house I can see shorebirds and seabirds by the thousands, sea lions, grey whale spouts, tide pool inhabitants, any number of passerine birds, rough-skinned newts and black-tailed deer. I can access old growth forest and marine ecology steps from my front door. A few minutes further away brings me to natural estuarine environment.
I try to be guided by Baba Dioum’s famous quote (above) every day. My goal is to portray an intimate moment with each of my subjects, and to make the viewer feel like you shared in that moment.