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Book Review: Name Those Grasses; Identifying Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

Grasses are notoriously difficult to identify, ask any botanist. Having evolved along the same basic physical plan and superficially resembling one another, grasses must be identified by studying tiny structures that cannot be observed without magnification. By default, this has traditionally been left to experts, who still have difficulty separating species. Because of the exactitude involved, written descriptions in botanical atlases and floras are written by and for experts. Most laypeople turn away in bewilderment, wishing that some interpretive guide existed that could help to decipher the code.

And now one does! Ian Clarke’s book, Name Those Grasses; Identifying Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes helps those without specialized knowledge use identification manuals and botanical keys and clarifies the identification of grasses and grass-like plants. Stuffed with practical information, the book is designed, written, and profusely illustrated with ink/scraperboard drawings and color photographs by Clarke. He knows his topic well, having worked in the botanical field for more than 40 years, first for the University of Melbourne School of Botany and later for the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s identification and information services. He has a longtime interest in botanical illustration and has served on the selection panel for many botanical art exhibitions.

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Book Reviews: Botanical Illustration

Introduction

Like many of you, I am curious when a book asserts itself as an authoritative survey of a favorite subject. Charged by Gail Guth with reviewing Martyn Rix’s The Golden Age of Botanical Art, I chose four other titles for comparison and will present summaries of each in chronological order of publication. The Martin Rix book is number four.

The Art of Botanical IllustrationThe earliest of the series discussed here is The Art of Botanical Illustration by Wilfrid Blunt (with the assistance of William T. Stearn), my volume published by Collins, London, 2nd ed., 1967 (1st edit. 1950). Compared to the number of images in the other books, this one has a modest 46 color plates; 32 black and white plates; 61 illustrations; and 18 figures to amplify the text. Having the 3 appendices and a comprehensive index contributes significant value to this volume. The 2015 reprint of the 2001 edition of the book has a steep list price of almost $70 but includes many more illustrations than the original. Of the four volumes considered here this one is the one most clearly directed towards educating the aspiring or even professional botanical artist in technique as well as offering an appreciation of the field’s history. It is also the most historically comprehensive (even trumping Rix with a photo of a Paleolithic plant carving). William Stearn is the notable author of Botanical Latin, so you can be sure this book brings both the expertise of the trained botanist as well as that of the professional artist. It’s important to remember that Blunt was born in 1901 and writes much in the insightful, detailed style of that day. Of all of them, it’s probably the most helpful to the intermediate and advanced botanical artist and teacher because of its comprehensiveness.

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Ready, Set, Sell! Proactive Marketing Strategies

Visual Analogy GuideI am an Anatomy & Physiology professor, and the author/illustrator of a four-book series called The Visual Analogy Guides with Morton Publishing. These books cover the fields of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry and are sold to college students nationwide. In the publishing world, my books are classified as stand-alone supplements. Think of them as a combined study guide/workbook/coloring book all rolled into one. They are very visual and contain all the useful study tips not found in a typical textbook.

The inspiration for these books was born in the classroom. In the anatomy lab, I used to draw sketches for students comparing anatomical structures to things from everyday life. For example, a thoracic vertebra looks like a giraffe’s head. This comparison allowed the student to superimpose the known (giraffe’s head) on the unknown (thoracic vertebra) to better visualize and learn the anatomical structures. I called these comparisons visual analogies which are based on an effective form of learning called contextualized learning. My students used to joke with me that I should compile all of these visual analogies into a book. Initially, I brushed aside their suggestion, but I took it more seriously when I tried to find a book containing these visual analogies and found nothing. This was the motivation I needed to write and illustrate my own books.

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Book Review: Beetles and Other Insects

Introduction

On the introduction to Beetles and Other Insects, Gerhard Scherer writes “There is (…) something mysterious about these objects, these small organisms with many hidden secrets. This aura of mystery and the fascination exerted by insects’ physical appearance are no doubt what has repeatedly induced artists to depict them.” Indeed it was only at thirty-two years of age that artist Bernard Durin (1940-1988) stumbled upon insects for the first time, during a walk in his native region of Provence. But the experience was so transformative that it set him on a journey to illustrate these animals with a passion and precision that are unparalleled in the representation of insects.

FROM THE BOOK COVER: BEETLES AND OTHER INSECTS BY BERNARD DURINBeetles and Other Insects includes all known and currently available images produced by Bernard Durin. It is the fourth expanded edition of the book published in 1980 with the same title. About half of the sixty watercolor plates in it portray a variety of beetles, from the widespread seven-spotted ladybug and the expected Hercules and rhinoceros beetles to the rare alpine borer and exotic flower scarabs. The remaining plates put the spotlight on a few species from the wasp, bees and ants group, cicadas, tree and jewel bugs, grasshoppers, a crane fly, butterfly and praying mantis. There are also one spider and two scorpion illustrations, which, by being outside of the insect group, should have called for a different book title. Each plate is complemented by a historical and anatomical text, the majority of them crafted by the head of the beetle section of the Zoologische Staatssammlung in Munich at the time of the first edition.

