Monday, 22 August 2011

Meadowhawk in conte crayon

This is my second go at Illustration Friday's prompt of influence. Ordinarily I only do one, and on the rare occasions where I do more than one I tend to just add it to my original post. I have a bit to say about this one that doesn't fit with the other, though, so second post. I'll cross-link them at the end for anyone who's interested in the other one.

This sketch is based on a photo of me holding a meadowhawk, which is a type (well, a group) of dragonfly. A few years ago we had a real population explosion of these little guys, and one afternoon after I'd taken way too many pictures of the females with their abdomens up in the air -- I assume it's a mating posture, but don't take my word for that one -- I decided to see if I could pick one up for a closer look. They're pretty mellow for dragonflies, meadowhawks. A few tries later, and this was the result.

Only someone who knew me as a child would understand just how odd that last paragraph was. I was really insect-phobic as a kid, and the mere thought of having to touch an insect would have kept me inside for days. To pick one up by choice? Weird, Dee. Really, really weird.

But oddly symbolic, that dragonfly.

Years ago, one of the many campground programs I went to with my family was about dragonflies. I don't remember all of the details at this point, but I remember that the park interpreter said some things that had me thinking about dragonflies in a different way. The simple fact that they could be interesting was new to me, to be honest. I was always interested in plants and furry animals (I've since trained as a mammalogist, despite what all the flowers you'll find on this blog may lead you to believe), but the thought that insects were worth being anything but squicked about? Very much a new idea.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the interpreter's take on dragonflies cured me of entomophobia, but that would be a complete lie. It took years. The idea that insects could be looked at differently did open my eyes somewhat, though, as did most of those evening campground shows we went to. I know now after being in the business for nearly two decades that most of those interpreters would have been summer students trying to make the best of limited resources so that they could prove their worth to their bosses through attendance (and, depending on the park, donations), but to a kid who didn't know any of that stuff those programs were a huge influence. They taught me new things, they gave me new topics to be interested in, and the program schedule was always the second thing I looked for when we arrived at a new campground.

The first being the bathrooms, of course. A kid has to have priorities.

I've no doubt that those programs also subtly influenced my choice of studies in university, and probably my choice of career. The probably is only because I sort of fell into this accidentally to begin with. The fact that I've stayed with it so long? Yeah, I'm sure I owe that at least partly to those summer students trying desperately to entertain rambunctious kids so that their parents didn't have to.

And dragonfly lady, whoever you might have been? My meadowhawk-bearing hand goes out to you.


My other IF post for this week can be found here.

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