It's fall and I am painting mushrooms non-stop! Tonight, I thought I would take some step by step progress photos and show how I go about painting a mushroom.
Step 1: Find a mushroom. (Or if you live in California... and it hasn't rained enough yet... look some up in guide books and online).
Step 2: Sketch! I like to do sketches in a very light pencil (3H) directly on watercolor paper. Keeping it light helps when I make the inevitable mistake and have to erase. I think I erased this mushroom four times before getting the cap shape right. For mushrooms, it's important to pay close attention to the shape of the cap (is it rounded? bell-shaped? is there a dent in the middle?), the texture of the stalk (is it smooth? fuzzy?), and other structures such as the volva (that's "volva", not "vulva") and annulus (also not what it sounds like).
I have picked the Fly Amanita (Amanita mascaria). This species has a rounded cap covered in white warts, a skirt-like annulus, a smooth stalk, and a bulbous base.
Step 3: Block in some of the colors. For this species, I know that the top of the cap shades to a red-yellow, so I put down a layer of yellow that will get covered up with red paint later. I always test colors and color combinations on a sheet of paper before using them on the real painting so that I know how they will turn out. At this point it looks super ugly. It is very difficult to get past this point and realize that it will look better later, but you just have to keep working on it until it improves. Don't give up!
Step 4: See? It looks a little better after filling in the rest of the cap.
Step 5: Shading. I use an even mix of ultramarine blue and burnt umber to make a gray shadow color. Shading the white parts of the mushroom involves a teeny amount of paint applied in the shadow areas and then blended using water to make it look more subtle.
Step 6: Darken the darks. I picked a dark green to add to the red for shading around the cap. I also stuck some dark gray under the cap and around the base of the stalk. Aaaaaand it's done!
Everything is happening this fall, my favorite time of the year! The mushrooms are coming out and I'm busy painting them. This fall, I have artwork on display in two art exhibits, and I will have a booth up in a holiday art fair and the fungus fair. I hope you can make it out to these events to check out the beautiful work from local artists and learn a couple of things about fungi.
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate on another paper about the evolution of eusociality in bees, this time with Beryl Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jones uses comparative genomics to understand the mechanisms behind social evolution. Eusocial insects exhibit a division of labor among individuals in a colony (queen, workers, soldiers, etc.). Jones' paper in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics looks at the developmental transcriptome of a facultatively eusocial bee, Megalopta genalis. This species is a useful study system because it exhibits and range of solitary and eusocial behaviors, whereas many bee species are exclusively solitary or social. By investigating this species, Jones aims to learn more about the underlying genes involved in eusociality.
As an illustrator, my task was to depict a developing bee and also show the tissues where different genes are expressed. For each illustration, I created paintings separately and then compiled them using Adobe Photoshop. For example, the nest was a stand-alone illustration upon which I layered the life stages. One of the most interesting parts of this project for me was painting the bee brain. I previously did not know what a bee's brain looks like, and it was fascinating to see how much of the brain is involved in the bee's sensory organs such as eyes and antennae.
Figure 3. Functional annotation of genes showing differences in expression associated with pairwise transitions between life stages. Terms above transition arrows indicate genes that are more highly expressed in the life stage to the right of the arrow, while terms below the arrow indicate genes that are more highly expressed in the life stage to the left of the transition arrow. Terms in black are PANTHER Pathways, while blue italicized terms are GO-Slim Biological Processes. All terms listed are statistically overrepresented with a Bonferroni-corrected P<0.05. Artistic renderings of different life stages and tissue types are not representative of every sample included in the analysis, and only represent one particular life stage, sex, or tissue. Drawings by Julie Himes.
Here you can see progress shots from very rough sketches into final paintings. The rough sketches give me a sense for composition and allow me to make sure I have the anatomy and proportions correct before transferring the sketches to watercolor paper and adding pen and watercolor to create the final illustration.
Different species of bees exhibit a range of social complexity from solitary to highly social. For example, blueberry bees are solitary while honey bees have large highly structured colonies. A new study by Dr. Karen Kapheim and colleagues compared ten bee species representing the spectrum of social complexity in order to discover the underlying genomic basis for the evolution and elaboration of social structure. The research discovered that there are multiple pathways toward sociality, but the evolution of social complexity always involves an increase in genomic complexity.
This study was published in Science last week, and the authors asked me to illustrate the species represented in the study. Illustrating these species involved research into the behavior and social structures of each species. Some of the solitary bees pollinate only specific flowers while the social bees have fascinating behaviors associated with their queens or honey pots. I incorporated some of these particularities into each illustration. The paper can currently be found online and will be published in print later this year.
The Ventana Wilderness Alliance (VWA) is an organization that strives to protect and restore the native biodiversity of the public lands along the Big Sur coast. Living in Monterey, I am lucky to be able to hike and camp in the vast Ventana Wilderness, thanks to the efforts of this organization. When they asked me to paint the cover for the spring newsletter, I thought this would be a nice way to say thanks for all that the VWA does.
Much of the work that VWA volunteers do involves restoring native seacliff buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium). This plant is an essential part of the critically endangered Smith's blue butterfly's life history. A strict mutualism exists between the butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi) and buckwheat. The butterfly larvae feed exclusively on the buckwheat and adult butterflies return to pollinate the buckwheat. VWA volunteers preserve buckwheat populations on the Big Sur coast in order to provide the necessary habitat to sustain and hopefully increase populations of the Smith's blue butterfly.
Here you can find a link to the VWA Spring Newsletter. For volunteer opportunities and information about the Ventana Wilderness, check out their website http://www.ventanawild.org/.
Below are progress photos from painting this image. I included the female (bottom), male (top), and underside (middle) of the butterfly.
Every year, the California chapter of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators puts on an exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. This year, I am excited to announce that two of my paintings are on display in the show. Stop by the museum to see beautiful artwork by California's incredible science and nature artists.
Where: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
1305 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
When: April 10 - June 21, 2015
Poster art for this year's show by the talented Fiona MacLean. Check out her work at http://www.fionaleestudio.com/
Come on down to Pacific Grove this Friday (tomorrow!) for a wonderful night of art, open galleries, live music, wine, and food. This Art Walk will feature a number of Monterey's scientific illustrators, including myself. I will have a table set up outside of Sotheby's on Lighthouse Ave. Stop by and check out the art and chat with the artists!
Happy Earth Day! Come celebrate this weekend at the Point Reyes Birding and Nature Festival.
Point Reyes is a really cool place both geologically and biologically. Located north of San Francisco, this oddly-shaped peninsula sits on the Pacific plate while the land to the east of the peninsula sits on the North American plate. Point Reyes has traveled up the California coast along the San Andreas Fault and continues to move northward.
Point Reyes is home to a huge diversity of birds and marine life. This weekend, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin will be hosting a birding and nature festival full of birding expeditions with the experts, elephant seal watching trips, tidepooling, and field sketching.
Stop by on Saturday, April 26 and say hi! I will be setting up a booth to sell my artwork, cards, and pendants (and will probably sketch a few birds while I'm up there). Hope to see you there!
I just completed a small painting of a Texas bluebonnet with two blue cornflowers. The painting is for a person visiting Texas from Germany, and the person who commissioned this piece asked for flowers that would represent both places. I thought it would be fun to show a slideshow of the progress photos I took along the way.