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Some protist-y art

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For me, the second more relaxing activity after microscopy is vector art. And then regular art. (This excludes non-activities, such as napping in the sun, and staring at life passing by. That’s all I’d do if one didn’t have to work — watch things.) Since I’m not often creative with my subject matter, the art is usually based on protists. Some people make abstract paintings by exploding paint over canvas, some arrange objects in rooms to form shapes and shadows; I doodle protists.

Spending hours at the ‘scope helps get a three dimensional visualisation of the microbial world; ultimately, microscopy becomes akin to wandering around in the woods and being a naturalist, immersed in an intuitive world with volume. The only thing that’s missing is sound. (I wonder if protists make sounds…) It’s fun to try to transmit some of that three dimensional world into art, since we can’t really see it otherwise. You can pretend you’re a naturalist sketching in the forest, trying to go for realism (with artistic license):

Or even more artistic license:

Cartoonised 3D Paramecium. Next victim is a euglyphid (testate amoeba), below: (couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the surface scales with this style)

Or you can go full-on stylised. Since I did my undergrad in the Northwest, and the upcoming big protist conference is in Vancouver, been trying to replicate the local First Nations art styles. First attempt: Telonema, a marine flagellate (though I’ve seen one in freshwater…).

Trimastix, an excavate occasionally found in soil and rotting leaves:

(Upon request, Trimastix prints are available here.)

And sometimes you can just be silly ;-)

That’s it for now; don’t want to exhaust my meager collection right away ;-)

(And feel free to contact me if you’d like to use anything, I’ll be happy to help!)

Psi Wavefunction About the Author: Psi Wavefunction is a graduate student working with protists (the 'other' eukaryotes) at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and now blogs about protists and evolution at Skeptic Wonder. Follow on Twitter @Ocelloid.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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  1. 1. malcoma 1:56 pm 04/30/2013

    Now, we just need to write a script to make a micro version of A Bug’s Life. That will get kids interested in science! Love your illustrations. I’m not really a microbiologist, but I love looking at critters under the scope. It’s another planet.

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  2. 2. Glendon Mellow 7:09 am 05/1/2013

    I love all of these, but damn you’ve got some fine pencil work, Psi.

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