Comparative Anatomy

2013-Present    An ongoing series of drawings and paintings created from collections at the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London

 

sea turtle

sea turtle | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

sea turtle

sea turtle | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

aardvark infant

aardvark infant | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

aardvark infant

aardvark infant | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

whale foetus

whale foetus | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

whale foetus

whale foetus | 7" x 9" | acrylic on paper

bat

bat | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

bat

bat | 7" x 9" | acrylic on paper

flying squirrel

flying squirrel | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

flying squirrel

flying squirrel | 7" x 9" | acrylic on paper

lizard

lizard | 8" x 5.5" | pen on paper

lizard

lizard | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

monkey and other animals

monkey and other animals | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

monkey

monkey | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

orangutan

orangutan | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

orangutan

orangutan | 7" x 9" | acrylic on paper

rabbit

rabbit | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

rabbit

rabbit | 7" x 9" | acrylic on paper

dissected pigeon

dissected pigeon | 8" x 5.5" | pen on paper

dissected pigeon

dissected pigeon | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

dissected brains

dissected brains | 5.5" x 8" | pen on paper

dog brain with eyeballs

dog brain with eyeballs | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

toad

toad | 8" x 5.5" | pen on paper

toad

toad | 9" x 7" | acrylic on paper

 

I spend a month or more in London, England, every year. During these trips, I draw at the Grant Museum of Zoology (founded in 1828), where old specimens float in jars of methylated spirits or peer from glass cases. This museum houses a myriad of animals boxed, shelved, or pickled — often dissected by the likes of Thomas Huxley and other contemporaries of Darwin — in a nineteenth-century wainscoted room.  I’m in my element at the Grant since I’m obsessed with how we alter the living world through collecting.

But what is it exactly that draws me to certain specimens I choose to sketch and later paint?  I find it difficult to explain.  At one time I thought it was a visceral response, because I feel the animal’s gesture within my own body. And while that’s true, there’s something more.  That “something more” has to do with the animal’s expression — it’s as if the creature dwells in some distant realm far beyond its scientific presence, and unlike the animal’s expression in the wild.

After I make a drawing at the Grant, I go back to the flat where I have a painting table set up. There the pen-and-ink studies — those direct observations — become intimate portraits of each animal or dissection.

 

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grant museum exterior

                         The Grant Museum of Zoology on Gower Street, London