Saturday, August 25, 2012

Focus on Nature exhibition

Yesterday in Albany, New York, we attended the artists' reception for the exhibition of natural science illustration called "Focus on Nature."

Many of the artists attending talked a little about their paintings. Beverley Irwin described how she was able to observe this specimen of Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby near her home in Toowoomba, Australia. 

In addition to being an artist, Elayne Leighton has been a high school teacher and farmer. She noticed this relatively rare wasp-like fly (Physocephala tibialis) and rendered it with colored pencil and gouache on frosted mylar drafting film while observing it through a stereoscopic microscope. 

"I'm like a little kid who never grew up," Elayne said. Encouraged by her aunt, Elayne did sketches of animals so that she could take them home and share them with others.

Trudy Nicholson won a jury award for her scratchboard rendering of a sycamore tree in various growth stages throughout the year. It's hard to convey the intricacy of the 14.5 x 18.5 inch drawing on the web, but it's full of beautiful gradations and textures.

Milly Acharya of Ithaca, New York, painted this watercolor portrait of a garlic plant, with great attention to positive and negative shapes. What makes this painting different from a strictly aesthetic work of art is that it clearly displays the diagnostic features of the plant form, the qualities that botanists would be looking for.

Kathryn Chorney, a teacher at Sheridan College in Toronto, painted this graphite and watercolor portrait of a Great Horned Owl in a Silver Maple in winter, noting that the pattern of snow on the tree is closely matched by the camouflage of the feathers.

Watercolor is the dominant medium in the exhibit, but just about everything else is represented, including oil, acrylic, graphite, colored pencil, and digital.
I have two paintings in the show, "Mud Trap" and "Elasmosaurus."
Focus on Nature will be on view at the New York State Museum through December 31st, 2012.
View the whole catalog as a PDF, with artist commentaries and contact info.


Susan said...

I'm heading to the show just to see the scratchboard Sycamore. It's outstanding! And for once, close to home!

Unknown said...

Thank you! The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators is an amazing group of people, always generous with their knowledge. Bravo all! Well done.

Tyler Rhodes said...

Hey James, I was looking to do something like the Milly Acharya painting, or like the old scientific paintings from the 18th century etc. I notice they tend to always be watercolor but are there certain specific tools or techniques used?

James Gurney said...

Tyler, there are some book out there on botanical illustration techniques. It's basically watercolor on good, smooth paper, with a great deal of control and patient observation.

Some of the artists in the show were using techniques that were completely new to me, such as working on stretched calf skin (at about $300 a pop for the skin). The results were incredible, with rich, deep color.

Tyler Rhodes said...

Yeah I was just looking at Walton Fords stuff and he mentioned the kind of paper he used(Somerset Satin paper,white Rives paper) and it's really expensive! Oh well...

generico said...

ALBANY, NY – “Focus on Nature XI: Natural History Illustration” opens April 12 at the New York State Museum, showcasing world-class, juried artwork by top illustrators from 13 countries. This exhibition, on view through October 31 in the Photography Gallery, will feature 93 natural history illustrations, representing the work of 73 illustrators from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa and Spain. The subjects represented are diverse, ranging from those only found in the artists’ home country to those that have a worldwide distribution.