Chitin - Biological Illustrations Exhibition

Art by Ira

Chitin - Biological Illustrations Exhibition

This fascinating and beautiful collection bring together ten biological illustrators from throughout New Zealand. Opening night is 7pm, August 6th, in the Pumanawa Gallery, upstairs in the Arts Christchurch Arts Center.

Chitin Biological Illustration

In Pumanawa Aug 5 - 18


This show takes you into the secret world of the small, spineless, cryptic, and often despised creatures. They form most of the world’s biodiversity, but most have never been formally described.

Biological illustration is one of the earliest preserved art forms. Forty thousand years ago, cave-dwellers on every continent were painting images of the animals most prominent in their lives. They used cave and rock walls; we use paper. Our caves are now libraries stocked with books and journals. But cave-dwellers mostly illustrated large animals; we look at those much smaller, and share their images for you just as our cave-drawing ancestors did.

Throughout the ages, illustration techniques have evolved just like their subjects. From those initial drawings of charcoal and ochre, illustration has moved on to refine watercolour, acrylic, gouache and woodcut techniques. Most scientific illustration today uses digital techniques, but traditional watercolour and pencil work remains common.

Illustrators are vital in conveying the results of scientific research, and are often paid for their work, as they allow us to decipher our world. Taxonomic illustration, for example, enables us to distinguish this bug from that bug, untangling the legs, antennae, and soft bits to build a picture of the invertebrate world on which all other life depends. You never fully know an animal until you draw it. We reflect this in our show. Taxonomy is vital for our health, economy, and bio security. Biological illustrators provide information to allow us to understand our world.

We, the illustrators/artists, continue what Galileo and his “Eye of the lynx” illustrators began: to illustrate all of life. But as Darwin wrote, there are “endless forms, most beautiful...”, and we have our work cut out.

Though biological illustration is useful, there is no denying that illustrators love to draw. The mental space of a working illustrator is private and dynamic, and differs from person to person. We have a need to show the world the reality about our subjects, an accurate representation to help understand and appreciate them for exactly what they are. Our show celebrateslife. Welcome.

John Clark and Victoria Smith., June 2019