Earwig Mandala

Gail Morrrison: Insects as Art

April, 2016

Gail Morrison of Richmond, CA has been making impressive art for years and her work continues to evolve and has become even more unique and accomplished. She has worked in a variety of media and has predominately featured insects as her subject matter. Her insect depictions are accurate but she often places the insects in fanciful abstract settings. Gail has also tackled a variety of other subjects with equal skill and attention to detail.

Her work is available to fine art collectors as limited edition prints but the more frugal among us can access her work via her web pages, books and merchandise.

On her website Gail describes her inspirations and artistic techniques:

"The beauty of the world leaves me stunned and distracted. Sometimes I have to turn off this aesthetic ecstasy, but in art I can let it fly. Much of my work is focused on insects. They are everywhere, and although they sometimes bother us, they are just trying to make their way in the world like everyone else....They are more often treated as pests than as our fellow creatures, but I hope you will look at them a little differently...

I have been captivated by printmaking, bewitched by etching. The luscious paper. The smell of the ink...I honor the history of fine art printmaking, with its quiet emotional connection and intimate involvement with the viewer, but this is a world of working within limitations.

In digital art, anything can happen as an image develops. The principle of multiple layers is similar to using multiple plates or drops in traditional printmaking, but goes way beyond it in the potential for complex expression. Ordinary items may move beyond recognition into abstract tropes and ornaments. I am especially interested in interweaving patterns and textures to establish an emotional background for an image. So I flip back and forth between the old traditions of etching, and the new technology of our own age.

...For the digital portraits, I digitized pen-and-ink drawings and added layers of abstract imagery and textures, beginning with images based on fractal patterns. The pixels of all of these interact with each other in varying ways and to varying degrees to intensify the complexity of the insectsí environment.

For the monoprints, the drawings were transferred to photopolymer etching plates. Exposed by the sun and developed by water, the plates can be inked and printed like any other etching plate. I print unique monotype backgrounds and then, in a second pass through the press, print the etching over the background."

More Content: How long have been doing art?

Gail Morrison: I became interested in art in high school, thanks to our teacher, James Holmbolm. Our school actually had an ďart major.Ē In our senior year, assuming all other requirements were met, we could be in the art room two periods a day instead of once a week. Fantastic! But in November of that year my family moved, I ended up in a less rigorous, more typically suburban school, and that was the end of that.

I always wished I had become an artist right out of high school, but never had enough money or time...I noodled along, drawing occasionally, for years. Finally, in 2009, after all those years of ďwishing I had become an artistĒ it sunk in that it was never going to happen by magic. That if I didnít want to be saying that on my deathbed I had to make it happen. And so I did.

...When I had visited open studios over the years, the artwork that called to me most was monoprints, so I started with a printmaking class at Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education, taught by Bill Harsh. I was interested in monoprints, but everyone in the class was working on etching so I tried that, and fell in love with it. It fit perfectly with the drawing Iíd been doing, so I had a running start. Since then Iíve taken several workshops and classes.

No, No Persephone!

MC: Why draw insects?

Morrison: Iím not sure how I first came upon the idea of drawing insects. They are really fun to draw Ė so complex and unusual. Their skeletons are on the outside, so you can see how the joints work, and all those odd appendages. I try to observe them on the hoof as much as possible, but they donít stay still and I donít have super-power eyesight. Once Iíve chosen a subject, I find as many close-up photos as I can and draw from those.

MC: Do you have a background in science? Are your drawings technically accurate?

Morrison: Iím neither an illustrator nor an entomologist, but my drawings are as accurate as I can make them.

MC: How do people react to your art?

Morrison: Iíve been doing other subjects all along, but the insect pieces are what people notice most often. Youíd be amazed at how many entomologists, brothers-in-law of entomologists, and other insect lovers there are. When Iím doing a show with a lot of insects, they seem to come out of the woodwork.

Gail Morrison's website with updates on current and upcoming exhibitions

Gail Morrison's books

Gail Morrison's other merchandise.

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