UT Alumna’s Art.Science.Gallery teaches observation

Amanda Eakin

While the damaged migration of pollinating monarch butterflies goes unnoticed by the general public, UT alumna Hayley Gillespie uses her skills as a naturalist to see what most people don’t. 

Gillespie founded Art.Science.Gallery., which will host a series of courses that teach Austinites to be more aware and appreciative of the local biosphere. Gillespie said the gallery aims to teach technical observation through science and visual observation through art. 

Jedidiah Dore, an award-winning illustrator from the Pratt Institute, will teach a class called Botanical Field Sketching in late June. Dore said that his students grew as scientists and artists in previous classes. One of his students was Diane Kneeland, who received her Ph.D. in chemistry from UT.

“Diane was like a deer in headlights the first day,” Dore said, “But after five weeks she surprised herself.” 

Kneeland said planning out her drawings helped her notice details that seemed invisible before she took the class. She was able to observe that caterpillars were eating her Milkweed and there was drama between a woodpecker and bluebird competing for a tree hole. 

Kneeland said that because of the class she constantly identifies patterns in the way plants grow and how colors mix. 

“[Identifying patterns] is relevant to life, because I learned to respond to, and not impose on, my surroundings,” Kneeland said. “I learned to relax.” 

Kneeland will teach a class this summer alongside two other instructors from the Art.Science.Gallery. summer course series. A grant from the American Chemical Society will fund her class on the history and development of pigments and dyes in Color Chemistry.

“I want my students to recall their natural sense of curiosity, like when we lifted rocks to see underneath them as kids,” Dore said. 

Kim Foster, another one of Dore’s former students, said that as a child she discovered crushing flower petals would add color to her sketches.

Foster said she applied the skills she learned in Dore’s class to preserve the memory of her family’s orchard and forest before they were sold. Foster said this class better prepared her to use watercolors to identify plants and capture the natural scenery while outdoors. 

“I can use different mediums to represent various parts of plants — a thin, technical pen for the pistil and stamen and a broad brush for petals,” Foster said. 

Kneeland said she can make a mark with anything, and there’s not always one solution. One remedy to her lack of paint was using an ink dropper instead. 

Blanche Cramer, a doctor of public health, became interested in the Art.Science.Gallery. summer courses as a way of continuing her education after graduating from UT. 

“I think there is a need for more creativity in science education,” Cramer said, “To encourage more ‘non-science’ folks to explore how science connects to almost everything.” 

Gillespie said Art.Science.Gallery. is open to a wider audience and is looking for suggestions on future course topics.

“We want it to be accessible, because I hope to plant seeds of knowledge that will spread,” Gillespie said. “People feel more connected to the world knowing what species of tree is in their front yard.”

Art.Science.Gallery. summer classes begin June 22. Course topics will include: color chemistry, poetics of the natural world, the science of chocolate, natural history of austin, block printing, botanical field sketching, anatomy for artists, and creating data and information visualizations. Click here to learn more.