The daily grind gives artistic inspiration

After the Field Museum Women in Science and Art blog post, many of you wanted to find out more about what is new about my job at the museum.   As most of you have read in one of my past posts (Yes, I do have a job to pay the bills…) a couple years ago, I talked about what my job at the museum entails as a Research Assistant and the opportunities I get offered to do what I love, illustrating.  Now, as the Mammals Collections Assistant and Preparator, I am doing much more than what I use to do within the Mammals Collection.

Bobcat skull that has been prepped and ready for cataloging (or sketching, hmm?).

How much “art” is in my daily routine?  I do not get to create illustrations or photograph specimens as much as in the past but I take what I do at work daily and incorporate what I learn on the job into my artwork. I take advantage of the many specimens at my finger tips to study and learn how their forms and textures can influence and INSPIRE how an art piece will turn out.  This makes it easier to visualize what I will see on paper when illustrating  the mounts in the exhibit halls.  It’s the LOVE and ENJOYMENT of what I do and where I work that INSPIRES and fulfills “MY CREATIVE PASSION” in the studio. Even if that means sacrificing my time before work, at lunch or on a weekend to come into the my office or lab to illustrate a specimen or a mount in the exhibit halls.

I’ve been in the new position for more than two years now. I moved from doing primarily research based tasks for the Collections Manager to doing more collections prep and maintenance of the mammals collection.  That entails skinning, stuffing, cleaning the bones, cataloguing, numbering and installing specimens within the collection.  There is still some time to take photos of specimens and illustrate for my colleagues but now I am training my volunteers to help me with many of the regular tasks that I use to do as well as train them to use the camera systems and finally, illustrate specimens (YEAH!)

The lab, where all the magic, I mean science happens. This is where the mammal specimens are processed before being installed into the main collection.

What is the difference in what I am doing now verses two years ago? Well, for one, any mammal specimen that needs to be cleaned has to go through my lab first.  I also take care of the mammals beetle colony (Mary Hennen takes care of the Birds beetle colonies).  I inherited thousand of little babies who depend on me (but mostly Mary) for food… and a home.  Check out the beetles Facebook page, Bird’s Bug Room here.  Most people think this is a disgusting part of the job but my time in the beetle room is nice, peaceful, and most importantly, quiet.

Cleaning the torso and femurs of a rodent. This rodent was born with a femur deformity. You can see that the left femur is slightly shorter and extremely wider then the right femur.

My volunteer staff has grown from five to ten volunteers/interns.  I guess mammals has become a popular place over the past two years.  I depend on them everyday to help with cleaning bones after the beetles have finished, skinning specimens and stuffing the viable skins for research, as well as, helping with database entry, scanning, numbering bones and photography work from researchers.

After all this you would think I would need lots of sleep but no, I still give myself time during the week to work on my artwork and sketching.  I am non-stop, the energizer bunny, the flash, a sugared up toddler. I have so much energy I need to release it so I work in the studio (as well as working out a lot).  I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the scientific/natural illustration world to be employed as the collections assistant and preparator.  I still get to use my artistic talent in some form everyday, in either skinning, numbering, Photoshop work, or photographing or illustrating specimens.  Thanks for visiting.  😋

The numbering and boxing area in the lab.

Crocidura monax specimen under a camera lucida microscope with the illustration on the right.

Crocidura monax specimen under a camera lucida microscope with the illustration on the right.

Rhinolophus illustration on a light table. Stipling on vellum from a graphite drawing.

Rhinolophus sp. illustration on a light table. Stippling on vellum from a graphite drawing.

Next INKtober….enough said:  The attempt to do a sketch a day for INKtober and my “failings” at it, LOL!.  Stay tuned.

Where has the time gone…

Wow! It has been about nine months since the last post.  Too much has been going on at work that posting what I am doing in the studio and in the exhibit halls has taken the back burner.  I have been trying to set time aside but to no avail, the time escapes me.  You all know what I am talking about.  Just when you think you have the time to paint, write, update files, etc., etc., etc., the time seems to pass so fast that it is time to go to bed.  Well, that is how it has been for me since mid-June.

My regular job has taken the front seat since the division is short staffed.  When you are down one person, all the others pick up the slack.  I was balancing all my time perfectly; regular museum work, artwork in the studio, artwork in the exhibit halls, working out (got to stay healthy people), and time with family and friends. Probably the only thing I was not able to keep up with were my blog posts here.  Keeping the Facebook and Instagram active is easy.  Basically, you take a photo of what your working on and post.  Not much work there, lol.

Painting and drawing, I have had no problem staying focused all summer.  Focusing on updating my posts, website, and blog, that is where my biggest problems have been.  As many of you know, I consider myself a working artist. To me that means, I work my ass off to do my art but have a regular job to pay the bills (which I wrote about here, “Yes, I do have another job to pay the bills…”).  Well, the full-time job has needed me more than ever this past October through February.   We had an unexpected tragedy happen to someone we work with and someone I look up to and admire as both a mentor, boss and friend.  I have been helping out with taking care of what he used to do with the other three members of our division.  It has been hard but when “everything happened” I went into a slump, a kind of mini-state of parent neglect to my artwork.  Yes, this “mother of drawings” (pun intended) placed down her pencils, pens and brushes and forgot to finish work that I wanted to have finished before the end of the year.  Many things have been left on the sidelines, oil pastels needing glazing, mini-ink paintings needing layers added, drawings looking for pastel to start covering them.

Well, since the first of the year, everything has slowly been coming into place.  I have been able to go to my Artist at the field drawing dates to continue on paintings and drawings from this past couple years.  Slowly but surely, artwork will get finished this year.  I do not know how many posts I can write to update you all on the progress but I will try.  Until the next posting.  Happy days!

IMG_20151218_232806

 

A full year is complete…

And I have been through one exhausting yet complete year of blogging.  Although, I have gone some weeks (even months) without a post, I was able to come up with all kinds of ideas to write about.

This next full year I will try to stick to a bimonthly posting schedule.  I know that it will be hard to stick to but it doesn’t hurt to try it.  I have plenty of ideas to share.  I will be starting some new work over the next month and will blog about how the processes are going.  Some posts will be long and some short (like the TBT posts).  I am also happy to answer any questions about my art, the process I use with the media I work in or just art in general.  I love chatting with my following so any feedback in the comments section is welcome (just, please remember, no profanity).

So, I will leave you now with one last thought for what the upcoming year will be like:

“fall in love with the process of creating,
it will only make your life more interesting”

IMG_8039

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone in cyber world!  I am back with plenty of ideas, some new artwork started and lots of good things to write about.

If you are someone who makes resolutions then I have some good ones to share with you.  More like self improvements for me to accomplish so I can have a more full and satisfied art career and life in general.  So here is what I came up with:

IMG_20150109_223417

As these are more about self fulfillment, the 2015 GOALS are a bit different.  They are directly intertwined with my art life.  They are also small goals (for me) in comparison to years past.  I already have number 4 checked off the list.  Started the Instagram account last night, YEAH baby!  So here are my goals for the year:

IMG_20150109_223613

If any of you have resolutions or goals planned for this year, keep your chin up and held high.  You may not be able to get them all done but it’s trying that counts.

See you all later and keep your eyes open for new posts.