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From the Stacks 

August 28, 2014

Artist in Residence – T Edward Bak


profile_bak
T EDWARD BAK was born in Denver, but is drawn to travel and frequently migrates throughout North America. He began WILD MANa graphic novel about the voyages of Georg Steller,after exploring Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage. Since then he has conducted research in the Aleutian archipelago and St. Petersburg, Russia. His stories have been featured in The Oregon History Comics series, Drawn and Quarterly Showcase, The Best American Comics 2008, The Graphic Canon, and MOME, where WILD MAN was originally serialized.

Bak’s research and interest in the natural history of the Aleutians, the Era of Discovery, and his ability to convey  this complex history to a wide audience made him a perfect match for a One Truth, Many Lies artist residency.  The artists chosen for the residency share their work with the public through programs on the public floor of the California Academy of Sciences.

project lab

Museum visitors watch live drawing in the Project Lab.

in the project lab

T Edward Bak drawing ornithological specimens in the Project Lab.

On Friday the 6th of July, Bak worked in the Academy’s Project Lab, located on the public floor of the museum. Utilizing specimens from the Ornithology and Mammalogy Collection, Bak showcased his research and illustration skills to the museum visitors.

skull sketch

Bak’s drawing of a sea lion skull from the Academy’s Skulls exhibit.

specimen research

Bak paints specimens from the Naturalist Center collection.

library research

Bak conducting library research.

 

Over the weekend, bak was able to do more research of voyages of discovery. From the Academy Library’s Rare Book Collection, Bak was able to view expedition narratives from Mark Catesby and William Dampier.

connect with a scientist

Bak signs a copy of his graphic novel, Island of Memory, for a young museum visitor.

On Sunday, Bak participated in the Academy’s renowned Connect with a Scientist Program, speaking about his research and taking questions from members of the public.

For information on upcoming workshops and museum events, click here.

One Truth, Many Lies: A New View of Art & Natural History Collections is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. www.imls.gov

-writing and photos by Diane T Sands.

 


May 2, 2014

Artist in Residence – Monika Lea Jones

 

monikaheadshotbwadj
stingraypainting2smaller

San Francisco based artist Monika Lea Jones never completely divided herself between the seemingly separate artistic and scientific minds. Compositions featuring animals and celestial objects are rendered using the bright colors of paint, photography and other digital means. Monika is inspired by both her current urban environment and nature and seeks to bridge these worlds by creating fantastical dreamlike images that illuminate the modern landscape.

It is precisely these characteristics that made Monika a perfect choice for a One Truth, Many Lies: a New View of Art & Natural History Collections artist residency.  The chosen artists share their work with the public through a hands-on workshop and other programs on the public floor of the museum.

On Saturday, April 26, 2014, Jones led a workshop showcasing her technique of acrylic painting directly on Plexiglas.  Using vibrant hues to highlight the equally vibrant nudibranchs (sea slugs), Jones also showed footage she shot of live local nudibranch species. See images below.

casnudibranchpeeps

Workshop participants show off their nudibranch paintings

Then on Sunday, April 26, Monika invited those visiting the museum to come up to the Living Roof and learn how stingrays glide through the water. Over 100 participants made their own stingray kite out of recycled paper and then launched them into the sky!

IMG_20140427_133806

Sting ray kites fly from the Living RoofIMG_20140427_132030csastnpeeps

In addition to her time sharing her artistic knowledge and enthusiasm for science with the visiting public, the residency also allowed Jones some time to research her next work in the Academy’s specimen collection. Monika chose to spend time in the botany herbarium sketching and painting.

IMG_20140425_115722

Monika shows off her rough sketches of botanical specimens.

For information on upcoming workshops and museum events, click here.

One Truth, Many Lies: A New View of Art & Natural History Collections is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. www.imls.gov


November 12, 2013

Introducing: One Truth, Many Lies

(c) 2013 Diane T Sands

(c) 2013 Diane T Sands

One Truth, Many Lies: A New View of Art & Natural History Collections, a new Artist Residency Program at the California Academy of Sciences is seeking applications from West Coast visual artists for residencies in the spring/summer of 2014.

