Sketchbook Snapshot: illustrating tortoises and hares

“Too much importance cannot be given to drawing, as it is not only an excellent device for securing close observation, but it is also a rapid method of making valuable notes.”


Inspired by Louis Agassiz, the Harvard Committee of Ten insisted that drawing be an essential part of science education at their institution. While this curricular edict was issued in 1894, it is a learning and research recommendation whose value I rediscover every time I work on the “Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.”


Right now, I am chipping away at storyboards and draft text for a version of the story which will be exhibited at the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute in 2017.

As I work from my field sketches and trove of reference photos, I learn more about these creatures. And I also realize, once again, there is a lot I don’t know. A lot I need to learn by getting up-close to both specimens and live animals once again.

So, I am in the process of organizing a specimen loan from the University of Arizona’s Museum of Natural History mammal and herp collections. I drew specimens from the museum last winter, but now that I have spent more time on this project, I have more visual questions. The loan will be made to the University of Wyoming’s Vertebrate Museum, whose curators will be able to handle and store the specimens appropriately. And, I’m hoping some of the specimens can be integrated into the exhibit next spring!


In the meantime, I’ve been working up a bunch of sketches, some of them using a type of ink that’s new to me. Quink is a funky ink that looks black, but dries a wide range of colors (blues, grays, sepia browns, even yellow) depending on how much it is diluted with water.

20160831_Raven skull_quink_rs.jpg

Yes, I know, this is neither a tortoise nor a hare. 🙂 It’s some kind of corvid skull, and it was one of my early experiments with Quink.

This blog post is a project update for “An Ecological Storybook: Writing/Illustrating the Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.” If you’re interested in more information, visit the project page for project background and complete details about project funders and supporters.

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