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Biodiversity Blog


Insects and Art

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Pencils in hand, erasers in reach, students huddle over cases of butterflies and beetles. The room is quiet, save for the “scratch scratch” of the pencil lead, the occasional rub of an eraser on paper.

This is a scene from “Core II: Drawing,” a class in the First-Year Core Program at the Department of Art and Art History. On September 12th, the class visited the Biodiversity Center’s Entomology Collection to sketch from specimens.

 “Drawing field specimens from such a unique and expansive insect collection is a once-in-a-lifetime art educational experience,” Megan Hildebrandt, Associate Professor of Practice and instructor of this course, says. “We want our Core students to understand the world is their studio. This trip in particular led into a flora/fauna based drawing project, just nearing completion now.”

As a required class for art students in the First-Year Core Program, “Core II: Drawing” emphasizes traditional and digital drawing in a collaborative and interdisciplinary setting. The focus is on line, line weight, continuous line, contour line, sighting, figure, gesture, perspective (two point, three point, and isometric/orthogonal drawing), value, color, and texture.

Hildebrandt states her course values collective team-building experiences. “Students tend to bond more quickly when they ‘travel’ together. Getting out of the comfort zone of the studio makes these fieldtrips/drawing in-the-field trips more memorable, and makes the students more easily recall skillsets they work on while out in the world.” She feels art students new to college gain more confidence in their work when being able to practice observational drawing skills in non-traditional or public settings. “Perhaps the scientists and curators of the insect collection ask them about their drawing process,” she states, “and then the student needs to be able to clearly articulate the thinking behind their practice.”

Hildebrandt plans many trips outside of the studio for her art students, as she feels this supports skill sets she wants Core students to develop during their first year. To learn about perspective drawing, they intend to have class on the football field. Other possibilities are to sketch flora in the Billie L. Turner Plant Resource Center, or bone specimens at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus. “In the past I have taken drawing students to Mt. Bonnell,” Hildebrant says, “and the Greenhouse and turtle pond on campus too.”

The First-Year Core Program at the Department of Art and Art History is a hands-on, community-based, year-long experience that affords new students in all degree programs—Studio Art, Art History, and Art Education—a primer in technical proficiencies and conceptual competencies to assist in their eventual entry into the various professional fields of visual art.

Observation Sketch Butterfly red  Belle Walston 
 Drawing by Marissa Seelke  Drawing by Belle Watson
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