June 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
Here’s a fun video from the marmot dissection and drawing workshop I helped out with at the Royal BC Museum last month. Yes, fun. Not gross, trust me. I also shot the stop motion footage and assisted with the bone animation.
July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
A few months ago we visited the Royal BC Archives as part of the Museum Artist Residency. After poking around the extensive library of original records, marvelling at the hand bound covers of very old books, and looking through drawers of beautifully hand written documents from over 100 years ago (the calligraphy!), we ended up in this room in the basement full of art.
A random collection of framed works were mounted on rows of metal grills. Ann, our guide, pulled one out and there were these watercolours and sketches of trees and totem poles. “Are these Emily Carr?” Yes they were. I can’t remember who said it, but something to the effect of “they aren’t her best pieces,” meaning that’s why they are just sitting in that room and not up in a gallery somewhere. I took a closer look.
When someone tells me I should care about something I usually don’t. And that’s how I felt about Emily Carr. I know, I know. But when we moved to the west coast, and to Victoria, she was just so ubiquitous. It felt touristy. Her imagery is everywhere, she is the city’s claim to fame. To be honest my eyes would just glaze over. But standing in that basement looking at Emily Carr’s “not so great” work under fluorescent lights? That’s where everything changed.
The pieces were random, imperfect, vibrant, sketchy, alive. And that’s when it hit me. She was real. She was there. She went to that village, she sat right there under the fucking totem pole and she drew it. Alone in the early days of colonial British Columbia. Often being boated into remote communities by locals or hitching a ride on a horse and cart. Exploring and drawing in all types of weather. Inspired by the art and traditions of the First Nations people who informed her later interpretations of the land she loved so much. Born into an era and a part of the world that was less than supportive, she carved a path that was uniquely her own and continued to do so until the day she died.(Here are a couple quick photos of the pieces that blew my mind down there – apologies for the bad quality)
The other day I stopped by the Ross Bay Cemetery on my way to the museum. This is where Emily Carr is buried, and this was the day I decided to finally find her grave. I had tried before without success (surprising because the place isn’t very big) so I looked it up online. There was a map and a photo of a tiny granite marker placed on what was until the 1960s an unmarked grave. It looked pretty boring.
I walked up and down the area where I thought it should be, and again found nothing. Running out of time I eventually gave up and decided to continue on my way. I headed towards a taped off area where a massive branch had fallen off a pine tree and was being sawed into pieces. A worker walked over and we chatted about branches falling off of trees, and how it’s lucky no one was sitting underneath (insert grave joke here). “Another huge branch fell over by Emily Carr,” he said, pointing towards the opposite end of the yard. “Oh, and where might her grave be?” I asked, casually. Turns out I had the map upside down.
Just underneath another huge beautiful pine tree on the other end of the cemetery is a patch of warm dry grass, and there lies Emily’s grave. I was expecting the sad, lonely little marker I saw in the photo but what I found was neither. The marker is there, but all around it is the evidence of many visitors. Fallen pinecones from the tree above have been collected and piled lovingly around it. The area is like a sweet smelling cozy little nest. Paintbrushes and pencils are stuck into the ground, and little messages, painted rocks and carvings nestled in. A newer memorial stone has also been added, pictured below, and it’s kind of perfect.
March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
On our last artist residency day at the Royal BC Museum we visited the Entomology collection. This means insects, almost 250,000 of them, stored pinned in boxes, flat in envelopes, or in murky jars of alcohol waiting to be sorted and classified.
I asked Senior Collections Manager Claudia Copley about bees. Did you know there are 450 different kinds of bees in BC? I know, it kind of blew my mind too. This biodiversity gave me a sense of relief what with all the colony collapse and bee die offs happening around the world, but just because they are abundant doesn’t mean they aren’t in danger. The Western Bumble Bee, for example, used to be the most common bee in BC, and now its population has crashed.
Claudia was kind enough to pull out a few bee trays for me to take a look at. Below you’ll see a tray that shows some of the different kinds of bees found in BC. The middle photo is solely the Western Bumble bee: males, females and queens (the big ones). I got to pull one out, sticking the pin in a cork so I could give it a closer look.
The resulting animation is below. I decided to leave the pin and cork in, instead of just drawing the bee. Those elements, while visually interesting, keep the creature itself from coming to life in any way. This unintentionally speaks to the reality of the science that goes on behind the scenes at a natural history museum: Everything is dead. Bees are captured, killed (by exposure to nail polish remover), pinned and stored for future research. This research can help save them. An interesting paradox.
January 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
From behind the scenes at the Royal BC Museum residency: A bunch of taxidermied birds, including this lovely loon.
November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last week as part of the Royal BC Museum Artist Residency we got to go behind the scenes and explore the Botany Collection. They house over 215,000 specimens, made up primarily of native and introduced plant species found in British Columbia. Most are gathered, pressed, and affixed to cardstock that is marked with collection data for future reference. These pages are stacked in folders, bagged, and stored in lockers. The earliest specimen in Botany was lichen, collected in 1889.
Here’s a sketch I did of some pressed native succulents that collection manager Erica Wheeler was nice enough to pull out for me. Got to use their “official” stamp too – almost looks like the real deal.
Museum volunteer Daniela Toriola was helping prepare some new specimen sheets on the day we visited. She carefully arranged the pressed plants, gluing them onto the page with assorted metal weights to hold them down until they dried. Daniela noted that she always tries to make the presentation as beautiful as possible. It is obvious from our visits to the different collections so far that there is a lot of creativity going on behind the scenes. Whether its taxidermy, scientific drawings or how sea creatures are placed in a jar, there’s been care taken to make things visually appealing. These people take pride in their work, knowing that the collections will be looked upon for years to come.
Drawing in Botany was fun. I got my “spill safe” ink and water sketching set up going, perfect for capturing the transparency of leaves and petals, and the dark curly roots. I used a couple drops of water to wet my brush, and introduced ink with my brush pen (similar to how I was sketching on the road this summer). Here are drawings of a Lilaicaee Zygadenus, and Camassia or “Camas” – a native plant with edible bulbs found in western Canada and the US.
October 25, 2013 § 1 Comment
I’m very excited to be one of three artists participating in the first artist in residency program put on at the Royal BC Museum! Did you know that 90% of the museum’s collection is not currently on display? Part of my job over the coming year will be to explore the hidden collections, record my findings with sketches and illustrations, and share my discoveries with the public.
Last week we were invited to explore the “wet collection,” which houses thousands of marine specimens in jars. Starfish, crab, shellfish, octopi, you name it, preserved for future study. We only had a couple hours but I could have spent the whole day in there (carefully) pulling out jars and drawing.
I love the textures on the mushroom coral above. I also found the jars filled with multiple specimens really compelling. The layers and repetitive shapes of these starfish inspired the quick sketchbook animation below…