“Backyard Pollinators” Coloring Book

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!

October Drawing Challenge 2020

Since we were talking about October drawing challenges in my last post, I thought I would follow up with how the October drawing challenge went this year, 2020.

As we all know, 2020 has been quite a year so far. I wasn’t sure I would even have the time or energy to take on the annual drawing challenge. But in late September, as interest picked up online, I found myself wanting to participate again. I really enjoyed the GNSI list and a number of revisions were made this year, including renaming it to Sciartober. In addition, a couple of other relevant lists came to my attention, one called WildOctober by artist Zoe Keller, and InkySciPatterns by artists Hana Ayoob, so I decided to pull from all three lists, depending on what prompt inspired me that day.

The Prompt Lists

How did it go?

I am happy to say that I was able to complete all 31 days again! It took until about November 4th or so, but I did it.

I decided to limit the size of my drawings to sheets of smooth Bristol paper about 5.5X7 inches. I drew a rectangular boundary box of about 3.5×5 inches in which to contain my drawing. For some, I went with a circle a little over 4.5 inches in diameter. This helped me to keep the drawings contained and a bit more uniform in the final product.

I am really pleased at how the drawings turned out. I still love detail! So it was tough to cut myself off, but also a good challenge to see if I could limit what I was doing, meet the prompt and not lose three days on one drawing.

Have you participated in the monthly drawing challenge? I would love to hear from you!

October Drawing Challenge 2019 – “Inktober” with a Twist?

Have you heard of “Inktober“? It is a monthly art challenge held each October. It was created by artist Jake Parker in 2009 as a way to keep up his own inking skills and instill a positive, daily drawing habit. It involves a daily word prompt list to inspire artists to draw something each day.

I had followed “Inktober” on social media for years, but never quite had the time and motivation to actually participate. The prompts were not specific to my interest areas, and I just let it pass by…that is, until last fall (2019.) There was some discussion on the GNSI Members Facebook page about doing “Inktober”, but with a science illustration twist. We compiled our own list of natural science-themed prompts based on the wide range of subject fields that science illustration covers.

This list inspired me and many others. Some folks decided to draw one theme each day, for example, birds. Others, drew when they could squeeze it in. I decided, as a personal challenge, to draw everyday and every prompt. I sometimes fell behind a few days and then would catch up.

Ultimately, I was very pleased to have completed 31 drawings! Were the drawings perfect? No. Did I surprise myself by coming up with something for each and every prompt? Yes! As an artist who has focused mainly on botanical subjects of late, I really enjoyed the challenge of finding something for prompts like “archaeology” and “physics.”

I would highly recommend participating in “Inktober” if you have the chance. There are many different prompt lists or you can create your own. The most important part is to enjoy the challenge and see what you can accomplish!