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Kickstarter project: Plants of Life

Plants of Life by Ann DuBoisAnn's DuBois has launched a Kickstarter project as a method for bringing her next book project to fruition. Ann's goal is to fund top-quality publication of her Plants of Life book, which will feature 38 original paintings of plant life, her personal story about each one, and their historical background.

Ann's project has been selected by Kickstarter as one of their "We Love it" choices!

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Memories of John Gurche at the National Museum of Natural History

The paleo halls at the National Museum of Natural History are undergoing a major renovation. The exhibit Life in the Ancient Seas, which opened in 1990 (see Deck 1992), closed on October 28, 2013; the remaining paleo complex, which opened in stages in the 1980s (for example, see Park 1981), closes April 28, 2014. The new paleo halls will reopen in 2019.

John Gurche’s original acrylic paintings currently enhance the paleo halls in three areas – but only for a few more months. His innovative Tower of Time stands majestically in the main entrance of the exhibit; his painting of a Devonian landscape provides the background for a diorama in the Conquest of Land hall; and his delicate and well-designed Evolution of the Horse spans half of the interior circumference of an intimate enclave in the Mammals in the Limelight hall.

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Member Spotlight: Sandy McDermott

Sandy McDermottBushwhack. One definition says “to make one’s way through woods by cutting at undergrowth, branches, etc.” This is how I ended up rolling through life. 

Born into a family with an alcoholic father and a mother busy working to pay the bills and raise three children, “nurturing” was virtually non-existent in my rearing. We hear this sort of story all the time and most certainly there are people who had it much worse than I. But, this environment guided my early years and led me to seek attention and acceptance outwardly, have poor study habits in high school, low self-esteem, no long-term vision, etc. Fortunately, I soon realized the surrogate environment and bad attitude were just more dead ends and not the life I wanted. It took a while for this lost soul to find the confidence to start a journey completely alone. But I did. And that’s what matters in this story.

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Kickstarter project: Why do polar bears have such big butts?

Why do polar bears have such big butts?Some of you who attended the 2013 GNSI conference in Bar Harbor, Maine may remember Chuck Carter who gave an interesting presentation on the future of eBooks. Chuck started a new company a year ago and is now working on his first independent project. Using polar bears as the focal point, Chuck and his team are creating an interactive almanac about polar bears and the arctic ecosystem in which they live. But this book is squarely aimed at a mass market. So it has interactivity, games, and a friendly art style.

To get this project off the ground independent of the big publishers, Chuck is doing a Kickstarter campaign to raise what I think is a very tight budget to get the job done. If you are interested in seeing what interactive books are about, or have kids or adults who might be interested in polar bears, you can support this campaign at very modest levels and get a copy of the book for your iPad or Mac. The stretch goal is to move it to Android and PCs if there is enough interest/pledges.

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Journal of the American Medical Association covers

JAMA coverThe Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has adorned its cover with works of medical art for 50 years. A JAMA redesign this summer put the table of contents on the front cover and moved the art inside. Apparently, readers appreciated the art but were not sure what was inside.

But for a theme issue on medical education, the editors made room for an image by JAMA senior medical illustrator and GNSI member Cassio Lynm. It pays homage to the poker playing dogs of early 20th-century artist Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. Cassio's whimsical depiction of a teaching hospital patient's room has elicited a request for posters from the JAMA readers. 

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South American Dinosaurs

Mauricio Alvarez AbelMauricio Alvarez Abel, our southernmost Chilean GNSI member is the guest blogger today. He is working closely with Chilean scientists to reconstruct recent dinosaur finds in southern Chile. These discoveries shed new light on the recurring connection between South America and the Antarctic. Mauricio also has had one of his images accepted into the "Focus on Nature" and has a strong desire to come to the New York opening, but it is a long way to travel...

 

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Painting the Desert in Tucson

Linda FeltnerI asked fifteen artists to join me on Tumamoc Hill, Tucson, AZ, for a day to paint at the U of A Desert Lab. The landscape is a working lab and the public is restricted to the paved road that extends to the top of the hill, where petroglyphs and artifacts from an Anasazi community can be found. The historic stone buildings provided facilities as well as wonderful subjects to draw. This living laboratory gave us an ungroomed Sonoran Desert landscape. I would like to offer more workshops in this fascinating place.

The Sky Island Paint-out was organized as an opportunity for artists to explore this new landscape to paint in Tucson. I started the day with a "Today's Focus" challenge that would encourage artists to think and sketch differently.

