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Geneva Varga

∆ The documentation of my life work as an artist & naturalist ∆

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Art-Science Interface

Biological Illustration

On the 15th of July, I took a Biological Illustration class hosted by South Slough. We spent the entire day at the OIMB boathouse practicing different drawing techniques. 

One of my favorite parts of the entire class was when the teacher walked us through on how to find patterns in nature. She started out by handing all the students a pinecone to draw. She then showed us a way to make a preliminary reference on paper: an egg shape with spiraling lines going both left and right, similar to a simple pineapple graphic. This was so that we could later go in and add the details of each umbo. This helped me tremendously, in almost no time I had drawn a decent looking pinecone with practically zero effort. 

Another great technique that she showed us was using a tool called a proportional divider. It is used to help with making sure all the proportions of the item you are drawing are correct and are not slightly skewed. A tip when using this tool is to hold it towards the chosen object of drawing and to keep your head in the same spot throughout the measuring of the item. There is also the really cool trick of changing the size of the object on paper without hindering the proportions at all, this is made capable by the proportional divider as it allows you to magnify things or make them smaller. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the class as it allowed me to discover some new techniques to apply when struggling to get the proportions accurate such as, focus on the shapes of the negative space, blind contour, use a proportional divider, and look for patterns. The class was not geared towards showing you how to draw scientifically, but to show you how to use a variety of techniques in all areas of drawing, even when not drawing a biological illlustration. 

Discovering Seaweed Art

Early Saturday morning, my mother and I drove down to Charleston, Oregon to attend a class at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB). The class we were taking? Seaweed Art, which is the process of pressing seaweed or algae. With a diverse selection, the options are endless. There are three main colors that appear in algae: green, brown, and red.
Coos Bay

The instructors started out by distributing plastic bags that we could use to collect our own specimens. We had two options from where we would collect, either from the dock or, for a greater diversity, along the pier, a short walk down the road.

Mom and I chose to take the walk down to the pier. We were lucky to be out during low tide, abling us to go down closer to where larger specimens would be discovered. We found several baby Bull Kelp, which our teacher later informed us was a great find as they look lovely after being pressed.

 

We returned to the lab shortly after collecting our algae specimens. We placed our collections in an aluminum container with salt water so that they may spread out, allowing us to see what we had found. This is when one of the instructors gave us a short talk, What is Algae?

One of our greater misconceptions about the world is that all Oxygen is produced by plants, but actually 35% is created by Algae. The other 65%? 35% from Cyanobacteria and 30% from Land Plants. Interesting enough, Algae is not actually a plant as they lack vascular tissue, roots, flowers, and seeds. The way they reproduce is more similar to ferns – via spores.

 

Algae are Incredible 

Algae is the fastest growing organism on the planet; Bull Kelp can grow up to two feet daily. They have great symbiotic relationships between fungi and sloths. Who knew?

Fungi and Algae can live separately but can survive together in a much more diverse range of climate. Have you ever gone up to where snow is and seen a red substance on the snow? Most think that it was rust run-off (I did!) yet actually, it is Lichen. A clever phrase that always helps you remember this symbiotic relationship is, Freddie Fungi and Alex Algae took a Lichen to each other.

Sloths actually encourage algae to grow in their hair. This is helpful towards the sloths in that Algae provide camouflage and are more nutrient rich than the plants that sloths otherwise consume.

Algae is a great food source. Japan has long known this. Nori, a type of seaweed, is used in Sushi. On the Oregon Coast, we have a relative to Nori that grows. While Western Culture is still getting used to the idea of Seaweed being a great food source, Japan and China are still the largest consumers. On the Oregon Coast, there are no poisonous species so give it a try.

Pressing

After the short lecture, the instructors showed us how to press the seaweed samples we’d brought back to the lab. Essentially, you layer a series of different materials in this order: cardboard, blotting paper, herbarium paper, your algae specimen, cotton fabric, blotting paper, and cardboard. We were also informed that you could use any thick type of paper, such as watercolor paper if you are unable to obtain herbarium paper.

Mom and I both did three of them each, yet we had enough algae to do several more only the class ran out of cardboard. The only tricky part that I found, was selecting how you wanted the algae to be arranged in the final product.

When we had completed all of the pressings, one of the instructors wrote down everyone’s contact information to inform all the participants the time final products could be picked up after drying. The drying process should take about two weeks, but some of the works might be held back longer as they wished to put some up on display at the South Slough Visitor Center.

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