The Art of Natural History

My first love was drawing. I illustrated my first picture book when I was four, and all the way up through high school, kids were knocking on my door begging me to draw them pictures. Though I don’t draw nearly as much as I used to, it’s still an escape to pick up a pen and create something on paper that didn’t exist before.

I’m always drawn to contemporary artists and illustrators who use drawing in their work, and I was struck by the history of the practice looking at the work in the new book Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library. We forget that before the camera was invented, drawing was the only way to visually represent creatures encountered on far-flung adventures, and show people the amazing variety of nature that exists around the globe. Not to mention the role drawings played in science as you were observing and recording discoveries.Looking through the illustrations from the book featured on Brain Pickings, it’s striking how contemporary some of them feel. The fish above have a Milton Glaser, 1980s feel to them. And the detail in the trilobites and horseshoe crabs featured below are so detailed, its crazy to think that that pattern and shading could be achieved by hand.The book is available now.

Via Brian Pickings.


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