Deadline to enter December 13, 2013

Goals of the Residency

  • To connect visual artists and museum visitors in a lively discussion of the intersection of art and science;
  • To create programming and artwork that focuses on novel use of natural history collections as part of the artistic process.
  • To increase collections use by nontraditional communities;
  • To provide access to natural history library and research collections for artists to utilize in the creation of a body of work.

Selected artists will be required to present two programs during their residency, at least one of which must be a public educational program: A lecture or demonstration designed for the museum floor with general audiences in mind; And a hands-on workshop or other class offered free of charge to the public, and optimized for individuals to create and work collaboratively with the visiting artist. Programs will be arranged at scheduled times Thursdays through Sundays.

Significantly, artists will have at least one day to interact with researchers at the Academy and work with the research collections housed in the Academy’s Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability.

For more information about the residency and how to apply go to:  http://research.calacademy.org/opportunities/OTML

This Residency is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

This Residency is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

 


Filed under: Library News,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 10:23 pm

October 18, 2013

An Explosive Botanical Smackdown

Botanical illustration is an important aid to the study and classification of plants. Botanists and illustrators work together to create illustrations specifically designed to complement text. Botanical illustrations are used to illustrate floras, monographs, field guides and research papers. The artists follow well-established conventions, including a preference for black and white work, an ability to create drawings from herbarium specimens and an attention to detailed magnifications of diagnostic characters. Technical accuracy is essential.

This Smackdown, we light up the Firecracker flower, Dichelostemma ida-maia. 

from The Wild Flowers of California, by Mary Elizabeth Parsons, first published in 1897

from The Wild Flowers of California, by Mary Elizabeth Parsons, first published in 1897. Illustration by Ms. Buck.

 

Lithographic plate image courtesy of Academy's Special Collections.

Lithographic plate of above  image courtesy of Academy’s Special Collections.

Mary Elizabeth Parsons was born on August 1, 1859, in Chicago, Illinois. Although she had little formal education, she was always interested in gardening and horticulture. She came to California in 1883 and through her cousin, William Kent (a Republican Congressman), she met Alice Eastwood, Curator of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences.
Mary Elizabeth Parsons was the author of The Wild Flowers of California, first published in 1897 and later re-published in 1902, 1906, 1925 and finally in 1955. This publication by the California Academy of Sciences has a preface by John Thomas Howell, Curator of Botany.

Little is known about Miss Buck’s life today.  We tracked down the following from Wayne Roderick’s  California Native Plantsman.

Her family home was apparently in San Rafael. She and Elizabeth Parsons shared an interest in drawing and painting and for a time were members together in an art class given in San Rafael by a Mr. Latimer. As the wildflower book took shape in the 1890s, it was only natural for the author to turn to her talented companion of the Latimer class for assistance with the illustrations.

(c) 2013, Diane T Sands watercolor and pen&ink on illustration board

(c) 2013, Diane T Sands
watercolor and pen & ink on illustration board

A long time ago, I was a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, a great group of artists and collectors who are “dedicated to promoting public awareness of contemporary botanical art, to honoring its traditions and to furthering its development.” For the ASBA, scientific illustration is a smaller piece of botanical art. In my mind, it is the other way around. Not only do I have a predilection for drawing animals, but I kept getting hung up on the required conventions of botanicals, specifically the isolated specimens on a pure white background with no extras. I can’t help it; I find this set up kind of boring. Mentally, I draw wild beasts into these delicate works, ripping the foliage apart or add killer robots with blasters setting fire to the petals.


August 22, 2013

Smack Fish Wolf Down

The Atlantic Wolffish, Anarhichas lupus, is an odd looking creature. The largest of the blennies, it can reach lengths of 5ft. or more. Its derpy expression is caused by the fang-like front teeth that protrude from the jaw. Creepy looking, but harmless to humans, they feed on mussels, crabs and other hard-shelled critters – using the anterior teeth to grasp, and the rounded molariform teeth to grind.

