Blue Ridge Illustrated

In a comprehensive introduction to natural history illustration, students execute a focused artistic study from conception to publication. They begin with field explorations where they practice techniques of field sketching, notation, specimen sampling and observational skills. In the field, the participants are joined by a regional expert on the subject of interest (butterflies, insects, birds, flora, etc...) in an effort to both focus the attention on details and draw broader connections within the ecosystem.

The project then moves to classroom studies, where the students further investigate the life history and morphology of the specimens through detailed drawings, literature, and observational equipment.   The students often spend weeks dedicated to a single artistic representation of their specimen.  The result is deep engagement with the subject and swelling pride in the end piece of artwork. 

Throughout the process students acquire the artistic techniques and observational skills required to accurately illustrate the specimens collected.  They are also given an introduction to the grand traditions of natural history illustration through a discussion on the biographies and works of great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Maria Merian, John James Audubon, and David Allen Sibley.  We also look at the roots of natural history illustration coming out of “The Age of Discovery.” To supplement the historical accounts, Blue Ridge Illustrated often invites a practicing regional natural history illustrator to speak about their work as inspiration for the students and to convey natural history illustration as a viable career path for young artists.

At the end of this intensive study, the artwork is compiled into a collaborative project poster that comprehensively illustrates the subject of study.  The poster is then professionally published and distributed throughout community.  When the artwork finally comes together as a coherent whole, the project becomes a true source of pride and camaraderie for the participants.

Blue Ridge Discovery Center’s mission is to inspire creativity, discovery, and critical thinking through interest-driven and hands-on activities focused on the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This program seeks to fulfill that mission to the utmost extent.  To that end the methods of Blue Ridge Illustrated are continuously critiqued to ensure all goals align with BRDC’s mission and that those goals are achieved to the best of our ability.