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Book Release: Mecklenburg Breeding Bird Atlas

Excerpt from article by Amber Veverka, The Charlotte Observer, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013

The golden-crowned kinglet leans over a sketched-twig perch, his bright eye peering out from the page at his creator, Leigh Anne Carter.

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Book Review: Shaping Humanity

Shaping Humanity book coverGray-bearded John Gurche has been in the paleo-reconstruction business for a long time. His paintings, drawings, and sculptures are featured in numerous books, magazines, and exhibitions in the National Museum of Natural History, the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, National Geographic magazine, Natural History magazine, and The Guild Handbook of Natural Science Illustration (see Hodges 2003, 1989), just to name a few. He teaches and lectures about his work to public and scholarly audiences, including the GNSI.

John, who I consider to be the best in the business, has just published his first book: Shaping Humanity. Now, all of us can begin to understand the technical, scientific, aesthetic, and spiritual travels that take John from the fossil remains to his completed sculpture. Beautifully designed by James Johnson and lavishly illustrated in full color, Shaping Humanity is sure to become a classic in the field of paleo-reconstruction.

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Science Illustration Sourcebooks

For those who promote their work to potential clients, one of the traditional methods is through sourcebooks. For the science illustration community, this often means September is a big month when the fruits of your labor are put on display in the latest editions of the Science-Art and Medical Illustration Source directories. The Science-Art.com sourcebook is full of GNSI member's work and the art of Nicolle Rager Fuller graces the cover.

Both these publications will be released to a total of 9500 potential art buyers this September. The cool thing about the internet is that the books are already available digitally for your enjoyment, and is an educational opportunity in how others design promotional material for themselves.

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Book Review: The Big Apples of New York

The Big Apples of N.Y. CoverThe Big Apples of New York takes the reader on a wonderful journey that includes apples. It teases the senses. It is filled with rich history related to the apple, from the beginning with Adam and Eve to the people who brought the seeds to America. The book contains myths, medical uses, history, and a wonderful mystery.

The Big Apples of New York is a great addition to the library of a hobbyist, gardener, history buff, botanical artist or any person who loves apples. Even the domestic chef would be surprised by the recipes at the end of the book. The book is filled with beautiful botanical apple plates that visually distinguish the varieties through color and textural look. Descriptions of history and how the portrayed apple might be used are written on the back of the plates. At the back of the book, you will find a list of apple orchards in the state of New York. I found the book easy to read- and thoroughly enjoyable. Just make sure you have apples on hand for a snack.

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Book Release: Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

Why Would Any One Cut a Tree Down, Cover

The US Forest Service just released a beautifully-illustrated, non-fiction children’s picture book that discusses why trees are sometimes cut down.

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Book Review: Unfeathered Birds

The Unfeathered Bird CoverIn The Unfeathered Bird, Katrina van Grouw offers a unique treatise on bird anatomy that should be in every natural history illustrator’s library. Unique because she portrays her subjects in lifelike poses and includes examples from many bird orders and families -- two features most welcome to those with an interest in birds. Too, Katrina’s illustrations are superb and easily fulfill her wish to show anatomy, not describe it in an excruciatingly detailed text.

Katrina has been a self-employed artist, illustrator, and printmaker since earning, in 1992, a Master of Arts in Natural History illustration from the Royal College of Art. Her thesis was an illustrated treatise on bird anatomy, designed to aid artists in producing life-like drawings and paintings. So was born the idea for The Unfeathered Bird, a project which is, to date, a life work. She has also served as curator for the ornithological collections at the British Natural History Museum in London, a post which has provided the contacts she needed to continue her work.

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GNSI Members' Books make the NSTA List!

Natures Patchwork Quilt, CoverNature's Patchwork Quilt: Understanding Habitats
by Mary Miche; published by Dawn Publications; illustrated by Consie Powell

Just imagine all of nature, mountains, prairies, oceans, and all lying on your bed as a patchwork quilt! Take flora and fauna in their unique habitats, fold them up and you have a book, this book. Downloadable activities for this book can be found on the Dawn Publications website.

 


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Book Review: The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds

The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds book coverIt’s been said that unless one studies the structure of birds, one will never really portray them well. This is especially true for birds, for they are cloaked in a soft covering that conceals most of their anatomy. The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds is a book that will guide the new or experienced bird artist with an in-depth approach to drawing birds.

There is a certain fear factor facing the novice bird artist. Birds have shape and form that demonstrate light and shadow, which are apparent from viewing the outside. Artists must also study and investigate what goes on underneath the feathers, how the feathers attach, and how all of this benefits flight.

