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Updated 3:00 PM October 12, 2005




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Artists are drawn to animal diversity

Led by a U-M professor, a group of 16 artists collectively known as Michigan Science Art has produced nearly 5,000 illustrations for a 17-volume encyclopedia on animal life.
Joe Trumpey, an associate professor in the School of Art & Design, enlisted a team of current and former students to draw original illustrations of animals for an encyclopedia project. (Photo by Scott Galvin)

Joe Trumpey, School of Art & Design (A&D) associate professor, organized the team of artists, which includes former A&D students, to create original illustrations for the "Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia."

A sampling of the team's work is on display through Oct. 31 on the fourth floor of Exhibit Museum of Natural History in "Animal Diversity Observed." The exhibit contains vibrant illustrations, all scientifically accurate, with some depicting a species' unique behavior, habitat or other species-specific characteristics.

The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday; admission is free.

Trumpey's team worked from collections at the Museum of Zoology for reference, but also consulted with hundreds of zoologists from around the world who gave the artists detailed descriptions of species.

"There are a number of species included in the encyclopedia that have never been illustrated before," says Trumpey, citing as an example a new species of frog from Brazil. "Thanks to the Internet, we were able to have conversations with scientists in the field in such distant locations as Indonesia, South Africa, India, Brazil and Paraguay."

Trumpey says if one person were to attempt the illustration work for the encyclopedia, it would take 22 years. As it was, each artist worked for about three hours on each illustration—gouache paintings (opaque watercolor), scanned, digitally composited and sometimes digitally enhanced. "We've got the process so refined," Trumpey says, "that we pretty much know the drill."

The exhibit also features illustrations created for species identification labels for the newly renovated Reptile Discovery Center at the National Zoological Park—a division of the Smithsonian Institution scheduled to open in the summer of 2006.

As part of his faculty work at A&D, Trumpey teaches courses that focus on environmental awareness and field-sketching experiences. His current research and creative work include the use of observational drawings to teach elementary and middle school life science, as well as research on sustainable agriculture and development, issues focusing on biodiversity and science, and environmental education.

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