In search of learning, understanding and beauty

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This story was submitted by Dean W. Biechler, a lecturer and program coordinator in Biological/Pre-Medical Illustration.

The following exhibit’s opening reception is this Saturday, March 28, 2015, from 3-5 p.m. at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN. Students and Biechler will attend. The exhibit will be on display through mid May.

2014 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Field Trip: BPMI 395 Field Illustration and Sketching

The work exhibited here is from the Biological/Pre-Medical Illustration (BPMI) Program at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Students majoring in the BPMI Program aspire to work as scientific, biological, and/or medical illustrators. The art exhibited here was created from the 2014 field illustration course field trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The trip requires students to record observations made in the field using drawing, sketching, painting and photography skills.

The level of work reflects the abilities of the students as they were at the time they completed these drawings. All of the student participants have further advanced their skills. Some have gone on to prestigious graduate programs. The opportunity to draw and learn from direct observation is extremely beneficial and very rewarding. The 2014 trip included twenty-five students, twenty-two women and three men. Students experience ranged from freshman through graduating seniors.

Three faculty members and one volunteer served as group leaders. Dean W. Biechler, the BPMI Program Coordinator and instructor of record for the course, served as the art and illustration instructor, teaching landscape drawing, painting and scientific specimen illustration. Two members, Steve Lekwa and Mark Ackelson served as naturalists and biology instructors. Mike Schmitz volunteered to help with miscellaneous duties at camp and on trip.

Whether it is drawing an insect under a dissecting microscope, painting a landscape, or producing a conceptual illustration, it is always about being immersed in a situation, seeing, learning, and understanding. The field trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the north shore of Lake Superior does just that. The field trip immerses the students into the situation and provides them the opportunity to create works from direct observation.

The outdoors, unless part of organized sports, is foreign to many young people. Most of the students have never camped, hiked, or canoed and find themselves in the middle of a world they had never imagined or seen unless it was on television or on the internet. The eight-day field trip begins with visits to the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN; and the International Wolf Center and the North America Bear Center in Ely, MN before heading to the wilderness. The group spends a half-day at each learning center where they participate in an educational program, the opportunity to view displays, and sketch live animals. The third day the students are introduced to the US Forest Service and the BWCAW. They end with half-day visit to Chik-Wauk Museum and Education Center on the Gunflint Trail and a free day on the shores of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MN.

The relationship between science and art is an interconnection that cannot be separated. The latter is merely an expression of the former. Many artists, not just scientific and medical illustrators, draw inspiration for their art from nature. Biological, scientific, and medical illustration is taking knowledge and visualizing the information to communicate an understanding.

The landscapes in this exhibition tend to reflect an inner, more personal journey or relationship with the area for the student, while the scientific or specimen works reflect a more communal relationship of learning and understanding.

Whether it’s looking at a field guide, watching a pharmaceutical advertisement on television, or reading a children’s book, magazine, textbook, scientific or medical journal, most viewers don’t think about the people who created the art they see before them.

The Biological/Pre-Medical Illustration Program at Iowa State University is educating students on the subject of communicating science through art.

– Dean W. Biechler BPMI Program Coordinator Colleges of Design and Liberal Arts and Sciences Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011 or 515-294-890