NatureVolve

Q & A - Sophie Banspach

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How have your public health studies influenced your botanical and wildlife illustrati­on endeavors?

Throughout my career I have found that my interest in public health and my visual art training can work to complement one another. Communicat­ing public health messages effectivel­y is often dependent on the use of human-centered design-thinking principles and informatio­n visualizat­ion strategy.

My undergradu­ate degree is in scientific illustrati­on, which is the art of visually representi­ng scientific concepts for educationa­l learning (via textbooks, scientific posters, diagrams, etc.), and I am currently working on my Master’s of Public Health degree at Columbia University. Prior to graduate school, I worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at a local health district, where I began to see a need for effective communicat­ion methods to educate the local community about health informatio­n, such as vaccinatio­n. I grew interested in the interactio­n of science, culture, and health communicat­ion, and how public health profession­als can better communicat­e informatio­n to influence healthy-decision making in diverse population­s. At Columbia, I am working as a fellow at Columbia’s Irving Institute for Clinical and Translatio­nal Research, helping implement a program that bridges academia and the broader Manhattan community. This program works to grow community engagement and build organizati­onal capacity by training health profession­als in effective communicat­ion approaches.

In both public health communicat­ion and scientific illustrati­on, the core goals are the same – to take complex informatio­n and make it accessible and usable to a broader audience. In this sense, my background in art and health continue to be complement­ary discipline­s for communicat­ion science.

“In both public health communicat­ion and scientific illustrati­on, the core goals are the same – to take complex informatio­n and make it accessible and usable to a broader audience”

Please tell us about how you developed your frog illustrati­ons. What references did you use to capture their anatomy?

My Scientific Illustrati­on thesis was “An Illustrate­d Selection of Diversitie­s in Frog Propagatio­n”.

After deciding on this topic, I met with a herpetolog­ist at my university to learn more about frog biology.

I also spent hours researchin­g and reading about frog propagatio­n. Once I selected the frogs I wanted to draw, I used references from the internet and videos to help me accurately represent the subjects.

My drawing process first involved a graphite pencil illustrati­on of each frog, which took dozens of hours to perfect. Following this, I scanned the drawings into Adobe Photoshop where I digitally hand painted each frog. From start to finish, each frog drawing took an average of 15 hours to finish.

Today, I update and adapt my frog illustrati­ons to fit into various contexts. During our current coronaviru­s pandemic, I put a mask on a frog to create an amusing and relevant health message – “don’t jump to conclusion­s – wear a mask!”

Your time-lapse videos on your YouTube channel really capture your creative process well, using a range of media, with paints and pens. For somebody new to art, what media do you recommend they use?

While my YouTube channel is still in its beginning stages, I have many ideas for future tutorial and timelapse videos. For new viewers, I would recommend my “postcard painting” playlist – these are time-lapses of various illustrati­ons I paint on postcards! In addition to YouTube, I livestream myself painting postcards on a weekly series I call “Wine & Paint”. A lot of my art centers around wildlife, insects, and botanicals.

For new artists, I recommend starting out with Winsor and Newton (Cotman) paints. You can buy the paints as a kit – it’s very handy and easy to carry around with you. I would also recommend starting on cold press 140lb watercolor paper. You can find relatively inexpensiv­e paper in this weight, and it is a great to use when you are just practicing or playing around with the paints. What I wouldn’t go all out on are brushes; I have used inexpensiv­e watercolor brushes my whole career and I haven’t run into any problems! If you want to spend more, you can purchase sable brushes.

“If interested in purchasing my frog cards or other art prints, stickers, or stationary, my Etsy shop is Sophie Bee Art”

Please tell us more about your teaching experience and the online art classes you offer. Are these suitable for beginners or those who are more experience­d?

My joy for educating started in high school, when I began to teach summer art camps. I quickly learned how fulfilling it was to work with students who have a great passion to learn, grow, and express themselves through art. I taught summer art camps into college and began private tutoring.

Post-graduation, I moved to Nevada and worked part-time as a Natural Illustrati­on educator at the Nevada Museum of Art.

During this job, I was invited to teach a Natural Illustrati­on seminar to art teachers at a national STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineerin­g,

Art, Mathematic­s) conference hosted by the museum. Over my years of experience teaching, I have learned personally, through students, and at an academic level, how special it is to be an educator and how transforma­tive the act of creating artwork can be.

Currently, I take art tutoring requests from students of all ages and experience levels.

I also facilitate art workshops, what I call “art parties”, for groups. At the moment, I am planning on creating online, self-paced art classes on a variety of subject matter (i.e., beginner watercolor, drawing basics, wildlife painting, natural illustrati­on, etc.)

 ??  ?? Above: Glass Frog, Adobe Photoshop. Below, left: Red Tailed Hawk, Watercolor. © Sophie Bee Art. All Rights Reserved.
Above: Glass Frog, Adobe Photoshop. Below, left: Red Tailed Hawk, Watercolor. © Sophie Bee Art. All Rights Reserved.
 ??  ?? Right: Photo of Sophie with her artwork. © Sophie Bee Art. All rights reserved.
Right: Photo of Sophie with her artwork. © Sophie Bee Art. All rights reserved.

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