In my most recent project with the Woodard Lab at the University of California Riverside, I created a series of illustrations depicting the hidden lives of the Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens).
To accurately create the variety of illustrations, I relied on numerous sources of inspiration and references. I used videos from lab bee nests provided by the lab’s graduate student, Erica Sarro, and still images of their specimens. I was also sent pinned and wet (preserved in alcohol) bumble bee specimens from their lab.
Specimens used as reference. From top left: wet preserved pupae, wet preserved workers/queens, pinned drone/workers, and pinned queens.
Using a piece of mat board with a small piece of clay attached, I could position the pinned bee specimens to draw from. By having the specimen in front of me while drawing, I could control the lighting and adjust as needed. This was very helpful because I was creating the majority of the illustrations from imagination.
There are numerous sketches involved prior to creating a finished piece. I start with a quick pencil sketch, then move onto a more polished pencil sketch, receive feedback about the layout, then do a quick color study, and finally move onto the final illustration on watercolor.
Occasionally I will start on a final illustration and receive feedback that there needs to be edits made. This occurred with the Brood Feeding illustration. The brood cell illustration was too large in comparison to the actual cell. I am very particular to detail and accuracy, so I recreated the illustration according to feedback from the researchers.
I created a plastilina clay model of the a bee nest which I used as reference for the brood cell structures and the overhead view of the bumble nest. The technique of using models for illustrations came from researching artists like James Gurney and Fernando Baptista, who both use models extensively in their practices. Using a model helped me understand light and shadow on the forms of the bee nest, and then accurately represent them in my final illustrations.
Overall, I enjoyed working on this project because it presented a number of fun challenges. I liked collaborating with the Woodard Lab and getting to learn the biology of bumble bees through illustration. At the beginning of 2019, my illustrations will be featured on the live citizen science website created by the Woodard Lab. Stay tuned for updates on this project!