Painting in colour the microscopic world of insects from under a microscope has developed into my passion and fantasy. This ardour of painting the entomological world was ignited by combining three dynamic components of my life; my microscope work experience in biology; my education in visual arts/anthropology; with the places I’ve lived and travelled. These personal choices have now brought me to this point in my life where I have the ability to extract, combine, and introduce these experiences into my present painting techniques and artistic imagery.
This painting inspiration began in France, where I acquired the plein-air Impressionism painting skills of speed, movement, colour and form. Then living on Baffin Island during the mid 1960’s, introduced me to Inuit aboriginal culture. Upon returning to Toronto, with its new influx of multiculturalism, I taught figure drawing and painted portraiture from a diversity of ethnic backgrounds. These former personal experiences in painting then became focused and pulled together while working full time as an environmental artist of biodiversity and conservation at the Royal Ontario Museum, where I illustrated and painted insects by observation from under a microscope.
Working as a natural science artist with insects and drawing them free hand from a microscope, was a mind changing experience. Literally, by using the microscope as my mode of transportation, I had inadvertently relocated myself and entered into the heart of the entirely ‘New World’ of the microscopic insect never seen by others, except scientist.
Here, I explored their biological functions and mapped out in pen line, like a cartographer, their captivating structural forms. But, when I began to paint in colour and not in line illustrations, this eccentrically beautiful world of bugs, redirected the path of my painting career to transcend into a ‘New World’ of intriguing insect cultures, which other people have never seen. I discovered that the insects have a world of their own with colonies of homes, intriguing architectural structures, implements of war, necessities of reproduction and survival, sexual and culinary preferences, and incredible new coloured patterns and forms used for attraction or repulsion.
When I view these microscopic forms under the microscope, I fantasize and extract mentally from their innovative unfamiliar insect shapes to create coup d’oeil paintings within my mind’s eye. But, when these ‘unfamiliar’ micro insect images of chalk pastels are transferred onto large oil canvases, they engage other people who see them, and produce an appearance to the viewers as being ‘familiar ’every day life forms seen with the naked eye; in fact the images are not what they appear to be.
My desire through my painting is to show this amazing and intriguing ‘New World’ of insects to others who don’t realize this unseen beauty, which exists within their arms reach. By removing the negative stigma from this insect world, I hope to take other artists with me on my travels ‘down under’, so they can also paint and bring back images of these entomological forms from over the six million species of insects available to choose from. With the advance of the information age, ironically, technology is making the entomologist artists’ career extinct, this would truly advance my artistic practice knowing that others would be sharing in my joy.