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

This illustration of Anarhichas lupus is by Marcus Elieser Bloch, from the book Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische. Published in 1801, it was an influential work in early ichthyology. We displayed this illustration at Deep Sea Nightlife, along with a preserved specimen from the Steinhart Aquarium.

(c) 2013 Diane T Sands gouache and pencil

(c) 2013 Diane T Sands
gouache and pencil

What fascinated me about the wolffish was the huge contrast between the blue-grey, striped loner who eats shellfish, and the monstrous looking skull. It was the process of discovering this contrast that I chose to illustrate in the above study.


June 21, 2013

A Smackdown for Bonzo

This month’s Illustration Smackdown takes a look at the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes.  One of the great apes, chimpanzees are, as these things go, closely related to humans. But how close? You can see the current classification chart here, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Life.

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

 

In the 1980s the Jane Goodall Institute “moved to the San Francisco offices of the California Academy of Sciences, where it functioned essentially as a USA/Africa “communication link” and as a repository for files.” (source) and Ms. Goodall continued to have a relationship with the academy after the JGI moved to DC.  She came to the Academy in 2008 to lecture and  promote her pioneering work in primatology. The above images are attributed to Jane Goodall and Hugo VanLanwick

(c) Diane T Sands. carbon dust on Ross board

(c) Diane T Sands. carbon dust on Ross board

Comparative anatomy is the study of the difference and similarities of different organisms. I will admit to having a fondness for comparing bones. There is something about placing the same bone from different species next to each other that I find both instructive and aesthetically pleasing. To this end, I created the above image with Pan troglodytes on the left and Homo sapiens on the right. The obvious differences in teeth point to differences in diet and acquisition of food. While both are omnivores, the chimpanzees large canines speak to the ripping and tearing of meat, while humans reduced canines likely came about from years of cutting bite sized portions via tool use. Also evident is the difference in size of the brain case. The human cerebrum is much larger than that of the chimpanzee. The extensive development of this cortex in humans is believed to distinguish the human brain from those of other animals


Filed under: Archives finds,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 5:58 pm

June 14, 2013

The Reading Room has gone batty!

For those of you able to stop by the Library Reading Room, there is a newly installed exhibit featuring BATS!

Nearly 20% of all mammals are bats. There are roughly 1,240 bat species worldwide. The order Chiroptera (from the Greek, meaning “hand-wing”) is broken into two subclasses. The megachiroptera are large, primarily fruit-eating bats that rely on sight and smell to locate their food. The microchiroptera feed on insects, which they locate via echolocation.

bats from Buffon's Natural History, 1797

bats from Buffon’s Natural History, 1797, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I saw this image on the  Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr stream . It is from Buffon’s Natural history, containing a theory of the earth, a general history of man, of the brute creation, and of vegetables, minerals, &c. &c. From the French, with notes by the translator.  London:1797-1807. And honestly, at first I thought they were some weird sheep, or blocky, ungulate-sized mice. What else for a scientific illustrator to do, but create an improved image?

bats_small

(c) Diane T Sands 2013, pastel on paper

The three bats presented in the Buffon image done here in pastel, from top to bottom:

  • Greater Bulldog bat, Nolctilio nigrita

  • Ternat or Greater Yellow House bat, Pteropus vulgaris

  • Senegal bat, Vespertilio nigrita

The bat exhibit will be on display in the Library Reading Room through the end of 2013.


Filed under: Exhibits,Rare Books,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 7:18 pm

May 17, 2013

A Remora-sful Smackdown

The Remora remora, or common suckerfish, is an odd pelagic marine fish usually found in warmer parts of most oceans. They can be found offshore from San Francisco south to Chile. Their front dorsal fin has evolved into a giant sucker disc that they use to hitch rides on faster swimming sharks, rays, sea turtles, bony fishes and even marine mammals. Once thought to be purely parasitic, the relationship to their “host” is now considered to be symbiotic.

Not eaten themselves, they have been used by fishermen who attach a line to the Remora‘s tail, letting it free to swim. The tethered Remora then attaches it’s sucker disc to a larger fish as they are wont to do. At this point when it is noted that the Remora is accelerating,  the fisherman then reels it back in and captures the larger fish.

