[It's with great pleasure the Symbiartic team is featuring this Guest Post by illustrator Nathaniel Gold. Gold is the artist behind the wonderful illustrations found on The Primate Diaries by Eric Michael Johnson, and has twice been featured as Image of the Week (once, twice) here on the Scientific American Blog Network. I was excited that at ScienceOnline2012, Gold and I could collaborate on a session about working with an illustrator for scientists. After meeting and speaking with Gold at #scio12 and via Skype, he struck me at first as the quintessential illustrator but it's more than that. There's a personal relationship with his work. And that's why his new project is so exciting.

[One other note - you may notice these collaborative works are only © to Nathaniel Gold and not his collaborators. That's because non-human animals are not allowed to hold copyright.] -Glendon

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I began drawing chimps when I was a child because I thought they were beautiful creatures I continued to draw them as an adult because I found them to be the perfect vehicle to dole out a unique brand of social commentary.

I was able to make comparisons between chimpanzees and humans, pointing out our flaws and their strengths as published in my book The Chimpanzee Manifesto. This is what sparked the interest of writer and creator of The Primate Diaries, Eric Johnson to ask me to join him here at Scientific American to collaborate on the blog posts.

It was here that I found myself surrounded by scientists. Inspired by these new friendships I began to look at the science behind chimpanzees and the more I research chimps the more extraordinary I found them to be. Once I began to understand how smart and sensitive a chimp can be, I began to understand their ability for complex emotional attachment, I then realized how like us the truly are. So I decided to use my art to help them.

Over the past several months I have been painting portraits of chimpanzees that live in sanctuary. Before coming to the sanctuary many of these chimps lived their lives in laboratories used as test subjects in pharmaceutical and toxicology studies. Recently I have received artwork created by these chimps and I have begun to work on top of them. These collaborative works will be on display at Gallery 14 in Vero Beach Florida in May, 2013. It is my goal to use these images to raise money and awareness for chimps in sanctuaries.

The experience of painting chimps is one thing, but painting with them is entirely different. As an artist that has dedicated his aesthetic voice to the chimp you might be interested to hear that I have never met one or seen one with my own eyes. When these paintings arrived at my studio I instantly knew that this was going to be an undertaking that would include all five senses, not just sight. I could smell these chimps on the paintings; I could feel their hair that was stuck on the paint as well as the tears and creases created by the chimp’s primal painting technique. I could hear these chimps not literally but with the energy of their brush strokes I heard the pants and hoots they made while they worked on these images. As for taste, based on the fact that many of these paintings came with bite marks I can assume these chimps enjoyed the taste of them.

This experience for me has been a conversation with these chimps. I am getting to know them with every brush stroke that I make over theirs. Our styles are very different as I am creating some structure over their controlled chaos, but it works.

Art is truly magic! Ever since I was a child watching Jane Goodall on television I wanted to meet a chimp. But I had no idea how to go about it so I began to draw them and now many years later it is drawing them that has given me the opportunity to meet them. I have been invited to Save The Chimps, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in North America and home to Timmy, Cheetah, and September the chimps who I have collaborated with in this artistic endeavor and I can’t wait.

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'Chimp Pope' Launches Scientist-Artist Partnership by Robin Lloyd, Observations

The Primate Diaries

Nathaniel Gold's Art Blog




@NGoldArt on Twitter


The Chimpanzee Manifesto - now available in soft cover