Anyone who has taken pictures of insects under the microscope knows the difficulty with 3 dimensional objects. The features we wish to include in a single photograph are invariably in different planes of focus. When we make one feature in focus, other features of interest are fuzzy and out of focus. There are some microscopes with computer software that can create better images with more planes in focus by stitching a series of images together. However, for much of the past, Entomologists have relied on scientific illustration.
Scientifica illustrators study the features of insects under a microscope, focus in numerous planes, and draw the features, all in focus. Scientific illustrations are especially useful accompaniments to taxonomic descriptsion. The illustrations can turn ambiguous prose into unambiguous images.
Scientific illustration is definitely an art. Many of the illustrations are elegant, beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. Scientific Illustrators often publish their drawings in textbooks or manuscripts. The original drawings often get tucked away in an unused drawer.
The University of Kentucky Entomology Department will be celebrating 120 years of history this year. While rummaging through some drawers, they unearthed scientific illustrations from the early 1900s by William C. Matthews. The department made arrangements with The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY to display some of the illustrations. The exhibit is appropriately titled: “The Art of Insect Illustration” and is open from now until the end of October. Those who are in the Lexington area or traveling through the area may wish to stop by.