(c) Diane T Sands 2013. carbon dust on illustration board.

(c) Diane T Sands 2013.
carbon dust on illustration board.

(c) California Academy of Sciences.

(c) California Academy of Sciences.

In 1905, the California Academy of Sciences sent 11 men off for a year and a day on an eighty-five foot schooner destined for the Galapagos Islands. While the expedition was underway, the California Academy of Sciences would fall into ruin during the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The specimens gathered during that expedition would come to form the crux of the new California Academy of Sciences’ collections. Of the young men on that voyage, entomologist Francis Xavier Williams kept field books (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/123606) and made drawings of all of much of the wild life he encountered. This illustration of the Remora remora was one of many fish Williams ran across in his exploration of the islands.

Mora Remora!

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Remora_remora/

http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Remora-remora.html


April 5, 2013

The first botanical Illustration Smackdown

Stepping away from our previous animal focused Smackdowns, our focus today is Foeniculum vulgare, also known as common fennel. This culinary herb from the carrot family (Umbelliferae) is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean area. You can read more about its usage and cultivation in Culinary Herbs, among other volumes.

(c) Henry Evans. to order prints, contact Marsha Evans: marsha@henryevans.com

Henry Evans made numerous botanical prints throughout his career. This fennel image is among several housed in the Archives, likely from an exclusive Academy exhibit.  Revered by botanists for his faithful portrayal of important characteristics, each species is created life size.

Henry Evans at his press, courtesy of the CAS Archive

(c) 2103 Diane T Sands gouache & colored pencil; magazine image created in Photoshop

(c)2013 Diane T Sands

I approached my own image of this plant by asking the question, what sort of client would ask me to create a botanical image of this species today? The most likely option would, I think, be a cooking magazine. So I laid out my image as if it were a magazine cover. The painting was created using gouache, and colored pencils.


Filed under: Archives,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 7:46 pm

January 3, 2013

A Beetle Browed Smackdown

This Smackdown we feature the largest beetle in the world, Goliathus goliatus. Goliath beetles are often described as the largest and heaviest of all beetles. Adults range from 2-4 inches in length, while the larvae can top 5 inches and weigh 0.25 pounds a piece! There are five different species of Goliathus across the African continent (see this link for a nifty map).

Black and white drawing of beetles, genus Goliathus From Cyclopedia published by Longman, Hurst, Rees & Orme 1810

These magnificent engravings of spiders come from Natural History volume five in the Cyclopaedia or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Science and Literature.  Abraham Rees, Presbyterian minister and educator, produced this Encyclopedia in 45 volumes between 1802 and 1820.  On the title page of the Cyclopaedia, Rees’ 100 contributors are qualified with the “assistance from eminent professional gentlemen” and “illustrated by most distinguished artists”.

18th Century ‘encyclopedists’ developed the modern idea of recording and widely distributing knowledge as distinct from only publishing facts. The still familiar Encyclopedia Britannica was first published between 1768 and 1771. Rees’ Cyclopedia was noted for its high quality of illustrations. And we can still enjoy the beauty of nature through these 19th century engravings.

The publisher of this book put out some beautiful and strange illustrated books in the early 1800’s including Musci exotici :containing figures and descriptions of new or little known foreign mosses and other cryptogamic subjects by William Jackson Hooker. (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/41803) and A Dissertation on Gunshot Wounds by Charles Bell. (http://www.bibliopolis.com/main/books/1869071/A-dissertation-on-gun-shot-wounds-Bell-Charles-Jeremy-Norman-Co.html) Regardless of the subject it looks like they were masterful printers and included really amazing etchings in their work.

(c) Diane T Sands. Gouache and colored pencil on colored paper

Drawn from specimens housed in the Academy’s Naturalist Center, this color image contrasts the female (left) and male (right) of Goliathus goliatus. For the black and white image below, I wanted to show less of a dead, pinned subject and more of a living critter.

(c) Diane T Sands. Ink on scratchboard


Filed under: Archives,Rare Books,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 8:25 pm
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