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Geoff Thompson's Award Winning Fly Photo

Geoff Thompson's photo of flesh flyAustralian GNSI member Geoff Thompson's specimen photos are winning him recognition down under. Geoff works for the Queensland Museum & Science Centre. He was recently honored with several Australian Institute of Medical and Biological Images Awards, including Best Overall Biological Photo for this image. It's the definitive specimen, holotype (QMT2351), of a flesh fly Sarcophaga alpha. The species was described by Johnston and Tiegs in 1922. For the photographers among you, the equipment used: Visionary Digital image, Canon 5D MkII, focus stacked with Zerene.

Sydney Prentice (1873-1943): The Art of Drawing Fossil Whale Bones

 

Parietobalaena palmeri Kellogg (USNM 10677) dorsal view (with detail). Published in Kellogg, 1968. Original drawing: 70 cm (h) x 36 cm (w); published drawing: 19 cm (h) x 8 cm (w).

Abstract

Sydney Prentice (1873-1943) was a paleontological illustrator and a master of the pen and ink thick/thin (eyelash) technique. A collection of his rough sketches, finished art, drawing equipment, zinc engraved printing blocks, and published drawings in the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution document a historic scientific illustration process and serve as an instructional model for artists working today. The drawings were prepared for Smithsonian cetologist Remington Kellogg (1892-1969). A gallery of images may be seen at paleobiology.si.edu/paleoArt/prentice/prentice.html


The Department of Paleobiology in Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) houses several beautiful collections of historical scientific illustrations representing a wide variety of paleontological subject matter. One of these, the Kellogg Illustration Collection, focuses primarily on fossil whale skeletal anatomy and comprises more than 250 pen and ink line drawings and rough sketches of over sixty species of whales (Fig. 1). Sydney Prentice, a master of the pen and ink line technique, prepared most of the drawings. They appear mainly in publications by the Smithsonian cetologist, Remington Kellogg.

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Pat Latas wins Artists for Conservation fellowship

On April 18, 2013, Artists for Conservation (AFC) announced its 14th fellowship, a grant in the amount of $5,000 US, awarded to American wildlife artist Patricia Latas of Tucson, Arizona. The fellowship is part of the AFC Flag Expeditions Program, which supports up to two artists per year in their fieldwork, studying and rendering endangered species or habitats that deserve greater public attention, particularly in remote parts of the world.

The primary goal of the expedition is to illustrate and support the efforts of the Kakapo Recovery Team - a conservation organization whose mission it is to save the Kakapo- a flightless species of parrot that lives in burrows in New Zealand.

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Fernando Correia's Work Featured in National Geographic-Portugal Edition

Fernando Correia reconstruction for National Geographic Portugal EditionTwo Portuguese paleontologists - Rui Araujo and Ricardo Castanhinha - whose work was partially supported by a National Geographic Society grant, have excavated in Mozambique searching for Permian fossils since 2009. Their findings wrote a new page in the earth history book and have allowed a better understanding of mammalian ancestors' evolution journey. Portuguese Editor, Gonçalo Pereira, once again challenged illustrator Fernando Correia to recreate a paleontological scene, this one regarding the Permian period, and based on the available fossil records. Following a traditional workflow, the researchers, the illustrator, and Art Director Vasco Martins worked closely together in order to achieve the best visual approach and, simultaneously, the necessary credibility and scientific accuracy.

The main directive and emphatic vectors were: a slightly hilly horizon, a lake (similar to present-day Niassa Lake), and a typical Permian phyto community in the background; in the foreground, three animals already identified and described (left, a Gorgonopsian; middle, a Temnospondyl; right, a Dicynodon), near a shallow stream. The result was a double page illustration that opens the article published in this February's issue of National Geographic - Portugal.

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Marjorie Leggitt receives ASBA Award of Excellence

Marj Leggitt botanical illustrationThe ASBA (American Society of Botanical Illustrators) recognizes artists who have made significant contributions to science through botanical art. These artist’s work must meet the requirements of scientific accuracy, technical proficiency, and aesthetics. In addition, the artist must have compiled a body of work that shows significant accomplishment in the field of scientific illustration. The recipient of this year’s biennial award, “ASBA Botanical Illustrator Award for Excellence in Scientific Botanical Art”, is our very own Marjorie Leggitt, Treasurer of the GNSI.

