In late summer 2020, a call for entries went out from GNSI member, Cordelia Norris of Luna Creative for a coloring book on backyard pollinators. Remember my post about “All Along the Atlantic”? Well, this is the second coloring book in a series produced by Cordelia and her team. I jumped at the chance to participate again.
I started thinking about possible contributions, but was a little concerned about what I might be able to draw since most of my experience is with plant drawings. Then, as the brainstorming went forward for the contents, the team mentioned wanting to make sure they included less common pollinators. Everyone knows about butterflies and bees, but what about lesser-known pollinators like flies, lizards and mammals? As I thought about what I know and browsed some of my many plant reference photos, I realized that I would love to draw one of my favorite spring wildflowers – skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). I have spent many an early spring walk here in Michigan looking for the first signs of the mottled, maroon spathe poking up in moist, low-lying areas of the trail. In fact, I had just captured some great reference photos showing the interior of the skunk cabbage that past spring. I think I found my contribution!
So what pollinates a skunk cabbage? I knew that skunk cabbage obtained its name from the fetid odor and heat that it emits as it emerges from the frosty soil in early spring. Stinky odors attract flies! It turns out that the metallic blue bottle fly (Calliphora vomitoria) is one of its main pollinators. So my focus was to find some good, copyright free reference photos that would allow me to create an accurate, original illustration. Pixabay is a great reference for royalty-free stock photos. It can take a compilation of many different reference photos to include the proper details for a final illustration.
I played around with composition, based on the main reference photo (taken by me) and came up with this illustration:
Initially, I thought the composition was a little messy, but in reality that is exactly what the early spring grounds look like. The leaf litter is wet and brown and the skunk cabbage is emerging from the detrius of winter. It was perfect, just as it looked.
I was only able to complete one drawing to contribute to the coloring book. As it turns out, though, Cordelia’s coloring book projects have gained some great momentum in the GNSI community and she had plenty of other contributors. She, along with Trudy Smoke Robbins and Tiffany Miller Russell created an amazing compilation of 60 illustrations from leading natural science illustrators with accompanying text detailing a cross-section of the range of species that serve as pollinators in North America. As I mentioned, this includes well-known species and some unexpected surprises. The book also illuminates unique pollinator/plant relationships and strategies.
After lots of research, tweaking of layout and final edits the book became ready for publication at the end of November 2021, just in time for the holidays! It is 136 pages and printed on a wonderful quality 70lb paper, perfect for a variety of coloring media.
You can find copies available in my Etsy shop: Backyard Pollinators Coloring Book and soon in stores near you!