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Book Review: Joseph Hooker Botanical Trailblazer

Joseph Hooker Botanical Trailblazer

This richly illustrated little book follows Joseph Hookers career as he struggles to raise botany from a Victorian gentleman’s hobby to a recognized science. Through his world travels and a network of collectors he identified more than 12,000 new plant species, published several illustrated books and journals on plants and eventually followed in his fathers’ footsteps as Director of Kew Garden. His good friend and colleague Charles Darwin was so impressed with his work that as a legacy he funded the Index Kewensis, a comprehensive list of the world’s plant species which is still kept current today. The beautiful plant illustrations and landscapes reproduced here from his journals are accompanied by reproductions of lithographs and paintings done by Walter Hood Finch. This overview of Hookers life along with the reproduced illustrations, documents and photographs make this little Kew publication one any fan of the history of botany would enjoy.

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Book Review: Images of Nature–The Art of the First Fleet

First Fleet Falcon1787 “Two Naval Ships, the HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, three store ships and six convict transports set sail from Portsmouth bound for Botany Bay,” ‘the First Fleet’ as defined by colonial Australian historians. The brief but poignant introduction by Lisa Di Tommaso, the Assistant Librarian of the Natural History Museum in London, sets the stage for a series of images that portray the earliest encounters between European commerce and Australian aboriginal natives.

The collection exhibiting this summer in London highlights the illustrated works from three categorized sources: the works of George Raper, a midshipman on board HMS Sirius, the works of Thomas Whatling, a landscape artist turned convict for forgery, and works by unidentified artists who went by the name “Port Jackson Painter.” Given that the voyage or colony had no designated official artist, the collection’s unique depictions are a testament to the various artists, their unique character, and how they came to be in Port Jackson, Australia, in the late 1700s.

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Book Release: Field Notes on Science and Nature

Field Notes on Science and Nature, CoverA new Harvard publication edited by Michael Canfield, "Field Notes on Science and Nature" explores multiple methodologies for creating science field journals with multiple authors presenting a chapter each. This includes the GNSI's own Jenny Keller of the California State University, Monterey Bay campus.

The book covers disciplines as diverse as ornithology, entomology, ecology, paleontology, anthropology, botany, and animal behavior, and Field Notes on Science and Nature. Readers are allowed to peer over their shoulders and into the notebooks of a dozen eminent field workers, to study firsthand their observational methods, materials, and fleeting impressions. And features wonderful illustrations from the journals of the authors. Jenny's work is prominently featured.

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Book Release: Colorful Edibles! A new ASBA coloring book

Colorful Edibles book coverThe American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) has published a wonderful new coloring book, Colorful Edibles. It features 28 pages of delicious line drawings by 26 ASBA members selected from nearly 80 submissions. I am excited to say that two of my drawings have been included! In addition, a number of other Guild of Natural Science Illustrators with ASBA membership are also in the publication.

Contributing artists are: Bobbi Angell, Mary Bauschelt, Beverly Behrens, Irene Blecher, Doreen Bolnick, Silvia Bota, Carol Creech, Carrie DiCostanzo, Jan Denton, Beverly Duncan, Joel Floyd, Keiko Fujita, Gretchen Halpert, Carol Hamilton, Wendy Hollender, Lois Jackson, Jeanne Kunze, Marjorie Leggitt, Derek Norman, Suellen Perold, Kelly Leahy Radding, Maryann Roper, Nancy Savage, Pauline Savage, Judith Scillia and Kelly Sverduk.

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Book Review: The Multifaceted Life and Books of Arthur Guptill

All of us know of the American Artist's Magazine, its American Artist's Book Club and their publisher, Watson-Guptill Publications (ownership now is in Billboard Publications). This article is about Arthur L. Guptill, co-founder, co-editor and co-manager of these businesses in art, with his longtime friend, Ernest Watson. Together they undertook many art enterprises under the Watson-Guptill umbrella.

Arthur GuptillGuptill the Polymath

The word I have used goes back into early Victorian history: a person with multiple interests and vocations who pursues all of them vigorously at the same time. Guptill's major occupations were artist, architect, decorator, teacher and finally author with the Watson-Guptill firm thrown in between. At all of these things he was good; to them all,l he brought a strong artistic sense; and in them gained an enviable reputation for his work.

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Copyright and Fair Use

This is an edited virtual roundtable discussion held online. Transcribed for the September 2010 GNSI newsletter column "Ripped From the List "- edited by Stephan DiCerbo, and now edited for online presentation.

Gail Guth emailed the list about a fellow who wanted to avoid the cost of repro rights on someone else’s images by tracing them and was concerned—with good reason—if he was infringing on copyrights. The thread brought out various takes on the issue, some of which you might find surprising. This thread also touches upon “fair use for educational purposes” and “government use and public domain.” – Stephen Di Cerbo

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Book Review: Manual of Leaf Architecture

Leaf Architecture Cover

A new book on the architecture of leaves, Manual of Leaf Architecture, by Ellis, Daly, Hickey, Johnson, Mitchell, Wilf and Wing, goes into great detail, assigning names and descriptions to important characters that distinguish different leaves. Size, shape, lobing, surface texture, apex and base and margins all are fully described and named and are characteristics we should be aware of as artists.

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