Look At Your Fish: Drawing to become a better observer, in the field, lab, and studio.

For scientists and students of science, drawing can be one of the best ways to understand biological structures, functions, and the environments and interactions that shape them. Whether we are drawing as part of field notes or making sketches through a microscope in the lab, the very act of drawing makes us better observers. The process of drawing requires intense looking, and it is this intensity of focus that helps us notice and remember things about organisms, habitats, and interactions. In urging his students to look at the organism and let it reveal its stories, Louis Agassiz gave his students the simple directive to “Look at Your Fish.”

Looking is one thing, but drawing can be intimidating for the novice. This workshop is intended to demystify the drawing process. With simple tools and techniques, I will share skills to enable anyone to make useful, informative sketches in the field and lab, enhancing your research and study in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology.

Student at a scientific illustration workshop at Archbold Biological Station, Highlands County, FL

Stepping into science: an artist’s adventure

The patterns and structures of nature have fascinated artists from the beginning of our species. Since the cave paintings of Lascaux we have been depicting the natural world, and artists continue to find material in the dramas of nature. If you are an artist and your work draws inspiration from the natural world, understanding some simple scientific concepts of living things and their habitats will add depth to your creative process.

Just as scientists can find themselves in foreign territory when faced with making art, those of us immersed in art-making can find ourselves a bit lost in the world of science. Using my experience in both the lab and studio, my workshops help artists make sense of science, providing context that will breathe fresh life into your work.

“Green Day” — a study of color mixing, from a workshop at Highlands Biological Station, NC

Presentations and other consulting for creative science engagement

For biological field stations, universities, museums, and other science institutions: Want to create outreach with impact? Would you like to build meaningful connections between your scientific researchers and your community? Looking to develop interdisciplinary courses and programs between the sciences and humanities?

Bring your research to the public — and the public to your research — in fresh, innovative ways. I can work with your organization to develop innovative art-science collaborations, set up an art-science residency or exchange program, design creative public outreach, facilitate an interdisciplinary art-science retreat, help develop a new interdisciplinary course or seminar, and lead grant-writing projects to fund these endeavors. We can start small with a simple guest lecture or workshop about contemporary art-science, or I can lead an art-science exploratory discussion.

For these art-science explorations I can provide a projector, art materials, and focused short exercises to spark creative thinking. Activities that bridge the art-science divide can strengthen connections across disciplines, and build relationships between your institution and the local community. What can I do for you?

Rates and other details

Experience: For over two decades, I have taught scientific illustration and nature journaling at biological field stations, science museums, nature centers, art museums and arts centers, libraries, and other settings. I also teach as a visiting instructor in college and university biology and ecology classes as well as in high school biology classes. I have catalyzed art-science collaborations, curated art-science exhibits and performances, founded and directed an art-science residency program, and led other activities for creative science engagement.

Materials: I can provide all materials for participants with an added materials fee. Alternatively, I can provide a preferred materials list and participants can bring their own.

Group size: The nature drawing instruction programs work best for groups of six to fifteen participants. Art-science lectures and discussions can be offered for any size group.

Rates: I offer competitive rates that can be adjusted on a sliding scale. Rates will vary depending on requirements of the class, provision of materials, and other parameters. Below are some examples of past workshop rates. Let’s start a conversation!

  • Mini-workshop: Three-hour workshop, $20-$30 per person
  • Weekend workshop: Six hours instruction, additional contact hours during independent work, $75-$100 per person
  • Visiting instruction: One-two hour visit to a college or university class, $200-$400
  • Art-science lecture / discussion: One-hour presentation or creative conversation, $200-$400
  • Weeklong workshop at field station or other residential venue: $2,000 ($200 per person) plus lodging and meals
  • Art-science collaboration consulting: Varies
Teaching nature journaling at Nantucket Field Station (U Mass Boston)