Written by Sally Murray-Walsh 

Another year of the CREATE festival rolls to a close, and what a bright spark it has been amongst a rather bizarre year.  

We would like to thank everyone who visited the project, painted with us, admired the art, or just had a chat. We are grateful to share our space with such a creative community. During the week of the festival around 120 students and staff joined us painting our book canvases, bringing the artwork to life. 

To conclude the project, I interviewed Linda, the artist behind the designs of each of the canvases, to find out more about Natural History Illustration and her PhD.  

Sally: Linda tell us about your journey at the University of Newcastle and your PhD. 

Linda: Well my journey is well into its 9th year now and I am anticipating completing my PhD at the end of the year. I began my degree in Natural History Illustration in 2012 after 10 years working for myself as a Landscape Designer. I loved the illustration and drawing part of my work so much that I decided to undertake this fabulous degree and see where it took me. I was awarded the Bachelor of Natural History Illustration with Distinction in 2015 and won the Natural History Illustration Geographic Prize and Margaret Senior Award. In 2016 I was awarded the Bachelor of Natural History Honours with Class 1 and the University Medal.  My PhD is titled “Art and Climate:  How can the Natural History Artist disseminate scientific data on impacts of climate change on coastal estuarine ecosystems?”   The purpose of this thesis is to essentially develop a better understanding of how artists can utilise science research on climate change as a visual tool of communication to promote awareness.   

Sally: The project, Re-Creation, grew into a rather large project and we had you making a design for each campus, how did you decide what to showcase for each campus design?  

Linda: For me the culture of each campus revolves around the natural environment and so I wanted to showcase each campus with the flora and fauna that I felt it represented and once I had established that, I added the built environment that was so prominent. For example, the Ourimbah Campus is set within a beautiful rainforest environment with ponds teaming with wildlife and the Library is the central building everybody knows. The Newcastle City Campus has views out to the beach and harbour with urban and marine wildlife and distinctive architecture. The Callaghan Campus is a beautiful bush garden complete with tall trees, birds and mosquitoes and everyone knows the Auchmuty Library with the distinctive staircase. Lastly, the Sydney City Campus set in the busy city but buzzing with wildlife from the nearby harbour and botanic gardens. 

Sally: Can you tell us more about natural history illustration and why it is so important in the modern world? 

Linda: Natural History Illustration is the study of the natural world and focuses on the observation and study of the diversity and complexity of the environment and showcases a link between science and nature. It enables the production of informative illustrations and artworks that can share knowledge through visual means. Visual representation of the nature world is not new and in fact has been one of the oldest forms of communication throughout the world. The power of the image in our society cannot be underestimated and research indicates that illustrations of our natural world are a means for people to connect more directly with their environment on a personal and emotional level. This connection encourages advocacy and a larger discussion, which is what is needed to acknowledge our environment issues and make the changes needed for the future of our natural world.  

Sally: While you are a student, you also work in the MakerSpace at Ourimbah. What is your favourite project you have seen or completed at MakerSpace?  

Linda: The MakerSpace is such a creative and innovative space and it is so exciting to work there, I really enjoy seeing the students coming in and working on all sorts of unique projects. My own favourite project would be a mud whelk which I 3D scanned, enlarged, 3D printed and then hand painted. These sort of technology/art combinations are so exciting and encourage you to explore different ways of communicating information.  

You can also see more of Linda’s PhD and artwork via Instagram @Linda_Cox and @UonLibmakers 

Keep an eye on the Library spaces and @UONLibrary Instagram to see where we hang the artworks! 

Photo: Artist Linda Cox (right) and project organiser Sally Murray-Walsh  (left) 
Photo: Mud whelk painted by Linda Cox

 

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