Marjorie has been a GNSI member since 1979 and a member of the ASBA since 2002. Although she considers herself an all-around “scientific illustrator”, much of her scientific art has been botanical in nature. As a college student in 1974, she began working in the field with her botany professor, Dr. Jack Carter. Their efforts resulted in the fully illustrated Trees and Shrubs of Colorado, a publication that is still in print. Since 1990, Marjorie has taught pen and ink, composition, perspective and various other classes in the Denver Botanic Gardens Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Program. Also in 1990, Marjorie began an ongoing collaboration with paleobotanists working as research artist and illustrator of prehistoric exhibits and professional papers. Today, Marjorie is a lead artist of the Flora of North America Magnoliophyta Vol 13 tome, having worked on volumes 9, 19, 20, and 21.

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Linda Feltner receives awards for "A Mischief of Jays"

"A Mischief of Jays" by Linda FeltnerCongratulations to GNSI member Linda Feltner for both a people's choice arward at the GNSI Members Exhibit this past summer and now two new awards for the same image! Linda has received "The Ethology award for the Best Depiction of Natural Behavior in Any Medium" and the "Western Art Collector's Magazine Editor's Choice Award" from the Society of Animal Artists (SAA), for "A Mischief of Jays".

Linda's image is a 20 x 24 pastel created as part of an ongoing series of animals, plants, and environment of the Sky Island Ecosystems in southeast Arizona.

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Taina Litwak is interviewed for Science Friday

Taina Litwak's beetle illustrationTaina Litwak, a long time GNSI member and past GNSI president, is featured in the Science Friday blog by Annette Heist. This interview led to another, in Science News.

Taina is both a biological and medical illustrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Systematic Entomology Lab. The image here is of the beetle Licracantha formicaria, a newly discovered species of ant mimic wood-boring beetle illustrated for Dr. Steve Lingafelter.

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Member Spotlight: Scott Rawlins

SCOTT RAWLINS, 2011Even before 1981 (when Raiders of the Lost Ark was released) I have been trying (in an unfocused way) to pattern my life after that of Indiana Jones —or at least his predecessor, Allan Quatermain. Both men were, to one degree or another, able to balance the sedentary world of the intellect with the dynamic world of travel and exploration.

Like Dr. Jones, I have some advanced degrees in science-related fields and teach at a university. I have traveled to unusual and/or exotic locations. I have studied grasses in Kenya, collected scorpions in Jamaica, examined the stomach of a patient in a Michigan OR and painted Amazonian plants in Brazil. Unlike “Indy,” I like snakes (and sometimes collect them) and have not been chased by natives with spears, giant boulders or beautiful Nazis.

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DBG Pollinator Exhibit and Legacy Project

Two large events are coming. First is a big exhibit late next year that you need to be planning for now. Second is a long-term project we need your input on:

Exhibit Call

Plants, Birds & Pollinators Art Serving Science

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1957 job description for the paleo-Illustration position of GNSI Founder Lawrence B. Isham, Smithsonian Institution

This is the 1957 job description for the paleo-Illustration position of GNSI Founder Lawrence B. Isham, Department of Geology, U.S.National Museum, Smithsonian Institution. It provides an interesting insight into the requirements for a museum staff illustrator position in the mid-twentieth century.

Official Position Description for Lawrence B. Isham dated 2/27/57

Smithsonian Institution, United States National Museum, Department of Geology; author unknown.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 543
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution


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GNSI members interviewed by ArtPlantae

Recently three members of the GNSI have been featured by the online magazine ArtPlantae Today.

Bring the Ocean Into Your Classroom

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Britt Griswold featured in the Big Bang Theory

One of the fruits of my collaborations in the NASA WMAP project is an Education Outreach product - the WMAP beach ball. It is a great educational tool for explaining the shape and origins of the universe. 

This fall our in-house astrophysics EPO group did an interview with me, about the creation of the ball, for their "Blueshift" Blog.

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Artist For Conservation's virtual exhibit

In 2010, in lieu of a live gallery exhibit, the Artists for Conservation (AFC) is producing its first virtual exhibit. In future years, this will complement live gallery exhibits and make them more widely accessible to an international audience. The Artists for Conservation mission is to support wildlife and habitat conservation, biodiversity, sustainability, and environmental education through art that celebrates our natural heritage.

Several GNSI members are part of AFC's 500 member organization, including Patricia Savage, Barry MacKay, John Megahan, and Linda Feltner.

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