Posted on Jul 24, 2002

Looking at the 20 or so drawings by students in the
“Illustrated Organism,” a class that integrates biology and arts, it's
impossible to tell which drawings are by art majors and which ones are by
science majors.

Bluegill by Brett Kessler '04

Nature drawing is not simply a scientific or artistic
endeavor, says Peter Tobiessen of biology, who taught the class this spring
with Walter Hatke of visual arts.

The discipline requires keen observation and patience. “It's
about observation and the discipline of sitting down and looking at the samples,”
Tobiessen says. “If you have the power of observation, you end up doing pretty

The course was begun about 10 years ago by Professor
Emeritus Carl George of biology, who taught it a number of times with Hatke and
other arts faculty.  Besides drawing and
painting plants and animals in the field, studio and lab, students are required
to write detailed descriptions of the organisms. Samples include animal
skeletons, bird wings, trees and insects.

Students are surprised by the detail of a leaf, a plant, or
a feather, Tobiessen says. One student said, “I can't believe how many scales
there are on a fish.”

And from Tobiessen himself, after drawing a tree: “All trees
are NOT the same.”