Last week was certainly a busy one! I have been working on many different science illustration projects for different clients, while also updating my shop, negotiating new projects, and some boring stuff like accounting. Here are a few of the ongoing projects in the studio:
Lake Tanganyika Cichlids
I continue to make progress on painting all of the cichlid species of Lake Tanganyika. Last week, I focused my efforts on the Trematocara genus, finishing three new illustrations. Here is a little animation to see how a fish gets painted:
Manta and Devil Rays
There will be ten species of mobulid (manta and devil ray) rays to paint for this project. Last week, I finished up all of the sketches and this week I will be painting some of them! I’m really excited about this project. I started my career as a marine biologist and I have always wanted to see a manta ray. Someday!
New Mushroom Project
I have just started working with a new client in France to produce two mushroom playing card decks for edible species of Europe and North America! This is going to be so much fun. Some of the cards will have species I’ve already painted for Mushroom Guide App, but there will also be a ton of new paintings, and I’m going to have a lot of fun learning about European species and some new North American species as well. I will share more about this project once it gets under way!
You're My Honey
I loved making punny holiday mushroom cards and couldn’t resist making one for Valentine’s Day. Mushrooms just lend themselves to punning so perfectly. You can find this You’re My Honey card, featuring a romantic pair of honey mushrooms, in my shop here: www.lifesciencestudios.etsy.com
This year, I will be adding a lot more products to my Etsy shop, and I can't wait for you all to see what I have in the pipeline! This week, I added my very popular Edible Mushrooms design to my favorite women's T-shirt. I have done a bunch of testing, and have decided this shirt is by far the best women's fit and gives a more feminine look than the men's cut. The Edible Mushrooms design includes five of my favorite wild edible species: oyster mushroom, morel, porcini, shaggy mane, and chanterelle. Each mushroom was painted using watercolors and then printed using Direct To Garment (DTG) printing technique, which is clear and durable, and doesn't peel over time.
Also new in my shop: Rainbow Mushroom Shirts! This design was a suggestion from my good friend, Rani Davidson, and I just love it. I got to see her over the holidays, and she was kind enough to model some of my designs for me, including the one she came up with! Keep an eye on Instagram for more photos of my favorite new model, and follow her @the_rani_d to see her hilarious stand-up.
I also have prints of my watercolor paintings up for sale. The prints come in 5x7" or 8.5x11", matted, and signed.
Click the button below to visit the shop. And stay tuned for new stuff!
We took a trip to see my in-laws in Tucson over Christmas and New Years. The desert there is truly spectacular, and I always am amazed by the diversity of cacti and birds that live here. Whenever we visit, we make sure to get out and hike. This time, I brought my sketchbook. Many of the sketches I filled in with color and detail at the dining room table, as I’m sure other nature journalists will relate. It’s hard to spend enough time on one subject when the family is off to the next thing!
My strategy, which I learned from the wonderful John Muir Laws, is to sketch everything very roughly in non photo blue pencil first, in order to get the general shapes right. I then go back over with graphite and finally watercolor. The non photo blue pencil is a color that cannot be detected by copiers. This means nothing for sketching because I won't be using a copier, but there is something about using a light blue pencil that is very freeing and allows you to sketch without feeling like you need to erase all of the wrong marks. It is also easily hidden by the watercolor paints.
We also took a trip to one of my favorite places: the Sonoran Desert Museum. This living museum is a wonderful place to discover the local wildlife and plants. The raptor show, in particular, is really awesome. Owls swoop over your head and Harris hawks team up to demonstrate a hunt during the show. The birds are way too fast for me to sketch, so I sketched a toad instead. You can see some of the blue pencil marks that I later adjusted, but never erased.
I have decided to create a post that focuses on a different mushroom species each month. Welcome to the first Mushroom of the Month! For January, let’s take a close look at Agaricus augustus, also known as The Prince.
Agaricus augustus, is a huge, HUGE! edible mushroom that can be identified by its fragrant almond extract or anise smell. It has pink-brown gills that darken with age, a ring around the stalk, and brown scales that cover the cap. This species can be found on the west coast of North America in late summer, early fall, after periods of heavy fog. It prefers to grow under conifers. I used to find these in parking lots where I used to work in California. The massive size is so impressive!
Cap: convex, becoming flat with age. 2-12.5 inches in diameter. Light yellow-white, covered with brown scales.
Hymenium: crowded gills that are free from the stipe. Pinkish brown, becoming dark chocolate brown with age.
Stipe: straight or slightly tapered up. 4-14.5 inches tall. Has a ring with a long white skirt. Smooth above the ring, but covered in brown scales below the ring.
Spore Print: dark brown
Ecology: A. augustus is saprotrophic, getting its nutrients by breaking down decaying organic matter.
Happy new year! 2020 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year for Life Science Studios. The year will start off with an upcoming publication launching a new business focused on the human gut microbiome. The publication will feature my watercolor illustration depicting the interaction between microbes and the microvilli in the human intestine. Working with DeepBiome will be challenging and really interesting as I find unique ways to communicate complex human-microbe interactions through art.
I am also excited to work with Melissa Cronin at UC Santa Cruz. Her conservation research helps understand the impact of bycatch on manta and devil ray populations. I will be completing some digital drawings to show how the mantas are caught and sampled, as well as detailed paintings of ten different ray species. This work will be really interesting as it gets me back to one of my true loves: marine biology.
If you visit Princeton University, you may also soon see some of my work around campus. I am collaborating with Dr. Sarah Kocher to create interpretive panels highlighting the diversity, behavior, and importance of native bees in restored meadows around the university. Native pollinators are something I care deeply about, so I am thrilled to start work on this in the spring.
I will also be finishing up the Tanganyikan cichlid project. I’m so excited to see this huge body of work (over 200 species) completed and published in scientific journal publications. It will be bittersweet to say goodbye to my beloved cichlids. I have learned so much about them along the way.
I also have big plans for my Etsy shop in 2020. I want to create a ton of new designs and products for mushroom lovers, and maybe even some non-mushroom products as well.
2020 will be a big year in my personal life as well. We will be leaving Princeton sometime in the summer. As my husband’s job wraps up and he starts a new one, there is a lot of uncertainty as to where we will live next. Such is the life of an academic. But I can’t wait to experience a new place, and I am particularly excited to be reunited with all of my artwork and studio equipment and furniture that has all been in storage the last 3 years. Oh, fancy ergonomic chair and high-end printer, how I have missed you.
I plan on posting a lot more blogs in the new year, so I hope you will follow along. Happy 2020!