‘Biology and Art: Investigations through Drawing’ course at Grinnell Liberal Arts College, Iowa, US
From anatomical studies to the biomorphism of surrealism and the abstractions of Klee and Kandinsky, the biological realm historically provided a significant resource for numerous artists while many scientists like Haeckel and Hooke produced works of artistic merit. This course focuses on the twin themes of morphology and drawing through an exploration of intuitive and experimental drawing methods. The aim is to develop and share new ways in which drawing practice can enhance morphological insight, specifically within the contexts of art and the natural sciences. Central to this is Goethe’s concept of morphology, which he defined in 1792 as ‘the study of form and formative process’ (Goethe and Naydler 1996) combined with a narrative of the development of ‘drawing as a way of knowing’ in my own artistic practice.
The path of the course arcs from observation to abstraction as a range of morphological drawing methods will be tested through a series of practice-based workshops using drawing as a method to investigate in diverse contexts; from fieldwork and microscopy to classification and simulation. We explore the relationship between art and biology through artists, scientists and thinkers such as Goethe, Klee, Waddington, Thistlewood and Mundy. As part of a wider cultural movement in Art/Science and STEAM, this course will highlight historical and contemporary of practices towards the development of independent investigations in Biology and Art.
‘I have left this class with a reinvigorated perspective on Biology and Nature in general. I find myself more attentive to forms and similarities among plants, especially.I also plan to exercise a lot more care and precision with my drawings. Our discussions on bias and our practical exercises on drawing from observation, made me realize just how extremely DIFFICULT it is to accurately capture an organism on paper, and how much skill it takes to be keen at observational drawing, being able to distinguish and incorporate details, patterns, textures, and lines in an unbiased and informative way’.